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What is the best way for parents of children of mixed heritage to make sure their kids grow up bilingual?

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Errrr... Educate them in two languages???

Kids under the age of 10 or so will generally be able to acquire facility in multiple languages with much less effort than would be required for an adult to do the same. If they're learning in one language only at school, the parents can work to ensure the second language is emphasized at home. Supplemental classes can help if the home linguistic environment is not so clear-cut, to avoid raising a child who comprehends the second language but doesn't speak it. (Such as was common in Hawaii when I was growing up--a lot of Japanese-American friends with mothers who only spoke Japanese at home could understand the language well, but because they seldom spoke it, and never read/wrote Japanese, only attained fluency by continuing to take classes in Japanese as a second language).

In any case, if the language environment outside the home is not also bilingual, eventually the child will acquire--by choice or otherwise--greater proficiency in one language at the expense of the other, but with early enough exposure, reasonable fluency in both can be retained through adulthood.

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Find as many ways as possible to incorporate the languages. Vary the approaches. Use them often. Speak, repeat, recite and have them repeat back to you on a regular basis. Go to movies with subtitles. To add, anyone can become bilingual, age means nothing. Have faith in yourself.

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children before 8 can learn as may languages as necessary, without accent. Find friends that also speak the same language and also some school work, or as a parent have them recite back a report of the day in that language as a necessary chore. Works.

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the key is that if the child finds two (or more) languages normal then they will continue it without interruption. Also provides excellent coping mechanisms for dealing with bullies

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Language acquisition starts before children are one year old and the more you make a point of separating the two languages the less chance you have of them becoming bilingual. For small children it is not two languages. It is only communication. And, as much as I hate to admit it, the best resource for children to acquire multiple languages skills is, television! - However, on the dark side, the main issue between English and Japanese is the language culture, which really hits home when the kids start school in Japan. In most English speaking cultures the kids are encouraged to speak out at school, which is not the case in Japanese schools. This puts a lot of bilingual kids in the 'unruly student' category just for being themselves.

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To embrace both cultures and by speaking both languages.

Also taking them to their parents home countries is the best method. They will learn to like the best of both worlds from their parents. They will see for themselves the must learn 2 languages to communicate abroad. Also, do not say negative things about Japan or other parent's home country.

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We live in japan and our kids go to Japanese elementary school / hoikuen, they get plenty of Japanese at school/daycare -- when they are home, we speak to them in English even when they respond in Japanese, we(parents) maintain English environment. We read English books before bedtime. My husband is a native English speaker and I am not, so often it is much easier for me to speak Japanese to them and my English isn't perfect, but I still try and maintain English environment even when my husband isn't home. Our kids understand and speak English and Japanese... Being bilingual isn't as hard as being bilateral, though.. My son writes emails to his grandparents in the U.S.. it is a fun way to learn and he enjoys it as much as grandparents enjoy it :)

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I could never figure out why people seem to think it's such a big deal!

Like it is so difficult to learn 2 or more languages for children!

You know places like Japan where only one language is spoken with basically no minority languages are the exception!

Most countries that I have lived in with the exception of Japan and to some point US and UK usually used 2 or more languages pretty much on a daily basis.

I was raised with 3 languages and it was simple go to school in the main language of the public school system and speak the others at home with whichever parent speak it or them.

My children can at least "speak" 3 languages the eldest is fine in all 3 the younger one needs work on the third and both need work on writing the third!

My nieces and nephews all speak at least 3 if not 4 languages and that is not uncommon where I'm from.

Hell most friends from India and Africa speak at least 3 or more, I find it funny that it seems to be mostly Japan and English speaking countries that seem to make a big deal of this!

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The best way is to change the useless language education system in Japan. It only seems to teach kids how to pass tests and has the "2 languages in ONE head?! My God man!, no-one can LIVE at that speed!!" mentality.

Getting rid or all the Engrish you see everyday would help too. God know what butchering happens to French, Spanish, Itallian, etc here.

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If living in Japan, keep them out of Japanese public schools. Enroll them in an international school (St. Mary's, American School, etc.) where they will learn English properly at school (which will be supplemented at home). They will learn Japanese without any problem growing up here.

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Actually, if you want your kids to learn anything properly you need to keep them out of the Japanese public school system.

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american bengoshi -- then what about writing/reading proper japanese?? living in japan, kids learn to speak japanese with no problem if they hang out with japanese speakers, and as i said in my post, becoming bilingual is rather easy but being biliteral is what's more difficult unless parents work on reading/writing at home whatever the language it is.. but then again, the topic here is how to make your kids bilingual, not biliteral... though i would like to make sure my kids are not just bilingual but they are both biliteral. speaking 3 or more languages is a major advantage, but in my book, being able to read and write on top of speaking 2 language is a must -- at least in my family.

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Let the schools teach Japanese literacy skills (with backup at home when necessary, of course). Don't assume the kids will simply pick up the second language if it's used in the home; make a point of actively using the second language, talk with the kids, read to them, watch films and telly with them, make it fun.

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Extended periods of immersion in each of the native languages. A week-long family vacation isn't good enough, it should be more like a month's stay with family abroad or summer camp in another country.

Parents that communicate (or make an effort to) in front of their children in both languages. Also, showing children that the parents are still learning the language too.

Clearly demonstrating to children that knowledge of a language has immediately practical uses. Ie, learning to find out directions and letting the child navigate through a new city.

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Positively encourage both languages: the native language of each parent.

In addition, you need to spend money on tutors and other resources. Just speaking at home is only partly effective unless you are somehow a home school teacher with lots of time.

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1 - Television - children will be able to quickly learn to understand 2 even 3 languages simultaneously - it worked for me when very well... 2 - Talking the language - each parent should exclusively use his native language while talking to the child - or use rules like alternating the days in the family - if both parents can speak their language of their spouse.

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Hell most friends from India and Africa speak at least 3 or more, I find it funny that it seems to be mostly Japan and English speaking countries that seem to make a big deal of this!

Yes, everyone who can't is stupid. How wonderful you are!

The rest of the posters have very good points all!

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If living in Japan, keep them out of Japanese public schools. Enroll them in an international school (St. Mary's, American School, etc.) where they will learn English properly at school (which will be supplemented at home).

I love the "send them to private international schools" solution. Great solution for bengoshi's or expats. For the 99% of people who are not in the upper income bracket, this is not an option.

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american bengoshi -- then what about writing/reading proper japanese??

Japanese reading and writing is also taught properly at International Schools using native Japanese teachers. Unfortunately, English reading, writing, conversation is not taught properly at Japanese public schools and most private schools.

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@american_bengoshi:

You just about prove my point about it being Japan and English speaking countries that seem to freak on this.

Why keep them out of Japanese schools? Because anything foreign to your "American" (guessing by the name) ideals could corrupt the children?

And BTW Japanese students in math and science repeatedly out preformed US students every year and if you think your children are just going to "pick up" Japanese from hanging around in Japan well I guess you don't know about Kanji.

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limboinjapan - very good points. There are ASIJ grads who don't speak Japanese, and they certainly didn't "pick it up" living in Japan. Not to mention foreign businessmen who have lived here 15years and still can't order in Japanese in a restaurant.

However, if you can afford international school, then why not?

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Japanese reading and writing is also taught properly at International Schools using native Japanese teachers.

I suppose it depends on the school. A monoglot friend of mine used to teach at a famous international school, and one weekend I and a few other friends helped her take some stuff into school that she wanted to use the following week. As we walked past one classroom we noticed an attempt to familiarize the children with kanji by sticking large sheets of paper with individual kanji written on them on the classroom door and windows. Fine - except that a good number of the sheets of paper were upside-down.

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@manfromamerica:"However, if you can afford international school, then why not?"

Well for one, having been here for a long time I have unfortunately meet many so-called teachers of these international schools and have been shocked to find that many are not certified as teachers anywhere or even educated in the field.

Despite all the recent news concerning the behavior of some Japanese teachers I honestly put more trust in the oversight of the teacher in the public school system or in the Japanese system in general then the "disposable" teachers system of international schools here.

And @american_bengoshi: in over 19 years here I have yet to see a graduate from international schools capable of fully comprehending Kanji, on the contrary when I work in Japanese clients offices and they have employees that are returnees or that went to international school here the other employees and the management are constantly complaining about their inability to write Japanese properly, these people usually are only holding on to their jobs because of their English skills.

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Many internatinal schools are desparate for kids and are offering large discounts. Of course, not the ones mainly used by expats. These refuse discounts for the "common people" because the expats' companies pay these ridiculous prices for them.

I called every single one near neighborhood and some said yes and some said no. I went and visited those that said yes and found a school, while still expensive, is not crazy.

The one thing that scares me about Japanese schools is that the kids are scared to death of other kids outside their little world. Watch what happens when your son/daughter go up to a Japanese only child enrolled in a Japanese only school and tries to play? It is not going to happen.

On the other hand, Japanese kids at international schools seem much more outgoing and are willing to make new friends.

Just my opinion on the matter.

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There are probably lots of good things about those well-known international schools, but I wouldn't just deny Japanese public schools, either. There might be Japanese teachers who teach Japanese at international schools, but I think most kids in international schools don't speak to each other in Japanese.. Kids learn lots from each other and the language is one of them. My kids learned a lot of Japanese (speaking) from their friends by going to Japanese schools. Learning Japanese in the classroom, my guess, won't give them enough.. well, what would I know, but this is just my guess and my opinion.

I think, if you have lots of money to spend, international school must be a good option, but then I still think someone needs to (ideally, parent(s)) work on the kids Japanese at home. Or vice versa... if your kids go to Japanese school, then parents need to work on their home language at home.. Whether your kids go to international school or Japanese private school, there are probably pros and cons, I can't say either one is absolutely better than the other.

Our kids go to Japanese elementary school / hoikuen, and we want them to graduate from Japanese middle school so that their reading/writing skills are at least worth putting on their resume.. I don't just mean kanji, but grammar and literature as well. We want to send the kids to an American high school (from their grandparents' house) to prepare for college.. Until then, we teach them English at home, and when they are in American high school / college, we'll encourage them to continue reading Japanese papers/books.

At the same time, I'd like to teach my kids to teach some French (I'm J/F mix), I don't expect them to read and write French like natives, but I want to expose them to a 3rd language so that when they are grown up, it'd be easier for them to learn if they know the basics.

