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Want Stronger Success at Raising Bilingual Children? Repeat After Me: Shannon Shorter!

Hiroshima Dragonfiles

Two years ago, a professional basketball team was born in Hiroshima: the Hiroshima Dragonflies. They aren’t the best team in the Japanese National Basketball League, but we enjoy watching their games from time to time at the local sports center.

The other day we saw an exciting game (which they lost 86 to 85!), and came away impressed with one of the players in particular: Not only is he a great player, he also has a great name!

Shannon Shorter. (Every team in the Japanese National Basketball League has a few international players, and Shannon Shorter is from the United States.)

Fun bit of language

Now I’m not making light of his name, not at all. It’s just that, as a bit of language, with the “Sh” alliteration and balance of two syllables in each word, this name is very appealing and great fun to say.

Go ahead, say it with me: Shannon Shorter.

No, I mean out loud. Once more now: Shannon Shorter.

So there I was, the day after the game, playing basketball with my newly nine-year-old son. Since we live on a small, quiet street, with very little traffic, I simply park a short, free-standing basket in the middle of the road, and that’s where we play. I’m not very tall—and couldn’t come close to dunking the ball on a real basket—but I can happily pretend I’m a giant when I dunk over Roy’s head on this one.

“Shannon Shorter!” I cried, slashing toward the basket.

“Hey!” Roy protested. “I’m Shannon Shorter!”

I paused. “Okay, you can be Shannon Shorter,” I said.

Then I grinned and shouted: “I’m Terry Taller!” And I dunked over his head again.

Language play in action

We spent the next 20 minutes playing basketball and laughing as we brainstormed a whole team of players with fun names that followed the same sort of equation:

Alliteration for the first name and last name + each name has two syllables + the last name is a one-syllable adjective that becomes two syllables with the addition of “er”

In addition to Shannon Shorter and Terry Taller, here are the other players that made the cut for our team, artistically presented by Roy…

Our basketball team

A hugely rewarding habit

I tell you this little story to make a large point:

The more playful you are with your target language—the more you make a habit of milking fun from the sounds and meanings of this language on a regular basis—the more you will positively impact not only your child’s ability in the language but also his attitude toward it.

How? By making an effort to not only capitalize on the potential language fun of daily life (code word for this: “Shannon Shorter”), but by also consciously engaging in activities charged with this spirit of language play, like…

To observe this spirit of language play in action, see the three videotaped interviews my kids and I made…

VIDEO: With Bilingual Kids, There’s a Madness to My Method (interview with Roy)

VIDEO: Wacky Interview with My Bilingual Daughter (interview with Lulu)

VIDEO: Adam Beck Goes Bonkers in Interview, Reveals “Crazy Secret” for Bilingual Success (interview with me)

The takeaway today: A penchant for language play is hugely rewarding, making your efforts to nurture the target language more productive and more enjoyable. By mindfully milking this lighter side of language exposure, on a daily basis, you not only strengthen the child’s engagement and development, you deepen his positive feelings for the language itself, which lies at the heart of organic interest and enduring growth over the years ahead.

Again, say it with me: Shannon Shorter.

Louder: Shannon Shorter!

How about you? In what ways do you and your children engage in language play? Is there more that you can do?
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4 Responses

    1. Christa, I’m happy this post spoke to you! Yes, let’s make this journey as enjoyable as we can, for the sake of both our kids and ourselves! :mrgreen:

    1. Wojtek, actually, Shannon Shorter doesn’t appear in that team photo. I suppose he joined the team after the photo was taken…and I couldn’t find a photo that includes him. Look here, though, for more information about him.

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

Adam
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 widely-read book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for over 20 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 16 and 13. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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