Thursday, February 24, 2005

Maika and Takumi's Mums

I finally did it. I bit the bullet and started the playgroup. Only time will tell whether I am going to regret this!

Amy will finish at Keio Acedemy English Kindergarten next month. She will start either full-time or part-time Japanese kindergarten. I have every reason to expect that Japanese will take over from English when this happens, although I am hoping that having Lena attend Keio, and continuing with almost all English at home,will help keep English the language at home. Of course I will continue to speak it, but the unknown is whether Amy will start to answer me in Japanese, or whether the girls will switch to English between them. Of course I can try to encourage Amy to speak to me in English, especially if I can't understand what she is saying, but I don't have much control over what they speak to each other. I can only try to encourage them to use it as much as possible by reminding them of their NZ family, and using as many resources as possible to keep their English skills up so that they never feel the need to switch to Japanese because their English won't allow them to express themselves as fully.

I think bilingual children often speak only a limited amount of the home language - their social development and learning take place in the community so their vocabulary expands in that language. They appear to speak the home language flunetly, because their accent is perfect and their understanding high, but they don't have the vocab or phrases etc to fully express themselves on a wide variety of subjects. Part of the problem is that everything that is relevant to the child takes place in the community language. Peer language, hobbies, etc.

It is for this reason, and just to keep some people in her life who don't think it's weird to speak another language. So I thought of the idea of keeping up contact with her kindy friends, not by swapping phone numbers and making vague promises, but by setting up a playgroup at a specific time and place for us all to attend.

What I am afraid of is becoming the teacher. I don't want to be the teacher, it puts too much pressure on me to prepare a 'lesson', keep it moving for the required amount of time, and show some results. I am much happier calling it a club, so I can sit back and ignore them if I feel like it! The idea is that we will play games in English, using resources chosen and ordered by me. All the parents will be responsible for encouraging their children to keep speaking English and not switching to Japanese. And only kids who already speak English will be welcome - this is not a lesson. I will ask them to contribute a small amount each month which we will use to buy snacks, and order games, books and resources.

So with that in mind, I asked Maika's Mum and Takumi's Mum to my house for lunch. I see them the most outside of kindy, and their English skills are very good. I showed them my plan, and they were very excited about it, especially Takumi's Mum, because Takumi will not be continuing at Keio. I aksed them to translate it into Japanese for me, and we will spread the word around the Keio mums and get a group together.

So it's done, and I am committed I guess.

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