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17 June 2014

Bilingual Education

We're not truly bilingual; I only speak a smattering of Japanese, though that's improving daily, with the help of tools like Sticky Study, Memrise, and various podcasts that I use, including my favorite, JapanesePod101.

We've been working on Japanese for a while now; it's getting pretty close to a year since I decided to teach the kids. Some remarkable things have happened in that time. Most recently, Hero took the initiative in learning to read hiragana. That happened like this:

Uncle Stachelbeere loves languages, and he came for a visit. He's learning about 15 languages, mostly Pacific Island languages. Many of them I've never heard of. I'm finding 2 languages (I also am trying to get some Welsh in my brain) challenging, but he's having a good time. Doing some translating. (You don't happen to know anyone that wants to read his translation of Aesop in Marshallese, do you?) While he was here, he spent some time on Memrise, working on his various projects. And Hero wanted in. So we set him up with an account and helped him choose some classes to take. He chose a couple that help him work on hiragana (a Japanese alphabet) and a couple that are teaching Latin vocabulary, which pleased me, since we just started doing Latin as well. And, since Memrise uses timed typing, Hero also decided he wants to improve his typing skills. Keyboard Ninja is an entertaining way to do it. All kinds of happy stuff going on - and he's so excited about it that he asks for permission each night to get up and do this stuff in the morning if he's up before me. And then he does it. That's been going on several days now.

Initiative? Learning? Happy kid? Works for me!

In the mean time, other kinds of Japanese learning are going forward as well. Interestingly, the one that seems to make the biggest difference is just using Japanese words when I talk to the kids. I still have a relatively small vocabulary, so this means mixing languages. I spent a long time feeling like that was somehow... wrong. I wish I'd started mixing things up earlier. I'd speak and read better now, had I done that. So I talk to the kids. I mix languages when we read stories - the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems are particularly good for that, because the language is so simple. When I can do a whole sentence, I'll say it in Japanese, and then watch the kids. If they understand, then I just continue. If not, they give me these puzzled looks. And then I say it in English too. And they're picking it up, slowly, but surely. It's really cool to watch. I keep working on my own skills, and that means I can say more and more to them all the time.

It's not bilingual, not really. At least, not yet. But we're working on it.

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

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