Hiroshima’s bilingual child whisperer

Adam Beck provides tricks, tips and support for raising multilingual kids.

Raising bilingual kids sometimes seems so difficult. While living in Japan, I’ve heard the argument that kids should master their mother tongue before trying to learn a second language. This may be a reflection of official policy which starts formal second language (English) education in the fifth grade in public schools. Compared to the European standard, this may seem late, but earlier than most states in the US. The reality is that there are many parents and educators worldwide convinced of the benefits of starting a second language early in childhood. I certainly feel it is a key advantage to raising kids in a foreign land. The trick, however, is knowing how and when to do it.

This is where long-time Hiroshima resident, teacher, trainer, parent and author Adam Beck comes to the rescue. He argues a positive approach to raising kids with more than one language. In Adam’s book, “Maximize your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids”, there are so many wonderful suggestions and anecdotes to help teachers and parents. There are many examples and arguments for the overall benefits of the input of a second or third language in order to raise children to enhance their overall cognitive ability. Regular practice and exposure to other languages can enhance a deeper understanding of language, culture and creative thinking. It can also be a great way for parents to deepen their relationships with their children.

Listen to the 30+ minute podcast of my talk with Adam about his book, its inspiration and a variety of other related topics.

 

Adam has also shared some of his ideas with GetHiroshima readers in the past. Check out his Top 16 Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, followed by an additional 12 Tips as well as an article on The Power of Reading. His book offers many more tips and ideas reflecting an accumulation of Adam’s many years working with bilingual schools and research groups. There are also personal stories which highlight his personal triumphs and challenges raising his own two bilingual kids at home.

Like the many supportive and positive suggestions and ideas offered in the book, Adam is also a great coach for parents and teachers trying to put good intentions into practice. Through his website Bilingual Monkeys and a thriving community forum, The Bilingual Zoo, Adam offers support and solutions to the frustrations his readers face. Personalized coaching and consulting is also available via his website. There is great interest in Adam’s ideas and the online community he moderates is thriving. In the interview, Adam states the Bilingual Zoo forum now has more than 560 members and the websites have more than 100,000 page views per month.

To give you an example of Adam’s great mentoring skills, when I brought up a difficulty I have motivating my tired kids to study English once they’ve finished their Japanese homework, Adam was quick to offer suggestions and helpful personal anecdotes. These helped me see more clearly where I might be going wrong. Some of his advice was to try to change the pace of activities to be game-like and enjoyable and find a time of day when kids seems most open to interacting. I felt particularly inspired when he pointed out that the positive effort we make to create interactions with our kids now, will help them not only in their lives, but will also shape how they will interact and encourage their own children. Powerful ideas that go beyond just practicing a second language.

The book is packed so full of great ideas like these as well as different techniques that you can refer to again and again. You can use it like a reference book to dip into when facing different issues at different times. One of Adam’s key arguments is that establishing good routines as early as possible leads to success. But don’t worry if you haven’t yet, it’s never too late to start. Adam’s energy and enthusiasm for education is infectious. I hope you too will be motivated to be more mindful of the big picture.  As Adam says, “it’s not only about building language skills, fostering multilingual confidence also helps kids better adapt to the various challenges they will meet in life”.

jjwalsh

Been enjoying living, working in and writing about Hiroshima since '98- co-founder, editor, photographer and writer for GetHiroshima.com / GetHiroshima map + GetHiroshima magazine

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