Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Mysterious Cat Poem about Jeoffry from the Eighteenth Century

We still cannot say why Ana, from another planet and completely unfamiliar with cats, should be so taken by them, or why cats should be so taken by her. It's a mystery, and one that Ana acknowledges. She even likes poems about cats, as some of those collected here* will show. She was delighted when her husband Matt found this one for her, by Christopher Smart ((1722-1751), about his cat Joeffry. It's a part of a longer poem by Smart called Jubilate Agno, which he wrote in part while institutionalized. To this day, it turns up in freshman literature anthologies, and it continues to be enjoyed for its strange imagery and, well, mystery. Ana too finds it mysterious, though it's no easier for her to explain than it is for the average college freshman. She just knows she likes it. Perhaps you will too.

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his Way.

For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.

For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer


For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.

For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life


For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.

For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.

For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

For he is tenacious of his point.

For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For he knows that God is his Saviour.

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion


For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.

For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.

For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadrupede.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick

For he can swim for life.

For he can creep.

Note: some links below may have been closed. We have a possible workaround, though. 
If this is the case, please see this post for directions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Distant Cousin: Meet Ana Darcy!

The short video clip above gives an idea of Ana's basic story, but there is much, much more to Ana. She's unforgettable, and perhaps for that reason, hard to describe. Why not let readers have their say first?

"Ana Darcy is one of my favorite characters."

"Thanks, Al, for some wonderful books. It's always a pleasure to read a book where the character is so "fleshed out" that I feel I would know him/her if I met them on the street. Not only would I know them, I'd have to invited them to lunch so we could chat!"

"I love the Distant Cousin characters, they feel like family to me, I am interested in their lives, I worry about them, and I just adore them. I think I've said this about each book, but I think this one [DC5] is my favorite!"

"I love this book.  I have not read anything non-work related in a while, and this book is so completely refreshing, the characters are excellent, there is a great pace, and this book is a lot of fun."

"Enormous fun! The very fast-paced plot is based on some interesting premises, there are many well-sketched characters (and some good character development), and the book is loaded with local color of several flavors. I'd add that there's a touch of innocence about the worldview that reminds me slightly of golden-age SF. I'm systematically reading my way through the series, and I recommend it highly."

"I just finished book 3 and can hardly wait for the next to see what happens next. I have thoroughly enjoyed {them}....I loved Ana Darcy. She is a very believable heroine."

"Ana Darcy (Anneyn Darshiell) – the initial human envoy from a distant world populated by “cousins” to our species – is both the most famous person on Earth and also a private individual who wants what most women want: a family, a home, and a meaningful life. The Distant Cousin series explores Darcy’s arrival on Earth, her meteoric rise to fame, her impact on world politics and seems that no one who meets this woman remains untouched by her...."

"What a fascinating concept you have developed."

"These are excellent books and are at a very good price. The first volume made my Top 10 list for 2009."

"...there are only a few books that I tend to think about or miss the characters after reading so that says a lot about your book!"

"I just finished reading Distant Cousin. Although science fiction usually is not my favorite genre, I enjoyed the novel very much. It was not overly technical, and mixed romance in nicely with the story of the extra-terrestrial. Also the book was driven more by character than by plot, which is something that I like. I am looking forward to reading more about Darcy and Matt. Thank you for writing their story."

Even MORE about Ana

It's possible to know more about Ana than you can learn from her stories. How? In this blog, Ana's own, the only blog for an extraterrestrial!

As readers of the books well know, Ana was born on the planet Thomo, and now lives on Earth. People find her history fascinating, and that's partly what her books are about. What readers may NOT know is that Ana has answered questions directly from readers. These contain information that those who only read the books do not know (see below). In that post, Ana talks about the experience of coming to Earth, her religious beliefs, her native language, Luvit, the mysterious creatures who took her ancestors to Thomo from Earth millennia ago, notable Thomans from history, the planet Thomo and its creatures, her impressions of Earth's cultures, and, perhaps surprisingly, why she married "that slug, Matt" (in the words of one reader). All her responses are here. Even if you know Ana from her stories, you might see another side of her in these responses.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Readers, and Writers, Weigh In

It's almost always a pleasure to hear from readers. (There are rare exceptions.) Most readers don't bother to contact the author of a book they like, understandably, but some do. This is made easy in some cases because Ana's editor, a reader himself, is a member of several online reading groups where he and other readers and authors interact amicably. Some readers are downright chatty, commenting from time to time while they are in the process of reading a book. It's enjoyable to sample the different perspectives through which readers experience a story. Some recent samples might be of interest.

