Wednesday, April 12, 2017

March Goals Review

In my last post on raising a bilingual child, I mentioned that we need to set goals to be more strategic in our bilingual journey. Then I showed our ultimate goals and 2017 goals. To make these yearly goals more manageable, I have decided to set each month a couple of smaller goals and share how it went with you all here on my blog. 

March Goals
For the month of March, the following were our goals:

  • Do activities in my son's minority language for 10-15 minutes everyday on the weekdays
  • Practice writing 2 letters a week
For the most part, I wanted to make this month a month to make habits, or to establish our routines. I figured once he gets used to our routines and expects to perform tasks in his minority language during certain times of the day, it'd be easier to incorporate other tasks and strategies later. It didn't matter so much what activities we did (working on printouts, reading a book, watching a tv show, etc.) but as a guide, I tried to have him work on one worksheet and 2 letters everyday.

How we did
As you can imagine, the first couple of days were the hardest, meeting my son's resistance. But things started to change at around the 5th day. He stopped refusing to sit down at his table and actually seemed to enjoy working on our workbook. And on a better day, he wanted to do more. I learned that he could practice 3 letters a week if the letters don't have complicated strokes, so for some weeks we practiced three. Overall, we missed only one day during the early days.

It's said, though, that it'll take 66 days to create a habit so our routines have not completely set at the time of this writing. But I have to say it's a lot easier now for him to sit down at his table and do activities together. Of course we have bad days like he's being too silly, tired, or just not in the mood but overall we're making a great progress in incorporating his minority language in our days.

April Goals:

  • Keep working on our minority language activities for at least 10-15 minutes everyday on the weekdays
  • Learn some word games in his minority language (called "siritori" しりとり)
  • Learn to count with an appropriate classifier
  • Practice writing 2-3 letters a week

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

One sunny day

Setting Goals for Our Bilingual Journey

Raising my son to be a bilingual (or multilingual) person has been on the list of our parenting goals for a long time but we haven't been able to be very strategic about it. This year, though, I have set my mind to change that. So when I heard about this 5 day 2017 Language Challenge over at Bilingual Avenue, I took this opportunity and signed myself up. I wasn't able to do it on time but I did complete it (yay!), and I'd like to share some of my thoughts that came up while working on this language challenge.

One of the major purposes of this challenge was to set goals for our bilingual journey. Of course, our ultimate goal is that my son would become equally confident in both languages in every aspect of his language skills and of his life. I've read many times, however, that this is one of the biggest myths about bilingual people, that they are two monolingual speakers in one, but why not aim high, right? :)

More realistically though, I want my son to be able to converse fluently with his family members and friends in Japanese, and to be able to get by on his own when we stay in Japan. Or possibly when he lives in Japan in the future. This includes not only conversational skills but also reading and writing in all three forms of letters, and learning its culture and customs. To achieve this I want him to finish at least 6th grade level at his Japanese language school.

Once I heard of a story of a Japanese person who grew up in an English speaking country. She came back to Japan hoping to get a job while she stayed there. She spoke just like any other Japanese speaking people, but unfortunately couldn't write or read kanjis (one of the three forms of letters in Japanese) very well so she wasn't qualified for most jobs in Japan. As a Japanese nationality, however, she wasn't qualified for those jobs that were open for foreigners either. She was stuck.

Now I hate to use someone else's story as a bad example, but I have to say I'd want my son to be able to use his full potential if he ever lives there without being restricted by his language skills.

To achieve these grand, rather abstract, goals, it'll be helpful to break them into smaller, more practical goals that we could work on an everyday basis and this is what I came up for our 2017 goals.

  • Be able to speak his minority language more naturally with larger vocabulary and longer sentences
  • Be able to write hiraganas (the first form of letters kids usually learn. He can read them already)
  • Be able to read the second form of letters katakanas
  • Be able to read basic children's books on his own
In my next post, I'd like to share some thoughts on how we can achieve these goals by looking at what worked and what didn't in our language journey so far.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekly Favorites 2/26

Hi everyone. Not a long list of articles this week but hope you'll find something interesting.

