Raise the Odds of Success in Raising Bilingual Children

Today, we’d like to share a great post about raising bilingual children, by Adam Beck.

Adam Beck is the founder of the popular blog Bilingual Monkeys and the lively forum The Bilingual Zoo. Adam has worked with hundreds of bilingual and multilingual children, from toddlers to teens, as both a classroom teacher and a private tutor. He now lends support to many more families, in all parts of the world, via his book, blog, and forum. He has lived in Hiroshima, Japan since 1996 and is raising two bilingual children in Japanese and English.

Adam and his two monkeys earlier in their bilingual journey.

Adam and his two monkeys earlier in their bilingual journey.

Think of it this way: Raising a child to be bilingual is about odds and each family’s odds of success will be higher or lower depending on their particular circumstances and how proactive they are about shaping these conditions in effective ways.

My experience as a teacher at Hiroshima International School demonstrates that the odds of a Japanese child successfully becoming bilingual are extremely high when that child acquires Japanese from the family and community, and English from the school environment. Of course, the degree of that ability in English will depend on such variables as the age at which the child enters the school and how long that attendance lasts. Still, I think it’s safe to say that, generally speaking, strong bilingual success for children who are exposed to the majority language at home and the minority language at school is virtually assured.

A different scenario

Many families, though, face a very different scenario, with circumstances that inherently make the challenge of fostering active ability in the minority language far more difficult. In other words, such circumstances, instead of working in the family’s favor—as in the example above—work against their success.

Let me quickly remind you of the basic circumstances of my own situation, which will provide a concrete example of a scenario where the inherent odds of success are rather low: I’m the minority language parent, yet not the main caregiver; my kids have always gone to majority language schools; my partner doesn’t speak the minority language well; the minority language isn’t used much in our environment; and we don’t often travel.

The truth is, if I had done little to overcome these odds, and put them more in my favor from early on, the results would likely have been quite different. But because I recognized this dilemma, and was willing to pursue every reasonable effort I could within the bounds of these basic conditions in order to raise the odds of success, the outcome has matched my aim. If it had seemed that these efforts weren’t sufficient to reach this goal, I would have had to either address the basic conditions themselves, such as pursuing some form of schooling for them in the minority language, or scale back my ambitions to an appropriate extent to avoid disappointment and frustration.

Raising your odds

So it’s vital to look squarely at your circumstances—if possible, before your bilingual journey begins—and assess your odds: Are they generally favorable or unfavorable? If the odds seem stacked against you, you must be as proactive as possible in order to shift those odds more firmly in your favor. The greatest impact, of course, often results from reshaping the basic circumstances themselves in certain contextual ways: your spouse begins using the minority language, too; you enroll your child in a minority language school; you travel more to a minority language location; etc.

But if such larger changes aren’t feasible, the responsibility for raising the odds of success will fall solely on your daily efforts. Amid the challenging conditions of your situation, you must remain as energetic and resourceful as possible, day by day, in order to provide your children with ample language exposure and a need to actively use the language. By doing so, you can overcome the lower odds inherent to your circumstances and recast them more in your favor.

When it comes to raising a bilingual child, the more your circumstances seem to bring down the odds of success, the more proactive you’ll need to be to create better odds of achieving your aim.

maximize your childs bilingual ability

Note: This post is an excerpt from the new book by Adam Beck, Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids, available worldwide as a paperback or e-book.

A Simple But Scrummy Method to Teach the Verb To Like in English

In English, the verb to like, in the present tense, is easy and straightforward to learn and to teach young learners.

Let’s have a look at the verb to like, in a few simple forms ….

To begin with, we are just going to encourage children to talk about themselves and what they like. For children whose mother tongue is Spanish, it is important for them to not change the verb format based on the object, as we do in Spanish.

So, let’s just practice the expressions:

I like / I don’t like / I love …


Download our Like/Don’t Like/ Love Flashcards HERE

Once you have demonstrated and repeated the target phrases, ask the children to share with the rest of the class, what they like, don’t like and love, using the scrummy food flashcards.

Ensure you have a good mix of singular and plural items.

An example, using the images above would be:

A: Do you like eggs?

B: Yes. I like eggs.

A: Do you like butter?

B: No. I don’t like butter.

A: Do you like cheese?

B: I love cheese!


As soon as you are happy that the children are answering the questions correctly, as them to ask their classmates what they like/don’t like/love.

You can use our Food Flashcards or refer to items around you, in the classroom, to vary your options.

The answers provided by classmates then leads on to another lesson, when we will report back using the third person (he / she /it likes …).


The following pages are from our newly published Bilingual Activity Cookbook that will be launching via Kickstarter in 2017. We’d love your support to bring it to life!

