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Anyone successfully taught a toddler a new language which neither parent speaks? (Japanese)

(16 Posts)
palepink Fri 16-Dec-16 01:04:36

Hi, I have an 18 month old who I would like to learn Japanese which neither myself or my husband speak. I am interested in learning the language also. Any tips on the best way to do this?
We have been listening to Japanese nursery rhymes at home and today we attended 2 Japanese playgroups where they were singing and speaking in Japanese. But these are only held once a week and not enough exposure for my son. TIA.

IHeartKingThistle Fri 16-Dec-16 01:07:45

I'm really not sure this will work. If you are planning to move to Japan your child will pick it up when you get there faster than you ever could.

Who will he be speaking Japanese to?

palepink Fri 16-Dec-16 01:21:27

That's the thing. As I want to learn it too we will just be speaking to each other I suppose. I know its a lot of work so thanks for being honest. We are not planning on moving there, I just really like the culture.
I definitely want him to learn another language though, maybe something a bit more common here like French. But I think a once a week french group is also not enough sad

IHeartKingThistle Fri 16-Dec-16 01:40:01

I'd love my kids to be bilingual too! But I have no idea if it's possible the way you are proposing. It's really important that he learns a language, his first language, well and naturally.

Sometimes through work I meet parents from other countries who have poor English who have been advised (wrongly IMO) to only speak English with their child at home. They are completely unable to give that child the richness of language that native speakers have and would be far better off concentrating on giving him wonderful language skills in their home language.

FreddoFrog Fri 16-Dec-16 01:51:48

Is there a Japanese school/nursery nearby? Maybe you could follow up with friends from the playgroup and set up another playgroup at your house and ask the Japanese parents to speak Japanese so you and toddler pick it up?

I think teaching your child a language neither of you speak will be really tricky. My youngest has just started at a nursery which is 100% Mandarin speaking and she has picked up SO much in a short amount of time (she's 2). But we at home only speak English so can't support her learning at home with reading books, further conversation etc. so I can see how she will be limited when compared to her native Chinese speaking classmates.

However, learning languages is great fun and what a great gift to be giving to your child. Why not just enjoy it and grab as many opportunities to learn more about Japanese culture as you can? She could watch tv shows in Japanese on youtube, you could probably get CDs and audio books.....

Mamabear12 Fri 16-Dec-16 07:12:22

You need at least 20 hours a week for the child to be fluent. I would go with french or Spanish, whichever language you have more access to. In my area it's french. We have our daughter doing a french club Monday Thursday and Friday after school until 5pm. Sat and Sunday we get french nanny 3-4 hours each day. In addition I play french music when I can and cartoons once in a while (need to do this more! But of course kids prefer English). I also plan on getting a french tutor once a week to teach my daughter how to read and write. We also do flash cards that I've made. She knows over 200 words in french, but we need to work on making more sentences and speaking fluently. We have only been doing the french since end of summer and she has progressed nicely. But it takes a lot of commitment and effort. I also constantly ask through out the day what's that in french and point so she practices her vocabulary. I don't speak french and neither does my husband. I'm learning as she learns. The first couple weeks I found it very difficult like she couldn't remember simple things like saying please in french. But I kept insisting and eventually she remembered and now she remembers french words easily, can learn french songs easily and has perfect pronunciation (I'm told by many french people).

Mamabear12 Fri 16-Dec-16 07:15:49

Forgot to mention by daughter is 4.5. This is a great age to start! But of course the younger the better. My son is 3 and is picking it up as well. I don't focus too much on him though. I just let him learn as a bystander and when he is 4.5 I will become more serious on getting him to learn.

Mamabear12 Fri 16-Dec-16 07:21:03

And a lot of people say best way to teach is natural etc. But if u do not speak the language or have a full time nanny speaking the language it's impossible. U will need to assist w flash cards and lessons etc. In addition to the natural conversation you can get through nanny etc

heatherwithapee Fri 16-Dec-16 07:55:24

Totally possible. Have a look at this book. We found it very helpful and inspiring:

https://www.little-linguist.co.uk/family-language-learning.html

It's possibly harder with Japanese that French / Spanish simply because there are less available resources to support you all (assuming you're in Europe / the U.K, probably less of an issue in N America / Australasia).

palepink Sat 17-Dec-16 18:03:18

Thanks for all your answers. I'm going to pursue with teaching him French as I know it will be easier for us both (I took french at school and sometimes work in Paris through my job). Also there are more resources, just have to figure out what will work better for us. I also found a great Facebook group for support and will look for a french nursery for when he is 2. Thanks again.

