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The Dark Secret to Success at Raising Bilingual Kids

Reborn as a bat

If reincarnation is true, and I’m fated to be reborn in another life, I think I’ll choose to be a bat.

I don’t particularly like bats or anything—in fact, I once spent a frightening few minutes chasing after a fluttering bat in our house, trapping it in a wastebasket, then setting it free out the window.

So it isn’t because I like bats; it’s because I like caves.

I like everything about caves: the darkness, the chilly air, the deep quiet, the dripping water, the cool, slick stone and marvelous rock formations.

And it’s those rock formations—stalactites and stalagmites, in particular—which whisper a vital secret to parents raising bilingual children.

Stalactites and stalagmites

Now, if you’re like me, and can’t recall the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite (why did they have to give these things such interchangeable names?), just try this little memory trick: “stalactite” has a “c” in it, as in “ceiling,” while “stalagmite” has a “g” in it, as in “ground.” So stalactites hang from the ceiling, and stalagmites rise from the ground.

The other thing worth remembering about stalactites and stalagmites is that they take a long, long time to form, developing from droplets of mineral-rich water. It can take stalactites, for instance, hundreds of years—even thousands of years—to grow just 1 inch (2.5 centimeters). Imagine how long it takes for a full stalactite to form!

The link between these rock formations and raising bilingual kids occurred to me during our trip back to the United States earlier this summer. (See To Reach Your Destination, You Can’t Just Sit On Your Suitcase and Cry for my series of posts in connection with that trip.) Not far from my hometown of Quincy, Illinois is Mark Twain’s old hometown, Hannibal, Missouri, which boasts the cave Mark Twain once played in as a boy—the same cave that appeared later in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

As we wandered through “Mark Twain Cave” and saw the many stalactites and stalagmites there—the outcome of steady dripping over a long stretch of time—it struck me that raising a bilingual child is really no different:

Good bilingual ability is the result of persistent efforts that add up gradually over time. Click to tweet this!

And just like a rock formation, there are no shortcuts, really, to raising a bilingual child. I mean, you can’t create a stalactite with trickles of water every now and then; you need those continuous drips. In the same way, the success you seek when it comes to raising bilingual kids probably won’t be gained through sporadic efforts. The secret lies in small, consistent actions, day after day, which will naturally lead to substantial progress with each passing year.

Caves are cool, but volcanoes are hot! See Why I’m Like This Rumbling Volcano (And Why You Should Be, Too).
How about you? Are your efforts consistent, day after day? Can you be more persistent in a certain area?

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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