Bilingual in Japan?

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Many parents want their kids to be bilingual, and to go out into the world.

However, even though children learn English as standard class in school for many years, there are only a few who end up being able to speak English at all.. Is it really possible to be able to have our children be able to speak foreign language, while living in Japan?



The answer is… Yes!


I’d like to share 3 points that I believe are essential, from my own experience.


#1 “Why learn English?”


#2 Have clear rules


#3 Don’t give up




#1 “Why learn English?”

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Speaking the foreign language in itself is not the final goal. Language is only a “Method”, and it is very important to clarify what you want to do by learning that language.

There are many reasons why a parent would want their children to learn a second language : “I want my child to study abroad”, “I want my child to work at a foreign based company”. It is important that the parents first clarify the question, “Why?”

And if you can share that “Why?” with the children, it is even better. I often talk with my children about living in the US someday together.


#2 Have clear rules

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There are 2 popular methods of making the environment for teaching kids to be bilingual:

  • OPOL(One Person One Language)
  • mL@H(Minor Language at Home)

OPOL is, as its name, “One person speaks One language”. For example, the mother can speak Japanese to the child, and the father can speak English to the child. In our household, this is the style we are taking. Whether we are at home or outside, we continue with this style.

mL@H is, where a foreign language is spoken at home, and while outside the local language(Japanese) is spoken. To be able to do this, both of the parents need to be able to speak the same foreign language, otherwise it will be quite difficult. When I lived in US, I grew up with this environment. We had the rule to speak Japanese at home, and because of that I was able to keep my Japanese speaking skills.

Whichever method you choose, the chance that your child will be bilingual are quite high(It is said that there is a slightly higher chance with mL@H). The important point is that you continue with the rule that you choose.


#3 Don’t give up

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It is a difficult road to have a child become a bilingual. I’ve continued to speak English exclusively to my child since their birth. When my older child was about 2 or 3, she told me “Please just speak Japanese like a normal person!”. I thought about maybe starting to speak Japanese to her from time to time, but in the end I did not.

Now my older child is 8 years old, and she understands everything I say in English(She still needs to work a bit more on the speaking skills, though..)

You may have some moments when you want to say “I want to give up”, or “Maybe I’ll start speaking Japanese instead sometimes”. However, let’s not give up and try just a little longer, it will be more beneficial for your child!


In closing

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Currently due to the Corona crisis, many people are spending more time at home. Many companies are thinking of “New way of working”, and working from home may become the new norm.

I think this time is a good chance for bilingual education. We can have more time with our family, and be able to prepare an environment for teaching the children to become bilingual. Let’s take this chance and make some action.


#教育 #バイリンガル #英語を学ぶ


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