Posts Tagged hapa

Raising a bilingual Japanese-Canadian kid

For those new to my blog, I’m a Canadian man married to a Japanese woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. We have one child – an energetic boy who is quickly approaching his 5th birthday. For the purposes of the blog, he is named Tiny Dog after a nickname in The Secret Life of Pets.

It’s important to both of us that Tiny Dog grow up comfortable in either one of his countries. We’d like him to be fluent in both English and Japanese, and to understand the culture of Canada and Japan. At home The Penpal speaks to him in Japanese and I speak to him in English.

Living in Winnipeg, it’s much easier to have him exposed to English. He speaks it at preschool and hears it just about everywhere. Many of his friends speak English exclusively, with a few speaking English as their second language.

Keeping Tiny Dog exposed to Japanese takes a bit more work. Fortunately, even with the small Japanese community in Winnipeg, there are quite a few Japanese or half-Japanese kids of a similar age. When they get together, we try to keep them speaking Japanese as much as possible. There are enough kids to support a Japanese kids reading group, where the kids go to hear stories in Japanese. This group also organizes a book exchange, which is a nice alternative to everyone ordering Japanese language books from overseas.

At home, we subscribe to TV Japan and try to make sure that some of Tiny Dog’s TV time is spent watching Japanese language shows. His grandparents have enrolled us in an educational program called “Kodomo Challenge“; every few months we get a new educational DVD, workbooks, and some really cool toys. We also talk to his Japanese grandparents every weekend on Skype.

Our bilingual home has produced a few fun quirks. The first is that Tiny Dog refuses to watch any Studio Ghibli movies in English. He gets seriously upset if we try. The second is that Tiny Dog angrily reminds his mother not to speak Japanese around English speaking adults or kids. “No Mommy, you speak English now!!”

I expect that as Tiny Dog gets older, we will experience some of the pushback that other parents have reported. At a certain age, the kids don’t want to speak any Japanese at home because their friends don’t do that. I’m hoping we can find a way to work through this.

If you are raising a bilingual kid I’d love to hear some of your experiences. Let me know what has worked for you! In the meantime, I’m off to watch some Peppa Pig in Japanese.

peppalogo

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July 1, 2017 part 1 – Daddy, why is there a foreigner at the playground?

Today is our last day in Japan. We have some family coming to visit in the afternoon, but I wanted to get Tiny Dog out for some fun during the day. The Penpal’s father dropped off TD and I at a nearby playground.

The playground was near a large park, and had a big fun play structure that was full of kids. TD had been here before, and quickly started climbing and playing among the other kids. He kept trying to talk to the other kids in English, so I had to keep reminding him to speak Japanese.

At the playground there was one little girl who kept staring at me every time she walked by. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her, and she asked her father loudly in Japanese “Daddy, why is there a foreigner at the playground?”. Her father, embarrassed, tried to shush the little girl as I tried not to laugh. A few minutes later after I said something in Japanese to TD, she went back to her father and excitedly told him “Daddy! The foreigner is speaking Japanese!”, again followed by her father trying to get her to be quiet.

I find that in Japan, TD does a pretty good job of blending in with Japanese people. He has some Asian features to his face, although his hair is brown instead of black. When he speaks Japanese he sounds like almost any other 3 year old speaking Japanese. He doesn’t look completely Japanese, but he looks much more Japanese than I do. I have wavy blond hair, a large nose, a goatee (not common in Japan), and am usually wearing at least one item of clothing with Canadian flags on it. I am easy to notice in a crowd of Japanese people.

In my 3 years of teaching English in Japan, I got used to people staring at me because I was different. Adults would try to sneak a look, but kids, having no filters at all, would be happy to stare or say something to friends or family. This happens much more often the further you get away from major cities and into the smaller towns where it’s less common to see gaijins.

The whole experience was a funny reminder of my previous time in Japan. I’m curious to see how people react to TD and I as he grows up!

 

 

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