I guess, all we (my husband and I) can do is to set the environment that we think is right for them, and we have to be consistent in which language to use at home while kids are small. That's all we are doing now and that’s what my parents did when I was growing up --- and I speak/read/write Japanese and French .. and English is my 3rd language :)

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The problem with the international school that we encountered was that the teachers were very much concerned about Japanese children that had returned from abroad, yet there was not much concern about foreign children in Japan. They had to conform to the Japanese system. There was very little understanding for the situation of our daughter to cope with two different cultures.It seemed the only aim for the teachers was to make all students fitting for the japanese system.

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Achieving true bilingualism and/or literacy in two or more languages, especially English and Japanese, is much, much harder than most people imagine. I know hundreds of "bilinguals" and dual-nationals. But in almost 25 years of living in Japan I have met maybe, MAYBE, a handful of people who I consider truly bilingual and literate in both English and Japanese. True bilinqualism is EXTREMELY rare. Expecting it in workers is a recipe for disappointment. Many people are VERY good, but almost EVERYONE I know makes mistakes (only half-joking). Though far from perfect, in my personal experience (my son went through the international school system here and is currently attending university in the US), some of the international schools do a most admirable job of teaching Japanese. They are far from perfect, but IMHO they do a much better job of teaching spoken and written Japanese than the Japanese schools do teaching English (my son has also attended Japanese schools). But for sure, if you are solely dependent on your school (either Japanese or international) to teach your child a second language, you have already lost the battle. No teacher and no school is capable of the time and effort required to make a child bilingual / literate in both languages. Must have support for both languages at home. And for the record, I am not a bengoshi or an expat. Just up to my eyeballs in debt!

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Watch what happens when your son/daughter go up to a Japanese only child enrolled in a Japanese only school and tries to play? It is not going to happen.

Then what on earth was it my kids were doing all that time they were in school, bringing friends home, running round the streets with them... it looked to me like they were playing and making friends - lots of friends.

True bilinqualism is EXTREMELY rare.

If by 'true' bilingualism you mean being of native-speaker level in both languages and equally at home in either, then there probably is no such thing as 'true' bilingualism. Inevitably one language is dominant over the other. That doesn't mean a person can't be fluent and literate in their second, third, etc., languages. Hey, even monoglots make mistakes in their native tongue, as we witness daily here on JT.

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Then what on earth was it my kids were doing all that time they were in school, bringing friends home, running round the streets with them... it looked to me like they were playing and making friends - lots of friends.

We had a choice between International schools and Japanese schools and we decided on sending them to regular Japanese schools just for that reason. They make friends from the neighborhood and have friends over all the time. My wife knows all the other mothers and there is a group support / neighborhood support that's out of this world. Our kids are a part of the neighborhood, and everyone knows them and talks to them. I wouldn't have it any other way, really.

As for multilingualism, we speak three languages at home, and the kids are always hearing them. It doesn't really matter at this stage if they are perfect or not, just that they have the chance to use them and know that they are there. I'm from a monolingual family and I learned several languages. I'm hoping my kids will be even more open to learning languages than I was at their age. Once they decide where they want to live and work, be it in North America, Asia, Europe or South America, they can then decide which language they'll want to be the dominant one. The world is theirs to choose from, really.

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Can't speak on foreign children who are brought to Japan late in childhood by Expat parents. However, if you enroll half children in either the American School or St. Mary's from kidergarten through high school then they will not have any problems. They will read, write and speak both Japanese and English at native level fluency. Mark it down.

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My American born son went to J-schools from kindergarten to graduating high school. We speak English in the home, traveled to the US most Summers; visiting family, friends, and buying books and videos there. I started tutoring him in English grammar, spelling, etc, from J-Jr. High school, up until his college acceptance exams. It wasn't easy, but he now speaks, reads and writes in both English and Japanese. He is comfortable with both languages. It took perseverance on both our parts, with the understanding that to neglect one language, would result in the loss of it.

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There seems to be some confusion on this thread as to the meaning of "expat". Anyone living outside their own country is an "expat", it's got nothing to do with wealth.

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I see Chinese and and other foreign nationals literally working circles around the Japanese staff in every office I've ever worked. The reason is Japanese have been poisioned by elements of Japanese education and culture. I don't want my kids to turn out that way.

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American bengoshi-

Just out of curiosity..So, my question is.. if your kids go to one of those very good international schools, then what do parents have to or not have to do at home????? what are the cons of sending your kids to one of those schools other than money? It sounds like your solution is to send kids to those good international schools and that's it.. I can't help but thinking there's got to be a part parents take to contribute to your children's language skills.. If you send your kids to one of those int'l schools but parents don't do anything to help with the language(s) at home, what do you think would happen? And what is your advice to those who do not plan on spending millions of yen each year for schooling?

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Surely not everyone who go to Japanese school turn stupid.. and kids learn so much outside of the classroom as well.. and they learn the most at home... so making it sound like all Japanese schools are bad makes me question what kind of terrible experience you personally had??? I went to j-schools up to middle school and I don't regret it at all.. I learned good and bad, and after all, I think I turned out okay ;)

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Kids make up their own words to Kimigayo in the same way we used to make up our own words to stupid school songs and anthems. They might have to go through the motions, but no one forces kids to sing anything they don't want to sing.

It's not about whether they sing it, it's about whether it's something they're told they should be singing.

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"Mixed heritage": what a ridiculous moniker. We are all of mixed heritage, are we not?