From a reader whose Kindle battery needed charging:

I started Distant Cousin…on my iPhone. Now the pitiful Cowboys are playing and they’re not acting as pitiful as usual so I’m reading your book and watching the ‘Boys off and on. Hubby’s on the sofa and I’m in my comfy chair behind him and he hears me occasionally laughing. He finally asks me what I’m laughing about and I tell him about how I don’t care for anything except stories about normal people and you assured me your book was very normal and that I’d like it so I'm reading it.

Now it’s getting about supper time and we’re hungry. When we do takeout our usual MO is I do the ordering, I drive and my husband goes in and gets the food. Meanwhile, my phone battery is starting to run down so while my husband goes in to get our dinner I am sitting in the car with the engine running, phone plugged in and I’m STILL READING YOUR BOOK!

I love Darcy. She and Mr. Hernandez are heading east, have just passed the Border Patrol checkpoint and I can’t wait to see what happens next. It is indeed a page turner, a cute and funny book with lots of laugh-out-loud parts. You were right. I like it!

I just thought I’d let you know that it’s been a fun read and I am thoroughly enjoying it."

[Days later] I'm almost finished with your book. Loving it. It's taken me a bit longer than usual .... It seems once I start reading I "suddenly" find a couple of hours have passed before I realize it.... It is truly well written. I love the dialogue. So down to earth with things I hear every day. It's been a truly fun read.

From a reader and outdoorsman:

I’m the dude...that told you a couple months ago I would have an opinion on “Distant Cousin” in a couple days. Sorry it took so long… I had to go through the entire series.

Well done sir. I was entertained.

I have read a lot of science fiction in the past, and this had a completely different (and believable) spin. It lacked the 'techno babble' that I often enjoy, but, if we can’t understand gravity propulsion anyway I suppose it is not necessary to explain it. The series was a compelling, heartwarming and sometimes scary page turner.

From a retired teacher:

I am on page 254 and I just started yesterday afternoon. I'm killing my back by constant reading but only put it down long enough to go to church and a short party last night.

Has this been made into a screenplay yet? I ordered it from Amazon a while ago but it has been at the bottom of my pile of books. Silly me!

[Two days later] I thought that I would just read DC1 and that would be the end of it. HA! Now I really need to reconsider a Kindle because your books aren't in our library.

For a person who never wanted anything to do with fantasy or science fiction I have come a long way! It helps that I'm fascinated by linguistics, harpsichords, geography and sympathetic characters. ....Thanks for writing such a great novel!

A reader from an online readers' group:

I have flown through nine chapters tonight and I am not bored yet. I did take a break to watch the end of NCIS.  Sorry, gotta run. A book is calling me back. I will get a few more chapters in tonight and then get to bed. Have to be at work by 6:30 in the morning.

[The next day] Unfortunately I am at work now, but I will struggle to find the time to read another chapter or two

[The day after that] Just finished "Distant Cousin". I am hooked. Guess I will download the next adventure and begin reading today. Thanks for such enjoyable reading....My money was well spent. Thanks.

From a newspaper publisher:

I really appreciated your craftsmanship in writing Distant Cousin. Maybe it was because...I was reading it with something more of a critical eye toward how you were writing than I normally would in simple pleasure reading. times I caught myself looking at it like a creative writing project.... Ultimately, I couldn't decide if you were inside my head or I was inside yours. Either way, it was good fun and I thank you for sharing Darcy's story with me.

