Motherhood in Japan

Year 2 of Motherhood in Japan: (Re) Learning Japanese With My Child

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Little Kaiju is now TWO years old! It’s incredible how quickly we reached this milestone together. I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on year 2 of motherhood in Japan. (Re) Learning Japanese with my child is a wonderful experience that deepens my appreciation of Japan and its culture.
Working in a Japanese kindergarten, I get a lot of exposure to Japanese customs and traditions, thanks to lesson plans that incorporate monthly and seasonal crafts and events. I am very fortunate that we can experience events like mochi making and Setsubun together. She’s too young to understand the meaning of these events now, but we have a solid foundation for the future.

 

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It’s so fun hearing how she’s picking up Japanese vocabulary and grammar. Somehow she knows that adding ない to the end of a verb or adjective turns it into a negative form. For example, if I tell her to please put on a hat because it’s cold (さむい | samui), she’ll snap back and say, “Samunai yo!” (さむないよ|I’m not cold).
Now, rudeness aside, samunai (さむない) is not the grammatically correct way to express “not cold” (which would be さむくない). But, at least she has an idea of how Japanese grammar works.
(I have to admit that it’s also very amusing to see the reaction of people on the bus and train when I’m correcting little Kaiju.)
Once she learned how to play around with Japanese grammar, she started forming simple sentences. It was right around Christmas, where little Kaiju began to string together two words for form sentences. Nyan nyan iru =There’s a cat. Wan wan inai=The dog’s not here.

 

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From those simple sentences, I’ve learned to pick up what she’s trying to say. For example, we pass several dogs on the way to daycare. Wan wan inai is a direct reference to the absence of the dog statue in front of a soba restaurant. The dog only comes out in the afternoon, when the restaurant is open. This makes for a disappointing walk on the way to school, but her spirits are quickly uplifted as we search for neighborhood cats, where she squeals nyan nyan iru!
Lately, she’s picked up adding ne (ね~) to the end of a sentence, along with the proper infliction. That’s sort of like adding “Right?” to the end of a sentence.
Currently we’re working on distinguishing when to use iru (いる=for people and animals) and aru (ある=for inanimate objects). However, it’s a concept that will definitely take time. We’re also working on how to pronounce words in English by avoiding katakana equivalents of a word. (DooR instead of doa |ドア)
While everything sounds like it’s going well (and it is, except for our recent bout with the flu), the Terrible Twos are indeed a trying age. Imagine being late for work and when you generously try to help your child, you get a double dose of “No!” in two different languages. That’s what it’s like for me everyday.
I’m trying to encourage her to speak more English by having a 10 minute “Morning Circle” style learning time on the weekend, where we go over ABCs, colors, shapes, and numbers.
She’s naturally picked up an extensive Japanese vocabulary since going to daycare, and I want to encourage her to expand (and use) her English language vocabulary.

 

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Now that little Kaiju is 2 and we’re getting ready for the next academic school year, I’ve been toying around with ideas for her kindergarten years and beyond.
Her natural Japanese language ability forces me to evaluate my own skills. Honestly, I need to improve in writing (boo!).
A while back a tweet about 8 different ways to write an X went viral.


But when it comes to the Japanese language, there is but ONE way to write its characters. The katakana for me (メ) looks like an X but it’s only ever written with the first stroke top to bottom, then the second stroke left to right.
I also need to stop being lazy and work on looking up the reading of a character I don’t know. I have no problem understanding Japanese text thanks to kanji, but ask me to read aloud and I’d probably stumble over everything.
On the other hand, when it comes to nurturing her English language abilities, I have plenty of materials (flashcards, workbooks, worksheets) from years of teaching. But, I think I need to start stocking up on Japanese textbooks for writing hiragana, katakana and kanji. Daiso, here I come!

Year 2 of Motherhood in Japan: (Re) Learning Japanese With My Child

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