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Bilingual Kids Club

Japan With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: Bilingual Kids Club
By Hiromi Tanaka on Thursday, July 10, 2003 - 2:47 am:

I want to introduce my club in Shibuya-ku near Shinjuku area. I have 2 English-Japanese bilingual chidren who go to a Japanese public school. I think Japanese public schools working pretty good for my kids, but I want to keep up their ENGLISH education too.

I decided to make a club for bilingual children to help them improve both English and Japanese. I met a good teacher who was 1st grade teacher in Canada, and she is willing to teach bilingual children. I was a bilingual tutor at US public school for 3 years, and JUKU tacher for 8 years.

We offer international school type education after school and JAPANESE class for children who are learning Japanese as a second language.

We also plan to do a summer program and activities using ENGLISH and JAPANESE.

If you are interested, please contact me. chloe6[at]

By Hiromi Tanaka on Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - 10:41 am:

We are organizing NPO group to support English speaking children and their families in Tokyo. We are thinking to do after school international school program for English speaking kids who go to Japanese school and parents oriented clubs such as Young Scientists Club and Drama Club in English. If you are interested, please contact me by email (chloe6[at]
We need members!
Most of activities are held at my house so far.
My house is a 3 minute walk from Yoyogi Uehara staion in Odakyu or Chiyoda Line.

By Hiromi Tanaka on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 11:22 am:

We have a web site now.
Would you like to visit our site?

By Tara on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 1:32 pm:

The names "Bilingual Kids Club" and "International Kids Club" are somewhat misnomers, aren't they? I went to this website, but actually everything is for supporting the speaking of ENGLISH.

It's a bit like advertising an Animal Lovers' Club and then saying, "Sorry, you have to own a DOG to join. No cats or rabbits. Yes, we say 'animals', but, what, don't you know that that really means DOGS? That is the most popular animal."

No complaints about supporting (or even focusing exclusively on) English, but I do think that this supports a rather limited view of the world, which is probably not what we want to encourage in our dual-culture children, that "Internationalization = speaking ENGLISH."

If this were a well-established group, I would hold my tongue, but since it is just getting off the ground, I thought I would contribute those thoughts. I hope you consider changing the name of the group during this launching period.


By Cornelia on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 2:21 pm:

Good points Tara. In fact I ran into the same way of thinking when putting together the international school list on this web site.

Apparently "international school" and "American school" are basically synonymous to most people (particularly the Japanese). Several people were surprised that I was including schools with non-English curriculums such as the German school, the French Lycee, several Chinese and Korean schools, etc. I was surprised that the concept of "international school" was so widely perceived as an American construct. I can only imagine that there are historical reasons for this development just as there are historical reasons for the contemporary "lingua franca" being more or less English in many if not most global venues.

In the meantime, not calling a "spade" a "spade" is common enough. Even when you do call a "spade" a "spade" it is open to misunderstandings (since there are different meanings for the word "spade") and perhaps all spades should really be called "long handled digging tools with ..." (THIS IS A JOKE by the way.)

But yes, the name of the "club" does appear mis-leading, because I also see no classes listed as instructing Japanese. They seem all to be in English. And if the "Club" is for supporting English within the Japanese environment, then this conversation belongs under:
English, Keeping it!

By Hiromi Tanaka on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 2:43 pm:

Thanks for your comment Tara. I'v been thinking about our group name so long.
At first, we were in Detroit Michigan in US and we supported English-Japanese speaking Children and we did free Japanese preschool classes there.
That time, the name was OK.
They are still doing activities there. Since I moved in Japan, I wanted to help English speaking Children in Japan, especialy who go to Japanese public schools.
Aloso, I do not want reject people who came from any countries but we need common language to communicate like most of International schoool use English as a common language.
Maybe I have to add more word to our web site. I welcome anybody want do activites in any language and we use English as a common language. If you have better name idea, please let me know.

By Mono on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 2:56 pm:

Hi, Tara.

I completely understand what you are saying, but was there really a need for criticizing her in the way you did in an open forum? I know many foreign residents in Japan, like yourself are frustrated in the fact that many Japanese people still think gforeigners = blonde, blue-eyed = Americans = speak English.h Ifd be upset too if there was a such thing as Asian study, festival or whatever, and all they teach/have is Chinese (another stereotype: Asian=Chinese).