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Depends on good parenting -

(1) showing examples to the child that Nippon and other country is just 2 out of 100's hundreds of other nations

(2) Geography class at home or the nearest library

3) take child to other parent's home country When child is old enough let the child make choices of where to go or what to eat At an restaurant let the child order food / buy clothes etc. in other parents native tongue

Schools - Are there to teach children it's up to the parent's responsibility to make sure the child knows about both cultures!! Not the school !!! the school is supposed to "open the door " to other cultures but you and your child must walk through it together!!! And learn about Japan & other parents country ( language ) on your own time.

The school + parents/ single parent = should provide the kid's identity

Public vs. Private vs. International School

which is better ? All of them have weak, strong, good and bad points points.

But it is up to the parents to teach the child about where they are from and teach the kid interesting things about their father's/mother's country !!!

I hope one day in japan they will let child use any backpack for school. I walked into Tokyo hands the other day and observed a school backpack for ¥37600. That's to much !!!!! For that much money it should come with GPS navigation and free pencils for a year.

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Bottom line is kids and parents need to have a sit down and talk about these things at home

have time for your children

teach them about 2nd lanuages in a fun way. Make it interesting and creative!!!!

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@Cleo,

My kid has mastered both and for the life of us parents, we cannot work out which one is stronger. I figure that he is exposed to JP more, but wants to be like his old man like a lot of sons do, thus parrots me (sometimes that backfires when he drops the f-bomb after listening to the old man curse the TV during live rugby) but at least he is native.....woops!

Also I agree with you about your take on home education and public schools. The kid will take the parents view every time. Some people should make a greater effort in shaping their kids minds and language ability rather than leaving it to public schools and native spouse.

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@american_bengoshi:

Your opinion about international schools are ideal. Actually, your negative attitude towards the other culture is exactly what prevents a child from being bilingual.

To achieve a truly bilingual result, both parents first have to embrace each other's culture.

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My background = have Viet, half white and live in a neighborhood (Los Angeles) with many immigrants... went to school with immigrant children from all sorts of generations. I also minored in Linguistics at UCLA.

In my opinion, from what I've learned in linguistics combined with personal experience, the best way for your child to be "very" bilingual is ONLY talk with your child in a language not spoken by the general public in the country where you live. My friends whose parents did not do this usually cannot read or write in that language and have only limited speaking skills (can carry on a conversation about normal household things or the weather but not an intellectual conversation). I notice the ones with best bilingual skills had parents who didn't know any of the country's language and relied on their kids for translation (you of course don't have to rely on them for your own communication). Those people tend to be extremely fluent in both languages.

My friend, amusingly, is Taiwanese and she was born in Chile. She moved to the US when she was a teen. Her parents and step-father only spoke Taiwanese or Mandarin. As a result she is extremely fluent in Chilean Spanish, English (her English is amazing... usually teen learners have a bit of accent but she has no accent), Taiwanese Chinese and Mandarin Chinese. She learned German at UCLA and is now extremely fluent in German. The only problem she has is she can't write very well in Chinese and she is a beginner at French... none of which she was super exposed to.

So, in sum, if you flag and speak some of the language of the country you are in (say, Japanese)... their Japanese will be stronger than their English, for example. They simply will not have been exposed to complex conversation in different languages.

International schools are iffy--I think you still have an accent because you reasons stated above... except it would be reverse... their Japanese would be weak. (I moved a lot and also went to a French International School briefly as well.)

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Well I can see by the comments made here that in my 19 years here and basically my nearly 50 years of life nothing has really changed, it always seems to be the Caucasian male from a native English speaking society that is so worried about sending their children to any school that they fear may give the children another perspective of the world.

That is why in the Americas and Europe the most uni-lingual people you will meet are white native English speaker.

Folks take it from all the immigrants that have move all around Europe or immigrated to the Americas from non English countries, send your children to the local schools and talk your other languages at home and spend a little time with the kids teaching them the extra bits and also meet up with those from the other country once and a while.

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Shouldn't that be parents who have different native languages rather than 'mixed-heritage'?

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Actually, your negative attitude towards the other culture is exactly what prevents a child from being bilingual.

To achieve a truly bilingual result, both parents first have to embrace each other's culture.

I'm not negative just because I speak out against the lower standard of education offered at Japanese public schools. My wife (Japanese) and I both openly embrace both Japanese & US culture with our children and we speak both languages to them frequently, alternating between all Japanese and all English. I also teach my kids English grammar and conversation on weeknights and weekends. However, the children need to have a solid educational background to support our efforts. Again, send your children to Japanese public schools and between the second rate education and the cultural brainwashing, it will be your kids that foreign staff are working circles around in the future.

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To prevent confusion, parents should do as we do at home (we have a bilingual kid).

Foreign spouse: speak your own language always, not your non native Japanese. You will embarrass your child.

native spouse: as above.

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It is not that hard at all. All they have to do is speak one language in the home and Japanese outside of the home. But in these days, parents in Japan seem to hate to do that. As of why, I have no reason. Maybe they are just to lazy to do it.

