Hello! I’m Matt Comegys, a foreign teacher from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. I have a wife and 6-year old daughter in Ueda City, which is where we all live. As I am American and my wife is Japanese, we’ve had to try our best to raise our daughter as bi-lingual as possible. Although I may be American, my daughter attends a Japanese kindergarten and Japanese is her primary language. Still, she is very conversational in English and she is able to watch and understand English movies and TV shows, and she is also able to read English picture books. While I’m sure having an English-speaking father has helped a lot, I’d like to share a few tips on ways you may help your child become comfortable and stronger in English.
First of all, allow for your child to become accustomed to hearing and using English. Before starting kindergarten, our family doctor noted that my daughter’s Japanese was not at the average level for someone her age. She had been around a great deal of English and was working out both languages. About a year into kindergarten, she had caught up in Japanese, but was shy about speaking English. We’ve tried to help her balance the two, although pushing doesn’t really help. My wife, her grandparents, and I have worked to provide an environment where she watches most movies in English, has household conversations in English, and she has been speaking to her Japanese mom and grandparents in English more and more. The only person that can really motivate a child to learn is the child his or herself, but teachers and parents can help create a great learning atmosphere. Learning at home is essential. Family members can help expose their children to English, such as through interaction, books, CDs, or DVDs. Don’t worry about making mistakes, and congratulate your children on the English they do well rather than their errors. With the help of family members whose first language is Japanese, my daughter, along with her cousin in the same school year, are now both very excited about English.
Creating goals and acknowledging them is extremely important. When my parents visited from America in May, my mother decided that a great birthday present for her birthday in September would be for my daughter to read her an English book. My daughter set her mind on this goal and had actually read several books to my mother over a Skype connection long before September. Once my mother’s birthday had come around, reading an English book seemed almost anticlimactic and we had already given a lot of praise to my daughter’s English reading skills. We offered books with simple English and that would not scare her. I will be happy to offer books suggestions for your kids if you are not sure.
I have a student about the same age at Earnest, and every week he asks me “What’s your favorite animal?” without my suggesting the question. While I’m sure he now knows that it is a money, as I answer every time, I always try to acknowledge, answer ,and praise his question since he is so motivated to practice English on his own. Another, slightly younger student, pulled out his set of simple English books which he was motivated to read, and helped me greatly in class reading them for his classmates as I checked over the students English workbooks.
Even as a bi-lingual family, raising a child to be bi-lingual is a challenging project. I hope that by sharing a few of my experiences, you will be able to create an environment that will spark interest for English for your children at home, just as us teachers do our best to create in the classrooms at Earnest.