Thursday, 1 July 2010

Nothing exciting really.

The weather today I can handle - it will get hot, and no doubt muggy, but at least we didn't all wake up sweating. There might even be a bit of a breeze which means washing will get dry. God, the things that occupy my mind. Ten years ago the only thing I was probably thinking on a Thursday morning was that it was nearly the weekend and surely I could twist someone's arm into going out this evening to help celebrate the fact.

I got everything crossed off that list yesterday.
The one I really wanted to get you couldn't hang on the wall. This has all the good functions - clock, calendar, photos, videos, MP3, ... all for the very reasonable price of 12,000 yen. This one didn't say but the most it cost any of the others to run for an entire month was 50 yen. Now all I need to do is wrap it and take it over.

Sent the electric cigarette - got tobacco 'flavor' but you can get mint, strawberry, grapefruit.... The one I got only came with two spare cartridges that you can 'suck' about 150 times each. Have no idea if my sister will even use it but worth a try.

Four fuwafuwa winter blankets getting dry-cleaned as I type.

Nappies, milk - check

Lunch with friend - check. Ryu absolutely loves my friend the 'blender' (belinda). He probably sees her once a fortnight but there must be something about her because Ryu can go from grumpy to grinning like  a rockstar on speed. We had sushi - second time this week for me. The master sushi dude at the place is slowly warming to me. When I made my 'usual' order I fucked it up and he said 'don't you mean such and such' - hmmmmmm, spot the gaijin who goes to sushi and only ever orders ebi, corn and bintoro no aburi!! Ryu had three plates all to himself and I imagine that when the kids get bigger going to the revolving sushi wont be a 'cheap' lunch option anymore.

Got some goodies for hub's bonus day dinner. And he commented on how good the service was.  Tried to show even better service at international relations meeting last night and it was going fine - but that's just it. It was going and going and going - for fricken ages. Makes me think hub has a secret stash of viagra somewhere. That's all the meeting was though. No finishing with a bang last night. Hub apologized and said it was because he had had too much too drink. He hadn't really. When he's really pished this has happened before but it hasn't happened for aaaaaaaaaaaages. Must say I take the whole thing very personally.  I know I shouldn't what with all the other times lately being absolutely fine but still, there is that 'aaahh, it's all cause I've got too many wobbly bits'. Sigh.

If anything, it has probably given me the motivation to try and hitch a ride on that diet wagon again this month. After a supposed whole month of supposed healthy eating and I am back where I started. I have made a calendar for this month though - so I get to write a big fat (and getting skinnier) cross at the end of each day. I like that kind of shit.

A question to mothers of four year olds, present or past.

Shou is getting more interested in English. Last night we spent a good forty minutes coloring and tracing. When he was doing the tracing page I was telling him the order and half the time he was following that and the other times he wasn't. Should I be trying to make him write the letters properly or should I just be glad that he's even interested at all?

When he was born I told myself I would only speak to the kids in English and that when he turned three I would try and start with flash cards and stuff. It was hard to stick to this when between the time he was born and the time he turned three I was pregnant for 80 weeks, in hospital pushing out babies through the saloon doors for two, and breast feeding for a lot of the rest.

I am very bad about speaking to them in English all the time. He definitely does understand most of what I say though. This morning though, after he had deliberately hit Ryu over the head with a cardboard box, leaving Ryu covered in a million pieces of paper that he had spent twenty minutes cutting up before breakfast, we had this conversation...

Mummy: Say sorry to Ryu (said in English)
Shou: eigo de iuwanaide (don't say it in English)
mummy: Say sorry to Ryu please Shou (said in English)
Shou: gomennasai (sorry - said with about as much conviction as alcoholic saying they'll never have another drink)
Mummy: Thank you Shou
Shou: thankyou jyanai deshou, arigato. (not thankyou, arigato)

I don't want to make a big thing of English. I want it to come naturally for them when they are ready - obviously I need to speak to them in it more for this to happen but still.

What did you or are you doing with your four year old in regards to English learning/teaching? The kids watch dvds in English quite happily, and Shou usually just goes about things with me talking to him in English and him answering in Japanese. Must say hub's English, especially his listening, has gotten a lot better lately.

hmmmmmm, I really think one of the best things I can do for my kids is to raise them with two languages. I just wish I was better because I know I will regret it later.

