Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

What age to change countries?

Emily and I ran into her friend’s father today at Irvine’s Central Bark dog park. While Emily played with the dogs, the father and I got to know one another and compared notes. He’d brought his family to the United States from Japan four years prior, and we shared some interesting war stories about the challenging process of finding work, getting a visa for our spouse, and acclimating children to their new home and environment. Perhaps the most interesting information he shared was relative to his two children’s experience of switching from Japanese to English. And transitioning from Japanese culture to American culture.

My new friend’s kids arrived in the USA at ages seven and eleven. In short, the seven year old boy (now eleven) has almost entirely lost his Japanese in the four years since they arrived. This, despite the mother’s efforts to only speak Japanese in the home and to her children. The eleven year old girl is now fifteen and speaks both languages fluently and happily switches between either language, displaying an evident pride in being bilingual. Emily say’s that her friend’s Japanese is very good, though it hasn’t progressed much past the middle school level when she left Japan. Emily thinks that a half year back in Japan would bring the girl on par with her Japanese peers for speaking; though reading and writing will take longer to catch up. Both children are completely Americanized though the boy no longer relates to Japan at all while the girl continues to feel a very strong connection to all things Japanese.




One comment on “What age to change countries?

  1. Frederick
    January 19, 2016

    I moved to Switzerland being eight years old coming from Brookfield, Ill. Now I think I am not a Swiss and not an American – I am an “earthling” who is nowhere at home (some kind of lost in space)….

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