I've recently come across a podcast called The One Thing, which is actually based on the book of the same name. I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, but this podcast is awesome. By teaching you how to focus on ONE THING, it helps you boost your productivity. I used to have a big problem with number one of the six myths (namely, "Everything matters equally") in this article  Do You Believe These 6 Productivity Myths? , but now I'm learning how to prioritize better. I feel like I've done more meaningful things lately than a few months ago and been heading to the right direction. I can't wait to read the book as well.

I'm peronally not too interested in VR, but if VR helps learning a language in a more natural way, I can see a huge potential: Mondly’s VR language-learning app is the closest thing to actual immersion

One of the issues many bi- or multi-cultural parents face would be what to name their children. Should we select a name that's more common in the community language? Or should we honor the minority culture side? Many of the people I know select each for first and middle names but there still remains a question which one you'd want to use everyday. Although this article After being James, Peter and William, I decided to stick with my Chinese name is not about multi-cultural families, I still found it interesting.

If you liked these stories don't forget to follow me on FacebookTwitter, PinterestFlipboard to get notified as soon as I share them. Have a great week!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Weekly Favorites 2/12

Hi everyone. I've started a teacher training program at a local minority language school so I have been reading and thinking a lot about how to become a good teacher. Even though this is only a once a week school, I'd like to offer my best to keep the students' heritage language. Here are a couple of articles that got my attention: 

In Teachers can use drama to bring writing to life for children I was sad to learn that a lot of children don't enjoy writing anymore because so much emphasis is put on grammar, punctuation and spelling. I think this might become an issue even more when students have to write in their weaker language. It was a good reminder for me to put an emphasis back on the content when I give writing assignments.  

In a similar vein, My Kids Are Straight-A Students And They Know Nothing  tells how context is important for actual learning to happen.

This article Should we share learning objectives with pupils?  actually surprised me because my training manual stated that sharing today's learning objective at the beginning of the class is important, and I thought that would definitely be true. It seems that in some occasions, having the students figure out what they are learning is a useful technique to implement in a lesson. I still have so much to learn!

My son started to learn about continents at his school so I thought this activity will complement what he's learning at school:
7 continents of the world: matching activity for preschoolers/kindergarteners

And speaking of preschoolers, this explains why my son became more sociable, confident young boy since he started his school: Preschoolers' Personality Traits May Be 'Contagious' Among Peers 

I've also been sorting out our personal finance situation. Here are a couple of articles and a podcast episode that helped me:

Since I hit that (dreadful) number 40 last year, I feel like I have to intentionally watch my health or I won't feel good. So regular exercise has become my priority: This Is the Type of Workout You Should Be Doing, According to Your Age

But the other day, I think I overdid my exercise and felt really sick with some pain after my workout. It only lasted about 20 minutes but I wanted to know why. You know, exercise is supposed make you feel good! Here's what I found out: Here's What You Need To Know About Feeling Nauseated After Your Workout 

Japanese Language
I was pretty skeptical of those translating apps but this one seems practical enough and promising. I think even my husband can get around Japan with this app. Next time we are able to visit we'll definitely give this app a try. Some of the translations are pretty funny though.
Just how good is Google Word Lens at deciphering Japanese?

If you liked these stories don't forget to follow me on FacebookTwitter, PinterestFlipboard to get notified as soon as I share them. Have a great week!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Bilingualism

Now that I have set my routine and secure some time for more or less regular blogging thanks in part to bullet journaling, I can finally write about something that is dear to my heart: raising a bilingual/multilingual child. I have wanted to write about this topic for a long time, but just couldn't get around to do it for various reasons.

I have always been interested in the process of learning/speaking different languages. I even study the subject for my postgraduate degree. I LOVE reading and talking about anything linguistics (my husband can tell you how many hours I have bored him with this linguistic stuff, haha).

So I had known a thing or two about how to raise a bilingual child even before I had my son . I knew there would be some issues ahead of us but in theory it seemed straightforward enough. I speak the minority language to my son. My husband speaks the community language (English) to him. We could do this.

Of course, just like any other parenting matters, the things that seem straightforward in theory often turn out to be anything but, and raising a bilingual child was no exception for me. I'd like to write about the issues I had faced in the past in a separate post but suffice it to say I'm terrible at this. My 4-year-old son's minority language skill is, I have to say, not as good as his friends of the same age (his English is perfectly fine). But I haven't given up.  Thankfully, where we live now has a Saturday school that teaches in my son's minority language and has been a tremendous help in the past year. And this year I'd like to make more conscious efforts to teach him his minority language. Then I thought one of the ways to make it more conscious is to write about our journey. I have always wanted to write about bilingualism so why not just go ahead and write about it, right?

