Sunday, August 12, 2012

Raising a Bilingual Child - 2 Years Old

This is a follow up to my original blog post about raising a bilingual child.

If you are a follower of this blog you already are aware of my situation, but if you are a new reader (and thank you very much for reading), I’ll fill you in a little on my situation. 

I am a Canadian teacher working at an international school in Japan. My wife is Japanese and we have a two year, one month old son who we are raising to be bilingual. We want him to be able to speak both Japanese and English. He is a duwl Canadian/Japanese citizen so we want him to have the skills and knowledge to function in both cultures/societies.

My son’s language abilities are coming along very well. I am actually quite surprised at how much he is able to speak and understand in both Japanese and English. I have worked as a teacher for eleven years and at my current school there is a day care. I have observed many children who are a similar age to my son and the majority do not speak as much as my son does. I don’t think he is a “linguistic prodigy” or anything like that, but I have a few ideas to why he speaks so much.

First of all, my son is always surrounded by language. Simply put, my wife talks to him a lot. She speaks to him and very importantly, listens and responds to him. Although I am not an expert and haven’t studied the topic a great deal, from my many years as a teacher I have noticed that the children who have the widest language bases, seem to have parents who engage them a lot linguistically. Many of the children I have met who speak very little, have parents who tend not to speak to them much. Also, I have noticed that many children who struggle even with their native language have parents who “talk at them” ns not “ to them.” They simple command them around and never really have conversations and listen to their child’s responses.

My wife is doing a great job at engaging our son. I try my best as well when I am home, but sometimes my work schedule doesn’t allow me to be at home as much as I would like.

Another thing that has been working very well is the fact that my wife is always actively teaching and asking questions to my son. She is constantly asking him, “What’s this?” Whether they are looking at a storybook, magazine, television or outside of the house in the “real world”, she is constantly engaging and teaching him. I basically try to follow her lead. Her form of teaching seems to be working well so I’m going with the flow!

It has become very clear and to know surprise that Japanese has become my son’s first language. When he does speak in Japanese I just translate in my brain and repeat what he said in English. In doing this I have realized that my own Japanese level is very low and I have to begin studying again so I can attempt to keep up with my son.

I’m hunting for more English dvds for my son as well. I realize that listening to any English is good, but I am hunting for ones that can help him learn meaningful language. Of course, watching English television is not the best option, but some weeks I work six days and a dvd is better than nothing.
At the moment I am home for the next eight days. This is a great chance for me to speak a lot to my son. This is a great opportunity for me to engage my son in English.

I better get going, he’s awake now. Time to talk!

Here is a video blog I shot yesterday morning. It's an unusual style for me. You can follow my son and I during our morning together.

1 comment:

Dimitri Perrin said...

Thanks for this very interesting post!

My wife and I often think about how we are going to help our child grow up in a multilingual and multicultural environment. He is due any day now, so the two-year head start you have on us is quite a useful source of information.