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Having a child with a Japanese wife

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Hi guys,

With great pride can I tell you that my wife and I are expecting our first child, a daughter.
Everything is going well, but there are some things that I would like to ask your opinion about.

For example, the practicality of the name(s) we will choose. In the Netherlands no one really cares bout your name, due to the continuous influx of foreign cultures since the 50's. However I can imagine that in a more homogeneous culture like Japan, you will still stand out with a foreign name. Is this something you guys took into account when naming your children? perhaps double naming or just a Japanese name that sounded "international" enough?

Also, I speak mostly English with my wife, but my parents do not speak English at all. Is it doable to raise children trilingual, or should you start with one or two languages, and later on incorporate a third?

And, for now, my last question. When raising your children in Japan (if it comes to that), did you experience them to be bullied or ignored for being half Japanese, half foreign? Will they likely be treated the same, or can some mistreatment be expected?
 
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First of all, congratulations :)

I have a Taiwanese woman in my family circles who's using the dual name approach. Her official name is of course Taiwanese and difficult to pronounce (let alone write) for Westerners, so when she's in Belgium she introduces herself to people with a simple Western name instead. Apparently this is customary in Taiwan: during English class you either choose a Western name for yourself or get one assigned by your teacher.

As for bilingual <-> trilingual: that of course depends on where your daughter will be spending most of her time (Netherlands or Japan). This is not yet very clear from your post.

No idea about how half-Japanese, half-Western people are generally treated in Japan (if this can even be generalized at all), but the research keyword here is ハーフ ("haafu", from "half").
 
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First of all, congratulations :)

I have a Taiwanese woman in my family circles who's using the dual name approach. Her official name is of course Taiwanese and difficult to pronounce (let alone write) for Westerners, so when she's in Belgium she introduces herself to people with a simple Western name instead. Apparently this is customary in Taiwan: during English class you either choose a Western name for yourself or get one assigned by your teacher.

As for bilingual <-> trilingual: that of course depends on where your daughter will be spending most of her time (Netherlands or Japan). This is not yet very clear from your post.

No idea about how half-Japanese, half-Western people are generally treated in Japan (if this can even be generalized at all), but the research keyword here is ハーフ ("haafu", from "half").
Thanks for your reply. Well, the first two years probably the Netherlands, and after that probably Japan. We are still debating about what is best for us in the long run, so no solid plan yet. Either way, the problem of not being able to communicate with grandparents stands, as her grandparents do not speak English either. She strictly does not need to learn the third language once we decide where to settle, but to be flexible and understanding both grandparents, the third language seems necessary. I just realised that not many may have to deal with this, considering the amount of people here that come from a native English speaking country.
 
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First of all congratulations with becoming a father! Don't have to tell you about how it will change your life as that will be in too many ways and you will enjoy learning by time.

We did consider the name a lot. Can't be too Japanese (yamayo) or too western (dutch: kees). There are a lot of names you could use for that. My kids are called "Reo" , "Kyle" (kairu) and "Alan" (aran)

Some names kids of my friends have are anika , sofi and rana for girls, and Tom (tomu or tomuharu), kai and colin. There are a lot of names that could be used in Japan that aren't hard to pronounce and can be used in Japan and other countries. I'll think of more names but think you can easily find them on the net as well.

Regarding the language. A friend of mine speaks dutch at home, the girl speaks Japanese at her kindergarten and English at her English school. I heard when they know dutch its easier to learn English instead of the other way but it all depends on the environment they are in.

Let's say you will live in Japan you could speak English at home, Japanese at school and then some dutch in a playgroup of dutch kids and dutch events organized by the dutch community.

If you would continue to live in Holland, then speak English at home, dutch at school and Japanese among Japanese community and with mom when you are not around.
Make clear with your wife to speak a certain language, when you are home its English but when you aren't they speak Japanese. Or when taking a bath its time to speak dutch. It's possible but all depends on the environment and consistency.

Regarding bullying in Japan. He or she is half and with a population of having only a small percentage of foreigners its hard to do something about it. I live in an area where there are a lot of foreigners so its not strange for Japanese kids to see foreigners so they don't say too much. But I wouldn't live in the country side.
There will be moments that things will be said and questions will be asked. Prepare your child for that but don't over prepare, which is hard. Let your kid know he or she is special in a good way.

Just my 2 yen for now but feel free to ask more or send me a pm.
 
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However I can imagine that in a more homogeneous culture like Japan, you will still stand out with a foreign name. Is this something you guys took into account when naming your children? perhaps double naming or just a Japanese name that sounded "international" enough?
Unless your wife has kept her family name, your children will always be noticed as a mixed nationality. I named my son with a Japanese first name that was easy to pronounce for my American family. I also gave him an American middle name just in case he ever wanted to use it in place of his given first name. Some people do that.

There are names in Japanese that can pass for English-sounding, depending on who's pronouncing them. Emily - Emiri, for example.
Mary - Mari
Karen - Karin

Is it doable to raise children trilingual, or should you start with one or two languages, and later on incorporate a third?
Yes, it's doable. I couldn't tell you how to manage it, but it's definitely been done. We began with English-only between my wife and me and son whenever I was home, but when it was just the two of them, it was all Japanese. And around age 2 we switched so that it was always Japanese between them and always English between him and me (and my wife and me). In our family situation, there is virtually nobody around to pattern English after, and Skype was a rarity to the US, so I felt I had to be his English model as often as possible. Your case might differ or be similar.

When raising your children in Japan (if it comes to that), did you experience them to be bullied or ignored for being half Japanese, half foreign? Will they likely be treated the same, or can some mistreatment be expected?
As far as I have seen, nothing like bullying has ever happened with my son. Your mileage may vary depending on where you live.

I used to work in a private HS, and a couple of the students there were mixed Japanese and another nationality. One thing that stood out was minor, hair color. Hair inspections were done to ensure that students didn't color theirs, but those students were known not to be 100% Japanese blood, so their difference was brushed off without a care. Other than that, I'd have to ask the students themselves what other experiences they may have had. I can tell you that in my son's case, in early elementary school when the foreign teacher came once a month for English lessons, my son was sometimes asked to translate, and it varied on how well he took it. His friends are always amazed that he can switch languages, and it's how you and your child portray it that gives your child a sense of belonging, power, or just nonchalance. I know a couple of "haafu" kids who are pretty shy with their English around their friends because they don't want to stand out as different. THIS is the biggest hurdle you may have to overcome.
 

Petaris

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Congratulations!

We went with Japanese names for all three of our kids. The names we chose though are pretty easily pronounced in English and no one we have met so far has had a hard time with them. We decided on Japanese because it has no negative affect in the USA on them but we felt that it would be beneficial in Japan as it would be a native name.

If/when we move to Japan we will likely be in a smaller town/country area. Bullying has been something we have thought and talked about but we are not overly concerned about it. People seem to be a bit more outgoing and accepting in the Kansai region. Though Davey's post makes me wonder a bit.
 
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Congratulations Cocoichi.
I am British , my wife, Japanese. Both my sons have Western First names with Japanese middle names. We did think about their names very carefully and chose names that were easyish to pronounce for Japanese speakers and scanned well with katakana.
One very annoying situation did occur however, when we got passpsorts for the kids. The western name is transcribed into katakana. They then, rigidly transcribed the katakana back into Romaji for the actual passport. E.g. Oliver ..... オリバ .... Oriba !!
We had a monumental battle over this with our Passport guy / office, but most other friends I know had no difficulties getting the correct version of the name first time. Maybe others can confirm that our experience was a rarity.
We raised them bilingually with me speaking only English and the wife only Japanese. Our experience was different form yours, as we were only in Japan for the first 7 years then it was English speaking countries.They are fluent in English, their Japanese is almsot native level, their Japanese reading writing is lower JHS level at best! Your situation is a fair bit more complicated, so I don't feel I can advise you on this aspect.
I would echo Glenski's comments about bullying ... apart from a couple of minor incidents, mine didn't experience it, and I think you as parents play a vital role in giving your kids a sense of pride in their differences. Give them the support and self confidence to overcome the 'hafu' comments and little discriminations they will inevitably experience.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. They will be fine. Your daughter and others like her can hopefully make internationalisation a reality in Japan, not just a buzz word.
 

Mike Cash

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For the entire time my children were going to our local public schools I never heard a single word from them regarding any unpleasant remarks or actions toward them from other children due to them being haafu.

It was only after they were both grown that I found out they just hadn't told us about it.

Never assume that because you don't see or hear about something that it means it isn't happening.
 

Lothor

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Congratulations and all the best with fatherhood.
I've got two mixed-race sons, age 9 and 6, and live in a part of Tokyo with not many non-Japanese.
The children have not received any special attention from teachers at school or nursery because of their mixed-race status or much interest from their peers. As babies, they did get a lot of 'kawaii haafu' nonsense from girls on trains!
I receive quite a bit of interest from small children but it's nearly always been 'eigo!' rather than 'gaijin!', basically children here don't seem to have hang-ups about foreigners.
My wife is an experienced elementary school teacher in Tokyo and on average has one mixed-race child in her classes (usually Japanese dad, Chinese or Filipino mother) and has never come across a problem of race-based bullying.
 
