The boys are both officially bi-lingual.
They choose their languages depending on who is present and the situation.
If I am present my 4 year old will almost always speak English. When he plays by himself he will speak Japanese. When he speaks to his brother and father he uses both, and he knows that his grandparents and cousins only speak Japanese, so he speaks Japanese to them and everyone else.
It is very interesting to see him progress as my child, but not with my language as his first language. Since we live in Japan his first language is Japanese. He is acquiring new words daily and they are usually at school through teachers and friends. I try to keep up by reading books and letting him watch a few shows in English, but it is apparent that I am the second language parent. Today he explained the weather to me and used the Japanese word for thunder(Kaminari). Sometimes I don’t realize what vocabulary he needs until he uses the Japanese. For me that is fine and interesting.
I feel very comfortable with my 4 year old’s language ability. He acquires new words and uses them immediately in both languages. I have also planted the seed for him to be multilingual by introducing Spanish early on as well. There are some shows he only watches in Spanish. At this point I know that he can understand what seems to be 40% without speaking fluently. After living in Japan and trying to learn myself I have no worries about learning most other alphabet based languages. Spanish seems to be something that he can acquire inside of 6 months of immersion. I am not fluent as I posted once before, but my foundation is strong and I feel confident introducing the language.
This summer I will continue teaching my son to read Japanese. So why choose Japanese?Well, because it will bring faster returns. It is a phonetic language. Once I teach the sound for あ (ah) I am done. In English one letter can have multiple sounds and then I have to drill sight words. My son was able to read Japanese in 2 weeks of hiragana lessons. The sound never changes, and he is already a fluent speaker, so he knows and understands the words he is reading already.
My goal is to have him reading to the other children by the end of the summer.
My two year old is fluent, well, as fluent as a 2 year old is in any language. He is still stringing his 3 and 4 words together. English is stronger because we don’t have him in preschool like we did with my 4 year old. Also, I do not speak any Japanese to my 2 year old. When we first moved I wanted the family to speak 100% Japanese because I was new and I wanted to be sure that we would be able to survive here. Now that I know how things are done I have relaxed and I let the language come to my 2 year old naturally. His father and brother speak to him in Japanese. He is surrounded by it, I don’t have to work with him on it at all.
One thing I will say is that this is so much fun. Programming my children with language and knowing that it will be beneficial to them no matter what life path they choose. What I am really thinking about is; should I give all of the children a different foreign language/third language? Language is a gift. To be fluent in multiple languages before adulthood. Wow. How much would you pay for that? Priceless!
I am so busy right now thinking about ways to play with language. Please let me know what languages you know, would like to learn, or think would be beneficial to the next generation.