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Teaching my own kid English

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  • #16
    I was having this discussion with a friend of mine the other day. We were talking about how sad it must be for non-Japanese speaking foreigners who don't teach their kids to speak English. I speak Japanese just fine, and in fact that's my first language with my wife, but I still was diligent with my boy so that he would learn to speak Japanese.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by ChucklingJawa View Post
      I don't have any children yet but i am hoping to have one in a few years. One of my biggest worries is having a child that i can't communicate with. My Japanese is pretty basic, but i am studying. Even if i were to become amazing at Japanese, and that is a huge if, i would still like him to speak English.

      The thing that confuses me is that back in the UK i have friends whose families are not from the UK, yet they speak great English as well as their parents language. I don't understand how that works in the UK but yet i often read about children in Japan not being able to speak English despite their parents using it frequently around them.
      There is of course a massive difference between families speaking a language and one parent. Especially a male parent who might be working and out of the house most of the time; it's not called mother tongue for no reason.

      The people I know who have had most success have homes where both parent use English at home, whether native or not. They also take frequent holidays back in their native country.


      The difference between my eldest daughter and my other two is that I watched her for three years until she started kindergarten. I also took her to my parents every year. Since then I've only been back once in ten years.

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      • #18
        Watch the tube with him.

        When my boy and I watch 'Curious George' in English I summarize each scene for him in Japanese. And then when we watch it in Japanese I toss in some English commentary. I have no idea whether I'm nurturing or hampering his language development. Maybe I should just shut my piehole or screech like a monkey.

        Some decent kids' programming on NHK, I have to say. Just as good as Baby TV anyways. Today we learned how to use a Japanese-style toilet through a rockin' good tune that I just can't get out of my head. Great choreography too - All the adults and kids were pumping their fists and shaking their butts just like in a Bon Jovi video. Lyrically, however, it reeked : 'Are there any kids out there holding it in? Are there any kids out there who really wanna take a sh*t? Well, let me show you how!'

        Sorry if that's offtopic but I felt like sharing...

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        • #19
          Originally posted by ChucklingJawa View Post
          The thing that confuses me is that back in the UK i have friends whose families are not from the UK, yet they speak great English as well as their parents language. I don't understand how that works in the UK but yet i often read about children in Japan not being able to speak English despite their parents using it frequently around them.
          In the UK kids will be around English all day at school with their friends and teachers and they will NEED English. Many immigrants in the UK dont speak English so kids will have to learn it at home. Many learned some before coming to the UK.

          English is a minority language in Japan and in the vast majority of cases, the father is the only person who speaks it and they only speak it with him. When my kids were young my daughter went to international schools had trips to see grandparents the whole nine yards. Is now at an international high school, but when they were younger trying to teach them myself was like pulling teeth.

          Kids also will communicate more with their friends than their parents, if they see a need for using English that suits their purposes then nothing can stop them. Kids have to know the WHY of why learning English is important, and not just the WHAT.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by KansaiBen View Post
            In the UK kids will be around English all day at school with their friends and teachers and they will NEED English. Many immigrants in the UK dont speak English so kids will have to learn it at home. Many learned some before coming to the UK.

            English is a minority language in Japan and in the vast majority of cases, the father is the only person who speaks it and they only speak it with him. When my kids were young my daughter went to international schools had trips to see grandparents the whole nine yards. Is now at an international high school, but when they were younger trying to teach them myself was like pulling teeth.

            Kids also will communicate more with their friends than their parents, if they see a need for using English that suits their purposes then nothing can stop them. Kids have to know the WHY of why learning English is important, and not just the WHAT.
            I've taught English in kindergartens for almost 15 years and though there is a certain fear/resistance with some kids at first on the whole they really don't care much at that age and will speak with very nice pronunciation if we're doing a game or making something and they're absorbed in it. On the other hand I've noticed kids with parents who tell me their children have learned English before or who have spent time abroad or even kids who have English-speaking relatives - often those kids don't want to speak English so much. Especially if they're in the spotlight. Some of them have memorized phrases but have no real idea what they're saying. In kindergarten at least they want to shine but they don't want to look like an idiot and they certainly don't want to be pressured into showing anything off in case they make a mistake but if I just ask them openly they usually know most of the answers. Kids huh !

            I just remembered something I was talking about with a friend the other day that may fit in to this thread. Basically I was remarking about how the parents of 'half' kids often wanted nothing to do with me at all at the kindergarten whereas full on Japanese but returnees or just interested in English parents were always asking me something or other. Though we speak common languages in both English and Japanese very often the parents of bicultural kids wouldn't want to talk to me at all. But the bicultural parents who had a different language other than English such as Polish - not embarrassed about trying to speak to me at all. I wonder about how much of this 'embarrassment' is coming from the parents and not the kids in the sense that they feel that their kids should be more fluent/enthusiastic than they are...
            Last edited by Bella Bowtruckle; 2012-04-24, 09:12 PM.

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            • #21
              I have a follow up question for all the mums and dads out there. Did/do you have any problems with your children confusing English and Japanese together when speaking?

              A good friend of mine as a school child was largely incomprehensible due to his inability to choose the right language when speaking due to having a spanish speaking mother, an English speaking father and somewhere along the line he had been exposed to italian and german as well. When he reached highschool he had a huge advantage in terms of languages but at primary school the teachers were unable to understand him because he would just throw all the languages into one sentence at a time. As anyone had an experiences like that?

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              • #22
                Not at all. I'm actually constantly impressed with my boy's ability to choose one language or the other, he really doesn't mix at all, with a few exceptions like using 'daddy' in Japanese sentences, or 'yochien' in English, but this is my fault for doing the same thing.

                However, I do have a friend who grew up speaking Italian until he entered kindergarten, and then argued with the teacher about the names of colors. His parents had to sit down and explain to him that other people spoke other languages.

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                • #23
                  That must have been a surreal experience for your friend as child. I guess that is the great thing about these boardsl; i don't need them just yet but when i do it will be a great source for getting my child to speak English and Japanese. I realise that anytime you deal with a child needing something that it doesn't want, like veggies, you have to tactful, so getting them to speak another language is no different really.

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                  • #24
                    talkin' bout my (your) generation

                    Originally posted by YokohamaTommy View Post
                    I realize now of course that the whole "kids must be disciplined in everything they say and do or else they will become shiftless hippie losers and possibly destroy civilization" line of parenting that was the hallmark of my generation was actually harmful to my relationship with my children.

                    In terms of teaching English, the more I regimented him, the less interested in learning he was.
                    But to my surprise, the more I let him run wild with whatever flights of fancy he had,
                    I found that in the course of his play, he would use English quite regularly, especially around his little friends as what I assume is a bit of "showing off."

                    It's funny about children;
                    It seems that the more you make things about what they want,
                    the more they gravitate to do the behaviors you want.

                    nicely put at the end. FWIW, i have a 3-year old girl, and she uses 90-95% japanese, BUT i'm okay with it because: 1) given that 99% of the people around her speak japanese, it's not surprising; 2) given that my wife and i speak japanese 100% of the time with each other, it would be considerably unnatural for me to go the standard-issue "one-person, one language" (OPOL) route that many people preach religiously; 3) my daughter was born and is being raised in japan, at least until/unless she decides to opt out at college age or beyond, so my #1 concern is that she be the native speaker of japanese that, by definition and circumstance, she is/should be; 4) my daughter is, by all accounts, "advanced" in her (japanese) language skills and predisposed, by her character, to be very communicative and engaging (in fact, a chatterbox like her old man); and 5) the little lady shows a healthy interest in english. often asking how to say something in english and begging to watch the "barney" dvd (or a little something called "alligator pie") that her grandparents from the states were kind enough to send along.

                    there are so many variables: it's definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal (the main point of my somewhat rambling reply here). it seems worth asking yourself where you're at in terms of some of the matters touched on above. i'm CERTAINLY on board about concerns of being able to communicate fully with one's child. i think that's at least as key as giving a child a better chance in the world (IMHO)...

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by ChucklingJawa View Post
                      I have a follow up question for all the mums and dads out there. Did/do you have any problems with your children confusing English and Japanese together when speaking?

                      A good friend of mine as a school child was largely incomprehensible due to his inability to choose the right language when speaking due to having a spanish speaking mother, an English speaking father and somewhere along the line he had been exposed to italian and german as well. When he reached highschool he had a huge advantage in terms of languages but at primary school the teachers were unable to understand him because he would just throw all the languages into one sentence at a time. As anyone had an experiences like that?


                      no, no, no, and no. absolutely not something to get too wrapped up in. EVERY kid is a genius where language is concerned. seriously, my daughter is fine with so-called "code-switching", changing languages based on who she's talking to--or, more accurately, venturing to use english or the english pronunciation rather than "katakana eigo". although she doesn't use that much english, the times she does, it's with me: she never aims that english thing at my wife--AND, interestingly, she'll say "coffee" with me and the japanization "ko-hi" with the wife...

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                      • #26
                        Haha! My boy also uses coffee with me and kohi with his mom, and he even corrects her on her pronunciation of it.

                        Originally posted by sing_or_die_1818 View Post
                        2) given that my wife and i speak japanese 100% of the time with each other, it would be considerably unnatural for me to go the standard-issue "one-person, one language" (OPOL) route that many people preach religiously;
                        My wife and I speak Japanese with each other, but I only speak English with the boy. It works entirely fine for us. It's actually been really good for her English comprehension as well, as she listens to us speak. Her passive understanding has increased

                        Originally posted by sing_or_die_1818 View Post
                        there are so many variables: it's definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal (the main point of my somewhat rambling reply here).
                        I definitely agree with this though. Each family will be different.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Effected After View Post
                          Haha! My boy also uses coffee with me and kohi with his mom, and he even corrects her on her pronunciation of it.


                          My wife and I speak Japanese with each other, but I only speak English with the boy. It works entirely fine for us. It's actually been really good for her English comprehension as well, as she listens to us speak. Her passive understanding has increased



                          you made a really good point about how your english communication with your son has been a boon to your wife. i hadn't really thought much of that. of course, if the missus is sensitive about the matter (i.e., if her level of english--and the prospect of being poorer at it than her child--is a thorny issue), then this might complicate matters... good on you, though, for picking a position and sticking to it. may i ask if you're planning to stay in japan for the long haul (and/or what you think your son might do)? i think that that makes a difference in deciding on one's policy or philosophy of language...

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                          • #28
                            I think that some good points have been made. Reading to your child every day should be the goal of every parent. Before bed, while dinner is cooking, sometime but you need to make it a daily occurrence. I agree with the Magic Treehouse series, but that will be something Dad reads for now, if your son is 8 and doesn't read yet. Then you can graduate onto Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, etc.

                            I posted this on another thread:
                            When my kids are familiar with the alphabet and showing other reading readiness skills I use the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book. http://amzn.to/uoHVCk It's pretty amazing, it works quickly.
                            I still agree.

                            I have also mentioned here before that I read a book called Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family, which is really good for parents to set goals and figure out what they want. http://amzn.to/JS4H7w

                            I get lots of book recommendations from a blog here in Japan (who introduced me to the above books) called Perogies and Gyoza. She's doing a book giveaway now too, you should check her out. I'll contact her and ask her to come and give you some suggestions, she always convinces me to buy books for my kids. I have a son who is a reluctant reader so she helps me find books he likes. http://www.perogiesandgyoza.com/2012...-giveaway.html

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by sing_or_die_1818 View Post
                              may i ask if you're planning to stay in japan for the long haul (and/or what you think your son might do)? i think that that makes a difference in deciding on one's policy or philosophy of language...
                              I've already been here for a fairly long haul, with no real plans to move back to the homeland at present. If I do, I'll probably be here for at least another five years. I have no idea what my son will do when he gets old - whatever he wants I guess. It doesn't matter to me whether he does something related to English or not. My main goal is to get him where he can converse with no issues with native speakers. If he is also able to speak/read/write at a native level, then great, but my main focus is on communication.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by sing_or_die_1818 View Post
                                no, no, no, and no. absolutely not something to get too wrapped up in. EVERY kid is a genius where language is concerned. seriously, my daughter is fine with so-called "code-switching", changing languages based on who she's talking to--or, more accurately, venturing to use english or the english pronunciation rather than "katakana eigo". although she doesn't use that much english, the times she does, it's with me: she never aims that english thing at my wife--AND, interestingly, she'll say "coffee" with me and the japanization "ko-hi" with the wife...
                                Yeah, the kids get this sorted out magically. My boy is 8 now, 3rd grade in Japan. Lived in the U.S. through kindergarten. We worked hard there on his Japanese - mom only spoke to him in Japanese and he only watched Japanese language tv, lots of skyping w/grandma/grandpa in Japan, month long visits to Japan every year.

                                so he jumped right into first grade at the local public school in Osaka only 3 or 4 weeks after moving here full time.

                                Now, the past several years, the trick is keeping his english up, but we basically just do the reverse, lots of english tv, reading english books, Daddy only speaks english to son (my Japanese is pretty awful anyhow...).

                                My observation was that when he first started talking, he tended to mix up all the japanese and english in sentence fragments and contexts, but pretty quickly his mind got it sorted out that these were two different languages.

                                The code switching is like watching magic, IMO. My kid calls me otoosan in Japanese, Daddy in English. All the context of japanizing english words or anglicizing japan words just happens automatically. For instance, if my son is speaking japanese and says Osaka, it is w/perfect kansai-ben intonation. But if he is speaking english and says Osaka, he says it like an english speaker would, not as a Japanese speaker would. All this stuff just sort of pops up organically with people who are simultaneous bilinguals.

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