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alladin-

But in these days, parents in Japan seem to hate to do that. As of why, I have no reason. Maybe they are just to lazy to do it.

i dont' get it... why do japanese families have to speak another language at home? (unless they are bilingual) it's not the matter of their laziness. and no, they are not too lazy to do it and they do not hate to do that. they would LOVE to do it if they could. or are you talking about japanese spouse who is married to non-japanese?

my native languages are japanese and french, and i speak english at home with my husband and kids all the time.. and it requires tons of work to maintain english-only environment.. if a japanese spouse spoke japanese to their kids, i wouldn't think of the person "lazy".. unless the person's level of Enlgihs (or any other language other than japanese) is native or near native level.

imagine if you were to speak japanese the whole time at home in a foreign land... not your native language... it would be much easier and could communicate much better in your native tongue, dont you think?

there are certain advantage of those japanese spouses who speak only japanese -- there are also certain advantage of those couples who only speak non-japanese language at home..

the key is.. either both parents speak the same language at home and make it a home language... or one parent speak one language method.. i studied bilingualism in university and it is quite interesting, and there is no just one method that'd work 100%.

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dolphin-

Shouldn't that be parents who have different native languages rather than 'mixed-heritage'?

ya, i totally agree. my second home (france) has people of many different heritages and we still speak the same language..

i guess this topic is just related to all those recent "hafu kids" threads..

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That should be "2 Stats" and not "2 States" Forgot to turn off Auto spell check things like Japanophile and Stats and BTW keep getting changed.

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Foreign spouse: speak your own language always, not your non native Japanese. You will embarrass your child.

Instead of always needing an interpreter when out and about with your child, doesn't it provide a better role model for the child to see the parent doing his/her best to communicate and embrace the local language?

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Make sure they spend ample time in each of their parents' respective home countries. Sending them out of Japan for summer/winter vacation every year is one option. And of course TV/conversation/books at home.

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The question here is "grow up bilingual" and if you are talking just about any other language and Japanese their is NO WAY that any international school's Japanese program can come close to producing the results needed to properly function in Japanese in Japan as a native.

Now please don't even try to counter this because even Japanese children that go to pre-school, elementary school, Junior high school and speak only Japanese all this time are not capable of actually functioning fully so how could you get the same results in a fraction of the educational hours and practice!

As for most other languages (lets use stick with European based ones for now) are fairly simple to write especially if they a Roman character or Cyrillic character based.

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Easy. I talked to my sons on my own language and my wife talked to them in hers.

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What worked for our kids was having them spend most summers in Japan while they were growing up.

The first year we did it, it was worrisome for me because when they returned home it took them awhile to get back to speaking English. (Maybe because my Japanese ability wasn't all that good yet.) That initial concern quickly evaporated.

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What I have seen in Hawaii: Mixed kids and the children of 2 Japanese parents go to school in English, and speak to their parents in Japanese. Typically, this only works so well. Most of the kids doing just this do not read Japanese well. The summer in Japan program helps, but summer is not enough time to keep up Japanese reading skills.

In Eugene, Oregon there are immersion schools that teach half a day in Japanese, and half a day in English - I have heard the results are good.

Is there no school in Japan trying this technique? Honestly, what better way to be totally bilingual, than to start early, and learn in the language?

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I think in Japan, people dont want to change and try something different. In Hawaii there are so many people that speak one language in the home and English while outside of the home. People can make a whole lot of excuses on how difficult it is to do this in Japan, but there are people in Japan that are doing it. I have met so many parents in Japan that speak very good English who refuse to speak in English with their kids because they think it is hazukashi or it is too difficult to do. They send their kids to eikawa to have them learn English, but refuse to practice English with them while at home. To be bilingual, people have to practice two languages all of the time. If there is no opportunity to do it, people should find a way to make it happen. Nothing is impossible if you try your best. But if you sit around the house making excuses, nothing will happen and you will never improve in speaking and understanding levels. It all comes down to how hard you want it to happen. If you dont do anything, I consider it as being lazy and not productive.

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If you want your kids to grow up bilingual, send them to international schools if you can afford the tuition.

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If you want your kids to grow up bilingual, send them to international schools.

a. This is your opinion for your situation but it does not apply to all. There are plenty of bilingual "mixed heritage" people who went thru the Japanese schools. There are plenty of non-bilingual "mixed heritage" who went to international school. Why? Because its all about what happens at home and how both languages are encouraged and cultivated outside of school.

b. You seem to assume bilingual = English/Japanese. There are many other examples of "mixed heritage" who went thru the Japanese system and come out bilingual in their languages. Again, its about what happens at home.

c. Your staunch negative opinions towards the Japanese system may cause anxiety or a complex for your children. Afterall, Japan is the same system that educated their whole other side of the family for generations - its part of them. Its possible for "mixed heritage" children to be influenced by the parent with a superior view of his/her own culture. In the end, the result for the children is to please the dominant force and reject aspects of the other culture i.e. the language.

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If the mother is Japanese she speaks IN Japanese.And the father speaks in his native tongue.Plain and simple.

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The International school way obviously works but at around 2 million a year (in Tokyo)per child is not cheap unless you're on an ex-pat package. In my case, with 3 hafu kids, Japanese is their native language so the emphasis is on me to get them to speak English. Talking to them in your native language is not enough. The old maxim about little kids being language sponges is true but they are unwilling sponges... just like adults, they want to take the easiest option ie. speak in Japanese in their case. So I have to constantly make them repeat & practice English (and only watch English language TV). It works but it requires patience that some parents don't seem to have. I have met many "hafu" families whose kids are native Japanese speakers and who understand English very well but can't speak English properly because the (usually Japanese-speaking) gaijin parent can't be bothered to force the kids to respond in English instead of Japanese.....

