How to Raise Multilingual Kids in the Philippines

I am a third-generation Chinese Filipino, and I grew up in a multilingual home. Speaking in different languages was something that came naturally because of what my siblings and I have been exposed to. I spoke Amoy (Chinese dialect) to my parents and other relatives, spoke Hiligaynon or Ilonggo (Visayan dialect) to my friends, learned and used Filipino in class, and used English for different occasions. Over the years, I’ve acquired a bit of Mandarin when I was in seminary, and learned to speak in Bisaya or Cebuano while I was working in Cebu.

We’ve used the Amoy dialect to speak to Little Miss for the first three years of her life. But she learned English and Filipino when she started school shortly after that. She now mainly converses in English, although we still try to speak to her in Chinese. She reminds me of my younger self who refused to speak Chinese because none of my peers would ever do so. I guess that is the dilemma most later generation of Chinese immigrants face. Perhaps we fail to see the practical use of speaking Chinese in the Philippines. Little Miss also learned to speak in Filipino by imitating us. Although she has a funny Chinese accent when speaking Filipino, most store clerks are surprised when a Chinese-looking little girl can actually converse in Filipino. She is a local, and she ought to speak the language!

I was asked by a mom in Instagram how to teach a second and third language to children. To be honest, I never really thought about a systematic way of doing so. But here are some practical tips we’ve applied in teaching (whether actively or unconsciously) kids any second or third (even fourth) language.

Define Terms

Once a child learns a certain term in one particular language, try to introduce the very same item using a different language. For example, my two-year old now knows the colors in English. I am now introducing the colors to him in Chinese when he tries to mention the words in English. Classical Education is all about content in the early stages, and it is the same with learning any language. Provide the content by defining animals, colors, places, actions, etc. 

Repetition is Key

You may sound like a broken record. But that’s alright. Children learn by constant repetition. For example, if your child says “eat” you can respond by saying “kain” until they repeat it after you. Pretty soon they will realize that the same word means the same thing.

Mixing Languages is Normal

Don’t worry about them mixing up languages because that usually happens. They’ll learn to determine or categorize the words when they grow older.

Determine Fluency

You have to realize that there are different levels of fluency. It moves from Understanding, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and to Composing. Traditional Filipino schools teach English and Filipino proficiency through reading and writing. My aim for my children is to teach Chinese fluency in speaking or communicating. I don’t really mind if they don’t know how to read and write it. I’ve been schooled in Chinese for most of my school years, but I still cannot read a lot of Chinese. I’d be happy if my children learn to converse in Chinese. You have to decide how far you’d want your kids to learn a certain language. Your decision will also determine the lengths you’ll go to actively teach them proper writing or grammar rules.

Practice by Speaking

My husband and I can communicate in three languages fluently: English, Amoy, and Filipino. We usually interchange these languages at home, and the children are exposed to it. Nothing beats constant exposure and regular practice by speaking the language. The language loses its relevance when it is not being used, so keep using it if you want your children to learn the language. Simply put, if you speak it at home, your children will catch it soon enough.

Did you also grow up in a multilingual home? What are some of the ways that helped you learn different languages? Or how did you teach your own children to learn different languages? 

How to Talk to Children about Death

For the past weeks, our family has mourned the lost our dear grandmother. She was the first Christian in my husband’s family, whose spiritual legacy has resulted to two churches planted, one of which is our own fledgling church community. Our Little Miss also mourned her passing. She did not take it well when I finally told her that her great grandmother went home to be with God in heaven. There were several nights when we was utterly distraught at the thought of not seeing her great grandmother again. The only way she was able to finally sleep at night was to take comfort in God’s promises. I taught her a song based on 1 Peter 5:7 that I also learned when I was a little girl.

I cast all my cares upon You

I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet

And any time I don’t know what to do

I will cast all my cares upon You

One of our biggest parental roles is to impart God’s Word to our children. Even though it can be a tough topic, we should not shy away in talking about death because Scripture clearly addresses it. Opportunities to talk about death would open up when a pet dies or when a family member needs to attend a funeral.

What does the Bible say about Death?

Death Happens

Death makes us upset. Sometimes it makes us sad because we might not see the person we love. Sometimes it makes us angry because we don’t understand why they had to leave. But the Bible tells us that death is real, and it happens to everyone. One day, we will also die.

Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10

Death is NOT NORMAL

But death is not normal. God meant for us to live forever. But sin spoiled everything. Death is a result of sin. Because of sin, we will all die.

1 Corinthians 15:56-58

JESUS DESTROYED DEATH

But God sent His Son Jesus to destroy death. He died on the cross, was buried, and on third day, he rose again. Jesus defeated death, and death will die one day. When we trust that Jesus lived, died and became alive again so that our sins can be forgiven, God promises a life in heaven with him forever.