As a start, here are my 3 personal reasons why I have chosen to raise my son in 2 languages (hopefully more) that can keep me personally accountable to my family's language goals (this prompt was given by Bilingual Avenue podcast episode 152).

  1. To be able to experience his other culture directly without relying on translations: I believe that speaking the language helps people understand the culture at a deeper level, and I want my son to experience this.
  2. To be able to better communicate with his family members: actually my own parents speak good English so probably this is not a strong enough motivation for us but still I think it's better if my son could speak his minority language fluently.
  3. To know that there is a bigger and exciting world out there: even if my son didn't end up speaking his minority language fluently, I think it's valuable for him to learn that people speak different languages and none of them is better or worse than another. 
I think we're in a pretty good position regarding 3. My son tells me excitingly who speaks what language at his school and seems proud that he could "speak" English, Japanese and Spanish :)

What are your 3 reasons? If you're raising a multilingual child or planning to, please let me know in the comment section.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bullet Journal: getting started

This year, I have decided to try the bullet journal to organize, well, everything. It's been a little over 3 weeks and I'm loving it. I love that my schedule and my thoughts and ideas are all in one place. Back in the days when I was using pre-printed planners, I had to carry a separate notebook to write down my random thoughts, which often was far from organized and rarely looked over again. The beauty of keeping everything in one place is that, when I come up with some interesting ideas that are not relevant to the task I'm currently working on, I can just jot down that idea onto my journal and put my focus back onto the current task. You know, those seemingly brilliant ideas always pop up when you're doing something else. But now I know, with the bullet journal, I'll be able to look at that idea and work on it later if it still seems like a good idea. And in the bullet journal system, everything I write down has a page number so I can go back to it easily. Clever.

I love its flexibility too. Because you'll use a blank notebook, it's up to you to decide how you'd like to write out your day, tasks, ideas, inspirations etc. You can make it fancy by using colored pens and pencils, decorating with stickers, drawing some cute pictures, using fancy fonts but you can also make it very simple by using just a black pen. 

Yes, there is a standard way of writing the bullet journal, which is explained in the official bullet journal site. So far I'm following the idea of the Index, which lists the topics of your "collections" (notes, schedules, project ideas, goals etc.) and their page numbers, and the daily log. I don't do the future log because I keep those future events and tasks in my Google calendar. I still find that ping on my phone as a reminder useful, and an electronic calendar seems easier for me to organize future plans because future plans always change and a lot of my future tasks are recurring ones. Instead of the monthly log, I only write down my monthly goals.

My journal, however, has a week log, which lists major events for the week and my goals, things I want to accomplish for the week. I go through a separate to-do list that has all the things I need to get done or want to do in the future, and the tasks I couldn't finish the previous week. Then I pick a couple that has higher priority or are relevant for that particular week. My daily tasks (other than the recurring ones like paying bills or routine cleaning) are created from these weekly goals. Yes, there are lots of repetition in here like writing down the same tasks twice in the weekly log and the daily log and check back on my to-do list again and again. But as is said in the official bullet journal site, this repetition is intentional. 

"This process makes you pause and consider each item. If an entry isn’t even worth the effort to rewrite it, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it.
[...] to distill the things that are truly worth the effort, to become aware of our own patterns and habits, and to separate the signal from the noise." (

If you search on the Internet, there are literally hundreds of interesting "collections" to add to your journal. For example, I love this morning routine spread. I even made a nighttime one too. 

I also like the "2016 in review" page in this journal, which has many more beautiful pages.

Not necessarily relevant to my journal but I like this "to be read" page as well.

This idea of taping a card with key to the edge of the journal seems useful and I have already incorporated it into my journal.

And for many more inspirations, check out this article "6 Instagram must follows for the bullet journal obsessed". I don't have such beautiful drawing skills or time for that matter but I still love looking at them.

Let's see if I can keep up with my journal for the whole year. And I'll write how it went at the end of the year. If you're already writing the bullet journal and have ideas you'd like to share, please let us know in the comment section :)

For more about the bullet journal:

Mochi's favorite star

I made this star blanket a long long time ago for Mochi. She still loves it :)