I canft speak for her, but is it possible that Hiromi is honestly interested in starting up an English-based intfl club? Ifm saying this because she started VERY specific clubs, such as Drama and Young Scientist clubs despite the fact that here are many groups and clubs in Tokyo area that cater to bilingual and multilingual people. If English children from, say, India, Malaysia and Philippines join her clubs, then I would say her clubs are ginternational.h

I must admit that the website is a bit confusing and needs more clarifications. I donft mean to criticize her because I need more information, but I donft know if the Japanese language classes for English speaking children are necessary. As I have said in another discussions, there ARE Japanese classes for non-Japanese speaking children in each school, community, and/or area.

By Mono on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 3:04 pm:

Oh, my bad, Hiromi-san. I guess you posted yours while I was typing....

I had trouble finding "int'l schools" for my child, though he currently goes to a public one. It seemed like most so-called "int'l schools" were American schools OR English language schools targeting Japanese children who want to learn English. My friend had even harder time finding the right int'l school because my friend was looking for a mutillingual school because his family speak Spanish.

By Tara on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 3:24 pm:

Hi Mono,

You seem to have me confused with another person posting to the list. My post stated that if one is going to have only English-focused activities, then the name should reflect that. I said nothing about teaching Japanese (that was someone else), couldn't care less about Japanese classes, and never suggested that she change her line-up of activities in the slightest.

What I said was that the name of the group encourages fallacious thinking, specifically that "International [Bilingual] = speaking ENGLISH," which one would think that dual-cultural people in particular would have an interest in not perpetuating.

If your particular children speak English, then you are perhaps less keenly aware of what the non-English speaking children go through when people start speaking to them in English merely because they are black (or white, or whatever). Or perhaps your child has never been teased in school for getting a poor score on an English test, with his protests of "But I'm learning it for the first time, just like you" greeted cynically by his peers because since he is black and has foreign parent(s) he must OBVIOUSLY speak English. Yes, this idea that "International = speaking English" is something that confronts many of us daily, and it is, I assure you, something worth eliminating. Again, if you don't experience it on a daily basis, you would have no reason to be particularly sensitive to it.

Even if readers of this website are not interested in eliminating this concept, I would ask that they at least not help perpetuate it through careless misnomers.

"International (or Bilingual) = speaking ENGLISH" is not what most of us would consciously encourage our children to believe, and if I read Hiromi's response correctly, she seems to agree with this basic premise.

There are numerous email lists for people raising bilingual children. Many of us are raising children speaking very uncommon languages. I think a lot of people in those groups would be very, very, very surprised to read about a "Bilingual Kids' Club" which only supported one second language.

I think the person who chose the name did it without much thought, which is why I suggested that it be rethought out more carefully, as it implies that even dual-cultural people support the basic (fallacious) assumption.


By Cornelia on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 9:59 pm:

Thanks Tara and Mono for your remarks.
Well, if Hiromi-san is even interested in a new name, the only one that I can think of is "English/Japanese Language Club for Kids" (I had the impression that this club was intending to work with both languages). OR maybe the mission is not simply language oriented but rather geared towards maintaining the multi-cultural experience? In which case a bunch of other names suggest themselves. Maybe just simply "International Kids Club" would encompass the the idea of 2 or more languages and 2 or more nationalities, AND a place for kids to meet other kids from other cultures.

I didn't realize that black kids were also automatically assumed to speak English. I'm sorry that your kids have to deal with that on top of everything else. My daughter runs into the problem on the other side of the coin, of appearing Japanese but not necessarily having equal language skills in her age group. She copes by pretending that she understands everything and avoiding close scrutiny.

(THIS IS A JOKE) We could adopt the local habit of using a name that has no obvious relation whatsoever to the purpose, such as, for example, "Lollipop Club". For example, do you remember the Sony website for expats called "from-hannah" or the "mixed-pizza" website also for expats?

Coming up with a good and easily recognizable name is hard. I know that the brainstorming for this web site went on for months! Are there any readers out there who work in marketing with something to contribute? I think the name "Biblioteca" for that library club is inspired!

