Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's hard to be monolingual

This will be a quick post because it's been a long day.

B had a play date after school the other day, and because I'm friends with the mom, I went too. Also a bit because B hadn't been to this child's house before and he can be excitable. It turns out I wasn't needed, because the host child was very polite and calm so B followed his example.

B's friend's sister had a play date as well, and while the kids were in the back of the minivan chattering and occasionally asking the other mom questions in two languages, I felt a bit behind. The other mom is learning English, but her English is much farther ahead than my Japanese. My French might be close to her English, but even though I live in Canada, I never seem to need it. So I'm a monolingual in a very bilingual community. Everyone is trying to learn English though, so I guess I could be in a harder situation.

 I need to find a way to practice more, because B does try to communicate using both English and Japanese. This morning he tried to ask me, "where is daddy?" in Japanese. (He said, "Otoosan no doko desu ka.") Right now, my Japanese is still ahead of his but in another year, he could easily pass me. I think it will be hard for him to stay motivated if I can't help him and talk with him. Next year he will be in grade 1, so classes will involve more sitting and listening, less playing and crafting. This year it's pretty fun for him. I worry because it seems like even in the families where the parents are bilingual, the kids have a hard time retaining a minority language. B is very motivated - he wants to learn a lot of languages - but he's very young, and there are only so many hours in a week. If I already spoke fluent Japanese, we'd at least have that. I have read a lot of blogs of parents who are homeschooling their children and are learning along with their child, but I don't seem to be able to pick up languages that fast. Also, B isn't quite old enough/calm enough to sit down and do a lesson the same way older kids can, although I have done little 5 minute sessions with him to learn specific vocabulary. He will also watch a short YouTube video but he really learns best by using the language.

So this week, my goal is to say at least one thing in Japanese each day to one of my Japanese friends. They are very kind about correcting me and explaining how to say things, so I should try to do this more often. Maybe I will work up the guts to ask one of them to do a language exchange. I will also practice my katakana, because it takes me a long time to read anything unless it is all in hiragana.

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