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Books for Parents Raising Bilingual Kids

Bilingual Parenting Book: Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability

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Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability – Adam Beck

If you are raising bilingual kids, you have probably heard of Adam Beck, the founder of the popular blog Bilingual Monkeys. Adam is originally from the USA, but is now living in Hiroshima, Japan with his wife and two bilingual children who speak Japanese and English. We have been in contact since last year when I wrote an article for his blog about my own experience raising bilingual kids.

Adam recently sent me a copy of his newly published book, “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability to read. It has a wealth of information and inspiration for parents raising bilingual children. This goal isn’t always going to be easy, but it is worth it. Adam’s advice and strategies throughout the book provide a fantastic overview, setting down a strong foundation to help parents embark on their bilingual journey.

It should be noted, and Adam mentions this himself, that this book is aimed at the parent speaking the minority language. Much of the advice he gives is for parents who are trying to increase the exposure to their children’s minority language.

Adam and his wife follow the OPOL (One person, One Language) strategy with English being the minority language. A lot of his emphasis is on how he provides his children with enough exposure to English to become fluent speakers. It seems that his ideas and suggestions throughout the book have proved to be successful, as his children (his daughter in junior high and son in the fifth grade) are both bilingual and biliterate.

Being the parent who speaks the minority language with my own children, I can definitely relate to many of the points Adam makes, and I found myself nodding my head agreeing with many of his remarks.

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Perspectives and Principles

The book is broken up into two main parts: Perspectives and Principles. There are 30 short chapters in each part, which make it a very easy and light read.

Perspectives:

In the first half of the book, Perspectives, Adam provides “ways of thinking”. He describes ways that you can put the odds in your favour, helps you to understand that you are not alone, and gives words of encouragement to start or continue your bilingual journey.

Things such as putting the odds in your favour, being serious but playful, thinking creatively, and maintaining firm expectations.

Principles:

In the second half of the book, Principles, Adam provides “ways of acting”. He gives ideas and inspiration on what you can do, and steps you can take to give your child the best odds of successfully becoming bilingual.

For example starting with the different language strategies families can use, seeking out resources, and the importance of talking to, and reading with your children.

What I enjoyed was that many of the short chapters start with a story, or a metaphor, giving a glimpse into Adam’s family, and his life in Japan. Then at the end of each chapter, there is a quick takeaway, a quote, that summarises what he has been talking about, bringing everything together.

An encouraging and inspiring read

Adam gives no judgement throughout the book, only encouragement. For example where he states “There is no failure – it’s simply the level of ability achieved to date” or, “Just keep going, just keep trying… If you persist long enough, you will succeed.” Adam understands that all families are different. We have our own goals and our own journey, and no two are the same. “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability” is definitely worth a read if you are raising, or planning on raising a bilingual child.

Giveaway

I have a signed copy of  Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability to giveaway to one lucky reader on behalf of the author. In the comments below, let us know your name, what languages your children speak, and one thing you are trying to do to Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability!

This is a worldwide giveaway. Winner will be selected on the 7th June 2017 and notified by email. If we have no response within 48hrs another winner will be selected. Good luck!

*This giveaway is now closed, congratulations Anny T.*

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31 Comments

  1. Marcia

    My kid is 8 and we chose to speak Portuguese at home. I try my best to put him in contact family in Brazil. Another strategy is to read children’s book and comics (which my kid loves) in the minority language. Good luck for we all in our bilingual journey.

  2. Lourie B

    Hello, interested in reading more info and strategies from this book. We speak mainly English but trying to incorporate Spanish. My big issue is not wanting to confuse my kids with both languages. I am bilingual and Spanish is my native language, would love to teach the kids but feeling unsure on how to start. Adam’s book sounds like the encouragement that I need.

