Tag Archives: Bali Trip

Japanese, but a British mommy? 母としての言語はどちら?

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend the other day.  She is Japanese, born and raised, studied in the US for several months as a university student, but otherwise spent most of her life in Japan.  She left Japan 5 years ago after marrying an Australian guy and since then lived in several English speaking countries before moving to Singapore about a year ago.  Her strongest language is Japanese. When we speak, most of our conversation including this one takes place in Japanese.  She is more natural conversing in Japanese, her parents only speak Japanese.  So it was very curious when she said, “I’m not comfortable parenting in Japanese”

We’ve all noticed that she speaks to her two year old daughter in English most of the time, but have never asked why.  It’s just what she does.  Recently, she’s been trying to switch to Japanese because she feels that it is important to boost her daughter’s Japanese language skill.  She’s more comfortable with Japanese anyways….wait, she’s NOT?? Why? Japanese is clearly her dominant language with everything else!

We boiled it down to her preference of parenting style.  She had her daughter in London.  At the time, she had American and British pre-mommy/new mommy friends and some Japanese mommy friends.  All in all, she felt that she related more with the non-Japanese friends on parenting terms.  Additionally when she spoke to her husband about parenting, the conversation took place in English. She read English parenting books and had an English speaking doctor.  All these factors shaped the kind of mother she is.  Her parenting language, despite it not being her first language, became English.  She knew what tones to use when, the appropriate time to switch from gentle to scolding.  She had lost that parenting voice in Japanese in the two years with her daughter. So here is a case where the language didn’t drive her thinking, but her preference drove the language.

What about her mother?  Well, who remembers what your mom really sounded like when you were two? The memories from then are fuzzy at best.  She remembers her mother’s scolding as being is lectures, poignant inquiries that made her think during her teenage years.  That tactic isn’t effective with a toddler.

She’s currently still trying to find her “voice” when speaking Japanese to her daughter, or rather, get more comfortable with hearing herself speak in Japanese as a mother.  She unconsciously flipped her primary and secondary language in such an unexpected way and didn’t even notice for two years!  It’ll be interesting to see how she feels about the whole thing three months from now.


確かにいつも二歳になる娘さんに英語で話しかけてはいたんだけど、まさか裏に日本語がしっくり来ない、という意外な真実があるとは。何故かという話を少しゆっくり聞いてみる事も出来たので、ちょい分析してみると、どうやら子育ての方針に対する考え方とタイミングが原因らしい。彼女は娘さんをロンドンで出産していて、その時の友人はアメリカ人もイギリス人も日本人(もちろんその他にもいたと思うけど、メインのところで)いたけど、子育ての考え方として、基本日本人以外の人の方が自分にあった考えで子育てを実行していると感じたみたい。もちろんここでそれがいいいかどうかは考査しません。人それぞれだし、文化的な考え方の差もあるし、子育てに関してはトライアル アンド エラーでやっていくうちに変わる事も多いので。とにかくその時の彼女の考えは西洋よりだったらしい。しかも旦那さんはオーストラリア人で、もちろん子育てに関しての会話は英語、お医者さんも育児本も英語の環境のなか、彼女にとって子育てに関してだけは主になる言語が英語になってしまって、普通の会話でさえも娘さんと日本語で話しかけるのが自分らしさに欠けてる気がするようになってしまったらしいんです。これって結構衝撃的ではないでしょうか?

例えば “Honey, Come sit here” の方が ”娘ちゃんこっちに座って“というよりしっくりするらしい。正確には、”娘ちゃん、こっちに来て座りなさい“というのか”娘ちゃんこっちに座ったら?“というのか、”娘ちゃん、座ってください“というべきなのか、どのトーンが英語で使ってるトーンに一番近いのか分からない感じ?