Podcasts on Raising Bilingual Kids

I spend plenty of my jogging and commuting time listening to podcasts, and have recently enjoyed several which are relevant to raising bilingual children.

Japan By River Cruise

I recently appeared on the Japan By River Cruise podcast to compare notes with their hosts, one of whom is raising kids with same language pairing that we are (English and Japanese) but with the minority/majority language environments reversed. We discussed a variety of topics from the impact of overseas Japanese supplementary schools, cultural aspects of language and even some provocative river cruise recommendations. They also had an earlier episode with another English speaking dad raising a bilingual daughter in Japan.


The English language version of the Kletsheads podcast (originally produced in Dutch) provides a nice primer on fundamental topics like preparing for bilingualism, the impact of siblings on a child’s language development and more. They even have a fun segment where they interview bilingual children to get their perspective on the topic!

Tongue Tied and Fluent

The Tongue Tied and Fluent series of episodes on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Earshot podcast is a rubber-meets-the-road discussion of multilingualism in Australia. I enjoyed the focus on the real-world constraints faced by a variety of families in specific situations.

Much Language, Such Talk

The Much Language, Such Talk podcast is more technical than those mentioned above, but I find it a welcome addition to my education if I’m in the mood for a more rigorous conversation.


The Parentland podcast from the BBC World Service has some specific episodes about raising bilingual children: Speaking in Many Tongues? and Discipline and Multiingualism.

America the Bilingual

America the Bilingual envisions a country where it is simply normal to be bilingual, which is something that we certainly aspire to in our family. As such, the podcast periodically addresses the topic of bilingualism in children, including their most recent episode.

速読生活 – Speed Reading Life

If you’ve only ever read to children in your native language, you may have never considered the importance of being able to read fast enough. If, like me, however, you were re-engaging with another language as you raised your children, you may have run into the challenge of reading in that language fast enough to hold their interest.

Since our kids were born, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading Japanese quickly, even in cases where I wasn’t fully comprehending the material. This was an essential skill to develop, since stumbling or pausing meant that I would lose their attention, especially when they were really young. Since we started re-engaging with Japanese learning when our first son was born, and spoke only Japanese with him until he was five, we could start with really simple material and increase the difficulty gradually as he got older. This worked well for us and for him, as it meant reading aloud with lots of repetition, which is an ideal way to practice.

Unfortunately, the habit of reading quickly has been so ingrained in me that I read quickly even when I probably shouldn’t, with the obvious downside being that I frequently miss important aspects of what I’m reading. I have to remind myself to slow down when reading important communications from the kids’ Japanese school, for example.


The Japanese tutor that I’ve been seeing the past few years uses a book that I absolutely love called An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese by Miura and McGloin. (There is no introductory companion text, so this is for students who are already at an intermediate level.) What I love about this book is the topic selection, particularly in the 速読 (speed reading) sections, which feature fun and interesting stories of Japanese/Western cultural collisions.

If the main conversations (会話) and readings (読み物) in this text book are at the so-called “+1” or “reach” level which require more careful study to understand, the speed reading sections are, by design, at a “current” or “-1” level. This means that I can achieve about 75% comprehension when reading them the first time aloud at speed. Reading a second time aloud usually gets me up around 90% comprehension.

This is very similar to picking up a new book and reading it to our kids, except there is not really an expectation that I understand everything in my kids’ books, which is kind of a trap. That leads me to…

What I Would Do Differently

Though I’m extremely happy with the improvement in reading skill brought on by these recent years of constant reading aloud, if I could rewind the clock I would devote more time to dissecting and studying our favorite books. If the kids latch on to a given book, I can easily end up reading it dozens or even hundreds of times. Not making the time to dig into the vocabulary and grammar in our favorite books is a missed opportunity.

Our Favorite Books

It’s hard to predict what will really strike a chord with the kids, but I have a few clear recommendations to make, based on what has gotten the most air time at our house.

The こぐまちゃん books are for the younger set and are good introductory reading material for the kids themselves when they start to read.

We love everything by the late Satoshi Kako, from the だるまちゃん series to はははのはなし (the story of teeth) to his more technical-leaning books on tools, water, rivers and even cross-sections (one of my personal favorites). He was amazingly prolific.

The バムとケロ books from Yuka Shimada are silly fun, with lots of details in the illustrations to discover over time. These are originally Japanese but are available in a number of languages. In fact, they were recommended to us by a friend who read the Chinese versions to her kids when they were little.

We have many books by Fumiko Takeshita, including books about all sorts of vehicles from ambulances to garbage trucks. For some reason, the Beatles make a subtle background appearance in many of these books if you look closely.

We have gotten an incredible amount of joy from the アニメ絵本 series, especially Studio Ghibli adaptations like となりのトトロ, 魔女の宅急便 and 崖の上のポニョ.


If you spend any time around kids, you’re bound to run into the phrase そっくり which translates to “the spitting image of” or “looks just like.” Japanese friends who know our our older son will be frequently shocked when they see our younger son and react with something like「お兄ちゃんにそっくりだ」noting that our younger son is the spitting image of his older brother.

I’ve also seen this phrase in the アニメ絵本 (anime picture book) of 「魔女うの宅急便」(Kiki’s Delivery Service). In particular, the scene where Kiki’s first customer asks her to deliver a bird cage containing a stuffed animal that happens to look just like her own black cat, Jiji. The word そっくり is used in the following sentence:


This translates to something like “Inside the cage, there was a black cat stuffed animal that looked just like Jiji.”


When it comes to resemblance, you may also encounter the verb 似る which means “to resemble.” For example, to say that someone’s little sister greatly resembles her mother, you could say: