Essential Guide for Expatriates: Mastering Japanese Language Education for Bilingual Children

Japanese language education, bilingual children, Native Camp


For families relocating abroad due to work or marriage to a foreign partner, there are numerous challenges to navigate, not the least of which is language.
The question of how children will maintain and enhance their Japanese while assimilating into an English-speaking environment is a widespread concern.

This article is crafted for those currently facing or about to enter such situations, focusing on "bilingual child-rearing + Japanese education."
Drawing from 18 years of personal experience raising children in the UK, this piece offers valuable insights.

What Does Bilingual Child-Rearing Involve?

Bilingual child-rearing means nurturing children to fluently use two languages.
For Japanese families, this usually involves Japanese and English.
The capacity to speak English, a global lingua franca, is believed to vastly broaden a child's future horizons.

Strategies for Effective Bilingual Upbringing

How do you foster a bilingual environment?

The emphasis often lies in teaching the child the language that is not native.
In Japan, this typically means learning English, often supplemented by online platforms to enhance listening and speaking skills outside the school curriculum.

However, moving abroad introduces a host of unforeseen challenges.

Common Pitfalls in Bilingual Child-Rearing

Upon moving, families embark on a journey filled with both excitement and anxiety, common to both international marriages and expatriate assignments.

The Challenge of Maintaining Japanese

Children adapt quickly to new languages abroad due to their minimal resistance to unfamiliar linguistic environments.
Initially, this rapid adaptation is seen as a benefit, indicating potential bilingualism.

However, over time, many parents share a common worry:
children might cease using Japanese or fail to develop appropriate language skills for their age.
The hope for bilingualism may paradoxically lead to a decline in Japanese proficiency, a concern particularly acute for those considering eventual return to Japan for education.

Tips for Parenting Abroad

Understanding Semilingualism and Double Limited

"Semilingualism" refers to using multiple languages without mastering any at a native level, a term first used in Sweden during the 1960s.
"Double Limited," a Japanese-coined term, describes someone who hasn't fully developed in either their native or second language to the expected age level.

These conditions illustrate that achieving true bilingualism is complex and can impact not only language skills but also cognitive development.

An anecdote highlights a child at a local school struggling to use English and inadvertently reverting to Japanese, indicating a confused linguistic identity, leading to withdrawal from supplementary Japanese education.

Key Considerations

Often in the UK, Japanese parents feel reassured if their children can communicate in everyday situations. However, are parents settling too soon for this level of proficiency?

For expatriate families, unexpected repatriation can pose severe challenges if children's Japanese proficiency has waned, making their adjustment to schooling in Japan particularly difficult.

Strategies for Ensuring Robust Japanese Language Skills

Online Japanese Learning Services:

Utilizing online platforms can be beneficial, especially since children may engage better with non-parental instructors.
Native Camp offers comprehensive Japanese lessons, ensuring flexibility and variety in learning.


Creating a Japanese-Required Environment:

At home, parents might pretend not to understand English to encourage Japanese use.
This strategy ensures that Japanese remains a necessary part of daily communication.

Enrollment in Supplementary Japanese Schools:

These schools provide an environment where children learn from Japanese teachers and interact with peers in Japanese, maintaining both language skills and cultural ties.

Engaging with Japanese Media:

Regular exposure to Japanese anime and books can keep the language appealing and engaging, making learning a pleasure rather than a chore.

Promoting Japanese as Fun:

Finding activities that the child enjoys in Japanese can transform language learning from a task into a hobby.


Raising a bilingual child abroad is an intricate process that involves more than mere exposure to the language.

It requires creating and maintaining a rich Japanese linguistic environment, supplemented by structured lessons from platforms like Native Camp. With thoughtful planning and a focus on making learning enjoyable, parents can significantly enhance their child's bilingual abilities, preparing them for a world of broader opportunities.