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Wow!
One is away for one day, and suddenly this topic is filled with great and extensive advice. Both personal and from an academic point of view.

Thank you very much guys! It means a lot and it is really appreciated. I will take the advice on board, and discuss these findings with my wife.

I think I will definitely throw in a southern Dutch dialect for her to learn, so that she can fully appreciate her roots (she can later lie about it on her resume, and say it's Flemish).
 
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My wife and I have two children (wife is Japanese). She did not keep her surname and at the time we were thinking our kids would be raised in the United States. We ended up going with Japanese first names and the middle names Japanese English. So one is Mizuho Naomi and the other Kanoho Erika. That way they can have a choice of what to be called when they get to the point of kids making fun of other kids names. However, we are now in the process of moving to Japan (fly on the 28th of Feb) we may decide to change our family name to my wifes surname, or at the very least she might change hers back.

Edit: Forgot to mention. Our kids are being raised bilingual, with hopes we will get them into a 3rd language (Chinese or Spanish if they do not have a preference, or their preference) starting early elementary school.
 

JFL

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Congratulations on the new addition to you family.

I haven't read all the responses in the thread, so my apologies if I am repeating anything. My wife and I chose names based on what worked both in English and Japanese. That's actually pretty easy for girls but very limited for boys. (We were lucky and had two girls.)

As far as bullying goes, we haven't had any trouble (yet). My oldest daughter goes to school in Osaka, and as far as we can tell, she's treated as normally as everyone else. And she didn't know hardly a lick of Japanese when she first started.
 
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My Japanese wife and I named our son with an English given name and Japanese middle name (named after his grandfather). We did the reverse with our daughter. Our daughter, with the Japanese first name, was bullied in middle school. There are all sorts of mixed-race people here, so it may have been the name that caused the bullying. We didn't find out about it until years after the bullying occurred.

In my experience, Chinese, Koreans (most), and other Asians here adopt a Western first name. Japanese keep their own names. I've often wondered why the difference.
 

JFL

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If I were to guess, I'd say it's because Japanese names are easier to produce than Chinese or Korean names. Some of them are even the same or similar to western names: Miki, Erin, Hana, Ken, et cetera.
 
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Hi guys,

With great pride can I tell you that my wife and I are expecting our first child, a daughter.
Everything is going well, but there are some things that I would like to ask your opinion about.

For example, the practicality of the name(s) we will choose. In the Netherlands no one really cares bout your name, due to the continuous influx of foreign cultures since the 50's. However I can imagine that in a more homogeneous culture like Japan, you will still stand out with a foreign name. Is this something you guys took into account when naming your children? perhaps double naming or just a Japanese name that sounded "international" enough?

Also, I speak mostly English with my wife, but my parents do not speak English at all. Is it doable to raise children trilingual, or should you start with one or two languages, and later on incorporate a third?

And, for now, my last question. When raising your children in Japan (if it comes to that), did you experience them to be bullied or ignored for being half Japanese, half foreign? Will they likely be treated the same, or can some mistreatment be expected?
I would not worry about sticking out. Unless you are also Asian yourself in which your child can "blend" being fully Asian, when your child is biracial there is no getting around the not sticking out part. I think the best thing to do is to allow him or her a unique name and to raise the child to take pride in being different, and that it is okay. I know as for myself, no matter how much I learn Japanese I will not turn Asian. I will be Caucasian until the day I die, and if I marry a Japanese woman and have a child, my child will be biracial. I will not be able to help my future child from the fact that the public will immediately be able to see that he/she is a hafu. I therefore do not care to give them a Japanese name in order to try to fit them in. They will be who they will be and they will stick out, and will have no choice but to learn to deal with the challenges that are brought upon them.
 
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My wife is going to kill me if she found out I am telling it here, but we have come up with a name: Mio (澪). It is easy to use yet something we like. She will have just that name, and not a second western name.
 
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Well, about the language, I don't think it will be a problem. Children can learn a lot of languages simultaneously with no problem. The only thing you must be sure of is that they are able to discriminate the languages. In other words, your kid must speak language 1 with you, language 2 with your wife, language 3 in the school, and so it goes... Or else he/she will mix things up.

Or at least, that's what I learned from my Child Development classes. Hope it is useful.
 
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Textbooks seem to express things too simplistically. It's not as easy as you or your class makes it out. Experience talking here.
 
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Hi guys,

My wife gave birth to Mio chan this Tuesday. I'm incredibly tired, but also incredibly proud. She's very beautiful, so she must have gotten most of her genes from her mother.

After a small break I will continue to post on this forum, but as a father my contributions will be even wiser :)
 
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