Teaching your kids Japanese

Hi there! Is anyone here teaching their kids Japanese, too?

If you aren’t, why not?

If you are…
how old are the children?
what methods/approaches/resources are you using, and would you recommend them to others?
tell us anything else that is relevant.

I realize there is a similar thread (https://community.wanikani.com/t/Teaching-Japanese-to-Children/1338/13), but it’s so old I’d like to hear some new opinions.


I’ll go first:

I’m thinking about trying to teach my kids (ages 4, 7, and 10) some Japanese because I want to try to work in Japan for a year, and hopefully if they know some of the language it will be a better experience for them.

They have already picked up some because I have been teaching a little class in my home for a few friends, so I have had hiragana and katakana charts up on the wall that they like to look at, as well as a chart of the 1st grade kanji.

My youngest really enjoyed listening to “Teach Me Japanese” and “Teach Me More Japanese”, and looking at the books with them. (At first I really disliked these because they are mostly translations of English songs, and there’s also English on the CD, but she did start singing them in Japanese anyway.)

We’ve also done the happylilac.net 3 year old print outs and 4 year old print outs, which are fun because some of them have short (~1-2 min) videos that go with them. They are all in color and look really cute (These would have been more effective if I had talked more in Japanese with her when doing them, but she got annoyed when I tried to, so I gave up.) Right now the two youngest kids are doing one happylilac hiragana page a day (some of these are included in the 4 year old print outs).

Last year my husband (who is also not Japanese) took our oldest child partway through Kimono Level 1 (currently out of print, but I used it in high school so it was familiar).

So…they are haphazardly (but happily) learning kana and a few random basic words, however, what I’d really like to do with them is more speaking!


Yes. We homeschool and Japanese is a big part of what we do. (Due to a move we’ve been off of our usual lately and still my daughter called out to me earlier today that she needed some “kami” to write on…)

My kids are 9, 6, 4, and 1. We have very eclectic methods. I’ve been considering properly compiling our resources to share with others and to motivate ourselves, but it’ll take me a bit to get to that as I’m still settling a lot of things right now. It’s not anything super rigorous and I’m always on the look out for new things.

They enjoy this series of videos; the host is goofy enough to engage them, but not too goofy that I can’t stand it, lol.

We watch anime, find songs to listen to and sing, watch you tube videos, work on writing, and will be starting on reading more books (I have several graded readers and audio books, etc). We are now in a college town, so I’m hoping we can find a tutor in the near future to help with speaking and listening comprehension.

I try to immerse them (and myself!) as much as I can, though I admit at this point I’m not always very effective. But a little bit goes a long way with kids, especially if you keep it up even if only at low levels. It’s amazing how much they can absorb.

Saruko, thanks for sharing those resources!


So I’m not teaching them myself, because they go to public school in Japan, my kids are WAY beyond my level. But.

Italki and similar sites often have tutors who have experience and eagerness to work with children! Don’t hesitate to check that out. The interaction in the language is invaluable to a little growing brain.

Language exchange, supervised of course, with children in Japan? There are sites for it. (I don’t have any off hand but google is your friend.) Again. The interaction will do a lot.

Native sources. There are a TON of teacher sites where Japanese teachers have Kokogo worksheets for all grade levels free to download. Again, I don’t have any sources but maybe you’re at a level you can search for them? If I can find the site my oldest daughter uses, I’ll let you know. The nice thing here too, is you can get them math worksheets in Japanese, for example, and so they’re getting benefits from both. (With math, of course, just be careful because Japanese schools have their own ways of doing math so the methods might be tricky. My oldest is doing math I didn’t do till late Junior high school in fifth grade. (@_@)


Just curious, did your kids know any Japanese before going to public school in Japan? I am planning on moving to Japan anytime between this year or the next two and I have young, school-aged children. My oldest is getting ready to go into 1st grade next year. I would LOVE for her to pick up Japanese and learn it while we are over there and obviously school is the perfect place for that. I just don’t know how I could get her into school if she doesn’t speak any Japanese beforehand?

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They could do very basic ‘hello, thank you, please’ ect. They could count and at least my oldest, who was a second grader, could read Hiragana. That was pretty much it.

Japanese public schools are empowered to help foreign students learn the language. It isn’t always easy, but your child may not be the only non-speaker depending on the size of the school. Two years ago, at the junior high school, we got two Korean students who not only didn’t speak Japanese, they didn’t really speak English and no one at the school spoke Korean. So. They had a specialist come in to help the boys. If your little ones are English speakers they have an edge. All elementary schools should have something call an EEA who is a part time teacher at the school and can speak pretty good Japanese and English. (They’re often ESL too, but fluent at least.)

If you’re teaching, direct hire or with at company, your company ect can help you talk to the Board of Education to help get the kids into school as soon as you have your residency sorted out. (That year long teaching visa or whatever you get.)

