How well do your kids speak your mother tongue?
Just over a month ago I decided to use my membership of two groups on LinkedIn to do a little reasearch about the levels of children’s language skills. Of the two groups I polled, Expats in Japan & Childhood bilingualism, it was the Expats group that provided the most responses and a lively discussion about raising kids bilingually. Here are some of the points raised and comments made in that discussion.
- Japanese is their first language. (Parent)
- If I were to have attended a Japanese grade school, I would probably not be handicapped with not being able to read/write Japanese well. (Japanese/American bilingual)
- Balanced bilinguals are not so common, but it is very much possible to be bilingual and biliterate (or multi). (Parent and professional in field of bilingualism)
- ‘When my son was first born 10 years ago, I was thinking that he would be just as much English as Japanese’ ‘but after a few years I realised both him and my daughter are really 99% Japanese and just happen to have an English father’. (Parent)
- I will caution that the English curriculum in Japanese junior high and high schools is difficult even if your child can speak English. It’s all grammar and translation’ . (Parent and professional in field of bilingualism)
- ~reading (or the lack of ability to read) is the number one reason students grow to hate English from JH (junior high). (Parent and professional in field of bilingualism)
- Perhaps stronger and sustained phonetic approaches from the very start of language learning would better equip all our children on these islands to hear what is being said. (Group member)
- My son has ‘real’ English for foreigners and Jenglish (Japanese English) for moronic teacher’s consumption. (Parent)
- You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. If they aren’t on board, it won’t work.
This is a fairly arbitrary selection of comments, but here are some points I picked up from the thread:
- Children identify themselves as being from the environment (country) they are raised in.
- Reading skills are important.
- Bilingualism is possible, but it takes some work.
- Our children’s lives as bilinguals will lead them to have different experiences to our own, and perhaps different aims.
- Children are children wherever they are, and their parents are their parents wherever they are from.