I saw this and had to put in my two cents (actually, this response got out of hand. I apologize in advance). But first, Thank you to everyone that has shared so far and most definitely thanks to サルコさん. I think that, at least here in the states, it takes guts (and ALOT of commitment) to teach your child a language you think is important. It takes being pretty resourceful, and there can be a good number of people (sometimes they’ll be your own blood) who will look at you and your child like a pair of freaks… so far the public disapproval has been subtle out in my neck of the woods, but I don’t expect it to stay that way. Oh, and neither my wife nor myself are of Japanese heritage.
Well, first off, our baby is almost two years old now, and since the 1st time I held her I’ve only ever spoken 日本語 to her (okay, caveat: if she wants to read an English picture book, her mother isn’t around, and I can’t translate it quickly then I cave, BUT ONLY THEN). Mom does 英語 and some ASL、 I do 日本語、and we do not make compromises, aside from the aforementioned. My baby and I do 絵本読み聞かせ every day, I play and sing 童謡 for her for an hour minimum everyday, she watches アニメ and 映画 with me while I talk to her about whats going on and ask her what she thinks about it, make up songs for her, get her to socialize with other people, teach numbers and あいうえお, do coloring (I’m dorky and use this time as 漢字練習, which seems to catch her interest occasionally), go on nature walks, 買い物, etc exclusively in 日本語。
And the results of all that so far are: she’s madly in love with トトロ (plenty of kids believe in Santa Claus, and she might too, but I’m pretty sure トトロ takes 1st place here), she savors learning about life’s oddities from me and ぐでたま, several Japanese ladies have been generous and sung a variety of 童謡 for her ( which is invariably met with that kind of knowing, twinkling little grin that small children get when they feel they’ve learned a secret that was intended only for them), she’s starting to sing 童謡 all on her own, she’s taking the first steps for being her mother’s translator/interpreter, thinks earwigs (she has dubbed them “iggywiggies”) are gross but ハサミムシ are 面白い (we’ll resolve this dichotomy later, maybe), and a lot more. And while her original speech was a big, garbled, beautiful clump of English and Japanese lately she’s been making the distinction that 英語 is ママ語 and 日本語 is パパ語. And really, the VAST majority of the credit has to go to her; she’s the one doing the linguistic heavy lifting, and she seems to be a passionate and ambitious language learner thus far. It truly blows my mind (泣けるぅ～）.
At my core, I want to do all I can to help her cultivate that confidence, that belief in her own abilities and herself, and equip her with the social, analytical, emotional, and linguistic tools to make meaningful and enriching bonds with other people, no matter where she may go in the world. I got really scared at the thought that, as long as our family was going to be in 日本 she would feel walled-off and isolated by a language barrier rather than having 日本語 open doors for her; that it would be a big trial, and (of course selfishly for me) I feared in the pit of my stomach that she could grow to resent me for uprooting her and sticking her in an environment that could feel isolatingly alien. Which, honestly, could still happen, despite my best efforts. She’s her own person after all, and I can’t make her friends for her or brave her storms for her.
It started with the fact that I wanted to be able to give our daughter something useful, something only I could give her. My wife is an accomplished artist, so I knew that that was one big gift that her mother was going to share with her, and it started to feel a bit like Christmas gift-wars in my head. At first I felt kind of inferior about it, not knowing how I could give our daughter anything that could compare with that, but over time it came to me that I could share 日本語 with her ( a non-english way to conceive of, process, and interact with life, the universe, and everything blah blah blah), and knowing all too well how language acquisition doesn’t get easier with age (y’all already knew that!), I decided to knuckle down and be her パパ rather than her dad. I’ve got some examples to go off of, but sometimes I’m really just making this up as I go; makes me pretty damn anxious. I really, really don’t know if I’m doing the right thing or not; I’m just flailing, doing everything I can think of to keep her from ending up a young 引きこもり, lonely, hurt, and angry in 日本. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m pretty chicken-shit about this whole parenting thing still; I think of what seems to be the worst thing possible outcome in a given instance, and spend the rest of my time concocting preventative measures and evasive maneuvers in my head.
My Japanese isn’t crap, but it isn’t where I feel it should be either, and I know I can’t teach her 日本語 by myself. The real test and the real aquisition will be if she can make those meaningful bonds with 日本人. So I guess what I’m doing now is giving her the training wheels, and hopefully those will be good enough to help her learn to ride in 日本語 with her 仲間同士、先生達、知り合い、and whoever else will be willing to give her a chance. And that outside of language I can nurture that confidence in her so she can make strong bonds with anybody she chooses to.
I think I’ll stay in パパ mode for the next 8 years minimum, checking our situation each month, and if she’s really sick of it by then and can put into words why she needs me to quit, I’ll throw in the towel. Which would be nice too. I try to stick to the positives of both kinds of fatherhood and not sweat the problems of the language situation I’ve put us into (which I do still sweat daily). Life ain’t supposed to be simple, right?
My method could very well be overboard, but this is the path my amazingly supportive wife and I have settled on together, and our almost-2 year old has already made some really unique memories due to experiencing the world via 日本語 and 英語 together (at least I like to think so) . She’ll start telling me what she thinks of all my shenanigans pretty soon!
Wow that got ranty. I’m sorry y’all; I get tired and I talk a loud mess. Filter goes right out the window.
じゃ、以上、おわり！ If you got this far all I can say is that I am moved by your patience. Thank you