Must.  Speak.  More.  English.  To.  Kids.

Right, off to hang out washing and perhaps see if I can get the weedeater going without having to ring up hub for an over the phone instruction session - how girlie pathetic.



kristininjapan said...

My mom spoke tons of Japanese to me growing up (she's Japanese, I grew up in America) and honestly, none of it mattered because I didn't care. I just wasn't interested in speaking in Japanese back. I went to Japanese school every Saturday and never studied anything between classes. And it was just in one ear and out the other for 4 hours. In high school, I thought I'd take Japanese to fulfill my language requirements- easy A, right? Guess I should have studied harder as a kid because I got B's. Then in college I finally wised up, but it was too late. Studying was a pain in the ass but I actually cared. Now I'm in Japan and my Japanese is rubbish and forced and not natural at all. I wish my mom would've pushed me harder to study as a kid, and I wish I would've cared more.. perhaps if we had a more nurturing and exciting environment to learn Japanese in... I'm sure you are doing a wonderful job, but just some perspective for ya!

Rachel said...

I wouldn't push him to do letters properly, he might push back! Best to just leave him having fun with it. After watching my kids, and teaching other people's, I've come to the conclusion that if you start at 3, or start at 6, kids learn to read and write well when they are about 7. Don't push it.

DO push the English though. It won't happen naturally. As well as having ONLY English media (TV, movies, book), mine also went to English kindy and we also spent a lot of time in NZ. Even with all that, Japanese still takes over at school, and I still have to remind them to speak English at home.

Talking to NZ relatives is a BIG incentive for us.

I don't pretend to not understand, but it helps that my Japanese isn't anywhere near perfect!

I DO ask them to say something again in English, or prompt them with the word or help them to figure out what it is in English. Half the problem, I think, is that they simply don't have the same vocabulary in English that they have in Japanese, can't express themselves as clearly, so we work on that quite a lot.

And if all else fails, remember that they will learn English at school here, and for some kids that is an incentive to start trying again, as they realize the advantage they have over other kids. This is what happened to another friend's kids.

Bryn said...

I think pushing the English is def. important. E picked up Japanese quickly because he had no choice. At school, his sensei and friends only spoke Japanese, so if he wanted to do anything or communicate at all, he no choice but to do it in Japanese. The same happened w/ G when she went to a German school, she just had no other option but to learn German quickly.

Foreign language schools in the U.S. work the same way, with the "full immersion" approach, having all communication only in the target language.

I didn't push E with learning his letters or writing, but gave him lots of games and videos about letters and reading, he has tons of workbooks, etc and he's come along really well, sometimes interested, sometimes not.

You'll definitely regret it later, and so will the kids, if you don't push it now. If we stay here, E is going back to Japanese school for the next 3 years because I know he'll never have another chance to learn a foreign language this way.

siti the twins said...

well, as for me i think you have a great life...
I've always wanted to be part of the Japanese ever since i was little... but too bad that i can't get a chance to get there.... now I'm in college now..,taking a diploma in tourism management(which mean I'm taking Japanese lesson)... there's a Japanese teacher which is ms.Akiko .K, she thought me on how to speak in Japanese(and all the basic words...)it makes me feel excited...

illahee said...

in our case, it really really helps that yoshi can speak english so well. and yoshi is really good about speaking to the kids in english all the time, even in public.

i gave hiro and sasha preschool workbooks (that i got at costco) which we do at their pace. sadly, sometimes that pace is during meal preparation so i haven't been doing as much as i should. night before last, though, hiro made attempts to read one of his bedtime stories, so it may be time to work on his phonics and reading! here's hoping (i wasn't really counting on my kids being able to read in english, esp. when young because basically i'd be the only one teaching them. BUT, having an interest really makes a difference so maybe this summer hiro will learn to read! he already recognizes his name in hiragana, so i need to get in while the getting's good!)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't push the letters either, when my daughter was 3 or so she taught herself, my mom was full of dire warnings that if I didn't correct the way she was writing she would 'learn the wrong way', but I didn't want to make it a study chore when she was having fun and being proud of herself for writing. In the end she reads and writes just fine, in fact her grade 1 teacher (in Canada, see below) heaped high praise on her letters, all no thanks to me.