  3. Galena

    Hi there! We are monolingual family trying to raise a bilingual child. I am Bulgarian but also an English teacher,so I do my best to boost my 2-year-old boy’s exposure to English language. Actually, there are two things I am trying to do. First, spend lots of time looking words up (successfully), and second, I am trying to find native speakers of English( with children if possible) to spend time with me and my son.
    So,that’s all about us 🙂

  4. Anny

    Thank you for that insightful review! I’d love to be able to win a copy. My twins are almost 16 months. The languages spoken at home are Vietnamese and English. My husband speaks Cantonese and Mandarin and is the minority language. I keep telling him to speak in Cantonese to them if that’s what he wants them to learn but he said he’ll wait till they start speaking. He has started playing Cantonese children music and he sings to them in Cantonese. Primarily I speak to them in English and he does too since he isn’t sure if he should speak in Cantonese yet. My parents speak to them in Vietnamese during the day as they watch them for me while we are at work. We have books in English that we read at night. I’d love to be able to read this book with my husband so that we get a better understanding of how to get our kids to be multilingual and expand our understanding. Thank you!

  5. Gergana Anthony

    Hi there! We sre bilingual family. I an Bulgarian and my husband is an American. Minority of language is Bulgarian and besides singing songs and having cards/picture dictionary we have two dogs that my, almost 2, girl loves very much. I talk to the dogs in my native language as well even when my girl is not around.
    I’d love for ger to be able to speak Bulgarian as well she willspeak English.

  6. Fiona Williams

    My name fiona and i am trying to raise my two boys (16 months and 5 months) to speak spanish 🙂 to maximise my sons bilingualism I completely immerse them in spanish language and culture at home (their father works away 9 months of thr year) so that the minority language (we live in England) has a chance to be spoke n and learnt 🙂

  7. Aisha

    We use French, Arabic and English with our children, English spoken by mum, Arabic by dad and French by other family members. We use billingual books, multilingual dolls and electronic toys, skype to family in France, we talk as much as we can in our mother tongues so children pick up the languages correctly and learn when to switch between them.

  8. Bulbul

    My name is Bulbul. My kids speak English and Kazakh. Kazakh is the minority language. To try to increase exposure to minority language we have been listening to Kazakh songs

  9. Sofía

    My baby IS 20 months. We are practicing the OPOL with her (I speak Spanish and ver Dad speaks English) she already uses some words in Spanish like Hola, Chao, Zapatos, Pan and Si. Also we have noticed that she follows instructions in Spanish pretty good too. I love músic and now every day we are listening to music in Spanish at home also She IS in contact with my family that speaks Spanish too. She seems to enjoy that and I Hope this two activities help us with our purpose.

  10. Lily

    My husband speaks Spanish to our 20 month old and I speak German with her. My husband and I speak to each other in English. Currently we read books in all languages and do activities together in those languages. What is interesting is that our daughter responds back to us in English and not in the languages we speak to her. We also use sign language to help when she doesn’t know the words yet.

  11. Paula

    Paula
    Thanks so much for your inspiring article and reading recommendation. Our son is 10 months old and we are following the opol method ( i speak to him in english and my husband in spanish).

    We strongly believe the OPOL method is a fantastic way to leverage and bring together a number of skills and knowledge which will be decisive for our son from an educational and development point of view, enabling him to boost his language´s skills.

    I would love to receive a copy of Adam’s book as it will be our inspiration and guide specially in those down moments where you need someone else’s experience and success story.

  12. Jana

    We live in the UK and we speak Portuguese, English and French. At home the main language is Portuguese, but we swap to English when we are having play dates or are including people that doesn’t understand Portuguese in the conversation. My daughter is 12 months old and doesn’t go to nursery yet, but I take her to many activities during the week and we also attend a French and a Portuguese playgroup. We also sing and read to her in all 3 languages. As French is the language which she got the least contact we plan to enroll her in a french school.

  13. Lily

    My husband speaks English and I speak Bengali with our daughter. I find it a huge struggle not to revert to English with her. I have started introducing Bengali radio and children’s songs in the background so that we have set times of the day that are clearly ‘Bengali time’. I would love a copy of this book to help inspire me to move things to the next level.

