Raising Bilingual Children in Japan
Hi, it’s Derek from Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi. Teaching English in Japan has led me to marrying my lovely Japanese wife and us having two great children of mixed cultures. My wife and I both want our kids to be bilingual in English and Japanese. This blog is on our chosen approach to raising bilingual children in Japan. Let’s get started!
Why Become Bilingual?
I grew up in Quebec, Canada. My mother is French Canadian. My father is from Germany. He moved to Canada when he was a young man. When I was very young, my mother spoke to me in French and my father in German. I learned to speak French, then soon afterwards learned to speak English in Kindergarten when my parents put me in an English elementary school. So I was fortunate to become bilingual in French and English at a very young age. I would like to give my children the gift of bilingualism too which I believe will open up more doors for them in their futures. Also, I think it’s important that they learn both the English and Japanese languages as they are part of their Canadian and Japanese cultures. Moreover, being bilingual is an important step in becoming bicultural which would be great.
Using Both English and Japanese at Home
My English students at my Tsukaguchi English school in Amagasaki sometimes ask me what language my wife and I use in our home with our kids. I tell them that we use both English and Japanese. I speak English to my children, and my wife speaks Japanese to them. That way, they can learn both languages.
Using Two Languages at Home Is Beneficial to Everybody
I am not fluent in Japanese, so hearing my family speaking Japanese amongst themselves is good listening practice for me. Sometimes when I don’t understand vocabulary that they use, I ask what it means, so it’s like a free Japanese lesson for me. And watching my kids writing kanji for Japanese homework makes me feel like studying Japanese again which is good too. As for my wife, she is not fluent in English, so she can learn English from listening to me talking to our children in English. So everybody gets to learn something!
Sending Our Children to an International School
We chose to send our kids to an international school. While not cheap, we thought it would be the easiest and fastest way for our children to learn English and become bilingual in English and Japanese in Japan. The main language of instruction is English, but Japanese is also learned because students have to take Japanese classes too. On top of that, Japanese is spoken in addition to English between students. This is because of the mix of ethnicities there. This mix of ethnicities is another reason we thought international school would be good for our children. There would be other kids like them who didn’t look Japanese, so they would fit in which would make school life easier for them.
For More on Raising Bilingual Children in Japan
There are different approaches to raising bilingual children in Japan. This was my family’s. Fellow Smith’s English coaches Edward and Chiharu have written on the subject too. Check out Edward’s English blog posts by clicking here and here. For Chiharu’s Japanese blog posts, Japanese readers can click here and also here. Enjoy!