1 Corinthians 15:26; John 3:16; John 11:23-26

DEATH IS TO BE WITH GOD FOREVER

We will still die. And dying could mean that we may no longer be with our earthly families. But if we believe in Jesus, dying means we will be with God forever. We will be happy with God always. We will praise and worship God always. Most of all, we will spend forever with God, and enjoy Him forever.

John 14:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Philippians 3:20-21

Prepare Them Beforehand

A good time to talk about death would be before death ever happens. It is usually more manageable when the child is not upset or distressed. In a way, we prepare them before a distressing event like death occurs. Catechism is a great tool that could do just that. Here are the last 10 questions and answers of the Children’s Catechism that can help address some concerns relating to death. It also provides some simple answers regarding those who do not believe in Jesus.

  1. Did Christ remain in the grave after his crucifixion?
    No. He rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death.
  2. Where is Christ now?
    In heaven, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us.
  3. Will the Lord Jesus come again?
    Yes! He will return to judge the world on the last day.
  4. What happens to believers when they die?
    Our bodies will return to the dust and our souls will go to be with the Lord forever.
  5. What happens to unbelievers when they die?
    Their bodies will return to dust also, but their souls will go to hell.
  6. What is hell?
    Hell is an awful place, where unbelievers are separated from God to suffer for their sins.
  7. Will the bodies of all the dead be raised again?
    Yes. At the last day some will be raised to everlasting life and others to everlasting death.
  8. What will God do to unbelievers at the last day?
    He will judge them, and condemn them to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire with Satan and his angels.
  9. What will God do for believers at the last day?
    He will give them a home with him in the new heaven and the new earth.
  10. What will the new heaven and the new earth be like?
    A glorious and happy place, where the saved will be with Jesus forever.

Not knowing what is going to happen after death is certainly upsetting for anyone, let alone a child. Try not to downplay their emotions when this happens. Instead, recognize that have worries, fear or dread of death, and point them to our everlasting hope in Jesus. But most of all, pray for them and with them. That God would supply His grace upon their hearts, and give them understanding. After all, “Prayer is praising God, giving thanks for all his blessings, and asking him for the things he has promised in the Bible.” (Children’s Catechism A109)

 

Doctrinal Compatibility

Does theology matter when I’m considering marriage with someone?

A lot of couples consider compatibility in terms of culture, education, and interests, before they get married. I propose that Christian couples should also discuss Doctrinal Compatibility when they are prayerfully considering one another.

There are some aspects of the Christian faith that cannot be left to compromise, such as the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus. There are, however, a few instances where there can be a little wiggle room. For example, I’m an infralapsarian who married a supralapsarian. My husband and I used discuss it comprehensively. But we decided to respect each other’s views since there are no clear explanations in Scripture for this one.

I, however, would like to propose these doctrinal essentials where you need to agree on, or at least discuss,  when it comes to finding a spouse:

Pre-Martial Doctrinal Discussions

GOSPEL

A good place to start is to ask whether or not someone truly believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most people would like to stop here, but I personally would like to delve deeper. A lot of people reckon themselves as some sort of “Christian” nowadays. So try to see if they believe that a person is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone? These are actually Reformation statements that basically defines the Protestant religion. But please don’t end there. Ask further if they they agree with the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and even the Athanasian Creed? These are doctrinal statements formulated and agreed upon in church history that Christians can use to check whether or not their belief aligns with the historic orthodox Christian faith. You certainly wouldn’t want to marry a heretic now, would you? Being curious about what and why a person believes makes you think about your own doctrinal convictions, or lack thereof.

CHURCH

The church isn’t merely a place where you come to worship on Sundays. On this side of eternity, the church is the visible body of believers whom the Lord has called out together as His witnesses into the world. There are many reasons why people flock to different church communities. Aside from distance or convenience, ask yourself why the person you’re interested in may not be in the same faith community as you are. How do they view the church, her ministries and mission, and her officers or leaders? Are there certain values or practices they believe in, that you don’t? Perhaps, you could also consider whether or not they believe in the continuity or discontinuity of some spiritual gifts? Does their church emphasize responsible membership? Is there some sort of accountability to their pastors and leaders in place? More importantly, is the Gospel faithfully preached, sacraments properly administered, and church discipline exercised in their local congregation? Ecclesiology is a big deal because our local churches are covenant communities where we choose to love and serve other Christians with our time, energy, money, and gifts. Whichever church community we decide to commit ourselves to have direct implications on our own lives, our future spouse, and our future children, D.v.

SACRAMENTS

While this is actually related to Church, I chose to make this a separate topic altogether in order to highlight its importance. Do they see the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace, or merely a remembrance of what Christ has done? Do they celebrate it during the Lord’s Day where it is prime and center or in small groups led by an unordained leader? How about baptism? Is their baptism tied to membership? Will you have your future children baptized, dedicated, or none at all? When your future children come up to you and ask, “Am I a Christian?” What are you going to say to them? As a Presbyterian, I affirm the practice of paedobaptism, and I consider it to be sin for parents to withhold covenant baptism from their children. As someone who was baptized by sprinkling as a child, I wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in some Baptist congregations. If I would have married a Baptist brother, I would have been required to undergo another baptism. As a sign and seal  the covenant, this sacrament is only happens once, and never to be repeated. These things need to be addressed before you commit to one another. Who will be following whom? And if they don’t call it sacraments, why not?

GENDER

If you’re serious about having a Christ-centered marriage, your views on gender will affect both your church life, and home life.  Do they affirm that the offices of the elder—both teaching and ruling—and deacon, are reserved for mature Christian men only? Scripture mandates that women should submit to male leadership—this is the Biblical order. Egalitarianism trumps male leadership in the church and in the home.

Theology Matters

I know that this list may seem unconventional to some people, but I truly believe that theology matters. What a person believes about God, the Scriptures, and the world, is their working theology, and it matters greatly.

The first one matters because it is of eternal significance as it relates to our salvation, and the object of our faith. The second one matters because true worship is something we must aspire to do. The third one matters because it affects our piety, practice, and even our parenting. The fourth one matters because the authority of Scripture is at stake.

Theology and Practice

I used to end with these doctrinal essentials, but I would like to add one last thing. Just because a person knows theology doesn’t necessarily mean they truly believe it in their hearts. The Bible tells us that we will know people by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). These are also things we constantly need to check on as we journey together in our Christian walk. Do we still believe in the Gospel? Do we still repent of our sins? Do we show forth fruits in our life that reveal a changed heart, e.g. good works?

 

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This is a rehash of an old post that I wrote almost two years ago in my other blog.

Training Children through Song

I write this in the wee hours of the morning after preparing a Sunday School lesson for the kids in our church community. As I was searching for a few songs to teach alongside the Bible lesson, I happened to listen to a lullaby that transported me back to our old apartment more than five years ago, rocking my baby girl to sleep to the tune of “Jesus Loves Zacchaeus” by Rain for Roots. I have listened to their album, Big Stories for Little Ones for a hundred and million times until my daughter was about two years or so. Music has helped her calm down and drift to sleep all those years. I remembered the long nights, and it brought me back to the first few months of being a new mama.

I also remember being a sleepy girl in a church sanctuary on a Sunday morning whenever I listen to Cedarmont Kids, and seeing my own mom right in front teaching all the Sunday School kids how to sing the songs with matching actions. Likewise, I remember being a carefree elementary student sitting in one of the pews inside the hot auditorium of my old alma mater and following along to the lyrics of Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart while the smell of ripe sugarcane permeates the air. I still remember those songs, and I remember the memories well. These songs have helped me in putting Scripture to heart, and the Spirit of God brings them to memory whenever I need them.

I grew up attending Sunday School all my life, and I am also thankful that my parents forced me to attend the Chinese worship service where they only sung hymns. This exposure to Scripture songs and old hymns during my youth has proved useful in the ministry even as I married a Reformed pastor. How wise is God’s providence!

From Music to Memory

The Reformer Martin Luther said it best: “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.” Luther always emphasized the importance of music in training people in the faith. He went on to writing many hymns, one of which is A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

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Music is an able aid in memorization. Young children, particularly those in the Pre-Grammar and Grammar stage according to Classical Education, can absorb vast amounts of information when taught through song and rhyme. This old practice is often times neglected by modern education. Rote memorization and drill and practice aren’t to be abandoned. They are the essential building blocks of education.

Recommended Resources

If you want to train your children to learn Scripture and theology through music, I would like to recommend the resources listed below. Thanks to wonderful Internet technology, most of these are readily available for streaming on Spotify, Amazon Music or Bandcamp.

Ask Me Whooo

This is a recent discovery, and it easily became my favorite resource. These are beautifully written tunes sung by Diana Beach Batarseh, and are based on the First Catechism. Scripture verses are also recited at the end of each song. I cannot recommend this enough. DOWNLOAD. NOW.

Songs for Saplings

My preschooler started listening to their ABC memory verses album, and pretty soon she memorized them. They also have other music based on the New City Catechism.

Rain for Roots

The Big Stories for Little Ones album is based on Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Baby’s Hug-a-Bible, which in my opinion, is the baby/toddler’s version of the famed Jesus Storybook Bible. These are my favorite lyrics from the song “Jesus Is Born”:

Who was there when time began?
Who came to earth to live as man?
Whose cradle was a cattle stall?
Who is the greatest gift of all?

Judy Rogers

My favorite song is “What is a Sacrament?” from her album Why Can’t I See God? What a way to raise covenant children!

What is a sacrament?
It is a holy ordinance
Given by Christ unto believers
Showing His great love for us.

Baptism was ordained,
And the Lord’s Supper;
Jesus gave them to His church
To keep and to remember.

Sacraments, given us by Christ
To signify and apply God’s covenant to our lives.

Family Devo

These are also songs based on the First Catechism. They are more upbeat than the classic tunes of Ask Me Whooo, which may be more appealing to some people.

Sovereign Grace Kids

I always watch out for whatever new album that Sovereign Grace Music releases. One of my favorite albums from them is The Ology, a companion to the The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New, a storybook theology by Marty Machowsky. Here’s a lyric from the song called “All About Jesus”:

From Genesis to Revelation
There’s one story of Your great salvation
It’s all about Jesus, oh, it’s all about Jesus
Shoutin’ out from every page
There’s one Hero that’ll save the day
It’s all about Jesus, oh, it’s all about Jesus

Getty Kids

If you want your kids to learn old and new hymns, listen to Getty Kids’ albums. Like Sovereign Grace Music, they are blessings to the local church.

Other Classic Resources

What are some of your family favorites? Feel free to share them below.

One Big Story

This is Part 1 of a series on How to Choose Big Story Books for Little Hearts.

When I was a children’s worker in a Chinese church in Cebu, I started searching and collecting books for children that were helpful to my ministry. What I found though was a shortage of supply of good resources. So I had to either bring in materials from abroad or come up with my own materials. But not everyone is equipped to come up with Gospel-driven lessons. This is why I am always on the look out for good Christian resources, and I have made it part of my mission to provide quality resources for Christian parents and homeschooling families through Katecheo.

About ten years ago, these materials were very scarce. And only one or two were available locally. Sure, there are many children’s books in Christian bookstores. But I am not comfortable in recommending most of them. And why is that, you may wonder? They aren’t much different than other children’s books that teach good manners and right conduct—Joy Berry books actually teach the Golden Rule very well. If there isn’t anything that sets them apart from all the other books in the market, what makes them Christian in the first place? To put it simply, these books are usually devoid of the One Big Story that the Bible always talks about.

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One Big Story

What is this One Big Story that I keep referring to? A big term that theologians like to use to refer to this idea is Biblical Theology. And I always say, one of the greatest factors in the ability to choose the right books for instructing children in the faith boils down to having a good understanding of the Bible’s One Big Story. So I will take the time to summarize and explain plainly the four parts:

Creation

Before all things ever came to be, God is there. God created the word and everything in it for His own good pleasure and His own glory, including man. The first two chapters of Genesis talk about how God made the world good:

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31a, ESV)

Fall

God created man perfect and righteous, but man disobeyed God’s command.  Sin entered the world through our first parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Sin ruined God’s world. And ever since, man always rebelled against God and His Word, making themselves their own little gods. Man is lost without God. But God’s promised to send a Savior,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, ESV)

Redemption

Even before the foundation of the world, God had already planned to save His people from their lostness. God became man. Through the perfect life, atoning death, and miraculous resurrection of Jesus, God’s own Son, He secured salvation for His people. Jesus broke the chains of sin.

She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, ESV)

Jesus paid for man’s sin, and when we believe in what He has done in our stead, His perfect righteousness is accounted to us. When we and our children put our faith in Jesus, we are given new birth and new hearts to joyfully follow God’s commands.

Restoration

One day, God will restore all things to His original design—perfect and sinless. God is making all things new. 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5a, ESV)

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Christ the Center

All Scripture is about God’s redemptive plan. And what binds all of the four parts of the One Big Story together is that it centers around the person and work of Jesus. All stories either point to or look back to Jesus and what He has done. In fact, whenever we miss the important fact that Jesus is the main character of all the stories in the Bible, we miss the One Big Story. Whenever we forget about the One Big Story, we will most likely resort to moralistic lessons that aren’t much different than all the other stories out there. What is more, whenever we forget the One Big Story, we will altogether miss what or who the Bible is really all about, Jesus.

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doin. It’s about God and what he has done. Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of te people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes(sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture. (Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jesus Story Book Bible)

We want our efforts to teach, train, and disciple our children to not go to waste. And whenever we offer them alternatives and half-truths—no matter how flashy and attractive they seem to be—without addressing their heart’s truest and direst need, we would have failed our primary role of passing on the faith to the next generation.

The gospel is the ultimate story that shows victory coming out of defeat, strength coming out of weakness, life coming out of death, rescue from abandonment. And because it is a true story, it gives us hope because we know life is really like that. (Timothy Keller)

Never assume the Gospel. Never tire of telling your children the One Big Story. Never tire of telling them about the Gospel, that Jesus lived and died for us and for our salvation in order to bring us to God. Our children need to hear it daily, and so do we.

 

Part 2 coming soon.