Another challenging year has come to an end. In this post I look back at my mostly home-bound life, both the highlights and lowlights I experienced over the past 12 months.
The (mostly) lowlights
The continuing pandemic
To date, Japan has been more fortunate than many other parts of the world. The number of Covid cases has remained relatively low and much of life has carried on, though with widespread vaccinations, masking, and social distancing. My own family has stayed healthy and, in fact, with so much masking, I’ve managed to avoid the sinus infections that typically plague me two or three times a year.
Of course, it was another year without the pleasures of international travel. Looking ahead to 2022, I’ve been invited to a conference in Germany in May…but, as much as I’d love to make the trip, it may be difficult considering Covid conditions in the world. We shall see.
In November, though, I did spend a few days in Kyoto, my favorite Japanese city. I was there solo, just for a change of scenery, and the scenery was refreshing indeed: sunny skies, gorgeous autumn leaves, and beautiful old temples and gardens.
A very painful loss
In July, my family suffered a heartbreaking loss when our sweet bearded dragon, who was the little star of our family for two years and a creative muse to me, suddenly fell ill and passed away on the third day. Fifa was the first pet I had as an adult and this loss hit me very hard. I know she was “just” a lizard, but I loved her deeply and felt intense regret over being unable to save her. This experience has made me much more empathetic in terms of human emotions toward animal companions. When I was a child, my family had a couple of pets, but I never felt directly responsible for their welfare and so my feelings didn’t run as deep as they do now.
Fifa will always have a special place in our hearts, but after several months of mourning her loss, we decided to love again. In October, we brought home another bearded dragon, a baby we named Yogi.
This bilingual journey nears its end
Over the years, I’ve often mentioned that when my kids turn 18, this milestone would basically mark the end of my bilingual journey…and now suddenly it’s almost here. Next June my daughter will turn 18. This means that we’re now discussing college (college!), which awaits her in the spring of 2023.
At the same time, my son will start high school in a matter of months. He hopes to go to the same high school as my daughter and join the same “international course” which offers more intensive English.
At this point, their English ability is roughly at the same high level. They both need to improve their range of vocabulary and their writing skills, but given that they haven’t had much academic experience in English—since they’ve only attended Japanese schools—they’re at a good place. From here, they can continue making active use of English, and advancing their ability, through the rest of their lives.
After nearly 18 years of daily steps on this bilingual journey, I’m quite satisfied with the progress they’ve made, and the proficiency they’ve attained, in both languages.
New book about bilingual families
Honestly, at times I thought I would never complete this book project…and yet I finally did! As I often say about the bilingual journey itself: there’s always a payoff to perseverance. After three years of work, the original vision of sharing the successful experiences of a wide range of parents raising bilingual and multilingual kids came to a fruitful conclusion with the release, in July, of Bilingual Success Stories Around the World: Parents Raising Multilingual Kids Share Their Experiences and Encouragement.
I’m really happy with how the book turned out, and happy, too, that readers are responding to it so positively.
More consultations with parents
This year I had the pleasure of speaking directly with 26 more parents about their bilingual or multilingual aim. These personal consultations, via Skype and Zoom, are such a gratifying way for me to provide support to families worldwide beyond my books and online platforms. Since the summer of 2020, when HaBilNet, an organization based in Europe, began offering this free consultation service to parents, I’ve enjoyed conversations with a total of 59 parents in my role as a HaBilNet consultant.
I look forward to speaking with many more parents in 2022. If you’d like to take advantage of HaBilNet’s free consultation service, you’ll find full details at the Consulting page.
A wordless picture book
While Fifa’s sudden sickness was a very painful ending to the two years she was with us, our time together was marked mostly by great joy. And I wanted to try conveying that experience of joy in a book that could serve as a tribute to her. So, along with my son and the illustrator I’ve been working with for the past couple of years, we created a wordless picture book called Bearded Dragon, Home Alone. It came out in November.
I love the artistry of wordless picture books, and their flexibility for input in any target language, and I had long thought of making one of my own. This book enabled me to fulfill a lingering creative aim while transmuting sorrow into joy. I’m thrilled that this legacy of joy now lives on and can touch others, too, through the wordless picture book that we made. (Creative projects like this, involving my son, also offer a very productive chance to engage with him in the minority language.)
Bearded dragon is a quiet, mild-mannered little lizard when others are around. But when this spunky reptile is home alone, it’s a very different story! Let the mischief-making begin in this joyful wordless picture book, a fun-filled romp for kids and grown-ups alike!
Bearded Dragon, Home Alone is not only an ideal book for lovers of wordless picture books and fans of bearded dragons, it’s also perfect for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids because the story can be told in any language. Created by the author of Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World, this lively book is an engaging and productive resource for promoting language development in homes and schools.
My first online store
Fifa was also the inspiration for another new direction: I created an online store that combines my love of bearded dragons with my love of art. Bearded Dragon Art opened in May, not long before Fifa’s unexpected passing. While I’m not an illustrator, I do enjoy the visual arts and I’ve done a lot of design work over the years. So, teaming up with the same artist who illustrated Bearded Dragon, Home Alone, we’ve been producing a steady stream of fun, eye-catching designs for a variety of products, including posters, clothing, blankets, and puzzles.
Please take a peek! Even if you aren’t familiar with bearded dragons (they’re very cute, very gentle creatures), I bet you’ll enjoy seeing the unique stuff we’re coming up with for the store!
Onward to 2022
So that was my experience of 2021, in roughly 1,300 words. I’m not sure what the new year will bring—it’s still an uncertain, unpredictable time—but I’ll continue my efforts, to some degree, with both bilingual kids and bearded dragons in 2022…and perhaps explore some fresh directions for my work as well.
Happy New Year to you all!