It has been 4 years since I last posted. Many things have changed, but my commitment to raising a bilingual English/Japanese speaker has not.
Years ago I started to teach my daughter using the ’10 minute’ rule. Day’s were busy, time was limited and so was concentration. The 10 minute rule is very simple. Set a timer for 10 minutes, do what you need to do and finish at the end. 4 years later and we can add in a change of character, internet connected devices, social challenges and a plethora of other distractions that make enabling a young bilingual difficult. However, the 10 minute rule has prevailed.
Nowadays the 10 minute rule is used to promote reading. This usually happens after dinner. Even though there are so many interests and distractions in her life, my daughter will usually agree very willingly to read aloud for 10 minutes. She knows that it’s a finite commitment, she understands the value of it and with the right choice of books she actually enjoys it.
Is 10 minutes enough? As long as it is a regular event it serves to keep English reading as a regular part of her day. I notice the difference between times where she has not read for a while and times where she has read each day. Reading English has now become part of her daily routine. I wish it were more but I will take what I can!
I think this is a great idea for the budding bilingual. Not just because these kinds of questions promote higher order thinking skills (analysis, evaluation etc), but mainly because they break the routine.
You can read the full article here.
So why is breaking the routine important for a budding bilingual, especially in a monolingual country? Have you ever been told that your child will become bilingual because they have one foreign parent? I can understand the assumption, but I think I can also debunk the myth that it is.
Probably every family has a routine. One person picks up the kids, one cooks, one watches TV etc. Conversation is sometimes superficial at best, and the routine develops patterns of behaviour and of speech. These patters can cause a family to exist in a sitcom, where the interactions are all but decided. Now take a child who is fluent in these routine forms of communication and the context that supports them. Take them out of the routine and place them in a different context. How likely are they to be capable of fluent interaction in this new environment?
Obviously this is an extreme example. Parents do break their routines, but raising a child bilingually requires that you perhaps break the routines of speech much more often. This happens when you do something fun like go for a walk, build a cardboard fort or just take the nipper for an ice-cream, but those sorts of events can’t happen every day, so there is a real need for the conscious breaking of the routine modes of communication.
Asking “How was school?” every day is unlikely to elicit an interesting response. It is also a missed communication activity. I’m not so good at consciously using the types of questions described in the article. My specialty is the use of ridiculous comments and songs which seem to provoke interest and are fun at the same time. I think I’ll try the zombie apocalypse question from the article. Right up my street.
I have been in a rut. She reads well now, but her writing skills need some work. Also, it has become difficult to maintain relevance since she started school. A few more Japanese words creeping into sentences, still a willingness to keep up with practice but the materials we are using are hardly very motivating. However you want to call a workbook, it’s still a workbook. So I decided to go digital.
Now that herself is old enough (6), board games are very much on the cards. She got Monopoly, but scrabble is a huge leap for the young reader who is not so used to this kind of language production.
We tried Junior Scrabble in order to help her towards this huge goal.