From a romance author:

I loved the storyline for Distant Cousin. I fell in love with Ana Darcy. Sometimes she seemed to be quite immature for someone who is supposedly almost a hundred years old. But then I got to wondering how I would react if I was suddenly alone in an unfamiliar world light years away from my home planet with no way of escaping. I would probably curl up in a fetal position and pull the covers over my head. But Ana survived and in a grand way.

From an author acquaintance:

Just a quick note to let you know that I enjoyed Distant Cousin and found it quite absorbing. I really admire your ability to invent--at least I assume you're inventing, but maybe you have more experience with extraterrestrials than I know about! In any case, I know I couldn't have pulled off an ambitious project like that. The last part, by the way, was a pleasant surprise. I was wondering where you could go after the second part wound down, but suddenly I was swept away on a new adventure. And obviously you've managed to construct a lot more of those in the ensuing books....

Another reader from an online readers' group:

Once I start one of your books, I don't want to put it down. That's why I haven't read DC5 yet. Seems as if I've been too busy to prevent having to read it in small increments, and I don't like reading your books that way. They deserve my full attention.

From a former college administrator:

I'm on book three, having read one and two and can't put it down, nor could I the others. You really know how to draw in the reader. You have gained a fan.

More comments:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ana Discovers One of the World's First Cat Poems!

Ana is an enthusiastic student of ancient history, which makes sense, given the ancient people she comes from. Unfortunately, they left no record of themselves, being nomads and illiterate, but since her people's language has been tied to both the Germanic and Slavic branches of the Indo-European language family, she has taken special interest in the most ancient histories of both groups.

She was fascinated by a documentary about the Book of Kells, the gorgeous eighth century illuminated book of hours that is the treasure of Trinity College in Dublin. The book is one of the world's greatest works of art, but Ana was especially interested in the part of the documentary that described how the monks had gone about creating it. It mentioned in passing an early Irish penman who, in some idle moments, wrote a poem comparing his own work to those of his cat, Pangur Ban. ("Pangur" was a not uncommon cat name. "Ban" is thought to be ancient Gaelic for "white.")

Later, after a little research, Matt was able to present her with a translation of the entire poem. Ana carefully added it to the poetry notebook she keeps with her volumes of favorite poetry.

(Anyone wishing to know more could do worse than to start with the Wikipedia article on the Book of Kells.)

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade ;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning darkness into light.'

(See more of the poems that Ana loves in the column on the right, under the picture of the LOVE sculpture.)

Meet Ana Darcy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Early Reading and Bilingualism (4)

Young children who are learning to speak can also learn to read. That's a given (see 1, 2, & 3), but we cannot provide a detailed explanation of how to do it here. Instead, we will offer some preliminary considerations, an overview of the process, and some ways to find more help for those so inclined.

The first and most important consideration is to stress how important it is for the parents or other persons involved NOT to feel that they are actually "teaching," or that a schedule should be followed, or that the child WILL learn to read whether he or she wants to or not. Those notions will make the process unpleasant for the child and likely lead to failure. The learning experience should be fun for the child (and the parent), not a series of pass/fail tests. It should be conducted like a game, with laughter, smiles, and joking around. The parents should be thinking of empowering the child, NOT enabling him or her to get into a better school eventually or amaze the neighbors. Small children love to be empowered--any parent knows the delight in a child's voice when he or she reads "Stop" on a stop sign, or "Kentucy Fried Chicken" while driving by a fast food establishment. That's the kind of delight children should have when reading word cards.

So, assuming that the parents are the sort who enjoy the company of their young children at least periodically, then we can move to word cards. There has always been a controversy about the virtues of the "whole word" method of reading instruction versus "phonics." This controversy thrives in elementary schools, with six and seven year olds and older, and will not be reviewed here. Instead, we'll describe a demonstration we used with college students.