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What is the best way for parents of children of mixed heritage to make sure their kids grow up bilingual?

Actually have a conversation with them?

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cracaphat-

I studied bilingualism in college and I am raising two bilingual children, and I was raised as a bilingual child by my own parents.

If the mother is Japanese she speaks IN Japanese.And the father speaks in his native tongue.Plain and simple.

That is called one parent one language method, and that is definitely one way to do it. But there are also other ways such as Minority language at home method..Even if one of the parents isn't a native speaker of the minority language, if she/he speaks good enough, make the minority language a "home language". Of course, the non-native speaker (one of the parents in this case) would make mistakes in grammar and pronunciation isn't perfect, but the recent study clearly shows this is a very strong method.

Whichever method that works for your family should be fine as long as your children are exposed to both languages on a daily basis, and make sure you (parents) have enough interaction with your children (playing, talking, reading and even writing together -- not teaching but doing it together)

The key is to stick with your plan once decided.. If you've decided to make your home English-only environment, stick to it. If you decide to go with One-Parent-One-Language method, then stick to it. I see so many non-Japanese English speakers mixing English and Japanese when speaking to children.. I also see many Japanese parents (who are married to foreign nationals) who mix Japanese and English when speaking to their kids -- the result is, kids mix two languages when they speak to their parents.

Still, this is not a huge problem as children get older, they will have a concept of two separate languages (younger kids don't have this concept and that is why they often mix up two languages) and their can consciously choose which language to use in different situations.

Expose your children to both languages as much as possible, and learning languages is also learning cultures, so take them to your home country for vacation, make friends from your home country in Japan and hang out with them (and their kids) from time to time, and also hang out with Japanese friends and their kids as well. Expose your kids to both cultures... this is very important.

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Cleo, you are obviously here for the long haul. I am not. I want my kids to speak English so they don't end up working for 5M a year working until 10 every night just because his boss does.

So,the question is how do YOU teach your kids English? You said earlier that we should encourage speaking in Japanese because we live here. So, if your kids go to a Japanese school and you and your spouse also speak Japanese then where is the English?

I am talking about when you kid goes to a park, not friends from school.

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@limboinjapan and @cleo Agree with you about Japanese language education in International schools being poor. My 11 year old has been going to an International School (against my wishes)for 4 years. Her Japanese and English speaking fluency are worse than when she entered that school. She mainly communicates with her friends who are Chinese and Japanese in English and also her mother speaks to her in English.Problem is that all these people speak bad English and she copies them. Her English reading and writing are better than before but her Japanese writing has fallen right back as she only has one hour of instruction in Japanese a day.This is in a class where some of the kids have either just arrived in Japan or know they will leave soon so have very little interest in the subject

Luckily she is a clever and confident girl and may one day overcome all this. I do however believe that she may be on the path to not being ready for high level University education in either language,especially not Japanese

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Being bilingual is certainly a good thing but parents should be sure that their child is proficient in at least one of them. I know some kids and young adults who are completely bilingual but can't carry out a boardroom or managerial level conversation or meeting in either language. This i really going to affect thier upward mobility in the corporate world.

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dano2002 -

There are plenty of Japanese universities that do actually teach and that do not encourage cramming for tests only. Trouble is they tend to be upper-end, and simply speaking fluent English isn't enough to get in.

I taught my kids English by speaking to them in English; reading to them in English; providing them with cassette tapes (today it would be CDs) and videos (DVDs) in English; watching English-language TV programmes with them. Trips to the UK have been minimal, especially since my parents passed away, and to be honest I'd (we'd) rather spend the time and money on a holiday down south (Okinawa or Ogasawara). While Japanese is their dominant language, both kids are fluent and literate in English. As we speak my son is bashing his keyboard writing a post-grad paper in English.

What fishy says is right on. Mr cleo's English ability was not, we decided, strong enough for him to interact with his kids in English, so we chose the one-parent-one-language method. It works. By the time she was two, my daughter was explaining to her Japanese grandmother that Daddy talks like OBaachan but Mummy talks different - nothing strange about it, just the way things are.

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I speak and teach my son in english and my wife speak japanese with him. So he is running smoothly prarallel in both language. Apart from that he speak even spanish with his grandmom. Coz really i dont want him to end up working hard in khaisa. Speaking billingual will provide him a vast opportunity everywhere.

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@limboinjapan and @cleo Agree with you about Japanese language education in International schools being poor.

It really depends on which "International" school you are talking about. The American School & St. Mary's are both top notch in quality of teaching Japanese language. But the tuition is JPY 2M a year + expenses.

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Speaking billingual will provide him a vast opportunity everywhere.

yes, i agree.. second/third language, in my book, is a wonderful gift that parents can give to their/our children :)) increase more opportunity when kids seek and they can definitely talk to more people in different countries, and it will definitely give them a broader view towards the world. speaking two or more languages isn't just about going to school and getting a better job, but it will bring them a bigger "gift" .. whatever it is :)

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Honestly, I don't get home to 7:30 or 8 each night. Where is the time to talk to my kids in English during the week? 1 hour at night or in the morning is not enough to learn English. So, i spend the extra money to the job I cannot do myself. At least now I can spend my limited weekday time time actually communciating with my kids in English rather than studying.