You’ll want to supplement, if you can. Play dates, language exchanges, pay for some private touter time, and above all do EVERYTHING you can to encourage language confidence. (Don’t correct their Japanese at home. Don’t be angry if they won’t speak to you in Japanese, or their native language for that matter.) My oldest has trouble, still, with confidence and we’re working on that, but she is unquestionably fluent. At her school, there are some kids from the Philippines who are having a whole lot more trouble than she did, so they spend a lot of time in small classes being helped. I know we heard all the time how small the foreigner population is in Japan, but, I’ve taught Brazilians, Sri Lankans, Romanians, kids who are half American and spend six months here and there Same with an Australian family. Ect. My two younger kids were five and barely two when they came here, so I put them both in day care right away and they started school fluent. Which. Naturally is better. IF I could time travel, I would have come here ten years earlier so that my oldest would have had the same advantage!


Wow, thank you for the detailed response! Yes, I am hoping that it I will be able to move this year. My kids are 6, 4 & 4 (twins), 2 and 8 months. By the earliest time I got there they would be 7, 5 & 5 and still 2 and 1 so the youngest two would be fine and my other kids would be 1st grade and kindergarten so I think they would be able to manage based on everything you have said.

All of that being said, I am not totally sure how it will all work. My job would actually be with the federal (US) government on a base, and I know they have a school there (for all the English-speaking kids) but I DO NOT want my kids to go to that if at all possible. I still don’t know how all the details will work, and I still don’t even know if I have the job for that matter! :slight_smile:

I guess I will just have to wait and see how it all works out but you have given me great confidence that they will be able to integrate well. Thanks!


And I HAVE already been teaching my oldest how to count and say some basic things. I tried teaching her hiragana with an app on my phone as well but she loses patience with it before too long. I will have to keep at it.

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I’ve wondered. Are there any good Sesame Street type Japanese shows? Might be good to watch as practice for myself and my kid. Although, not sure it’ll do the kid much help. Kids currently negative 2.5 months.

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There is actually Japanese Sesame Street, but youtube blocks the videos in the US :unamused:

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I would love to see Big Bird talking Japanese

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Ok, well, some videos are available, but not all, and I can’t figure out any pattern to the blocking.



I watched that video in awe.


If you are going to Yokota, there are several off-base schools that parents send their kids to, both 小学校 and ようちえん. For adults, there are several volunteer orgs that teach Japanese to foreigners a couple times a week for nominal fees to cover costs, usually at community ceters. And, once you’re in Japan, there’s always Kumon. The base offers three semesters of Japanese through UMUC. They used to use Genki, but a friend of mine said they’ve changed to something else, recently. If you’re going to Misawa, the choices are similar. If Yokosuka, I couldn’t say. I haven’t ever been to Okinawa and the locals there aren’t as inclined to be friendly to us, so it may be more limited than things on the main island. Most bases have a fairly large contingent of home-schoolers, too.

Thanks for your response! This is located at Camp Zama, Kanagawa. I really know almost nothing still about the detailed geography (as far as locations of things and how they relate to each other) of Japan so I’m not sure if this is near any of the places you mentioned. It is about 25 miles SW of Tokyo. I know it’s not Okinawa or Yokosuka :slight_smile:

Oh sure! Zama! Nice location. Near trains. Closer to the beach than most other bases. You’ll like the area. The base is mostly an Army unit. It’s an old base, but not unreasonable. I can’t speak to the schools or support there, since I live between one and two hours away. :-/ Sorry. From Zama it is 45 minutes south to the beach or an hour-ish north to a better PX/Commissary at Yokota. Google Map: Camp Zama

Even though it’s so long from now, you might bookmark Hyperdia, the online train schedule.


I will, great! Thanks for the info!


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


Oh, and she has gained and regularly exercises her ability to write off anyone or anything she chooses to by saying that they are ダサい (this comes out as ダハイ so far but that will change.)

Wow! I applaud your effort. My wife is a native Spanish-speaker and I am born and raised in the USA so, naturally, it’s English for me. We have constantly tried to incorporate Spanish into our kids’ daily lives but we haven’t done it with nearly the dedication you have. I wish we would be more like your wife and you but, having five children makes it tough. Plus, we have twin four year-old boys that are still having a hard time speaking English and are enrolled in speech therapy so I still sometimes feel conflicted about forcing another language on them when they are having such a hard time grasping one already…

Now, to really shake things up, I am picking up my Japanese after a LONG time, talking about moving my family to Japan and trying to teach all of them this new language too! Hopefully my kids will all be tri-lingual when it’s all said and done… We’ll see…

Good luck and yes, I would say, don’t worry too much about every possible outcome. It is not humanly possible to foresee every situation and try to prevent bad outcomes. Sometimes, tough situations lead to opportunities for children to make choices and learn valuable lessons. You obviously care very much so I think you will do just fine! :thumbsup: