Japanese Bilingualism Essay

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Migrant women in Japan can teach their children their own languages and raise them as bilinguals. Yet, ML transmission is hindered by the overwhelming dominance of the Japanese language, which is the only language that enjoys official status in Japan (Coulmas & Watanabe, 2002). The ethnolinguistic homogeneity that is prevalent in Japan arguably puts pressure on migrants to speak Japanese. The many migrants from Asia or with Japanese descent, such as third-generation Koreans, do not stand out in society due to their Japanese-like appearances and use of Japanese, (Tsuneyoshi, 2011). Their low visibility coupled with the apparent lack of linguistic diversity in society arguably discourages migrant parents from openly using their ML. Indeed, some Spanish speakers in exogamous relationships felt that Japanese people reacted negatively to their use of Spanish in public (Vitale, 2011). Given its global prestige and use, the only ML that is widely recognized in Japan is English. The term ‘bilingual’ is generally associated with English-Japanese speakers, but not with other ML speakers (Yamamoto, 2001). English-speaking parents are generally…show more content…
Kanno (2008) argues that Japanese education provides unequal access to bilingualism. While addictive English-Japanese bilingualism is fostered among children of privileged families who attend international schools, minority children in public elementary schools receive remedial education in order to acquire basic academic skills and qualifications. For them, ‘bilingualism is eliminated as a luxury that they cannot afford’ and consequently, ‘Japanese monolingualism is the outcome, if not the intended goal’ of minority education (p.178). This is evident in the case of young returnees from China who accepted the priority of learning Japanese over maintaining Chinese because Japanese proficiency was necessary to fully participate in Japanese society (Tomozawa,
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