Sunday, March 19, 2017

Setting Goals for Our Bilingual Journey

Raising my son to be a bilingual (or multilingual) person has been on the list of our parenting goals for a long time but we haven't been able to be very strategic about it. This year, though, I have set my mind to change that. So when I heard about this 5 day 2017 Language Challenge over at Bilingual Avenue, I took this opportunity and signed myself up. I wasn't able to do it on time but I did complete it (yay!), and I'd like to share some of my thoughts that came up while working on this language challenge.

One of the major purposes of this challenge was to set goals for our bilingual journey. Of course, our ultimate goal is that my son would become equally confident in both languages in every aspect of his language skills and of his life. I've read many times, however, that this is one of the biggest myths about bilingual people, that they are two monolingual speakers in one, but why not aim high, right? :)

More realistically though, I want my son to be able to converse fluently with his family members and friends in Japanese, and to be able to get by on his own when we stay in Japan. Or possibly when he lives in Japan in the future. This includes not only conversational skills but also reading and writing in all three forms of letters, and learning its culture and customs. To achieve this I want him to finish at least 6th grade level at his Japanese language school.

Once I heard of a story of a Japanese person who grew up in an English speaking country. She came back to Japan hoping to get a job while she stayed there. She spoke just like any other Japanese speaking people, but unfortunately couldn't write or read kanjis (one of the three forms of letters in Japanese) very well so she wasn't qualified for most jobs in Japan. As a Japanese nationality, however, she wasn't qualified for those jobs that were open for foreigners either. She was stuck.

Now I hate to use someone else's story as a bad example, but I have to say I'd want my son to be able to use his full potential if he ever lives there without being restricted by his language skills.

To achieve these grand, rather abstract, goals, it'll be helpful to break them into smaller, more practical goals that we could work on an everyday basis and this is what I came up for our 2017 goals.

  • Be able to speak his minority language more naturally with larger vocabulary and longer sentences
  • Be able to write hiraganas (the first form of letters kids usually learn. He can read them already)
  • Be able to read the second form of letters katakanas
  • Be able to read basic children's books on his own
In my next post, I'd like to share some thoughts on how we can achieve these goals by looking at what worked and what didn't in our language journey so far.

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