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dano2002-

At least now I can spend my limited weekday time time actually communciating with my kids in English rather than studying.

that's exactly what you should be doing :) you are doing the right thing. 1 hour at night might be a short time, but it is far better than nothing. you'd be surprised how much kids can learn within the limited time!! and you shouldn't have to study with kids, just have fun and talk to them in your own language :))

and that's what my dad did when i was a child.. he's a french speaker and he spoke to me and played with me when he got home at night.. he usually came home around the time we finished dinner.. and we spent time together during weekends.. and i became fluent in my father's native language as well as my mother's language :)

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More than that teach your children to be bicultural. Immerse, traverse, emerge.

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Get them out of Japan QUICK AS POSSIBLE!

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In 19 years I have heard it all " I get home late, when do I have time?" or " Japanese schools will kill your child's creativity!"

Blah, Blah, Blah, These just amount to excuses to not work to hard in the parenting departments and usually said by white males marries to Japanese (in the cases here at least).

I am a divorced single foreign male, and the only caregiver to my 2 children for several year now, some how I find the time to cook, clean, do laundry, shop, work, spend time and teach my children, I run my own business that often requires that I spend long hours on site with clients.

Some how my children are not only Fluent in Japanese and English but also spoken fluent in my native language and more amazing is that both my children are extremely talented in different creative fields to the point that next year they have both been invited to go to overseas events by foreign groups, How is that possible Japanese schools kill children's creativity we all know that RIGHT!

How many of you have actually been raise bilingual or multilingual? Well I was raised multilingual had to know 3 languages just to communicate within the family and most of my friends also spoke, wrote at least 2 if not 3 languages and we all did it by going to public school and learning the others at home. OH WAIT there were exception RIGHT the W,A,S,P they won't attened the local language schools,only spoke English and very bad local language!

You want your children to know their Japanese parents language and give them the option to stay here if the so choose, then sent them to a local school let them meet and play with plenty of other local children and YOU as the NON-Japanese make sure they also see what is available to them with your language and culture.

BTW: My daughter's friends love her and in her high school she is one of the most popular kids because she can go places they are not comfortable she has brought along dozens of friends to many international events were she could easily communicate and by that fact has peaked the interest of her friends into learning more English, French and German (all offered at her HS) they also attend Thai and Chinese event with their Japanese/Thai/Chinese mixed friends.

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Thats great limboinjapan. I was brought up as a multi lingual myself. I speak 4 languages. My Japanese is close to native level. 外国と日本で育った為4ヶ国語を話す事が出来ます。

I have kids and I speak 2 languages to them all the time. My wife is Japanese and we communicate in Japanese only to each other. She speaks Japanese to him but I do not. They are still very little and I know it will be a challenge but I hope my children will be multi lingual one day. I would like the children to go to an international school but I cannot afford it so I will have to teach them myself. Hope it works out.

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I taught my two boys to read. They were at mid-second grade (elementary) level by the age of five. This is thanks to the Headsprout company. Now, we read leveled books from A-Z which have quizzes and discussion cards.They are far from fluent conversationally, but they have built up an impressive vocabulary and have very good comprehension. They are still only 8 and 6 years old, but I'm confident they will become good speakers because they love stories.

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Hey when my children were younger it was a lot harder then today, I would have different family members record or buy children's educational and other TV shows (like sign-a-longs), Trying to just teach is not as good as actually siting down and watching these shows and playing or signing along with your children.

It got to the point that whenever the new Cailliou, Blues Clues, Between The Lions, Zaboomafo or Carmen Campagne, etc.. arrived I would have a whole apartment full of little Japanese children singing (at least trying) in English and French as well as screaming "A Koru" (a clue)!

Today if my children were that age again it would be so much easier with so much of these things now available on the net.

Just one piece of advice, never let the Japanese daycare teacher find out about you singing with the children or you will find yourself up on the stage at the next event singing "Un bon chocolat chaud" with a dozen pre-schoolers!

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or you will find yourself up on the stage at the next event singing "Un bon chocolat chaud" with a dozen pre-schoolers!

that'd be fun LOL hey, it's just me ;)) i love singing and dancing on stage with little kids!

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@Cleo Instead of always needing an interpreter when out and about with your child, doesn't it provide a better role model for the child to see the parent doing his/her best to communicate and embrace the local language?

I always value your advice Cleo, as you have made Japan your home, and yet always offer nonbiased advice, my daughter is 4, and she is enjoying her life in Japan, although we dont have set rules of one parent one language, she seemed to figure it out to speak English with Mummy and Japanese with Daddy and everyone else, she also plays with all neighbourhood kids etc, and then if the phone rings from Australia she can talk to her Nana in perfect English.

the reading and writing we are not too fussed on right now, just trying not to freak out , and just let it run it's natural course. Our plan of action is to teach both English and Japanese reading and writing at home (the basics) until she goes to elementary school. then after she is in school (Japanese public) then we will continue at home at a relaxed pace .

Id rather have a happy kid, rather than one that is stressed out about 'having' to sit down and learn something I feel that kids learn things better when having fun and not being pressured.

I guess at the end of the day it comes down to , are you staying in Japan or not, but then , why would you give up the chance to learn Japanese, along with your child

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@limboinjapan-nice posts. Inspiring. Sorry about the divorce but it sounds like you made it through fine.

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mrskit:

Whether you plan on staying for the long haul or just a few years be careful, you never know what life will through you, My original plan did not include staying this long but here I am.

