Tales from the GaijinPot

A very interesting thread on the GaijinPot discussion board about raising children bilingually/bi-culturally here. For the uninitiated,  gaijin = foreigner, hoikuen = nursery/pre-school, hiragana = one of the Japanese alphabets, Rakuten = sales website, Jiji/Baba = Grandpa/Grandma. I have compiled a few quotes from the thread. For the record, that web page is for public view and I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong by quoting people, but you never know.

I also think that, if your a working daddy, who is not home all the time and then speaks Japanese at home, then you need to be doing a lot more than just speaking to your kid. You need to be doing a lot of educational games using english, and reading books etc.

Unfortunately for me, if I ask my kid to say something in my language, sometimes he gets upset. I need to be very careful about this,… as it freaks me out!

I think the key to raising bilingual/biliterate kids is consistency.  They need to see this is something you value as well.  And if they see you speak the majority language, they will always opt for it, so don’t show them.

…he strives to speak English not because he is forced or structured to; But (in his own words) I love my Daddy and and I want us to talk perfectly to each other.

Get some English movies/video games for them. Let them watch the movies a million times. (I like this one. I have noticed that the ability to watch an episode more than once helps mine to pick up the language)

When they start speaking, if you are in Japan, Japanese will almost definitely come first, and come faster. Many minority language parents give up at this point because they don’t want to be left behind since the kid is communicating with the Japanese parent more than the foreign parent. This is definitely NOT the time to give up

Excellent advice here. It’s also refreshing when someone actually is honest (and objective!) about their child’s accomplishments too! Speaking of which, my 5-year-old was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for literary achievement. (ah, sarcasm! It’s a fair point though. Don’t always believe everything someone tells you about what their child can do. )

I plan on letting my son attend here through elementary school, but after that I will be taking a long hard look at what’s next.

I’ve seen it happen to a number of my friends. Their kids speak English just fine until they start elementary school, then they start replying to their parents English questions in Japanese.

We attended an international playgroup for a number of years, and as I said earlier, the kids are now going to a “Saturday School” class. That has been great. We’ve made lots of friend’s there, and I try to arrange lots of “English play dates” for them (and me!) when school is out.

In the end, most of these posters who are trying to make their kids bilingual, while staying in Japan, are Canute fighting against the tide.

Much harder to do in Japan

Read, read, read to your child in the minority language

Certainly a variety of opinions. I have never tried to raise a child in my home country let alone another country outside Japan (AKA gaikoku). I don’t know whether it is more difficult to raise bilingual kids here or not. I do know that there are certain difficulties that parents encounter here that are not found in my home country. That’s what is known as ‘local flavour’. Sometimes it suits, sometimes you need ketchup.


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