What language do you speak with your child?

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  • at #7410

    I’m Australian and my husband is Japanese, we are living with my in-laws in Japan. My son is 2 years old soon, I speak English with him and of course my in-laws speak Japanese. Living in a small town in Japan there aren’t any English speaking foreigner friend that he can interact with. I can speak some Japanese not fluent (yet). He can understand both languages at home so far but I’m worry that he will prefer to speak Japanese only especially when he starts school or having friends in Japan, or he wouldn’t be interested in English at all when he’s growing up in Japan.

    Are there anyone in the similar situation as I am and have any concerns? And how do you keep your child up with English?

    We mostly speak English at home – even with her father-in-law, we mostly speak English. I have made a few English-speaking mom friends and we switch back and forth with them, and she uses only Japanese at daycare. When she started she had spent three years home alone with me and was starting basically from zero. It took about a year but she speaks pretty well now, although not as fluently as her classmates (yet). She will switch to Japanese when playing with her dad sometimes, but sort of theatrically. Like it’s part of the roleplay still and not really natural to her yet.

    at #7415

    Despite my husband and I both only speaking English at home, my daughter mainly speaks Japanese. This was because of daycare. She’s been out of daycare and at home with me for three months now and she’s using English more but not as much as Japanese. My husband has also switched to speaking Japanese with her since she no longer gets that from daycare.

    English language television shows/movies for young children have definitely had a positive impact on her English skills. She repeats a lot of things she hears. I also read her lots of English books and she video chats with her relatives in Canada at least once a week.

    At the same time, she’s only two, so we’ll see what happens. I’ve heard of parents with older children who speak both English and Japanese using English workbooks once their child starts school and only allowing English language media in the house.

    I’d love to hear from parents of older kids!

    I have a related worry, though from the other side of things. Kiddo doesn’t get out much b/c of the virus and also limited days at hoikuen, so he doesn’t get as much Japanese exposure as I’d like him to. Our plan initially was to speak Japanese outside the home, and English inside the home, but that was in the Before Times lol. Now, we basically speak English to him most of the time, with some Japanese when we do go out, and I’m worried he will be too behind in Japanese when he eventually goes to school.
    Also, he’s still babbling and not really using words in any language, so I’m worried that we’re doing the two language teaching bad, and that he’s gonna have issues speaking >_< He does seem to understand a fair bit of English and some Japanese at least though.

    English only! My son gets Japanese from hoikuen and will always have lots of exposure to it living here, so I want to make sure that I only speak English with him and that he associates English with me.

    My husband and I only ever spoke Japanese to each other before baby came along (husband can speak English though), so I have to admit that switching to mostly using English at home has been a bit of a struggle! There are just so many words and phrases that come naturally in Japanese, and I find myself need to make an effort to express these in English, even though it’s my native language! But I know I have to stick with it, and have been.

    But like others here, my son is still young, so we still have a long ways to go 🙂

    at #7442

    Same. I’m sticking to English as much as I can when talking with my son. Lately I found him trying to speak Japanese with me and I replied gently back to him saying sorry I don’t understand. He seemed to understand as he very quickly switched to English.

    My son can’t speak full sentences yet, only singular words in both English and Japanese. I don’t think he knows he is speaking two languages.

    It’s going to be a long journey on this I feel.

    Hi lele,

    How old is your son? I have a feeling our sons might be around the same age. Mine is turning two next week!

    I’ve wondered about the “pretending not to understand Japanese” approach – like yours, I don’t think mine understands that there are two languages that he speaks right now, so this isn’t something I would say to him now, but I’ve wondered about it when he gets older. He will learn that it’s not true eventually, but apparently if you stick to that, they believe in it for quite some time! (Even if they see you speaking Japanese, it doesn’t seem to click right away, haha)


    at #7457

    We speak mainly English at home and she gets her Japanese from the nursery. S isn’t speaking independently but repeats much of what we say.

    at #7458

    My kids are all in elementary school by now, but I’ve only ever spoken English with them, and my husband has only ever spoken Japanese with them.

    It was a bit of a journey in our case, as we were transfered to Australia for three years when my kids were aged 3, 1, and 1. They quickly took on English as their main first language in that time, even with the one-parent-one-language strategy, and while attending Japanese school once a week.

    Coming back to Japan, they spoke very little Japanese at first, but became as fluent as their peers within a very short time, a few months at most. My oldest is now fully bilingual, due to getting proper school exposure overseas, but my twins speak Japanese 90% of the time, due to coming back to Japan at pre-school age. They usually speak to me in Japanese even though I only speak English to them. They do understand  100% of what I say though. We send them to English saturday school, and do movies, books, apps in English too.

    I did see some comments above worrying whether two languages will cause speech problems. I had this worry before, but was told by a very senoir pediatrician to definitely continue with bilingual exposure as much as possible. So, on we go 🙂

    at #7461

    DD, that sounds similar to my daughter when she was your child’s age. Mainly repeating things although she had “uh oh” and “hai douzo” down pat.

    Liz, thanks for sharing your unique experience! It’s great that your kids were able to live in an English-speaking country for three years. It’s also really interesting to hear how the differences in age influenced their use of English after coming back to Japan.

    I never thought about sending my daughter to an English school but maybe it would be a good thing for her to communicate with someone other than me in English. She really liked the English teacher at her daycare and I think that helped her English language ability as well.

    at #7480

    Ha! My teen daughter generally avoids talking to me anymore. Sigh…

    Jokes aside, my wife (Japanese) and I (American) speak to her in our native languages. Our daughter was born in the U.S., and we lived there until she was 5 years old. Back then, she only spoke in English at an age-appropriate skill level, even if my wife asked her a question in Japanese. Of course, this changed within a few months after we moved back to Japan and she started elementary school. Now at age 15, she responds to me in Japanese, though she understands everything I say in English. I’m extremely jealous of how quickly children can acquire languages.

    at #7482

    I forgot to add this article to my previous reply. Please check it out when you have time:


    at #7483

    It’s really interesting to hear about your daughter’s language experience, YSK! It really shows how important the surrounding environment is and that even though parents may be worried about speaking only English at home, their children will pick up Japanese once they’re in school.

    (As an aside, my husband is not looking forward to the day when our daughter becomes a teen and stops talking to him!)

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