  14. Pilar

    Hello, my name is Pilar and I am native speaker of Spanish. However, I speak English to my 2-year-old son since he was born and his daddy Spanish. I usually sing songs/read books in English with him and I try to attend English story-telling sessions, too.

    Very interesting post, thank you!

  15. Jana

    I speak to my son who is 1.5 years old in Czech 90% of the time, my partner speaks English so we do OPOL. We live in England.

    During the day we don’t watch much tv and if we do it’s always in Czech, we read Czech books, we Skype with his Czech grandparents every other day and I have more Czech speaking friends than others. We also go to Czech every 3 months.

    I can honestly say that at this age already he understands everything we say in both languages and repeats words in both languages.

  16. Man Ting Lai

    First name: Man Ting
    Last name: Lai
    Language: Cantonese, mandarin and English
    One thing you are trying to do to Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: make everything fun or enjoyable in all activities whether we are reading, singing or acting~~

  17. Betty-Jeanne

    Love this blog, first of all. I’m raising ny child OPOL with me speaking German as the minority language. I’m loading up her bookshelf with bilingual offerings, and also trying to connect with local families in the same boat. And self-educating myself through books, reviews and articles like this is helping. Thank you for what you do!

  18. Roberta

    Hi! I speak English (minority language, we live in Italy) to my 8yr old and 4yr old. They understand everything but usually answer in Italian. One of the tricks I use to boost their speaking skills is playing games where they win only if they speak English (e.i. I spy with my little eye, flash card guessing games, guess who it is…) and the competion is their strongest drive.

  19. Roberta Cadamagnani

    Hi! I speak English (minority language, we live in Italy) to my 8yr old and 4yr old. They understand everything but usually answer in Italian. One of the tricks I use to boost their speaking skills is playing games where they win only if they speak English (e.i. I spy with my little eye, flash card guessing games, guess who it is…) and the competion is their strongest drive.

  20. Cristina

    Hello. My 2 kids (boy 10 and girl 6) are speaking Norwegian with their father and Romanian (minority Language) with me. Me and my husband are speaking English at home, so they are permanently exposed to 3 Languages. (I also speak Norwegian fluently but don’t use it at home). The boy is fluently in Romanian and has very poor English, the girl’s Romanian is quite poor. She is speaking a mix of Norwegian-Romanian using Words from both in a sentence. I am speaking equally with both kids and would like to encourage/motivate the girl to learn more of the minority language. I am permanenty trying to expose her to the language, by making her call the grandparents and talk to them without help, visiting families that speak minority language and so on. I would love to read this book.

  21. Mariel

    Mariel
    My son is 5 months old.
    I read books in Portugueses (we live in Sweden) to him and I’m trying to find another baby with Brazilians parent(s) to arrange playdates with.

  22. Lara

    I am a grandmother who wants to raise her grandchildren bilingual. We speak Russian in my house where the kids, ages 3 and 4.5 spend a lot of time. We live in the US, in American English environment. My daughter was raised to be bilingual, Russian and English.She is trully bilingual. Her husband is from Lebanese family, but he was not raised speaking Arabic, so he speaks only English. Right now my grandchildren are trully bilingual, they speak, sing, play in two languages. What I like the most is to sing songs and role play with them in Russian.

  23. Regina T

    Hello! I speak Cantonese to my 20-month old daughter, and have my parents spend time with her as much as possible. We also use WeChat and FaceTime to maximize exposure to family and our language! I’ve taken English books and translate them in spoken Cantonese, but I unfortunately am not completely literate in a Chinese! I’m teaching myself to read and write more in the language so that I can pass it on to her one day soon!

  24. Sixtine Herold

    Hello! We live in the USA, I speak French to my kids, my husband speaks German to them and they go to school in English. My goal is to make the minority language as fun and usable as possible… we live a bit isolated in the suburbs but I will drive an hour just to meet up with German/french speaking kids their age, they do a music class in German. Screen time when allowed is either in German or French. Paw patrol just came out in French which makes them very happy 🙂

  25. Hello from Hiroshima, Japan! This is Adam Beck, the author of “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability.” I want to thank Chontelle for recommending my book and send my encouragement to everyone for the success and joy of your bilingual or multilingual journey.