READ our Simple But Scrummy Method to Teach the Verb GUSTAR

Spanish Christmas Traditions & Spanish Christmas Vocabulary

A Spanish Christmas is celebrated in many ways …

When we learn a language, it is very important to learn about the country’s culture and traditions, as only then you will be able to fully understand the language, the country and its people. That’s why today we will talk about a Spanish Christmas and the traditions that are enjoyed in Spain.

All over the world, Christmas is seen as a time of the year to spend with our loved ones, to relax for those few days off and also as a time to give and to receive both love and presents.

spanish christmas

Josh & Francesca on the beach at Christmas in Spain!

Here are some of the most common Spanish Christmas Traditions…


La Campaña de Navidad

In Spain, it is normal to start seeing Christmas decorations around November and they increase un number as the 25th of December gets closer. Many important buildings are decorated as well as the streets and houses. Around November is when the “Campaña de Navidad” (Christmas campaign) begins. It is carried out in most shopping malls as well as smaller stores. The main point of the “Campaña de Navidad” is to decorate the stores with Christmas’ decorations and offer deals and have sales to encourage people to start their Christmas shopping early.

spanish christmas belen

El Portal de Belén

A very typical decoration found in Spain during this time is the “Portal de Belén” which is a representation of Jesus and his parents. These decorations can be found in houses as well as stores, bars and restaurants and, in some parts of the country, when it gets closer to Christmas, you may find live representations of this tradition on the streets in the form of a live nativity.

La Lotería Nacional de Navidad

The National Christmas Lottery is a very big event in Spain. The lottery is celebrated the 22nd of December around 9am in the morning. Most people in Spain buy at least one ticket, as this lottery has become almost a tradition.

These tickets can be bought from July all the way up to the 21st of December and most people from Spain await the day to see if they have won “El Gordo” (the jackpot) or not.

On top of this, every year a special advertisement is shown on TV which reminds people about this special lottery. It is normally a rather moving advert which tends to encourage people to cherish the Christmas holidays more.

The video below is one of our favourite adverts from 2014: “El Mayor Premio es Compartirlo”

Nochebuena y el Día de Navidad

Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) is also a strongly celebrated day in Spain. It is celebrated all over the country. The meals that are served that day will vary depending on the area but they all have something in common: there is always a lot of food served on the table. After the big meal, it is common to eat something sweet, commonly “turrones” which are similar to chocolate bars but are normally thicker and made with different types of nuts.

Christmas Day (el Día de Navidad) is commonly celebrated with family. Everyone opens the presents left under the tree by Santa Claus (also known as “Papá Noel”). Children obviously love this part and this part is mainly focused towards the youngest of the family, even though adults also have presents waiting for them. The meal for this day may vary depending on the area of the country but it is also very common to have lots of different dishes served.

In some parts of Spain, on the 26th of December, people also celebrate what is known as “Sant Esteve” (which is similar to Boxing Day in the UK). This day is normally spent at home with family and the food that is served is normally leftovers from the days before.

spanish Chrsitmas

Nochevieja y Año Nuevo

On the 31st of December, it is very common to meet up with family and friends, either at home or outdoors, to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year. There are many parties and celebrations held over the country and fireworks are also quite common in big cities. When it gets to midnight, it is common to drink champagne and eat twelve grapes (uvas de la suerte) one each chime of the bells that mark the beginning of a new year as it is said that it brings good luck. In some areas of the country, it is “recommended” to wear red underwear to begin the year, as it also is said to bring good luck.

spanish christmas

La cabalgata in Mijas Pueblo

Día de Reyes

In Spain, on the 6th of January, we have another celebration which is similar to Christmas: children get presents and sweets and family meet up to spend the day together.

The day before el Día de Reyes, in the evening, the streets from all over the country hold what is known as “La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos”. The Three Kings and their helpers pass the streets throwing sweets to children and greeting them. Children really enjoy being on the street grabbing sweets and saying hello to the Three Kings who will bring them presents if they have been good over the year.

On this day, it is very common to eat a “Roscón de Reyes”, which is a type of sponge cake with a hole in the middle and nuts and fruits on top. This cake holds two surprises: a small figurine and a dried bean. Whoever finds the figurine gets to put on the crown that comes with the cake (even though children end up asking for it, to have fun) and whoever finds the dried bean has to buy the following year’s “Roscón”.

So, there you have a quick summary of some fun Spanish Christmas traditions. Wherever you spend Christmas this year we wish you all love and happiness.


CLICK HERE to download and print off the Christmas Vocabulary

CLICK HERE to download and print off the Christmas Vocabulary Games shown above

CLICK HERE to see the beautiful 2015 Spanish lottery video and to read the article in Spanish!

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