There are four confused language speakers in my family.
Me: I’ve already given my short bio in the beginning, so I won’t bore with another. One thing to add is that I suck at learning languages. In 6th grade, I was required to take French when my English was still at an off-the-boat-level. Well, it showed. My French grade dragged at the bottom of the class throughout high school and I dare not mention I even studied it. You’d think going through years of English boot camp would prepare me to learn a new language. It did not.
Now, I’m very sheepishly attempting to learn Mandarin and it’s just as sad as when I was in French class. Yes, I should put more effort into using it and expose myself to more Mandarin since it’s available. I realized I try to learn a language in the worst way possible. I look at the characters (since Chinese and Japanese share a lot of characters), match the pronunciation, and make flash cards. Oh, it’s bad. I am that example of a Japanese middle school student. I know what I’m doing is wrong, but I don’t know how to amend and do it right. Well, if I make any progress on this depressing endeavor, I will update.
My English: “Native”, or what I call bitching level. When you can bitch about your work/life effectively with a group of people and blend in at a bar, you’re fluent. Some professional level speech, some cursing, some slang, all fused into smooth conversation. You’re a native and not a business speaker.
My Japanese: I’m still trying to determine where it is. In conventional terms, I’m a “Native Speaker.” I’ve worked for a bit in a Japanese business environment, I can read a newspaper, I can have casual and loud conversations with a group of mommies at lunch. I find my Japanese writing to be either too formal or too casual, but not quite as frank as my English. I haven’t found my “voice” when writing in Japanese. I don’t have that problem with English. I’m a sarcastic, unorganized writer, as I am in person. I’m finding it hard to portray that persona in Japanese. It’s easier for me to hide behind the formality of Japanese writing.
So I don’t know where that stands. Is it the Japanese language that forces me to write in such a manner? Maybe.
Marc: He gets the best hubby and daddy award. He only speaks English fluently, but has some working knowledge of Japanese, French and Latin, in that order. I’m not sure if you can even have a “working knowledge” of Latin, but fair to say he studied some and enjoyed it. He has a knack for learning languages unlike me.
Nina: My almost-3-year-old, still in her semi-demonic stage, but other than the occasional exorcism moment, she’s a good kid. She’s sensitive, sweet, shy, funny and loud all at the same time. She goes to a day care with a bilingual (English and Mandarin) education program full day, 5 days a week and LOVES it. Even asks about her “school” when we are on vacation. We try to do the bilingual household thing where I speak mostly in Japanese and my husband speaks ‘American’ English. But since he understands some Japanese, he reads her books in Japanese. I’m used to using English and I often to end up slipping back into it even when speaking with her, but I’m working on that.
Nina’s English=Singlish. I don’t know if that’s the politically correct term, but her accent is definitely not American, and sometimes, she’s got that “la” thing on the back of her sentences. Her English is generally good. Grammar is still developing, but that’s age appropriate.
Nina’s Mandarin: Mystery. She understands, but doesn’t speak much. When she’s on the spot, apparently she does say something, but it’s limited and we don’t quite know where it’s headed. She was like that a few months ago with Japanese, but she has more exposure during the day to Mandarin, so we’ll see what she picks up. The challenge is also that I don’t quite recognize Chinese coming from her since I’m unfamiliar with it myself. She has also already decided that I’m not a Chinese speaker and adamantly refuses to speak Chinese with me, even if I try.
Nina’s Japanese: Starting to flourish. It helps that my friend introduced me to a really cool program called Douwakan. A children’s book shop owner and some of his associates have devoted time to selecting age appropriate books for children and they can send up to 3 books a month addressed to your child. It’s a bit pricey from abroad (Non-Japan), but I like the books they deliver and Nina looks forward to receiving her monthly gift. I firmly believe that the only reason I was able to keep up my Japanese was because I read a lot of Japanese books growing up, so early exposures to good books for the children is extremely important to me. She has an accent of some sort, can’t quite pinpoint which one it is, between the American and Filipino Japanese accent we have in the house, she’s a bit confused. Both my husband and our helper speak some levels of Japanese and they often speak it with her. I think she’s on the right track, she recognizes those that are Japanese speakers and gravitates towards them.
Nina’s 4th language: Gobbledygook. Nina has another language she speaks or yells, when she’s hyper. Probably a kid thing, but figured I’d include it. Maybe it’s her partial Mandarin, she’s happy when we repeat it, whatever it is.
Mila: She’s our baby. I go easy on her. Not to worry Nina, that will change. She’s just started to walk and she’s facing the challenges of life (i.e. her older sister) and thriving every day. She’s starting to respond to several languages and we are excited to see how her linguistic skills develop.