All about children!

About a week  ago, I received an email from a reader who, after reading some of my posts about bilingualism, wanted to share her story about growing up bilingual. Here’s Misa’s story. 

What would you do, if your child had to become bilingual? My life changed just like that, when my mom gave birth to me in North Carolina, U.S.A.

            My hair is black, my eyes are brown, my skin is yellow and I could speak both Japanese and English. I was born in North Carolina and stayed there for a year and then moved to Georgia. I don’t actually remember the days when I lived in North Carolina, so my life practically started in Georgia, is what I think. Living in America was nothing different to me. Although my parents are both Japanese, and of course I’m Japanese, my home town is America, so nothing got in my way. I went to school in America and acted like American like every child does. I understood myself as Japanese, but inside my heart was all American. To think about it now, maybe it was weird, but that how I was those days. When I was in 4th grade, I was going to school normally. When one of the students in my class asked me, “You look Japanese, but speak English with no trouble. You speak Japanese too right? So, which one are you?”

            That gave me a shock. Since I was born in America and had been living until then, I never thought about who I really was. As a 4th grader, nothing really came up on my mind. I thought myself as an American because I was born in America and I wanted to be an American because that was how I grew up to be, but is that actually the truth? Then, an idea came up to me, when I thought about my other school, Japanese school, popped into my head. Japanese school is an ordinary school that I went to during my American life, only on Saturdays, studying for 7 hours every week. Those days, I hated to go to Japanese school because I didn’t know why I had to learn Japanese when I was in America. I loved America and prayed that I would never leave America and was just confused of my mixed life. I loved my friends there, but I never liked to study about Japan. Maybe I was just stupid, but that’s how I honestly felt during those days. Though I didn’t like to study in Japanese School, when I thought about the question my classmate asked me, maybe that was why my parents made me go to Japanese school. What I thought was that maybe my parents understood my inside feeling and that’s why they made me go to Japanese school only on Saturdays. They probably didn’t want me to forget the feeling to be Japanese since they are Japanese. Though I thought about that, I still don’t really know the actual answer to the question, but I hope it has got a little closer to the answer of what I wanted.

            On June 26, 2008, my life in America ended. I had to move to Japan for my dad’s work. At first, I begged my parents to leave me in America, but nothing changed their mind. They took me to Japan to let me see the outer world of America. It wasn’t like I had never gone outside of America, but that was what they told me to persuade to come. Once I got there, I took a test to go to the school and succeeded. From September, that was where I went. That school that I went to aimed of policy like America with much freedom like no uniform and you could wear any hairstyle you would like, but probably because it was in Japan, it was nothing like America’s school. Though that was the truth about the school I went to, since each and every one of them was from a different country. I liked the way how each student in school had their very own thought. As I say, they each had their own color to themselves. For example, if you give each country in this world a color, that person that has been living there, would have that color inside of them. And also, if that person moved to another country, that person will get that color inside of them as well. Like that, the school I went to had many colors. Meaning, unless you were not living in the totally the same place everywhere with someone else, no one would have the same color as you. And that was how, I explain my unique school as a rainbow with many more patterns. Thanks to that, I was able to not blend in, but get along well with my very good friends.

            I might go through many troubles living in this country, going to this school, but because everyone has their own thought, I think I will be able to get it over with, with many people’s advice.

            I hope, when I end my life, that I would be able to understand of who I really am and why I was born in this weird colorful life.

Thanks Misa!

What a beautiful way to describe being bilingual! So, what color/s are you?

About Misa: She is a 16 year old high school student who is still living…you guessed it, Japan!


Comments on: "Growing up bilingual: Misa’s Story" (9)

  1. Lauren Holstein said:

    Thank you Misa, for sharing your beautiful story! It is a wonderful way to talk about growing up bilingual or bicultural in this country, as soooooo many people do. It is a good reminder for people not to judge or try to put a “label” on everyone. You never know what someone else is feeling. My color is mostly American, with a little bit Ireland and Germany mixed in (from my family heritage) and just a hint of Mexico (from when I lived there!). Thanks for the great post! 🙂

  2. hello:) Misa, this is a great story.I am also a 16 year old bilingual girl who grew up in Tennessee.I now currently go to an international school in Japan. I love your story, and it was very heartwarming to know that there are people out there in the world with similar experiences. Thanks again for sharing your life story.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Vanessa – and thanks to Misa for sharing!

    It’s interesting to read about the Saturday language school since we’re currently trying to figure out whether or not it makes sense to sent our daughter back there 🙂 I think our situation is a bit different in that she has a little more awareness that she is both Canadian and German than Misa says she had, but part of me wants her to go to somehow incorporate this feeling more. The other part of me doesn’t want her to hate German – hence the trying to figure it out part 🙂

    • I think anything that becomes part of your life, your routine, and approached with joy will be accepted and enjoyed. Just mnake sure it doesn’t become a negative experience. 😀

  4. Misa, I would be interested to hear about your linguistic experiences in Japan–for example, did you have any trouble understanding your peers (maybe the students used slang that you didn’t hear from your parents and teachers back home)? Do you feel “more” bilingual now? Do you enjoy reading in Japanese? Do you still count and do math in your head in English?

    This is so interesting–thanks for sharing!

  5. Loved it! So interesting! I was born to a Peruvian dad and a Mexican mother in California. I grew up bilingual and at first wanted to distance myself from my hispanic background. With time, I am learning to embrace it. I also have felt “weird” because I didn’t really know who I was. I felt American, but not really. I was 1/2 Mexican and 1/2 Peruvian, my parents were raising me with their hispanic traditions, but I didn’t really feel Mexican or Peruvian. Who am I???? Today, I am married to a Frenchman and we live in Paris, France. We are raising our three children trilingual and teaching them to love and embrace their rich heritage. They love it. We are all children of God, no matter where we were born or raised or by what parents or what language we speak, color of skin, etc. We all have differences and similarities that make our lives so much more colorful. I’m a rainbow! 😉

    • I love it when I hear other stories about people being in multicultural/multilingual families! Very soon we won’t be able to separate ourselves and we will be one big human family and knowing more languages will be the rule not the exception! Thanks for sharing your rainbow life!

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