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Hello all,

I live in Korea with my husband and daughter. My husband is a monolingual American, and I was raised as a monolingual in the US too, but studied Japanese in high school (passive understanding now after living a year in Japan), Chinese in university and through a semester study abroad (proficiently but rusty now) and Korean in grad school (functionally fluent now but obviously not native). My daughter was thrown right into Korean preschool when we moved here 1.5 years ago, and now she is close to fluent. Now we plan to start her in kindergarten in a Chinese immersion school. It is the only international school in our small city. I can support her Korean learning a lot, and am activating my study of Chinese again now to better help with Chinese. But some people have seemed to suggest that educating her in a third language here will fail. Basically she’ll spend 1/3 of her time in Chinese at school, 1/3 time in Korean (at recess and afterschool activities as everyone around is Korean), and 1/3 of time in English with us (a bit more I guess because of weekends). I also plan to take her to Taiwan on short trips once or twice a year to show her that Chinese is a living language. And we visit the US for 3-6 weeks each year. Anything else I should know? I am rather anxious about her getting the necessary reading and writing skills in both Korean and English (in case we move to an English speaking country later, or if we’re still in Korea after primary school and she has to start Korean school–there’s no international middle school in our area).

Thanks, all!


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Hi Bonnie, 

Saw your post from a few months ago, so I’m posting my response here. I’m raised multilingual and am now a parent to children we intend to raise as multilinguals in a non-multilingual society (suburb of Los Angeles, CA)

Given education and pedigree are important to your family (assuming from the inquiry concerning the topic of education and prefaced with the listing of how you came about studying languages in school), I would imagine that the top 2 languages you want to emphasize as becoming the “bread and butter” in academic pursuits for your child should be focused on at all costs. Japanese, Korean, Chinese or English are all very good options, and this is probably a matter of where you see the world going in 20 years and also the region you want to plant your child into. Where they call home is where their heart is and where their heart is often where they had the most meaningful experiences. Furthermore, the most meaningful experiences tend to be those which are understood deeply and things we understand deeply often have a verbal vehicle (we call language) we articulate and archive into our memories. Balancing between the academic hopes you have for your child and allowing then to find a good “home” in the world is a decision we as multilingually oriented parents need to make. 

My parents were working in Papua New Guinea during my years of ages 5-17. The local tribal language was not an emphasis for my academically concerned parents, so we focused on Japanese (from my parents) and English (from the international school I attended half the year). The tribal language is only conversational in skill at best and there are things you miss out on not going deeper, but in the long run, the focus on English and Japanese has allowed me to never be concerned over a job even though I graduated a non-business oriented masters program at the depth of the economic crisis in 2009. It has allowed me to be a global citizen my parents would have never dreamed of for themselves, not only to speak/read/write in these two languages with fluency, but have the cultural nuances understood to where the Japanese person asks whether I have lived in the US and the US person asks whether I have lived in Japan (the implication being that they think I’m native). 

I’d love to know your thoughts. 

Hayato Nakamura
Los Angeles, US

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