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Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brain Power

8 Aug


Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brain Power

This NPR article is from back in April, but if you haven’t read it, it’s very interesting (though not surprising). I especially liked the quote, “Growing up bilingual is just as natural as growing up monolingual.”

Here’s another article on bilingualism from NPR:

Bilingual Babies More Perceptive to Nonnative Tongues

Just more proof that our efforts to raise bilingual children is definitely WORTH IT!

Japanese Books for Beginners

20 May

I recently had a reader ask me, “What are some books you recommend for people who are just beginning to learn hiragana/don’t know a lot of Japanese?” Here are some of my recommendations (and where you might be able to purchase the books).

1. I love the writer/illustrator Taro Gomi. I believe a lot of my Japanese vocabulary comes from reading his picture books when I was young. I highly recommend “Sutekina Hiragana“. Unfortunately, I am not sure where you can buy it in the states. It looks like JBox used to carry it (warning, website has some materials not appropriate for children) but they don’t anymore. You can always buy it on (HERE) but you will have to pay a lot for international shipping(about $30 for books). Just FYI, will ship most books, CD’s and DVD’s internationally, but not anything else. You might want to try some of these other resources for finding Japanese children’s books too.


2. I also love the 0さい〜4さいこどもずかん (children’s word books for 0-4 year olds) series. (See them on here.) They are board books, which means babies and toddlers can read them and you don’t have to worry about the pages getting ripped out. The illustrations are cute and the vocabulary is written in both Hiragana and English. We own 2 of the 3 books and we love reading them!! Even I am learning some new words. You can buy them through here, here, and here. They are $17.99 and qualify for free shipping on orders over $39! So if you order the whole set, you would get free shipping.


3. Once you’ve learned Hiragana and built up your vocabulary a little bit, you might enjoy reading the Nontan books by Kiyono Sachiko. The stories are relatively short, easy to understand, and the illustrations are adorable. You can buy them through here or from here.


As I was browsing, I thought these books/DVD would also be great for beginners/children:

4. プーさんのいえるかな?(Winnie the Pooh, Can You Say It?)

5. こんにちは、あかちゃん!(Hello, Baby!)
6. ひらがな*かずスペシャル (Hiragana and Numbers with Shimajiro)

And I don’t frequent, but I noticed they are selling a hiragana bath chart (we have the same one!). It is $3.80 plus shipping. You wet the chart with water, then stick it on the wall of your bathtub so your children can practice recognizing their kana while they get clean 🙂

**Just FYI, I don’t make a cent from recommending any of these books/websites. So you can know that I am completely unbiased and just want to help you!**

し:しまじろう/Shimajiro’s Kodomo Challenge

2 May

I just wanted to share some sites for those of you interested in Bennesse’s Kodomo Challenge Program (こどもちゃれんじ). Bennesse has a mail-order educational packet available for all age groups, from newborn~college. I am only familiar with the programs for babies/toddlers. My kids LOVE learning with Shimajiro. My daughter has learned a lot of Japanese vocabulary and songs from watching the DVD’s and reading the accompanying books. She’s also learning about science and Japanese culture. We think it is awesome!

We don’t have an actual subscription- we have just received some from friends as their children have grown too old for the program. But if you actually sign up for the subscription, each month you will get a DVD, books, educational toys, etc. The DVD’s for kids are about 15 minutes long, which is perfect.  I think they will even mail you something special for your child’s birthday. In Japan the package is about 2000 yen/month.

You can subscribe even if you live overseas. Here is the website for overseas subscribers (warning: you will need to be able to read Japanese). Click here to see pricing. I think it is about $50/month for those in the United States. You could also have a relative subscribe in Japan and have them mail the packets to you… but I’m not sure if that would save you any money.

If you live outside of Japan, don’t have a lot of Japanese community resources, and are serious about your children learning Japanese (and having fun while they do so), I highly recommend Kodomo Challenge!

(More Shimajiro websites to check out here and here).

Bilingual Babies

2 Mar

“What Bilingual Babies Reveal About the Brain” by Clara Maskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer

You should read this article about the benefit of exposing babies to more than one language. It is fascinating, encouraging, and helps me feel validated for all the effort I put into teaching my kids two languages!

Some parts that stood out to me in this article:

Rather than causing any difficulties, learning two languages at once may confer cognitive advantages to babies, including not just special auditory sensitivity, but enhanced visual sensitivity as well.

There’s some great work by Aggie Kovács and Jacques Mehler that shows that at 7 and 12 months of age, babies growing up bilingual are better able to switch rules. So if a baby is taught to turn their head in one direction in order to hear or see something interesting, they’ll do that well. But a bilingual baby at 7 months can then reverse the rule and learn to turn their head in another direction better than a monolingual baby can. And similarly, at 12 months they’re better [able] to learn two sets of rules.


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