When I am with my children I almost always speak English to them. I sometimes speak Japanese to them if I am speaking to a Japanese person. When people around us here me speaking English to my children they always ask me:
“Is your child Bilingual?”
“Does your child speak English?”
“Does your child speak Japanese?”
For our oldest child, 5 years old, the answer is yes. She speaks both Japanese and English and understands both languages. Our second child started speaking more and more English this year. She is very proud of her English ability and often shouts “I can speak English.” or 「私は英語を喋るよ！」Our youngest child is only 1 and a half. He understands both languages but still only has a small vocabulary.
At home I speak only English to my children. My wife also does that but she often also uses Japanese. Since they all go to kindergarten they get lots of practice speaking Japanese. My oldest used to get very upset with us speaking English in the home. We were really worried she wouldn’t want to learn English. We showed her lots of English shows but it wasn’t until we went to Australia that she realised that not everyone speaks Japanese. After the trip she said “I have to learn English so I can speak to my cousins.”
It has been much easier with our second child. She sees our oldest talking English all the time with me and wants to copy. Recently my oldest said “Why do we have to speak English at home?” Our second child copied her and started complaining about it too. I’m not worried though because I know she is just copying what her sister says. When they say they don’t want to speak English I just tell them, “OK, I’ll stop speaking English too. That means no more stories, no more singing.” That usually gives them something to think about.
Do you want your children to be bilingual? Why? Why not?
What does my second child often say?
What helped my first child want to learn English?
What do I say when my children say they don’t want to learn English?
Our youngest child is one and a half. He is the most chatty at that age of all our kids. A lot of what he says is baby but he does have a range of words he likes to say. I’m pleased to say that he speaks a lot of English. Since we live in Japan it’s rare for our children to develop English as their main language.
It helped that we went to Australia for a month. In that time, he learnt birdie, Fifi and cockatoo. Fifi isn’t an English word. It’s not Japanese either. It’s the name of our family cat in Australia. It’s also become our family’s word for all cats as our youngest child calls every cat Fifi now. Birdie is a kids version of bird and cockatoo is a type of bird we often see in Australia. However, he often points at koalas or kangaroos and calls them cockatoo as well.
Since coming back to Japan, he’s learnt a few more words too. Now he can say me, the name of our second child, bubu car, hikoki, shu shu popo and kowai. The last three are all Japanese. Hikoki is plane which he gets very excited about when he sees one. Shu shu popo is the noise a train makes and the word kowai means scary. He says kowai for stink bugs. I think that’s because his teachers say kowai whenever they see a bug. He says our second child’s name with various tones. When I pick him up from kindergarten her name is one of the first things he says very happily. If I put him in the car when she isn’t there he will often look back and say her name puzzled. If he falls over when she is nearby he often says her name as if she pushed him over. When they fight he will come to us with a miserable face and say her name. I’m still not sure if that’s his word for sister or if he is saying her name. As for bubu car. He often says that first thing in the morning as he hears the morning traffic go past our house.
What were the first words your children said?
Today was my dad’s birthday. He turned 80 years old. Every year I have often wondered what to buy him. This year was very easy. My father loves movies however he has every channel you can get and can watch almost anything. The question for me then was what could you get that he can’t just watch on TV. The answer was obvious.
For years my dad has told us about his favourite movies. They are Carlton Browne of the f.o, and the Mouse that Roared. Both of these are Peter Sellers’ movies. He has often said that they are the funniest movies he has ever watched. I bought them on DVD from Amazon and sent them to him. I wish I could go back to Australia watched these movies with him.
What is the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?
Here is the trailer for Carlton Browne of the F.O.
And the mouse that roared:
It’s been a while. I’ve got three children now. A soon to be five year old, a two year old and a recently turned one year old. I haven’t really posted anything about my experience as a parent because I didn’t really have anything to post about. Now though I suddenly have quite a lot to post about. I guess I’ve been reflecting more on my own childhood as well as fundamental parenting believes I had that have changed or solidified with time.
This post will be about the former. Memories from my own childhood. I’ve often heard people say, ‘Don’t worry they won’t remember it anyway.’ Referring to the early childhood years. I’ve always had a problem with this. Well several problems with it, but the main one is that I do remember it. I have several memories from when I was so young that I can’t actually tell you how old I was. One thing i remember is the yellow automatic swing that I loved. My mum explained my ability to remember that away with the fact that we have a photo of it. However there are a few other memories that there are no photos of. The reason we have no photos of them is because they weren’t with my family. There are probably photos but i don’t have access to them.
