How to fail miserably at raising a bilingual child


In my previous articles 16 Tips for Raising a Bilingual Child in Japan and 12 More Tips for Raising a Bilingual Child in Japan, I sought to offer useful suggestions for successfully supporting the English side of a child who attends a Japanese school.

In this article, I would like to give equal time to the goal of failing miserably at this task. The truth is, achieving utterly dismal results takes dedication, too. This list of 10 helpful tips is intended to provide support for advancing satisfactorily toward that end.

1. Make a sincere effort to be so consumed with work and personal interests that you have as little time as possible to spend with your child. Do not be deterred by frequent pleading from your spouse or your youngster’s tears. To realize your long-term goal, you must turn a deaf ear to their selfish demands.

2. Commit firmly to remaining disinterested in information which concerns the raising of bilingual children, whether in print or online. Instead, fix your attention on important things like sports statistics and celebrity gossip. Spend additional hours arguing about such topics with strangers in online forums.

3. Actively skirt any constructive discussion of your child’s language development with your spouse. Refrain, in particular, from creating a concrete strategy for nurturing the child’s English ability. The approach linguists refer to as “flying by the seat of your pants” will prove far more effective.

4. Devote yourself to not following through on ideas that might advance your child’s bilingual ability. By the same token, inconsistency is key to your actions. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of regular routines when it concerns the child’s language development.

5. Do your utmost to avoid speaking to the child. When you must respond to an overly inquisitive tot, use no more than two or three words and—this is very important—do not look away from your cell phone or computer screen. Ideally, you should simply grunt once or twice and maintain concentration on your urgent business until the child sadly withdraws.

6. Strive to read aloud to your child as infrequently as possible. When, despite your best efforts, you find yourself in this potentially nurturing position, always choose the dullest book on hand and read in a weary, soulless voice, yawning loudly at every page turn.

7. Make sure you have no more than half a dozen old, ratty picture books in your home. A good rule of thumb is one book per child. If you have more than six children, instruct the smallest ones to share a single book. You will be teaching the importance of sharing at the same time.

8. Endeavor to keep your home as barren of English resources as you can. Remember, the fewer resources available, the more likely you will achieve your ultimate aim. To further frustrate the child’s bilingual development, seek to increase resources in the majority language instead.

9. Turn to the power of positive thinking by telling yourself: “I’m a friggin’ native speaker so my kid will pick up English easy! No problem!” Reinforce this message at home by telling your spouse to stop worrying so much about your child’s language development. Relax with a bottle of fine wine.

10. Pay close heed to every person who gives you his two cents about raising bilingual children, particularly the most uninformed. Take to heart the advice that rearing a child with two languages will confuse him, even damage him, and lead to a life of crime and incarceration.

Author Infomation

Adam Beck
Adam Beck
Adam Beck is the blogger of Bilingual Monkeys, a site of “ideas and inspiration for raising bilingual kids (without going bananas).” A former teacher at Hiroshima International School, and now a writer for the Hiroshima Peace Media Center, Adam is the father of two bilingual children.
  • 7


    There's a difference between failing to raise a bilingual child and raising a child who has stronger language skills in English than Japanese. As a parent first, and as a parent of a half Japanese kid second, I find this article just plain insulting on so many levels. This article should be titled "How to fail at being a parent!" What language you're child ends up speaking has nothing to do with the amount of love you give your child!

  • 4


    The truth is, achieving utterly dismal results takes dedication, too.

    I suppose if you can't catch flies with honey, try sarcasm?

  • 0


    This article should be titled "How to fail at being a parent!"


  • 1


    Actually found this quite amusing.

  • 2


    I hope I'm wrong but the title suggest, under cover of humor is that your kids will be either bilingual or failures. A narrow road no ?

  • 1


    Was hoping for something more insightful. Did not work for me, this "humor".

  • 0


    Might as well have been entitled "How to be a Bad Parent."

    Be aware that a child grows mentally in equal measures with physical growth. A gentle hand is required at all stages, as is a mind knowing of the mind to which one speaks. Joy in sharing the discovery of this world and how to express it in any language is invaluable not only to the child but also to the parent. Shortcuts taken in ones youth - 20's or 30's - quickly lead to regrets in on's 40's.

    A quick rubric to how well you are doing for six-year olds: Have you read "Hop on Pop" to them and endured the trials required to have them read it back to you? If the answer is yes, you are doing perfectly.

  • 0


    I appreciate what Adam was trying to say here. I understand his intention, I really do- I'm not sure the reverse approach worked for me, but I appreciate the effort to make it all sound less dry, as some of these articles can. As a parent of kids here in Japan, people have so many opinions about what the right thing to do concerning whether or not expat kids should become bilingual. People can get pretty judgemental about it. People are always passing around boring articles that claim to have the answer. I do my best to expose my kids to Japanese, and, again, I appreciate Adam's intention. I did read a book of essays the other day by a former teacher here in Japan that has a couple of funny essays about immersing expat kids in Japanese culture. It's not the majority of the book, but when she discusses it, it's kind of lighthearted and appealing. <

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