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wanted a different perspective

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
We are Americans living in Japan. Both our children attend Japanese school, we live in a Japanese community, all their friends are Japanese, they are both fluent in Japanese, and our DD reads/writes Japanese. However, at home we speak English. We've been trying to teach our DD to read/write English and are having so many problems (not a lot of time since Japanese school requires so much homework and we would really like her to have some playtime--which she already gets very little of). I don't know how worried to be that she is still reading English at a beginning 1st grade level and isn't writing at all except her name in English. She has no interest in English at all, except for speaking. I'm worried--what about if we ever go back to the US? How do other parents deal with this? How do you teach your home language when your children are attending schools that teach a different language? Any advise would be awesome! TIA:

Also, FYI, our DD has chosen to attend the Japanese school. I've always planned on homeschooling, but was excited by the opportunity to send her to a wonderful Japanese "Kindergarten" (kind of like preschool/kinder mix that goes from age 2-age 6). When she "graduated" from the kindergarten she really wanted to go to Japanese elementary--she is ultra social and wanted to go with her friends. She absolutely loves her Japanese school and is top in her class in reading/writing Japanese and always gets props from her teacher for being helpful and friendly with the other students. Our DD is now 7.
post #2 of 9
Have you checked for a British Council in your city? They are all over the world and often (although not always), they offer classes to native English speaking kids for learning to read and write in English.

Other than that, I would perhaps get her into some good English books that you are sure she will like. I know one couple where we live whose two boys can read in English thanks to all the Harry Potter books.

I would also ensure that everything in the house is English only. If you buy Japanese books for your kids, stop. Simply tell them that Japanese is for school. At home, books are in English. Same goes for TV if at all possible. This is especially important if you are planning on staying in Japan long term. Your home should be an island of English.

If you are planning on heading to the US eventually, I wouldn't worry as much about it, except be sure to maintain her speaking fluency. She will learn to read and write in English in the States, if only out of necessity. Often, these kinds of kids end up being better spellers than the ones who grew up in America!! Trust me, you will be far more worried in America about how to maintain her Japanese!!
post #3 of 9
I'm just a bit jealous. We are in the states and it's really hard to teach my kids Japanese.

I'd let the kids go to school and learn all they can. I'd speak only english to them at home and provide lots of coloring/workbooks with english only words. you're kids will get the most out of being bilingual.
post #4 of 9
If I read you post correctly... Your DD is 7 yo and reading on a 1st grade level?

Since 7 yos in the US are often in 1st (or 2nd deppending on when their b-day is) that puts her either at grade level or only slightly below grade level.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
If I read you post correctly... Your DD is 7 yo and reading on a 1st grade level?

Since 7 yos in the US are often in 1st (or 2nd deppending on when their b-day is) that puts her either at grade level or only slightly below grade level.
She would actually be in 2nd grade if she were in school and she is currently reading beginning 1st grade books (with very little comprehension, just reading the words, having to sound all of them out, forgetting sight words often and having to be reminded of them). . .she is not writing English at all. Well, that's not totally true, she can write all the letters of the alphabet (at least the capital ones) and write mom, dad, and her first name.
post #6 of 9
Definitely check with the British Council and if they don't offer anything for native speaking kids, get a private tutor once a week or (even better, I think) try to find other families in the same situation and organize classes once a week for your kids (preferably with a real teacher).

I would not try to pursue teaching her yourself. It is likely to be an uphill battle and she will resist, if only because it's a real chore for her.

Once she has figured out how to really read in English, I would introduce her to some good books that will get her hooked, like Harry Potter if you think she would be into that.
post #7 of 9
While I understand that your DD probably has the capaciy to read english above grade level with proper instruction, based on how she is doing in reading in japanese, I really don't see why her reading slightly below grade level is a huge deal considering the circumstances. She is only slightly behind in reading a language that she has somewhat limited exposure to. Plenty of kids in the US are at the same reading level she is at 7yo/2nd grade, kids going to waldorf schools would be well below where she is at.

If you make teaching her to read english into a chore or a battle she may start to resent it and may never really want to. OTOH, if you relax about it, keep her exposure to english up and just have it available, it will most likely click at around what would be her 4th grade year, just as it tends to for US students who are slightly behind in reading.

All of the Japanese adults/teenagers I've know who learned english later in life had no problem at all tranfering there japanese literacy skills to read and write in english. The japanese school she is attending are building her basic literacy skills, she simply needs a little extra time to make those skills work for english.

Yes, you could find english classes for her, but is that really what you want to spend her spare time on?
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your replies. I know I should just be happy that my DD is reading/writing Japanese and can read a little English. I guess I just get stressed out sometimes when I see the American kids her age and what they are doing in English (however she's the only full American child in the Japanese school system in our city) and hear comments from DH's (a teacher at the school for American kids) fellow teachers about Ilana keeping up on English. We do read to her almost every night and she reads a book to us almost every night. We tried having her write letters to her family back in the states on Sundays, maybe we will try that again to help her with her writing (and she loves getting mail so maybe they will write her back). I really don't want to put her in any extra lessons, I already feel she's doing too many extra curricular activities (dance, gymnastics, private Japanese tutoring, piano) and don't really want to add anything else right now.
post #9 of 9
Reading in English is harder than reading hiragana, so I wouldn't worry too much yet.

I used to teach a returnee kid (Japanese who had spent two years in the states) and she was spelling things out slowly, not really understanding, until one day something clicked and she could read. I have no idea why - it definitely wasn't my teaching - but the lightbulb went on. English isn't phonetic, and I think it's possible that your daughter just hasn't fully grasped the connection between the squiggles on the paper and the words she knows.
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