INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL BANGKOK

How to Maintain Your Family's Mother Tongue

A look at ISB’s Japanese Native Language Program

AN INTRODUCTION

The Japanese Native Language Program

“We believe that native language is at the heart of human communication, thinking and feeling,” said Avery Udagawa, Head of the Native Language Program at International School Bangkok (ISB). “Language is a marker of identity and culture, helping us to make sense of ourselves, our perspectives and our world.”

We often hear parents ask, “How can we maintain our native language in an international school setting?” Helping your child maintain their mother tongue language is important to us, as well. We have a specialized Native Language Program both during and after the school day focused on helping your children maintain, nurture and embrace their native language.

Though ISB's Native Language program is offered for many languages, this page is specifically for Japanese families who want to learn more about how their children will maintain their Japanese language in an international school.

One of the most important things to note regarding ISB - especially with children who speak Japanese as their first language - is that our Japanese population at ISB ranges between 7% and 10% each year.

 

At ISB, the Native Language Program helps students: 

  • Communicate effectively and efficiently for a range of purposes and audiences
  • Explore and develop a personal appreciation for reading
  • Explore, compare and contrast cultures from around the world while showing respect for various cultural backgrounds and perspectives
  • Interact respectfully with people from different cultural backgrounds and perspectives
  • Inquire into and evaluate the consequences (local and world-wise) of individual and collective actions
  • Create and/or contribute solutions to global challenges
  • Earn a bilingual diploma
NATIVE LANGUAGES SPOKEN BY ISB STUDENTS

As you can see by the image below, a vast majority of our community speak more than one language, with 7% speaking Japanese as their native language. A majority of ISB’s student body are students who speak English as a second language.

ISB-Language-Snapshot-Semester-1-2019-2020

 

Though we provide plenty of opportunities to nurture your children’s Japanese language, they will also have friends where they can speak in their mother tongue. 

As explained by ISB alum, Shunji Mizoguchi, “I spent a lot of time with my Japanese friends where we spoke our native language.”

“Since there were many Japanese students, there was a Japanese class conducted by a Japanese teacher [which helped me maintain my native language],” shared another ISB alum, Takanori Yoshii.

At ISB, in addition to offering Japanese in our Native Language Program, we help your children maintain their Japanese language by:

  1. Defining the difference between their native language and what’s used in the classroom
  2. Ensuring they understand the importance of maintaining their native language 
  3. Celebrating Japanese cultural activities
  4. Creating a community of like-minded individuals  

What is the difference between a student’s native language and their school language? 

At an international school, the use of language can differ greatly from language use within local schools and what is used at home. 

Native language or mother tongue is referred to as the first language learned in a household, it’s what children first learn from their parents and communities. 

School language, true to its name, is the language used while on campus in a classroom. It’s more academic in nature and, at ISB, is English. 

What further differentiates an international school is the multitude of languages heard while walking through the halls. International schools, such as ISB, are language-rich environments where diversity is enhanced and celebrated. No matter your children’s mother tongue, they will find friends who speak the same language and have the opportunity to hone their English skills. 

Find out more about the difference between a student’s native language and their school language, and how - and why - ISB welcomes Japanese into the classroom. 

How can we maintain our Japanese native language and why is it important?

“Multilingualism and multiculturalism are assets in our increasingly interconnected world, leading to higher levels of empathy and risk-taking,” said Udagawa. “Native language learning benefits an individual’s emotional well-being enhances academic success, and promotes the acquisition of additional languages.”

There has been considerable research on the importance of native language maintenance and development. 

The benefits of maintaining one’s mother tongue while also speaking other languages fluently include:

  1. Greater academic progress
  2. Greater cognitive advantages 
  3. Greater job prospects
  4. Greater chance of getting into post-secondary

We believe that native language learning best occurs when there is a strong school-home partnership in place. The following ways are what you, as a parent, can do to help ensure healthy language development: 

  • Speak your Japanese at home
  • Encourage your children to do activities in Japanese
  • When travel is permitted, take your children to their home country
  • Enroll your children in an international school

Learn more about the benefits of maintaining your children’s mother tongue, how you can help ensure their language development at home, and how an international school fosters a language-rich environment. 

Japanese Cultural Activities at ISB

Encouraging your children to maintain their native language and celebrate their cultural background is something we’re passionate about at ISB. 

Beyond the learning that takes place in the classroom and in your home, we also recommend getting involved in the Japanese cultural activities occurring on and off-campus.

For your little ones, there’s an Intercultural Day in our Elementary school. To bring the whole school together and celebrate diversity, ISB also hosts the International Family Fair.

To see what’s going on around ISB and get involved, click here to get in touch with the Japanese Parents Community

With a specific focus on celebrating the Japanese culture, there’s the Japanese Parents Community (JPC) En Nichi event where you and your family can:

  • Participate in En Nichi activities 
  • Watch traditional and pop culture dance
  • Experience calligraphy
  • Enjoy Japanese cuisine
  • Listen to the Pep Band play music

What is the difference between a student’s native language and their school language? 

At an international school, the use of language can differ greatly from language use within local schools and what is used at home. 

Native language or mother tongue is referred to as the first language learned in a household, it’s what children first learn from their parents and communities. 

School language, true to its name, is the language used while on campus in a classroom. It’s more academic in nature and, at ISB, is English. 

What further differentiates an international school is the multitude of languages heard while walking through the halls. International schools, such as ISB, are language-rich environments where diversity is enhanced and celebrated. No matter your children’s mother tongue, they will find friends who speak the same language and have the opportunity to hone their English skills. 

Find out more about the difference between a student’s native language and their school language, and how - and why - ISB welcomes Japanese into the classroom. 

Creating a Community of Like-minded Individuals

We often find that parents who speak English as a second language have certain concerns when it comes to their children’s success including:

  • How their children will fair in the curriculum
  • Whether or not their children will be able to make friends
  • How their children will hone their English skills while also maintaining their native language
  • How their children will get into the university of their choice no matter where it’s located or the language of instruction

No matter where your children come from or what language they speak, they will find people living through the exact same experience, they will find their footing and excel in their academics, they will sharpen their English skills and celebrate their mother tongue. At ISB, your children will have their choice when it comes to their university selection.

CELEBRATING STUDENT SUCCESS

Sharing ISB Student Stories

Our new “Success Starts at ISB” page introduces you to individuals who came to ISB with minimal English language skills and have moved on to successful college experiences and careers. They share stories about how they felt before they came to ISB, how they found success at our school, and where they are now.

Read our Student Success Stories