I have had a few readers ask me, “I want to teach my children Japanese, but I don’t know where to begin. Can you help us?” This is a tricky question to answer, because everyone has such different life circumstances, but I will do my best to offer some suggestions. In my experience, here are some things you can do to help your child learn Japanese:
IF AT LEAST ONE OF THE PARENTS IS FLUENT IN JAPANESE:
- Speak Japanese as often as possible!! I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Speak Japanese during meals, in the car, everywhere!
- Read as many Japanese books as you can get your hands on to your children. (You can subscribe to books online).
- If you watch TV or listen to music, make sure a lot of it is in Japanese.
- Sing songs in Japanese.
- Send your child to a Japanese School.
- Set up playdates with Japanese-speaking children so they can learn though play.
- Start exposing your child to hiragana and katakana as early as possible.
- Visit Japan if possible– the longer/more frequent the better.
- Visit Japanese-speaking relatives, or talk to them via Skype.
IF THE CHILD’S CAREGIVERS DO NOT SPEAK JAPANESE:
- Do as much of the above as possible.
- Invest in a Japanese tutor, conversation partner, babysitter, etc. The more authentic Japanese they hear, the better.
- Subscribe to Benesse’s Kodomo Challenge program.
- Watch Japanese TV (get TV Japan through your local cable provider) or find videos online. (Click on “YouTube Videos” under “Categories” to see what videos I’ve found to be good).
- Experience Japanese culture by cooking Japanese food together, celebrating Japanese holidays, folding origami, playing games, etc. (A lot of these activities can be found by searching my website).
- Make flashcards and learn new vocabulary words every day.
- Set goals, such as “We will speak only Japanese for 2 hours every day”. My children are most ready to learn in the mornings, so we have set a goal to speak only Japanese in the mornings.
- Improve your own Japanese skills so you can be a help to your child.
- Even if your child is a baby, speak Japanese to him/her. It is amazing how quickly they learn, and it’s good to get in the Japanese-learning/teaching habit early.
- Every little thing you do makes a difference. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away, and don’t compare your child to other children.
- Keep it fun.
- As children become older, the schoolwork gets harder and harder. I don’t know many older children who LOVE going to Japanese School or love being taught Japanese by their parents. BUT I also don’t know any adult who has regretted going through the “hardship” of learning Japanese when they were young. So keep that in mind when the learning gets tough… it’s worth it!
- Search my website and try all of the activities! I have found dozens and dozens of great websites with ideas for activities, crafts, printable worksheets, children’s songs, etc for you. Don’t just read my blog… actually DO all the activities with your children!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE?
How did your parents teach you Japanese? What are some things you are doing that are working/not working for your family? Please share with us! And if you enjoy reading HiraganaMama, please share this blog with your friends who may be interested in Japanese. The more readers we have, the more we can share and learn from each other!