Multicolored (Multicultural) Butterfly

by contributor · 3 comments

Multilingual Living: Multicultural Butterfly
By Trisha Yonekura
Photo Credit: Paul Wever
Originally appeared in Multilingual Living Magazine

“Come on, Bailey, let’s go,” I said waving good bye to his day care mates and the teachers.

“Mommy, no English, please. My ears hurt,” came Bailey’s reply like a thousand needles right to my heart.

I can understand how he feels. He wants to fit in. He wants to have friends. He wants to play and have fun. These are all great, wonderful things. I just don’t want him to forget the “English side” of him too.

When he first started going to daycare, one of the teachers pulled me aside and said, “Do you always speak English to Bailey?”

“Yes, I guess so,” was my reply.

“That’s not really a good idea,” she shook her head, “He needs Japanese more than English.”

At that exact moment it occurred to me that cultural sensitivity wasn’t part of her training. It made me mad to hear. But more than that, it made me sad. As the saying in Japan goes, “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

It is hard to maintain your own cultural identity when you live in a foreign country. As hard as I try to pass on traditions like trick or treating, Easter egg hunts, the real meaning of Christmas, it all just seems to get swallowed up and mutated to the Japanese way. This is something I have never gotten used to.

I have never gotten used to the idea of Christmas being solely about presents. I have never gotten used to the idea of such a strong group mentality. I have never gotten used to being criticized for doing it the “American way.”

I am sad but I am soldiering on with plans for a Halloween party for Bailey’s day care (the “American way”) with bobbing for apples and treat bags and costumes.

Hopefully, someday English won’t hurt Bailey’s ears as much and he will be proud of the fact that he is unique. Someday my caterpillar will emerge from his cocoon a beautiful, multicolored butterfly.

Baily’s mother, Trisha Yonekura, is an American married to a Japanese. She and her family live in Japan. You can learn more about her and her family at:

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rea January 17, 2012 at 12:39 am

Here here! We soldier on. Good job.


2 Lilly January 17, 2012 at 10:53 am

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3 Tatiana Asakura February 3, 2012 at 4:13 am

It is not the hardest thing to teach kid your language, the hardest task seems to keep it up despite the popular opinion.
I am being told the same things as the kid is half Japanese and half Russian in Holland, and wherever she goes, there is a comment from someone about what she should better do and what language she needs or doesn’ t need.
I am learning to cut it short and continue speaking my way to the daughter. This winter in Japan she started translating for me, being happy and confident about her unique skills.
Once a woman complained of my speaking a strange language to my daughter on a playground. Why, asked I. Because I DONT UNDERSTAND was the reply)))
So, that is a good reason to make me feel ashamed of my language and culture, isn’t it?


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