Why Japanese?

I love French. We live in a neighborhood where French is widely spoken and I especially enjoy hearing little children speak French. I can speak better-than-beginner level French, having taught classes in French in Chad (Africa) in my early 20’s. When I got the grand idea for us to learn a language as a family (inspired by my sister), I excitedly asked my husband what he thought about the idea. He presumed we would be learning French (with which he had zero experience) and was not particularly excited, but being the kind man that he is, he said it sounded okay. A bit disappointed in his lack of enthusiasm, I asked him what language he would like us to learn as a family. He thought for a moment and said that if he could pick a language, he would choose for us to learn Japanese.

I knew if we were going to learn a language as a family, it had to be something we were all excited about. If he wasn’t into it, it’d be a flop (or a mom-and-children-only language). I wanted to learn a language as a family more than mastering any specific language, so, I naively said “Well then, let’s learn Japanese!”

Little did I know the complete delight of a language that I would get to learn. And after I found one せんせい (sensei) in particular that made it all so fun, I started to make up silly songs while walking the little ones to and from school, and learning a whole new alphabet alongside my children, fumbling and learning the very awkward-at-first writing systems. I got to be a beginner student again and learn like a little kid alongside my 4-year-old son. My 1-year-old and I would point to animals and, sound-by-sound, awkwardly say their name over and over again until we could make all the sounds into one word.


For easy and quick review of hiragana and katakana. Allows selection of individual characters for review, so when I started out I’d just select あいうえお and then as time went on, add to the selection until I was reviewing all characters. Just 5-10 minutes a few times a week helps me keep quick recollection of characters.


This is where it all started for our family. My sister began homeschooling her 3 school-aged children during Covid and they decided to learn a language as a family. She splurged on one of these boxes ($80) and spoke highly of the quality content. I bought the first Japanese box (focused on the kitchen and food) and soon our family was repeating phrases as the included-app audio said (in Japanese) “I am hungry” or “Please give me an orange”.

The only negative comment I have to say about this wonderful tool is that it teaches the “casual” way to speak Japanese. I didn’t realize it at the time because when I purchased the box I was a 100% newbie and knew 3 words in Japanese (sushi, kimono, sayonara), but Japanese has a casual/friendly way of speaking and a polite/respectful way of speaking. Primarily it is different endings in vowels and an added word in some cases to be especially polite. I’d rather my family learn the polite version of Japanese first and then the casual version, so that when we meet Japanese people (in our neighborhood, when traveling, when ordering from a Japanese restaurant), we can be respectful and speak in a polite way. Thus, I need to be a step ahead of the lessons so that I can say the polite version whenever the audio says the casual version of a word.

Even so, initially, this was a great way to dive in and start speaking immediately, albeit we were initially learning the casual way to speak.