As for spoken language, until she went to youchien at 3 her English was much stronger than her Japanese, mostly thanks to her father never getting home until long after she was in bed and a large collection of English DVDs, and me speaking English almost 100% of the time. When she started at a Japanese youchien, her Japanese picked up very quickly and suddenly it was "Mommy don't speak English". I really think what their friends speak is very important, they want to be like their friends.

When she was six we (just my daughter and I, my husband was to join us after a few months but ...) spent a year in Canada. When we went she had had the first term (April to July) at a Japanese public school, and I would say she was equally good at speaking Japanese and English, pretty much native level in both. I enrolled her in grade 1 at a public elementary school in Canada, she loved it. We ended up coming back to Japan at the end of the school year for various reasons, the biggest of which was that she forgot almost ALL her Japanese! I knew kids were fast at picking up languages, apparently they are fast at forgetting them too. By the end of the year I literally had to interpret her skype conversations with her dad. I had also enrolled her in Japanese school in my home town, but it was only 1.5 hours a week plus homework, and just wasn't enough. When I realised she was losing her Japanese I made an effort to speak in Japanese more, then of course it was "Mom don't speak Japanese"!

We came back to Japan about a year ago, her English is still good and she will ask me to switch the tv to English if she has a choice. Her Japanese has come back a long way but is still not at the same level as her friends', and she struggles with kanji in school (getting better all the time though).

I have to say I think the absolute best way to make them want to learn English would be to stay in NZ for a while, they do pick it up very quickly but I think they have to want to. Obviously a lot easier said than done. Failing that, you probably don't want to force it and make them think of English as something their mom "makes" them speak, but use it as much as you can. Read them English books if you can find the time. Hanging out with foreign friends with English-speaking kids maybe? Or if the kids speak both maybe have a fun reward for an all-English afternoon? Maybe pretend the Japanese is "broken" on some DVDs? Oh, computer games in English! Mine loved those. Have you heard of webkinz? My daughter will phone her cousins in Canada and ask them to get on skype, it would be too boring just to converse (eye roll) but they will both get on the webkinz site and visit each others' rooms, play games, etc. while talking, they have a blast.

I have an American friend (Japanese wife) whose kids are grown (30s) now, they lived in the US until his oldest daughter was 5 and apparently she couldn't speak Japanese at all when they came here. He would speak to them in English but the rest of their environment was 100% Japanese. He says they understand a fair bit of English but all three really don't speak it at all. So it is hard. It will be better for you and yours as I think being the person who spends the most time with them you will have the greatest influence.

Sorry for the novella, HTH

T in Tokyo

Anonymous said...

Great topic is the English thing.My oldest is now 5 and off to primary next year.I always speak English with her and she hates it when I switch to Japanese unless when I am talking to rellies or her dad.She expresses herself perfectly in English but has problems in Japanese and is a bit of shrinking violet at daycare.

But at home and in English,she can win against me and my potty mouth every time.But reason for her English being as fluent as it is ,is that when my dad got cancer,we went out to the UK to be with him during the final bits and ended up there for 3 months and she just soaked the language up.

No 2 is just 20 months and starting to talk now.She uses more Japanese but when away from daycare,she does use English when we(DD1 and I ) insist on it and DD1 talks to her in English unless DH turns up;)

And as for writing,DD1 recognises a few letters of the alphabet and reads a few words but working full time and I have so little time to teach her.It can wait.And in the meantime,DH can do the Japanese bit which he seems to enjoy after a stiff shochu or three.

Kristen said...

Maybe we could swap kids for a while and mine could learn Japanese and yours could learn English. Saya is really falling behind in Japanese. Although my hub tries to talk to her in Japanese, she is starting to resist it and ask him to speak in English. When he tries to read her Japanese books, she asks him to read in English....
I think the best way to do two languages is one language at home and the other at school. My husband spent some of his childhood in the US, so he spoke Enlish at school but was only allowed to speak Japanese at home. He speaks both languages like a native and has never really had to study either...
We are not being that strict though...

