I was recently interviewed by Julia Grey of The Bilingual Kids YouTube channel and enjoyed responding to a wide range of interesting questions about my personal and professional experience involving bilingual and multilingual children. Here are just some of the questions we touched on in our lively hour-long conversation…
What languages have I studied myself?
What is my children’s third language, after Japanese and English?
What 3 key reasons motivated my own bilingual journey with my kids?
When did my kids start speaking and what were their first words?
What was my biggest worry in my own experience raising bilingual kids?
What are the 2 most important things new parents should do?
What is my advice for non-native parents with a bilingual aim?
What is my advice for parents seeking success with less common languages?
What, to me, is the most “realistic goal” for parents raising bilingual kids?
What is the one universal thing for all families when it comes to bilingual success?
I hope you enjoy my discussion with Julia! (Thank you, Julia!) You can watch the video below or watch it here at The Bilingual Kids YouTube channel.
What’s your opinion on a Japanese single parent living in Japan trying to raise her 6years old son by talking to him in English all the time? He’s been successfully talking in English but was told he may struggle at school because of his Japanese / or I suspect this may also be due to his personality and confusion by using 2 languages (the literal mother tongue being spoken by a non-native speaker.)
I’m very worrying about his potential academic achievement (though I’m not expecting him to get PhD, etc.)
Should I also talk to him in Japanese?? I’m afraid that it wouldn’t give him a ‘push’ to use English.
Any advice would be appreciated!
Btw his dad is an English and they talk online every week. Sorry I missed out that bit.
Yumie, I don’t know the full details of the situation, but I hope my response will offer helpful “food for thought.”
If sustaining his progress and use of English is important to you and to his father, and his father doesn’t live with you, then it sounds like your son will need your proactive support for his English side. The “risk” in also using Japanese, at least at this point, is that once he becomes immersed in a Japanese school environment and his Japanese ability rapidly improves, he may then want to use more and more Japanese with you. And this means, of course, that sustaining his active use of English could become more difficult.
Again, I don’t know all the specifics of the situation, but, generally speaking, his bilingual development would probably progress more successfully if you can support his English at home while relying mainly on the school and the input of other Japanese speakers for his acquisition of Japanese. Perhaps this approach can be loosened over time, and you can then use more Japanese with him as he grows, but until his English is strong and sustainable, I would be wary of using “too much” Japanese between the two of you. I suggest it’s better to “err on the side of caution” and provide support for his Japanese ability through other Japanese speakers.
I realize that the school may express some concern about your use of English, instead of Japanese, but as long as your son is receiving ample exposure and engagement in Japanese, too, at school and from others, then I don’t think his development in Japanese should be a worry. And, like I said, at a later stage, when his English is strong and sustainable, then it may be possible for you to also use Japanese with him, without this being the “risk” that it is now.
I should add that my advice would be different if you have the option of sending him to an international school, or bilingual school, with its emphasis on English.
Yumie, I hope these initial thoughts are helpful to you. If you’d like to speak personally about your bilingual aim, feel free to request a free call through Bilingual SuperKids.