When parents from two different countries that speak different languages have children, they have a choice to make at some point. Do we stick with mom’s language or dad’s? Or do we make an effort to teach them both. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not so simple. Bringing up a child to have strong proficiency in both English and Japanese needs a plan. It won’t just happen.
This is where BilingualNagoya comes in. In 2007, a bunch of parents got together and started to organize lessons for their soon to be bilingual kids. They called this group BilingualNagoya. They found a place to hold the class every week and hired a teacher. A curriculum was decided upon and a school was born. At the start of term they are placed in classes that suit their age or ability and over the course of the year, work their way through a range of academic literacy activity activities from text books and other resources. Most children can already speak English when they arrive at class and having to teach your own child how to read and write is what seems to stress parents the most.
Homework is given weekly and it has the feel of a real school with noticeable progress from year to year. This is nothing like chain schools that teach English in Japanese.
BilingualNagoya is for children ranging from first grade in elementary school to 3rd grade in high school. They meet every Saturday morning in Chikusa ward. It is organized by the parents and isn’t run as a business. There are no profits. All the money is used to rent the classroom and pay the teacher etc. The classes are only one hour long and the students are placed in a class after their ability is discussed between the child, parents and teacher.
To attend the class, the child must have an English-speaking parent or be a returnee who has attended an English speaking school overseas. There are three classes at the moment. You can bring your child five or ten minutes before class and then chat with the other parents while you wait. It’s quite a pool of knowledge and a good chance for parents to put their heads together and figure out better ways to help their children succeed. Sometimes, it seems the parents get just as much out of it as the kids.
This school has been a special place where bilingual children can come once a week and study in classes with other kids just like them. Originally, started as a place of learning it has become much, much more. Lasting friendships have been formed between the children and the parents, too. The students have a chance to be around other children who might be experiencing similar issues as them at their regular school and they might feel more comfortable telling a friend than good old mom and dad.
If you are interested bring your child along and you can sit in on a class and see if it’s what you’ve been looking for. It’s only ¥1,500 per class, and it is a great opportunity to help your child become part of a bilingual community.
What are the ages of children in your classes and how many classes are there?
At present there are four classes: Lower elementary Grade 1-2, Upper-elementary (Grade 3-6) and Senior (Grade 7-10). Pupils are placed based on discussions between the student, parent and teacher. There is room for expansion if more students wish to join.
At the moment classes are on Saturdays, but we are considering expanding to an additional evening on a weekday, if the interest is there
What is your goal for students who come to your school?
To be effective, proficient balanced bilinguals. We want our students to be highly effective communicators in English, with a love of reading and writing and an ability to present their ideas effectively.
What kind of parental feedback do you get?
It is quite positive. They enjoy their time talking with other families and getting to know our community.
What kinds of families send their children to your school and what is the main reason they give?
The families that send their children to our Saturday classes are English-speaking parents with a Japanese spouse and the parents of returnees. Most say the reason they choose our classes is that they are affordable. Our classes are not for profit.