My parents both worked at a time where there was no daycare. In order for my mother to continue working she needed to find someone to look after me, it was the same for my older siblings too. Thus for a sizable amount of my most formative years I was looked after by an Indian woman who lived in the neighbourhood. It’s funny, my mother would often point out where she lived to me later in life and I’m fairly certain I could drive there right now if I was in the neighbourhood. I’ve never been inclined to seek her out though until now. Last night I was thinking about how truly influential the first few years of life are to a person’s sense of the world and how to live in it. It made me wonder what was her parenting philosophy? I only ever remember her being kind and understanding. Never angry, always there but also going about doing the housework. I know that’s where i get my love of Asian food but what else did she teach me? Is she the reason why I feel a strong connection to Buddhism despite my family being firmly atheist? Side note, those don’t actually connect because Buddhism is an atheist believe structure. Well fundamentally it is anyway. That’s a different discussion. My point is from birth to five we form some of our core believes on what it means to be human. I understand my own parents’ views on what it means to be human but I don’t know my Indian mother’s core values except in that there is probably some mirror of those values in my own views of reality. I’m now quite excited to try and meet her again and talk to her about parenting.
I kind of digressed though. This blog is titled memories of a four year old. There are several memories that often float up to the surface of that time. I have always cherished those memories but never really reflected on them. Just enjoyed them. I can distinctly map out the living room space on the second story of the house that I had crawled and walked in so many times. I can remember my first experience of Indian spices in the form of Bombay mix and my desperate attempts later in my childhood to find that flavour again. I remember playing with a helium filled fish balloon. I was telling a story to myself in which I was fighting to keep hold of it because I knew it would fly off into the sky. Of course I ended up letting go of it for real and was devastated by the turn of events. Fortunately my Indian mother was there to console me. Which brings me to my final memory. A memory which is more the memory of a feeling. The memory of her own son coming home from school and how that made me feel. It’s the memory of a feeling i have often recalled but never really contemplated until now. you see I keep on saying my Indian mother because in my memories that is who she was. At least until her son came home. Then I remember a strong cocktail of emotions. First was the territorial emotions coming from the entrance of a rival. Then came the guilt, for lack of a better word, coming from knowing that she wasn’t my mother. That this was her son. Then to a strong feeling that I should hide or get away from this son. I never befriended him. It wasn’t until only a few moments ago that I thought how interesting that series of feelings is. Of course I haven’t been able to understand that series of feelings until now. Now that I can see similar thought patterns arising in my own children.
I didn’t really have a point to this blog except that you shouldn’t dismiss your children’s memories.
Aso Kuju is in Kumamoto and Oita prefecture, Kyushu, Japan, Earth. It’s also one of my family’s favourite vacation locations. We’ve been there around about five or six times in the past three years and have found a few places that are definitely worth checking out.
First though a bit about Aso. It’s the biggest caldera in Japan. Smack right bang in the middle of this caldera is two active volcanoes. One of them smokes quite regularly. You can go up to the top and look down into it on a good day. Of the trips we’ve only been able to do it once. We were up there for five minutes before they told us the gas was too dense and could result in death if we stayed there too long. To be honest though, while the volcanoes are pretty cool, there is way more to see and do in Aso than check them out.
Aso is a resort area. Resort in this case means a place with great big hot spring baths and table tennis. We haven’t actually been to many of them because there’s actually places better. There’s called pensions which is probably from French not English. Basically they are B&Bs. One of them that we always go back to is called Holahoo. It’s German themed with plenty of wooden nutcracker models everywhere. Although that’s not why we go there. They also serve the best food I have ever eaten. This is not an exaggeration. I have eaten some damn good food in my time but this place takes the cake. They also serve beers from Germany, Belgium and Czech. Not to mention a very smooth organic red wine. There usual deal is stay two nights get one dinner and two breakfasts. The dinner is a six course meal. The breakfast a one course. Another bonus of this place is that they are kid friendly. The owners are a family of three. On the first floor they have a well decked kids room. Not only that but if you obviously need a bit of a break the mum will help keep an eye on your kid. That alone makes this place one of our favourites.
Another place worth doing a day trip to is Kurokawa onsen village. For those not in the know an onsen is a hot spring bath. This place has at least twenty five different places to go. You can go to the information centre and get a three bath pass for 1300 yen. About $13 give or take. We debated whether or not we’d do three baths but honestly it’s quite easy if you’re doing the day there. In fact if you manage to do all the baths in the area you get massive prizes. The baths were all very warm. In fact the taps were usually dishing out eighty degree water. Making the average temperature about 55 degrees. Of course I’m talking Celsius here. You may wonder what’s so special about hot spring baths. It’s something you really need to experience to truly understand why it’s great. It’s really everything a bath should be. Relaxing and cleansing with a good atmosphere. What’s more if you have a baby that doesn’t like bathing I guarantee a few trips to hot spring bath will cure that. Our second little girl used to scream her guts out at the prospect of a bath. A few hot springs later and she is not a happy bather. As the link shows there are tonnes of places to stay there but you don’t need to stay the night to enjoy the baths.
A third place I must give a mention to is Kuju Kogen. This place has very large rooms you can easily fit a couple of families in. A nice restaurant. Not as good as the Holahoo but it’s still good food. There’s also a mirco-brewery nearby that does a good beer. The big win about this place is the location of it’s hot spring bath. This place hands down has the best view from a hot bath I have ever seen. It’s on a plauteau that stretches out for several kilometres. On the horizon you can see the two volcanoes smoking away in the distance.