Being Bilingual isn’t easy

Being bilingual isn’t easy as the writer of the article below says. Often the children and adults feel that they are not part of any culture.  Not part of their first language culture as they no longer live in the country and not part of the second culture as they have not grown roots in the country where they presently live and also have no history on first arrival.

 

This bilingual thing … they say that it’s a both curse and a blessing. Watakushigotode kyōshukudesuga (私事で恐縮ですが, A thousand pardons for having the gall to talk about myself), but I think of it more like a stigma

It was tougher for boys. My brothers learned very quickly that scoring 100 in English earned no respect and kept girls (the pretty, fun ones especially) away. What counted was stuff like getting the regulā (レギュラー, starting member) slot in the yakyūbu (野球部, baseball team), or owning one’s very own baiku (バイク, motorcycle) and letting it rip on some bōsōzoku (暴走族, motorcycle gang) strip in Chiba or Shonan. Failing in both, my brothers decided to delete their entire pasts and pretend they couldn’t speak a single word of English. The ploy worked. In a few months their facial expressions and body language had completely changed. If the school had given out awards for assimilation, my brothers would have taken home every one.

For girls, the big obstacle to assimilation was our penchant for freedom and having a good time. Now of course, tanoshimukoto (楽しむこと, enjoying oneself) is a phrase bandied about by everyone from shōgakusei (小学生, grade schoolers) to daijin (大臣, Cabinet ministers). But 30 years ago anyone who behaved too freely and got around was under suspicion. A real Japanese was supposed to kurō (苦労, suffer), don’t ask why. As a kikoku jyoshi (キコク女子, returnee girl), I just didn’t get it. And by the time the office memo about the suffering thing came around, it was too late.

This is why celebrating their first language and using it to support them to learn English in context is a radical but humane and linguistically  correct way for us in the 22nd century to be moving. This allows them to feel part of the community whilst they settle in but also helps them to communicate with officials, schools, businesses in a far better way than with the methods previously used.

If you are still not convinced read the story below and have a look at our YouTube video showing what we have to offer to support contextual learning of English, to  support keeping the first language alive which leads to better communication for all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEdVSgz5YOk

 

Interestingly, being a hāfu (ハーフ, half Japanese) has never had the same stigma of being a kikoku. A hāfu was the coolest thing a nihonjin (日本人, Japanese person) could be. Just witness the number of mixed-race idoru (アイドル, idols) and tarento (タレント, celebrities) crowding the media (my favorite is Anna Tsuchiya).

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/05/13/language/it-aint-easy-being-a-bilingual-girl/#.UZJcU4dwYdU

 

 

 

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