The students were instructed to look at a screen where a word would appear for perhaps one quarter of a second. The first word was "terrific." Every student, as soon as the word disappeared, instantly said it out loud: "terrific!" Then they were told to wait for another word. This word was "syzygy." After it disappeared, the classroom buzzed with the sound of students saying "sssss," "zzzz," "sizzy," and so forth, all laughing. When the word was put back on the screen, some actually figured out how to pronounce it. Here's the point: when they read the word "terrific," they were actually reading--getting the meaning from the symbols instantly, without thinking about it. That's what we do when we read. But when they came to an unfamiliar word, they had to proceed a letter or syllable at a time, maybe getting the meaning in the process or maybe not. That's NOT reading--that's decoding. That's phonics. We all use phonics when we're stuck, but that's not an efficient way to extract meaning from printed language. The whole word method is how we read, whole words or whole phrases at a glance, or even, in proficient readers, whole sentences. And that's how little children best start to read.

We've known parents who use card stock, or cardboard, to make word cards, word cards with single words in large, easy to see letters, words that hold special meaning for their toddlers, like their own names, their words for their parents and siblings, pets, and so forth. (See the photo above.) Children of two or three who are beginning to talk two and three words at a time are ready to try this. It's important not to go too fast. Start with one card the first couple of days, and read it for the child. If the child eventually reads it before it is read for him or her, there should be a general celebration followed by the second card, which is also read for the child. When he or she can differentiate between them, bring out the third card. If the child is distracted or not interested, then postpone any further sessions for several months. You will know when the child is ready to continue when you see their delight.

The children we are familiar with soon get the hang of this process, and even request (or demand) other words be written for them: favorite foods, people, animals, all sorts of unpredictable things. Always stop before the child wants to; don't overload him or her with new words. One or two a day is the limit. The size of the word doesn't matter. "Great grandmother" is easily read. At first, children will recognize words by their first letter, or the presence of double letters, or maybe their overall length, or even by a splash of grape juice on one corner of the card. That doesn't matter.

Eventually, they will be able to read 40 or 50 words, and confusion will set in. This is good! One child had a devil of a time differentiating hand, head, and hair. She first learned hair, because "it has a dot." That left hand and head, which required some extra study. Eventually, she figured out which was which on her own, with the help of her mother's hints. This is exactly how children learn to speak as well--by practicing, studying, and trying again. It's crucial that they not be criticized for their miscues. It's a game. It should be fun.

At some point, perhaps between 50 and 100 word cards, their eyes will be getting accustomed to the letters, and the size of the letters can be reduced to one inch. Parents can create fun activities: flash card games, words laid out on the floor (to accustom the child to left-to-right reading), nonsense sentences, or even sentences of the child's creation. Children can even dictate entire stories which can be written out on card stock for reading later, on their own. One child loved a game where she was given a card that said "There is a pretzel under your pillow," or "Find the cookie on your bed." She learned to take the card along on her search, to consult in case she forgot a crucial detail. Thus she learned, by age four, that writing could lead to food!

As it happened, Ana and Matt Méndez used word cards with their children, for both English and Spanish, only being careful to conduct a single session in one language. They were delighted when three year old Julio, for example, saw the word "pato" and said "duck," or saw "table" and said "mesa!" He understood the meaning of the word instantly, but spoke it in whatever language came to him first. That is real reading: getting the meaning from print instantly. It was not a mistake! (When they got to the sentence stage, this no longer happened.) Both children were soon able to read themselves to sleep in two languages. Unfortunately, however, the Méndez family was unfamiliar with the different alphabets of the other languages their nannies used, so they weren't able to use word cards for them

Several of the parents mentioned in the examples above used a simple, inexpensive book as a guide: How To Teach Your Baby to Read, by Glen Doman. It's still in print (with a co-author), along with myriad other titles promising to give children superior brains. We can't recommend any but the basic book. Parents can easily create their own word cards without paying for commercially prepared materials. We are intrigued, however, by Teach Your Baby Math, also by Glen Doman. If it seems that learning mathematics is too difficult for a young child, we disagree. Basic math is simpler than language: it's completely logical and there are no exceptions! If we had a two or three year old handy, we would try this ourselves. (We wonder if some of the unfavorable reviews for those books might be from demanding parents who set goals and had expectations for their children. We don't know...but we wonder.)

In any case, teaching small children to read in two languages is a good way to help them become bilingual. Each case will depend on many variables. Clearly, it's best if at least one parent is bilingual, the more fluent the better. A child who is even partially bilingual at an early age will have an advantage later on should the opportunity present. As long as the parent-child sessions are no pressure, fun occasions, they will be time well spent, for both parents and their children.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bilingual and Biliterate Toddlers: Some Preliminaries (3)

First, a bit of background on child language acquisition. Children learn to speak mostly on their own. They are not "taught" in any conventional sense. They practice incessantly, make and correct mistakes, and in only a few short years become native speakers, figuring out how their language works all by themselves.

If you have ever heard a child say something like "The dog bited me," that's a bit of evidence of this. Children don't copy adults saying that because adults don't say that. Such a mistake shows the child has figured out how past tense works in English (for regular verbs, at least) and applies it to an irregular verb. If it's a mistake, it's a very good one. We have similarly heard a young child say in Spanish "Yo sabo la respuesta" ("I know the answer"), which is a regularization of an irregular Spanish verb. (The correct, irregular, form is "Yo sé la respuesta.") Both "mistakes" are clues that each child has figured out how verbs work...normally. They are actually excellent mistakes.

Any parent knows that young children are ferocious, instatiable learners. The best thing a parent can do is encourage them and let them learn, all the while keeping them out of the knife drawer and high traffic areas. Ana Darcy Méndez, and the people of Thomo, her planet, knew this well. That's why Ana hired bilingual nannies (in DC2), and later, private tutors for her children in a variety of fields (in DC3). (If only more of us could do that!)

Young children are especially gifted at learning languages, though this ability fades into adulthood. If you attempted a foreign language in high school or college, you probably felt remarkably ungifted. You were too old! You'd have done better at age three!

Now we must make a biological point. Where in the body is language actually learned? In the brain, obviously. How does language get to the brain? Via nervous impulses, of course. The brain receives these nervous impulses from all over the body: from the eyes, from the ears, the nose, the skin, the tongue--all in the same "format," via the nervous system.

The point is that, as far as the brain is concerned, language can be aural (via the ears), or visual, via the eyes. (It can even be tactile, through the fingers: braille.) Printed language IS language, just as spoken language is. To the brain, it's all nerve signals. So if small children are such gifted learners of spoken language, why aren't they also gifted learners of printed language?

It turns out that the reason more children don't learn to read at very young ages is that the letters are too small. Compare cat and eat. What is the difference between those two sets of letters? It's the difference between the letters c and e, one tiny line: -. That's all. It's hard to see if you don't know what to look for. Normal children have excellent eyesight. They can spot a tiny spider across a room--but give them a confusing jumble of letters and it's hard to tell cat from eat. Solution: make the letters BIG, especially at first. Train their eyes! They'll figure out the c/e problem, like they figure out the rest of the language, on their own.

The bottom line is that tiny children who are learning spoken language can indeed learn to read that language too, at the same time and in the same way, without being conventionally taught. And, just as those children fortunate enough to be around two spoken languages can learn to speak them both, they can also learn to read them both--at the same time and in the same way.

The next post will provide a brief explanation of the process and some hints for those interested in pursuing early bilingual reading.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Raising Bilingual Children: Extraterrestrials and the Rest of Us: 2

It isn't difficult for bilingual parents to raise bilingual children. All they have to do is speak to their children in both languages, and the kids will do the rest. It can be a challenge, however, for parents who are not bilingual to raise bilingual children.

The matter is eased if there are other people present, including other children, who speak the second language. The more they are present, the easier it will be. But if their presence cannot be counted upon, or is sporadic, then the results may be disappointing.

Ana and Matt Méndez wanted their children to be at least bilingual, and Ana's determination, plus their fortunate circumstances, made this possible. They hired nannies, and Ana made sure all the nannies, in addition to their other qualifications, were native speakers of other languages...and that they spoke to the children in those languages.

Ana didn't realize that this was not enough contact to ensure complete acquisition, and with no further contact the children lost most of the languages they were exposed to as they grew older. They retained some familiarity with several, notably Hindi, which is probably enough to give them a head start should they decide to try again later in life. Their experience with Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, all from other than the Indo-European family of languages, did not take.

Most of us do not have the option of hiring bilingual nannies, of course, yet there are other ways non-native speakers can help their infant children gain another language. We are familiar with one Texas family which succeeded. Both parents were native English speakers, but both learned Spanish later in life. One parent was fairly fluent, the other less so, but neither had experience in the household, intimate family Spanish that would be spoken around children. They realized they couldn't expect their children to learn to speak like a student in a graduate Spanish literature class!

Their solution was to teach the children to read in two languages. It makes sense! There are countless children's books in Spanish. Libraries have hundreds of them. They can be purchased in grocery stores and other stores all over town--and they contain native-quality Spanish, useful vocabulary, attractive illustrations, and are designed for young readers. For this family, the books, plus the spoken efforts of the parents, occasional contact with Spanish speaking children, and Spanish kid shows on public television, produced young people fluent enough to place out of Spanish in high school and college and go on to learn other languages easily.

The next question, to be sure, is How do you teach toddlers to read?

It turns out not to be difficult at all. That will be the subject of the next post.

(The photo above shows a youngster from another English dominant family, who has also learned Spanish, putting himself to sleep by reading a children's book in Spanish, a skill his mother helped him acquire and that he enjoys to this day. He is also, at the age of seven, interested in learning French.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bilingualism And Ana and Matt's Children: 1

Every year or two, it seems, society rediscovers the benefits of teaching young children to speak two or more languages. Fifty years ago, it was commonly thought that doing this would confuse toddlers horribly--despite the abundant evidence of happy, unconfused bilingual children all around the doubters, and all over the world. Many still think exposing toddlers to two (or more) languages is a bad idea.

But the conventional wisdom, if that's what it is, is wrong. There is plenty of scholarly documentation to indicate bilingual children are better off than monolingual children in many ways, including and especially in brain development and flexibility. Countless parents and children have realized this themselves, on their own.

Presently, the Méndez family lives in New Mexico, where bilingualism is probably more common than not, and there's little controversy about the advantages of raising bilingual children. The state Ana first landed in, Texas, is considerably behind New Mexico in that regard, though improving slowly. Any Spanish teacher in one of Texas' many community colleges is familiar with Hispanic students trying to learn Spanish as adults, after their parents made sure to raise them speaking only the dominant language, English.

A similar situation holds for other Texans of ethnic heritage: Czech Texans, German Texans, Polish Texans, Swedish Texans, and many others. They have lost their ancestral language, even though the ability to speak it would not hamper their functioning in an English-speaking society. Instruction in Czech, to give just one example, is offered in high schools and under continuing education programs in the central part of the state. Nearly all the students are second, third, or fourth generation children of immigrants who abandoned their first language at some point. Now, their children want to reconnect. It is possible to hear Czech spoken now in stores and on the streets of central Texas towns: La Grange, Praha (yes, Praha), Moravia (yes, Moravia, Texas), Schulenberg, Shiner, German in Fredericksburg, and so forth.

In addition to the benefits of bilingualism to the individual, the benefits to society are also worth mentioning. Just ask the same Spanish professor mentioned above: who is studying Spanish nowadays? Answer: business people, medical personnel, law enforcement people, all sorts of people. It's a practical, marketable skill. Check the increasing number of students now studying Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. A multilingual populace is an obvious national asset.

But back to toddlers. No one really "teaches" babies a language. They learn language on their own, over just a few years. It's almost a miracle: they acquire whatever languages are spoken around them, painlessly and perfectly. Adults seldom learn a second language perfectly, but children become native speakers.

The record for a child learning languages, as far as Ana's editor is aware, is nine, by a child of British diplomats in India. His parents, his grandparents, his teacher, his nanny spoke different languages, and he learned them all--without having headaches or nightmares. He retained only several into adulthood, but later he remembered that at the time, he thought it was simply necessary to speak differently to different people. His parents took him shopping when he was four, to act as interpreter. It was no problem!

So how do monolingual parents raise bilingual children? That's a good question. It can be done. We will address that in another post very soon.