Hiragana

26 Oct

Japanese kids have it rough. English-speaking kids only need to learn 26 letters, but Japanese kids need to learn 46 common-use hiragana characters, in addition to 46 katakana, not to mention kanji (there are over 50,000 of them!). Whew. No wonder they study hard and spend so much time in school! For us parents who can’t send their kids to Japanese School, teaching them to learn these characters seems like a monumental, if not impossible, task. Where do we begin?

I guess we should think about how our children learn English (or any other language). They learn through repeated and varied exposure to the alphabet. It is best to teach our children while they are young, while their brains absorb every piece of information like a sponge. I am currently doing this by:

1) Speaking to them in Japanese as much as possible*

2) Reading books in Japanese

3) Watching TV shows and movies in Japanese

4) Involving them in playdates with other Japanese children

5) Displaying a hiragana poster on the wall

I will go into more detail about how I do these things in later posts.

*Speaking to  them in ONLY Japanese has been very difficult, especially as my toddler’s English keeps getting stronger and more fluent. To be honest, I probably speak Japanese to my children only 20% of the day. There is much room for improvement.

What do you do?

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4 Responses to “Hiragana”

  1. smurfett August 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM #

    I do everything you’re doing, except for a few more things:

    1. I only speak one language (Chinese) to my kid. I translate when necessary. I use one or two English words here and there. But otherwise, all Chinese.

    2. I make her speak Chinese. This gets more important the older they get and they start getting stronger in one language vs the other. They get frustrated when they can’t say something so they start preferring one over the other. I see this a lot in the 3 year olds.

    3. We limit English exposure. We didn’t go to English library story times, we didn’t go on English speaking playdates, we didn’t go to play places where she has to interact with people speaking English, I hung out w/ other moms who will speak to her in Chinese (though we speak each to each other!) It sounds so drastic but thank goodness I like to stay home in general.

    I worried around 2 that she wouldn’t pick up English. But with such a strong Chinese at 3, she picked up English so fast, even with just one person in her life (her father) speaking to her in English. And now, at 4, she’s very bilingual. Kind of scary how fast they pick up languages!

    • Hiragana Mama August 16, 2011 at 3:23 PM #

      You are doing so great!! Your kids will be grateful for your sacrifices later on, I’m sure.

      I love my English-speaking friends too much to not have regular playdates with them 🙂

      It is really awesome how fast they pick up everything!! Thanks for visiting my blog!

      • smurfett August 16, 2011 at 3:53 PM #

        haha. but we do speak english to each other. we just don’t speak it to the kids. i guess it’s cuz i only made mommy friends after I had kids so i don’t have any friends w/ kids who don’t speak chinese.

  2. smurfett August 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM #

    Oops, I meant, we speak English to each other.

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