Posted by: balladofyoko | September 8, 2008

Passing On the Culture

For further thought and discussion: this New York Times article about second-generation Asian American parents teaching their heritage to their kids. (thanks, Angry Asian Man) The first couple paragraphs, in particular, echo a conversation I once had with Lipby should we have kids.

For myself, it is still my goal that I learn Japanese to the point that I’m fluent, but even in my own life, my language skills aren’t reinforced. In my job, I read in a host of Western languages. When I speak to my parents, we may begin a conversation in Japanese if I specifically ask to, but our communication quickly degrades into some weird Japanese-English hybrid. Unlike the parents in the article, I would relish taking language classes with my child.

I imagine the easiest way to transmit a culture for me is through food. I’ve learned a lot of the traditional dishes from my mom– I need to make sure she teaches me a few more while she’s still alive. But to learn the intangibles of an ever-changing culture while living in a different one? Not to mention helping to instill confidence in a child of mixed races in country still evolving to accept multiculturalism? I haven’t yet figured out how to approach these issues.



  1. At least you know that you’re on a moving platform aiming at a moving target.

    Cuisine is so powerful. One of its strengths is that it’s usually positive. Kids may balk at being dragged to language lessons or cultural activities, but they’ll always have fond memories of tasty foods and savory aromas.

  2. In my opinion, it would take a community to make it work. Not just classes, but friends in those classes, communication between the parents (some of whom would no doubt speak Japanese as a first language), visits to each other’s homes… a person can’t really feel part of a culture unless they see that culture in the world around them, in people or places outside the home as well as inside the home.

  3. Geminica- I wonder where that community is. It isn’t here.

  4. Funny you should mention this, I have been thinking about this for the past month too.

    What to do once kids come along? my answer has always been “well, I will speak Spanish, Thad can speak English”….

    I crave [some of] the music often, I crave the food almost daily but I’ve noticed that unless i’m speaking to my parents I don’t speak much in Spanish any more! How can I teach something when I am not putting an effort to even continue on with it myself?

  5. Craftangie reminds me of a story that a former co-worker once told me. He’s from Puerto Rico and his wife’s from the USA. When they had their daughter, he would speak to the kid in Spanish and his wife spoke to her in English. When she started speaking sentences they were a combination of Spanish and English. I can’t remember if they were going to change their approach because of that.

  6. Omg I’m so sorry I didn’t reply sooner but yes Dewey and Johnny are back!!! Dewey is the emerging tech. librarian at my library, it is all very exciting. Johnny is in the Masters program at Penn for sculpture. And Dewey is with child. It’s really great and I am so happy to have them back.


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