Essential Guide: Tips for Expats on Japanese Language Education for Children


For Japanese families residing overseas or those in international marriages, navigating your child's language education is a critical aspect of expatriate life.
While it's easy to prioritize English or another second language due to daily life demands abroad, it's equally important not to neglect Japanese language education.
The challenge is creating and maintaining a robust Japanese language environment, a task that can seem daunting at first.

This guide provides essential advice for teaching Japanese to children overseas, based on common concerns and strategies for effective language learning.



The Challenge of Learning Japanese

Japanese is recognized globally as one of the most difficult languages to learn, especially for native English speakers.
According to the U.S. Department of State's language difficulty rankings, Japanese is classified alongside Chinese, Korean, and Arabic as a "Super-hard language."
Achieving conversational fluency can require approximately 2,200 hours of dedicated study, equivalent to about two years of intensive learning.
For most people, mastering Japanese presents a significant challenge.

Given this complexity, Japanese children living in non-Japanese environments might find maintaining their native language particularly challenging.

Citation:U.S. Department of State “Foreign Language Training”

Key Strategies for Japanese Language Education

Passive learning is rarely effective, especially for children in foreign language settings.
Active engagement by parents is crucial.
Here are some strategies to help make Japanese language learning effective and engaging:

Maximize Exposure to Japanese

To foster language skills, increase your child's exposure to Japanese.
Parents should consistently communicate in Japanese, maintaining a Japanese-only policy at home.
Even when children respond in English, encourage them to switch to Japanese by showing preference for it in everyday interactions.

Make Learning Interactive and Consistent

Interaction in Japanese shouldn't just be limited to verbal communication.
Engage in activities that require Japanese reading and speaking, such as watching Japanese videos or playing board games in Japanese.
This method not only improves language skills but also helps embed cultural elements.

Create Regular Speaking Opportunities

Encourage regular video calls with family members in Japan.
These calls can make using Japanese a fun and anticipated part of the day.
Additionally, participating in community groups with other Japanese families can provide social and language support, making the learning process more enjoyable and effective.

Ensure the Learning Process is Enjoyable

Transform learning from a chore into a rewarding part of your child's daily routine.
Avoid mundane tasks like repetitive drills; instead, use games and interactive activities that naturally incorporate Japanese.
For instance, playing "shopkeeper" allows children to practice vocabulary in an entertaining and practical context.

Tailoring Education to Developmental Stages

Different stages of childhood require different approaches:

Early Childhood

Focus on immersive Japanese use through daily interactions.
Use simple language to talk about everyday objects and experiences.

Preschool to Kindergarten

Incorporate more structured learning, such as reading simple books or engaging in arts and crafts with Japanese instructions.

School Age

As children begin formal education, supplement their learning with structured Japanese language courses or materials that align with their school curriculum.

Engaging Tools for Learning Japanese

Books and Multimedia

Utilize children's books and multimedia resources in Japanese to broaden vocabulary and improve listening skills.

Online Japanese Lessons

Platforms like Native Camp offer flexible, interactive lessons that can adapt to your child's schedule and learning pace, providing a structured but flexible learning environment.



The journey of maintaining and enhancing a child's native language while abroad is complex and requires dedication.
However, by making the process engaging and consistent, parents can significantly ease this journey, ensuring their children remain proficient in Japanese and connected to their cultural roots.