One thing about Japanese schools, their communication classes in English suck, that everyone knows, but if you are honest, you must admit, they can write Roman characters better than most westerners and they can spell quite well, so if your other language is English don't worry at all, you just keep communicating in English with your children and reading and writing will come along just fine.

Most Japanese English teacher I know can't speak English properly if their life depended on it BUT they can write circles around most so-called native English speakers including most of the ALT's that have come and gone in my children's schools.

I chose to concentrate on English rather the my native language because it would be more useful locally and internationally. They can understand and speak my native language but do not have the full vocabulary or writing skills they should for their ages, this is not such a big deal seeing in our case it is a Roma character language and once they go to my home country (if they chose) it will not take much effort to pickup what ever may be missing.

If you are from the Americas or Europe then don't worry both those places due to immigration are used to having children arrive in the middle of their education that do not have full knowledge or capabilities in the local official language and therefore have programs in place to get the children up to speed with the others of their age.

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kids learn things better when having fun and not being pressured

I think this is key. Make learning a chore, and kids (if they don't openly rebel) will do what they're forced to do and no more, hate every minute of it and get away as soon as they can. Make it fun, and they'll gobble up everything you throw at them and then demand more.

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There's no easy way. You have to be a mindful parent and make sure your kids use both, or more, languages on a regular basis in a disciplined way. That includes reading and writing, NOT JUST home conversations. Otherwise one language will automatically be dominant and your kid will be conversational in the other language with varying degrees of non-native accent.

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Phew, that took a while to read all those posts. Thanks for the great posts, Fishy! I'm surprised no brought up the issue of "mazego" which is a major issue for kids growing up in a home where two languages are spoken. I have a "hafu" friend (Japanese / American) who grew up in Japan going to an international school. She mixes Japanese and English in every sentence when she speaks to her friends from school. She doesn't speak with an accent of course, but sadly her skills are not "native level" in either language. She can have casual conversations in both languages, but her grammar and vocab level seriously limit her career choices. I personally think the best way is what they do in Oregon (as stated in a previous post) - half a day in English, half a day in Japanese.

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bicultural - re:mazego .. yeah, i know what you mean.. one time i was on a train and noticed some girls (they looked mixed) were talking to each other in mazego.. because i understand both english and japanese, it didn't sound too strange (and i am sure those girls do that all the time -- and actually, i admit.. i do it from time to time with friends who speak both languages) but i bet for those who only know one of those languages, those girls probably sounded really funny or wierd.. as long as they can handle "decent" conversations in EACH language (not mixing the two), i guess it is fine to talk to friends in mazego :)

there is a huge difference between mixing two languages on purpose/consciously (just for fun) and mixing them up unconsciously... and as long as you know what you are doing, i guess it is okay!!

but it is true that there are many "bilingual" people who are not quite "native" in either language, and that is something we definitely wouldn't want our children to be!! i guess it's not that difficult to be "bilingual" but very difficult to be a true bilingual if you know what i mean :)) cheers!

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I was brought up as a multi lingual and spoke 4 languages from an early age. And yes, I would mix languages because it that was easier. But my language level of all the languages I speak is not as good as a monolingual native speaker. Despite that I have a decent job and do OK. I do all my email correspondence in Japanese and English. Japanese is tough. I have been told by clients, co workers that they can't hear or read that I am not Japanese but what they don't know is that I take much more time in writing a paragraph in Japanese than a monolingual native Japanese speaker. Using a computer, I can look up the kanjis that I can't read. I can get by because I have a computer, without I would be lost.

I don't think there are many true 100% bilinguals in the world. But if you speak 90% of any language you should be OK.

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I have known many Africans who have raise bi and even trilingual children, and I used what I learned from them. There are two basic ways to do it. One is to have each parent always use one particular language. Be sure that both parents talk to the kids regularly. In many families the father doesn't. It's not called "mother tongue" for nothing. The other way is to use each language in different contexts. The most common is using one outside the home, and one inside. Either way the children learn to use each language appropriately in its context, i.e. inside or outside, or with each parent.

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this reminds me of that half boy on tv... he doesnt speak any English but everyone expects him to.

come to think of it, I find it amazingly amusing when Japanese go to countries like Italy or France and start speaking English to the natives, even though they clearly dont speak it.

The priority must always be on learning the accepted native language of the country of primary residence. In this case it would be Japanese. Sure, if your a mixed marriage/partner you can teach them a second language later on... but one sure way to have your kid segregated moreso than they already will be from physical appearance is by mixing them up with 2 languages at an early age.

This isnt about what the parents want. Its about whats best for the future of the child.

For me, it will be likely from the age of 10. This is actually one of the reasons I study Kanji every day. If my kid comes to me with homework and I cant help them with it, what kind of parent am I?

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Send your kids to international schools if you are in Japan or any other non-English speaking country. Although the costs for international schools are prohibitive, it's much more beneficial for kids to expose to cultural diversity in academic environment.

DO NOT put them into traditional Japanese public(and some private) schools for too long. It's very excruciating for bi-racial/bi-cultural kids—particularly in mid-to-high school-- to strive in a rigorous academic discipline instructed in Japanese language only. Such alternatives as summer school program or hands-on learning experience from your Japanese parents on a daily basis will cultivate kids’ learning enthusiasm.

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