    Along with my book and blog, my forum, The Bilingual Zoo http://bilingualzoo.com, is a lively worldwide community that offers warm support to all.

    Good luck in the giveaway! And please enjoy my book!

    Thanks again, Chontelle, for your positive review and for all your good work in this field!

  26. Mara montoya

    Thank you for the article! Super interesting, as always! We are raising our 3 years old daughter trilingual (multilingual). My husband is Italian, I’m Argentinian and we are currently living in the US because of his job. My daughter has been exposed to Italian and Spanish since she was born and as soon as we landed in the US (she was 2) she was able to pick the language up right away. Story time at the local library, meeting up at the park and playdates with native moms and kids have been critical in the development of the English. In the meantime I continue to speak to her in Spanish and my husband in Italian so does the people who come to visit us from our countries and she adapts perfectly switching languages naturally. I think what also helps enormously is the fact that we (parents) speaks the three languages, that she is exposed, fluently therefore she can observed (rol Model) how we switch languages easily according to the person and the circumstances we are at. We read tons of books in the three languages and when we read the title and the author of the books we also mention the language in which is written and we ask her in which language she would like to listen the history. Good luck to all the multilingual families! Keep up the good work!

  27. Karin

    I’m a mum of 2 and raising my children (1 and 3 years old) with German as the minority language in an English speaking environment. Not always the easiest of experiences but besides applying the one parent one language approach as much as possible, I also ensure they get to speak to their German speaking relatives via Skype, expose them to audio books and kids TV, started one of them in German language school and when possible go to see relatives abroad. I found it sounded straight forward when I had my first but came across quite a few obstacles since ie enviroment not always being positive to me speaking German with my kids (as some people perceive it as being rude), or my oldest being able to understand but refusing to speak the minority language and to this day still not speaking fluent German but integrating words or phrases into English when she talks to me. Frustrating at times but I persevere as I want both my kids to be able to speak their parent’s respective language. So always happy to receive tips on how to raise bilingual kids.

  28. Veronica

    Hi, there, we are a fully bilingual Russian/English speaking family in Brooklyn. We are teaching our kids, 3.5 and 18 months, both languages concurrently. We live in a heavily Russian-speaking neighborhood, so our kids interact with Russian-speaking caregivers. When we’re in English-speaking environments, I switch to English to encourage my kids to follow my lead. We read books in both languages; my daughter’s Russian is stronger, so I translate stories as I go, but on the 4th or 5th time of encountering that book, ask her which language she prefers. If you make the story more appealing in the target language, chances are, that’s the language they’ll pick! Same with movies: they watch cartoons in both languages, but I try to point out that the native language story is usually better. So she asks for Lion King in English now, and Masha and the Bear in Russian. Recently started teaching both alphabets concurrently, drawing parallels between how the letters look and how they sound. We’ll see how it goes, especially since she’ll start English-speaking school in a year!

  29. Sanja Desancic

    Hi there! Raising 2 children 3 and 7 yo with minority language Swedish now. Made a switch from english when my second was born and now they speak 3 languages including greek. I need more inspiration and support as i dont whant to miss their window for fluency. Thank you!

  30. Sarah

    We live in the USA and our minority language is Urdu. My kids (6 and 3) understand the language, but don’t speak it very much, responding instead in English. Besides just speaking and reading books to them in Urdu, I try to increase their exposure by singing songs (like ‘the wheels on the bus’ or ‘5 little monkeys’) in Urdu with props like stick puppets. They have so much fun and don’t realize they are learning the language. While they don’t much speak Urdu otherwise, they do know the words to these songs!

  31. Rebecca

    He speaks English and some Spanish. He loves languages. I proposed and worked hard to get an immersion program approved in my school district. I am now working to get everything put into place for it to begin for his kindergarten year next year.

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