Feb 1, 2014


I've been reflecting a lot on language and culture these days. Julie's eighteenth month has ushered in an explosion of new words and comprehension. We've reached that stage where we really need to watch our language, as she mimics everything--especially those words that we would like her to never learn! But there is also the joy in hearing her use new words in context, while stomping around the room with glee and pride.

Just this morning, Julie pointed at the cats and murmured, "Kitty", "Neko", "Gato", "Le chat", and then flashed me a knowing smile. I felt a little flutter in my heart.

Julie is our world baby--Japanese, Mexican, and a mish-mash of various European countries. She loves her Baa-ba and Abuelita, and knows that the English books are for Daddy to read, while the Japanese books are Mommy's specialty. I always knew that I would raise my child to speak Japanese, as it is such a huge part of who I am. My mother did the same for me, and it is one of the most precious gifts that she gave me. By gifting me with a second language, she opened the door to another culture, and all the amazing people and experiences that have come with it. I would not be who I am without my other culture. I know she must have struggled to keep up with teaching me sometimes, as we lived in small town America, with not many Japanese people to speak with on a regular basis. It was also a less accepting time, and children's curiosity is often akin to brutal, unpolished honesty. I so desperately wanted to fit in and not stand out, that I would frequently resist with all my might. In public, I  responded to my mother in English. Thankfully, she persevered, and for this I will be forever grateful. In turn, I will do all I can to pass this gift on to the next generation.

Expressing oneself through different cultures and languages can be difficult. There is a constant adjustment and re-adjustment of self depending on where you are and who you are speaking to at the moment. Sometimes I get tongue tied, and I feel lost between cultures, not knowing where and if I belong. But these days, I mostly relish living in that grey area between cultures. With growth comes a certain confidence and peace. My deepest desire is that Julie will experience all of this, too--the questioning, the longing, and the sweet knowing that comes through the journey. I hope she comes to find there is such beauty in that land of in between, and that she has the language to navigate it all with grace.


  1. A interesting post makes me think it's how my boyfriend must feel at times. We're raising our daughter bilingual too (my boyfriend is Portuguese) and it's fascinating to watch how she's learning two languages. Sometimes she's asked something in one and answers in another. I'm so in awe of everything her little brain is taking in.

  2. It's just amazing how they soak everything up isn't it? I wish my brain still worked like that :-)


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