Vietnammark Mon 19-Dec-16 16:03:50

Mama "You need at least 20 hours a week for the child to be fluent"

Where on Earth did this come from and what does it mean?

Surely one can become "fluent" by "learning" about 4 hours a week if one learns for long enough and in a reasonable manner.

Indeed my son has been doing this for about 3.5 years now and it pretty "fluent" in Mandarin. He still has a lot more to learn, but his listening and speaking are fluent.

Mamabear12 Mon 19-Dec-16 22:21:52

Vietnamark, I've heard this from different language teachers who teach at schools and nurseries. I have also read this online and books. Of course it's not the be all and end all numbers and some kids might be fine to learn four hours a week intensely. But for a lot they need more.

Pale pink, that is great news you chose French, there are tons of resources here, nurseries and French bilingual schools as well. If I could go back I would have sent my daughter to the French nursery near us. However, my husband didn't agree really. I should have pushed it because now he sees how fast she has learned French with all my efforts and has agreed to send her to French school now. She got in so will be transferring. Good luck with the French!

palepink Mon 19-Dec-16 23:05:54

Mamabear - that's great, which school will she be going to if you don't mind me asking? I actually spent a few hours today looking into French schools and nurseries in my area and it seems like they are very competitive so I'm not sure whether to even attempt to get on the waiting list. Also I haven't spoken to my husband about it yet 😐

Vietnammark Tue 20-Dec-16 03:32:10

Mama - I think I took issue at your word "fluent". It clearly does not take anywhere near that amount of hours per week to become fluent. Reading your situation it appears to me that you would like your child to be as bilingual as is reasonably possible, which will take a lot more time and immersion than the input required to become merely fluent.

Both my nearly 4 year old and nearly 9 year old would be described as bilingual (the Mandarin I mentioned above is the elder's third language). Neither of them would have averaged anything like 20 hours per week in their second (non-dominant) language.

In my experience, which includes over 25 years of teaching, working in, managing and owning schools teachings MFLs, and working with bilingual (implementing their second language programme) and international schools I would definitely say that the 20 hours a week you quote is more thank enough to become a functional bilingual, as long as this continues for a fair few years. In my opinion, getting the motivation and input right is much more important that the number of hours.

NB: after writing my earlier post I did check a couple of bilingual/multilingual sites and I didn't see a mention of hours, but they did both suggest more hours than I believe is necessary.

Also, I am very "fluent" in a foreign language, but my knowledge of that language is intermediate level at best.

Heather- thanks for the link. I shall consider buying this.

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Tue 20-Dec-16 03:54:16

We are doing this

Our toddler attends a Childminder who speaks the language all day

I've been advised by SALT that children learn a language far, far better from a real person than from TV/ listening to songs on computer/ music player, so I'd focus on finding a real person to talk with your child in the language

If you can't find an immersive nursery or Childminder, can you find someone to come round and play with your child in that language regularly? A babysitter or a student earning some extra cash?

Mamabear12 Tue 20-Dec-16 14:12:01

Yes, of course a child learns far better from a person. However, sometimes people can not afford all the hours, or people are not available. I struggled to find a french nanny/sitter during the week for 3-6pm, as all of them were already taken. During the weekend I found two that I can alternate who are willing to do 3-4 hours sat/sunday. To make up the other hours, I played music in French, youtube videos/cartoons in french for the kids. And finally I found after school club monday, thursday and friday until 5pm so my daughter is exposed to real french speakers more often. And finally she got into the French school. I wish I spoke French so I could just speak to her myself and teach her, but I do not. I am trying to learn as she does, but I do not pronounce the words correctly and she already corrects me etc. I make sure to tell her to copy the way the French speakers talk and that because I am learning as an adult it is much more difficult for me to pronounce the words correctly. She understands this, thankfully.

As for the 20 hours, I read it somewhere on this site, except I think he actually wrote 25 hours! bilingualmonkeys.com/my-best-tips-for-raising-bilingual-kids/

It is a great site to read through with lots of tips.

Pale pink, I will direct message you regarding the schools.

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