Chrysanthemum Mum said...

Despite being born in Japan and living here my four yr old son didn't speak a word of Japanese until shortly after his 3rd birthday. I only speak to the kids in English though naturally they hear me speaking Japanese with daddy who has terrible English skills. Hub is hardly ever home to see the kids and so they have had little language learning from him. No granny and grandad here either. Hanging out with Japanese friends didn't boost his Japanese as I was always there deliberately talking to him in English.

Since going to Japanese daycare and hoikuen my son and daughter are catching up quickly with their Japanese. My son will often speak to me in Japanese, but I try to respond in English. I worry particularly as I've heard from friends who grew up with a "foreign" parent that if the other parent wasn't competent in the minority language then the kids were also not so proficient in that language too. I know the only chance my kids get to speak in English is with me so I believe it is best to use English at all times with them. Also my Japanese is not fluent, it's not bad, but it certainly does not feel natural to me to speak to my kids in a foreign language. Hats off to anyone who can!

As for developing literacy skills I also worry that with the kids going to Japanese school that as the homework piles up as they get older, the time to develop decent literacy skills will become less. At the minute James can read a lot of stuff in hiragana, but I need to do some "fun with phonics" with him to boost his reading of English. Currently he can read his name, his sister's name and about 15-20 three letter words like cat, dog, car, bus etc... He has started to show an interest in writing and I just pile on the praise - he wrote his name the other day with half the letters upside down and the remaining ones were the right way up but back to front! Clever boy! I'm not going to push it, but I do think I need to devote more time to this area of my kids development. Recently too, in general, his drawing skills have improved so this may be prime time to get out the pre schooler books I bought on Amazon. We've also got those hiragana (and katakana and ABC) charts that you can re-use again and again - using a water pen. He loves these too. I think it's best, as many have said, to keep it fun and not to be too strict about it. For the longest time james has been gripping a pen/crayon in his fist and it was only recently that he started to hold a pencil correctly. They all go at their own pace and speed.

It's funny, James is really keen to speak Japanese at the minute and even wants to watch some of his DVDs in Japanese. Lightening McQueen is sooooo not Japanese!

Sarah@mommyinjapan said...

I couldn't speak Japanese when my first two kids were born so we only spoke English at home but everywhere else we went they heard Japanese. All our kids videos were in English and I only read English books to them. Once they entered preschool (nenchu) their Japanese got better right away so I still persevered with speaking English at home for balance. It worked really well for my older three because I was really consistent. Then I noticed that my youngest daughter didn't have a very big vocabulary. I had to pick and choose what I was saying so that she could understand me. I couldn't figure out why it was different with her. Then I realized that we were not home as much and when we were out I was speaking Japanese the whole time. Also I was mixing Japanese and English together so she could understand me. So I started using only English when I spoke to her. No mixing. Within a month her English was much better. She'll go to preschool next April and my goal is to have her really fluent in English before then.

But, I have not done well with teaching my girls to read and write English. About the time I was going to start (when my oldest was 5 - kindergarten age), I had a surprise baby! It totally threw me off and by the time I could get back to fitting it in our schedule the older two were in elementary school and reading and writing Japanese. They weren't interested in reading English books because reading in Japanese was much easier. Fortunately on this last trip to the US, my girls realized that all of their cousins can read and write English and now they're motivated to learn. So I've started teaching the older two together and then my third at a different time (different level!) and then make sure to start with my youngest when she's five. Yikes!

The part that makes me feel the worst is that I've taught a lot of Japanese kids to read and write really well at my English classes. I feel like a hypocrite!

oobip said...

good luck with the bilingual bit. It is soo hard. Most of the Japanese people I talk to seem to think that bilingualism is easy !@#@#$!~

Have you come across these? my daughter is 2 1/2 and really likes them ( and they are free).

how about letting them dictate emails to grandma/ grandpa through you?

Or, see if they want to write/draw a letter to nz? The"grandparents" *cough cough* can then send candy for the lovely letters.

My daughter sends emoticons to my mum and dad through skype. Hopefully as she grows the next step will be mini dictated emails.

if anyone else has anyideas let me know too!.