As for the "international" schooling options available in Japan, true, they are limited and costly. Bottom line, there just are not that many foreigners in Japan. The largest foreign group is Korean. And even they do not have a comprehensive system of schools throughout their communities within Japan. There simply are not enough of them interested in that product at the going rate. Second are the Chinese, again very few schools, but at least they have them. Brazilians and Filippinos take 3rd and 4th place and the options are practically zero in Portuguese and Tagalog.

Then we come to North Americans and suddenly there are many options in Tokyo and several in other major urban areas. It turns out English is in highest demand. Schooling unsubsidized by the taxpayer is expensive, so a demand threshhold must be crossed before the market will respond. If there were enough Spanish speaking families willing and able to support a school, then there would be such a full-time school. In the meantime there are the afterschool options, of which this Kids'Club is aspiring to be one. I hope that Hiromi-san gets lots of support from those of us living in the vicinity and having similar goals for our own kids!

By Hiromi Tanaka on Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 11:05 am:

Thank you for the comments everyone!
I think I have to add more word to my site.

We had hard time to find international school too.

Even my children were born US and grew up in US, they could not get in international school because they have Japanese parents! One of language school type international school accepted them but I did not want language school.
We put them in Japanese public school. They had hard time in Japanese public school. They look like Japanese and Japanese kids and their parents expected us to act like Japanese but our cultural background is diffrent. We tried to cope whith them and we learned a lot.
Anyway, one of the reason I wanted my kids to go international school was they can meet people who came from diffrent background and learn about diversity.
So I decided to make a international enviroment after school for them. I do not mean to reject anyone and we welcome people from diffrent background. Our group is parents oriented group so if you were a member you create the activities. We only have acitivities in English only so far but if you want to make a activities in other languages, please make it. We need people who act for international kids.

By Anna States on Saturday, October 16, 2004 - 9:15 am:

For anyone looking for a book for their biligual kids (English and Japanese), a GREAT children's picture book is "The Unordinary Elephant". It's written in both English and Japanese (side by side) - having been a collaboration between a Japanese writer in Tokyo and an American illustrator in Los Angeles.
You can see it at:

By Willie on Saturday, July 7, 2007 - 4:29 pm:

Hi everyone,

I am writing this message in the hope that someone can help us. Despite the fact that Beppu (Kyushu) has the highest ratio of foreigners to japanese in the whole of Japan, there are no International schools (all languages! I read the posting on this page!!), Bilingual schools, etc.

My son goes to a private Japanese school (by the time we moved here for the April intake there were no public places left!). They have no English classes at all (or any other language classes...), and do not really seem to come home with that much stuff - very scarcely artworks and never homework. Frankly, I have no idea what he does there all day except play in the sand pit, which is fine, but I can take him to a sandpit and not have to pay for the honour!

OK, I'm being harsh on the school - it's a nice school and the kids have a lot of fun, but what I would love to see down here is a bilingual school. My son is half Japanese, half Australian, and so I don't just want him to learn in English or Japanese - I want him to learn both. I try at home, but I am his Mum, so he's not so patient with me! We are trying to learn kanji together, and I also have cards for hirigana, and will soon have for ABCs, but in the end, it's not the same as having a supportive environment with other kids, where using both languages doens't provide shock and horror in other kids. My friend's child, who goes to the same school as my son, is starting to become shy to speak English, and this is what I don't want for my son!

If there is anyone out there who is interested in starting a school in Beppu, I would love to hear from you. I love the Reggio Emilio method of teaching, and would ideally like a creative, fun but INFORMATIVE school for my child. I think also there's room for lots of Japanese kids as well in a school such as this! I imagine much like a high school, they can take some lessons in English and some in Japanese, if they perhaps have one teacher in the morning and one in the afternoon. In addition, this would also bring the community together, because everyone can communicate. At the moment, my Japanese is not so good, but I am expected to sit in volunteer meetings, not understanding a word, let alone get any information on the lessons and progress of my child! This is by no means the school's fault, but I really do need a school that suits our situation!

Two things I suggest for anyone interested is 1. either coordinate a good carpooling service or provide a bus and 2. provide after-school classes for parents who work.

Thanks everyone! I can be contacted on: empress_willhemina [at]

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