Alright, alright. I can see ya’ll staring at me. Japanese is HARD. Make that really hard and after all, isn’t English the lingua franca right now? Spanish was easier, so maybe we’ll just make our kids bilingual in Spanish and English? Why should I have to make that extra effort, when we’ll probably be moving back to my home country eventually anyway?
Ladies, Ladies, there are a few things that you should definitely think about before you decide to throw in the towel for learning Japanese.
Consider this, during the time when Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, there were many men who had married foreign women. These foreign women didn’t teach their kids how to speak Hebrew. How did Nehemiah respond? By pulling people’s hair out and beating people! You might think that’s a bit extreme–and it is–but think about it, how is the man, as the head of his house, supposed to lead if he can’t even speak directly to his own children?
The Trouble with One Parent One Language
I met a woman a while back who was living in Japan with her husband and 3 kids. They were both foreigners from different countries. She told me that she was teaching her kids her language and Japanese, which is great, except… the dad didn’t speak her language or Japanese. I remember talking with one of her kids in Japanese and the boy said, “When dad speaks, I don’t know what he’s saying.” My heart broke for this kid. Growing up to be a man is hard enough. It’s got to be even tougher when you can’t even have a conversation with your dad. Literally. The woman told me that her husband was “lazy.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Ladies, please, for the love of mercy, teach your kids the language of their dad as best as you can. One Parent One Language (OPOL) can be great if you are both available to actively teach, but if that’s not possible, let’s make dad’s language the priority. The OPOL approach can actually be detrimental to family life–as was the above case–if you’re not careful.
Unite through the Bible
One of the things we do as a family that I believe is important for every family is Bible Time together as a family. This becomes a great incentive for all to learn the Bible in the same language. Even if you don’t buy any other language books, the Bible is a great foundation for language learning and teaches kids the basics of life they need to know. I.e. What is sin? How do I overcome it? Who is God? Where do I come from? Where do we go after we die? It amazes me every time the depth at which a child can comprehend a difficult subject.
Don’t Let Your Insecurities Rule You
I know that there are a lot of you out there who are worried about teaching your kids “bad Japanese” or if you’re a Japanese mom, “bad English.” I’m here to say, something is better than nothing. Even Japanese English can provide a foundation for English language learning later on and some exposure to letters and music from the target language at an early age will give kids incentive to learn. Don’t EVER pretend to be something you’re not with your kids. If you’re not comfortable, you’re kids won’t be either. Relax and just have fun! Don’t fret over what you don’t have but focus on what you do!!!
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
And please, let go of jealousy-games! I have seen time and again here in Japan where people are jealous of somebody else’s speaking ability. Teach your kids to speak with confidence even if they are teased. Don’t let some stranger overpower them with superior language ability. One church we attended had multiple interpreters for the pastor. The first Japanese woman I heard interpret made a lot of grammar mistakes and her pronunciation was off, but the overall message was clear. She did an outstanding job. The second Japanese woman I heard made almost no grammar mistakes but was so uptight and grouchy-looking to the point of being distracting that it overrode the perfection. Don’t focus on perfection. Focus on God. Never forget that Moses also struggled with his language skills and look at all the great things he did! God doesn’t choose us because we’re perfect. He chooses the humble.
And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. (Exodus 4:10 )
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)
We Desperately Need Christians Who Can Communicate in Japanese
The last point I’d like to make is the great, great need of Japanese speakers to spread the gospel. I have been in too many churches where the strange, creepy pastor was there only because there was no one else to fill the position. There is no one to replace the current, aging pastors in our pulpits, people! Due to this shortage, many churches here are operating without a pastor and have been for years and years. Sheep without a shepherd… Please mothers, before considering a good international school for your kids, before considering what a pain kanji is, before considering how pagan Japan is, please, please, consider the great need for workers in the field.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38)