Motherhood in Japan

Look Who’s Talking: Tales of a Bilingual Monster

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Just a few days after the post, 18 Months Old – The Countdown To 2 Begins, little Kaiju spoke her first sentence! She woke up, crying, “Dada [i]nai” (ダダない | Daddy’s not here.) Since that day, her vocabulary and communication skills grew tremendously!

We’re in the stage of two word sentences, and I think the structure of the Japanese language eases the progression of her communication skills.

Her latest linguistic milestone is demonstrating ownership. At daycare, she’ll take her classmates’ shoes out the cubby and say, “{Classmate’s name} no” (ex: Mika no. | These are Mika’s [shoes]).


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We’ve long known that she could understand us in both Japanese and English. I’ll say, “Give this to Daddy.” Or, Dada ni agete kite (ダダにあげてきて). And yes, I even mix up Japanese and English: Dada ni here you are shite (ダダに here you are して).

But, with her speaking, it really solidifies the fact that we’re truly embarking on a bilingual journey.

She attends a private Japanese daycare and from year 2 they will have instruction in English with an English speaker (primary teacher) and 2-3 Japanese hoikushi (保育士 | licensed daycare worker).

READ: An Inside Look At Daycare in Japan

Because of this, my husband and I are now making efforts to make our home environment English friendly.

Of course, Japanese words slip out now and then. But, my husband and I try to talk to her in English. (For what it’s worth, I think code-switching and language mixing is completely natural, and I don’t feel negatively towards the practice.)

When we watch TV, the golden rule is TV programs in English (or Korean dramas!) only. Japanese programs are limited to documentaries, the news, and NHK kids programs. After all, I still need to study Japanese. Otherwise, how will I be able to help her with homework in the future?

Perhaps like any international couples we talk about our daughter’s linguistic future and education.


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As an ~academic~ who did extensive research on language acquisition and cultural adaptation of bicultural teenagers in Japan for my Master’s thesis, I am aware of the struggle. I have never experienced it.

I prefer her to go to Japanese schools, so she’ll get both the language and culture. My husband thinks international schools are the way to go.

I respond with my experience teaching in international schools and how those kids ended up going to cram schools because Japanese language classes are 1 or 2 hours a week.

READ: A Day in the Life of a Working Mom in Tokyo

I think an international school environment isn’t the only way to help her learn English communication skills. Plus, I want her to learn life lessons and being in an international school bubble won’t help (again, just my opinion).

My husband went to Japanese public schools with little English instruction and support. Still, he ended up doing grad school in the US (in sports medicine). Of course, my husband feels that if he went to an international school, then he wouldn’t have had to struggle as much.

For now, we’ll just nurture our little bilingual monster day by day, creating an environment where she feels comfortable to express herself. I wonder what she’ll say next…!

Any tips for this bilingual journey? Please share!

Look Who’s Talking: Tales of a Bilingual Monster

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Tokyo-based beautyholic and content creator. Mom to a monster and a furbaby. Driven by intense wanderlust and powered by limited edition snacks and drinks from Japan.

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