Recently, I have been writing some posts about raising my son to be bilingual. A lot of you out there have been interested in reading about this topic. Of course, everything I write are my own thoughts and opinions. Some of you out there may not agree with the methods we take in my house to make sure my son speaks both Japanese and English fluently, but you of course are entitled to your own opinions. I have my own and am pretty confident about them.
Now, what I have been thinking about lately is my own language development and how that will influence my son’s language.
My Japanese sucks! That is a very true statement.
I was in South Korea for about five years and now, I am coming up to that point in Japan. My Korean was MUCH better than my Japanese is.
Why is my Japanese so terrible? I am lazy. I can make a million other excuses: “I work in an international school and never hear Japanese throughout the day.” “I met my wife outside Japan and we have always communicated in English.” “”When I speak Japanese my left ear gets itchy.” “I’m really dumb!” (The last two excuses are only partially true).
At the end of the day, I am a lazy guy. Well, I am not lazy in general. I work long hours. I work six days a week often. I produce TONS of online blog/vlog content. I run at least two full marathons a year. I just wrote a book about teaching. I am not lazy about life. I am lazy about learning languages.
At this point in my “Japan journey”…wait…not Japan journey…that makes it sound as if I am a traveler or someone passing through for a year or two to teach and then move back home.
I am pretty invested in Japan. My wife is Japanese and my son is half Japanese. My son was born in Kobe and I was there when it happened. I hope to leave Japan and start our life in Canada within the next couple of years, but even when we move to Canada, I will always have a foot in Japan. I will be coming back to visit my wife’s home, to visit my in-laws, to visit my son’s grandparents and aunt.
What am I getting to with all of this?
Language. Will my lack of Japanese skills work to my advantage as my son learns English? Will it make my life far more difficult?
I see both things happening.
Don’t get me wrong. I can speak some Japanese and understand a lot. I probably know as much Japanese as the average 2-3 year old Japanese child! Problem is, my son is now two and although he speaks Japanese often and I understand it, within the year his skill level will surpass mine.
Now, when my son speaks in Japanese, I just say “Ah yes.” And then rephrase what he just said in English. I am able to do that and it helps a lot. It is a great teaching tool. I never speak Japanese in front of him (he hears it all day from everyone else), but I understand what he says and then I help him say it in English.
Eventually I will have trouble doing that. What do I do when I am alone with my son and he wants/needs something and I don’t understand what he’s saying to me? That is a legitimate fear I have. When I think about that, I start thinking it is time to study again.
Then I hear what other foreign fathers in Japan have to say about the topic.
I have received advice from men who have been here far longer than I and both speak and do not speak Japanese.
Some fathers who speak little Japanese have told me that their kids speak English well because of that. Their children were forced to use English to communicate with their fathers. They knew they couldn’t use Japanese so were motivated to improve their English.
On the other hand, I have met some foreign fathers who speak fluent Japanese and said that it caused issues. Their kids knew that they spoke Japanese well and would understand everything they said in Japanese so never bothered to practice their English. The father’s Japanese skills made the kids lazy!
Where does this leave me? I dunno. I know I should improve my Japanese skills simply for myself. I would be happier here if I could communicate with others more effectively. I know I should...i know I must improve my japanese. That is a no brainer.
As for my son’s Japanese/English language development…poses some interesting food for thought!
What are your thoughts?