Feb 18, 2012

Environmental Print Part II

Last month I talked about my search for environmental print in our neighbourhood for my son to read. I was a little surprised when it actually turned out that there was more English around than hiragana, the first Japanese syllabary kids in Japan learn in school.

I've decided to take things into my own hands. I got a pen and a pack of sticky labels and went to work.  Half an hour later I had a hundred labels stuck all over items in our house.
I tried to keep the hiragana words a little separate from the English words just so he can work on one at a time. Also because it is just plain easier to read hiragana. If you know the name of the character, you know how to read, no letters with 5 different readings!

When possible I put the Japanese word on the opposite side of the English word.

Also, I neglected to realize that my eye level is not my son's eye level. Since I did this at night I took a tape measure up to his futon, checked his eye level, and then redid about 12 of my stickers.  Thank goodness for pealable labels!

Spinky was really interested when he woke up the next morning, it's kind of like a literacy Easter Egg hunt. He likes finding and reading them, and to make another game out of it sometimes I set him tasks- like find a word with g  or d, or two words with e. The first time we did that he took them all down! Now he just has to tell me that it is the toilet door or the egg in the fridge.

I'd say that in the week we've had this up he has learned about half the 50 words I put up in English, and about 3/4 of the Japanese words. I add these words into his daily writing practice and if he can read it without sounding it out I think he knows the word.

I have purposely avoided saying anything about the Japanese, but he hasn't asked me any questions about it either. I'm not sure if that's because the hiragana is self-explanatory or if it's because he associates me with English by now.  He has had some English questions (why are there two o's in door?) that have been hard for me to answer though!

I really recommend this environmental print activity for anyone with an emerging reader. We did it in two languages, but I think that it would be fine for monolingual families or just to do in the heritage language for multilingual families.

I wonder if there are any other countries in which the first syllabary children learn is hard to find in which this would be a good activity?

See the first post on Environmental Print here.

*This post is for February's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, which I am hosting! Please comment here or email me if you want to participate, and definitely check back on Feb. 23 for the best blog posts about bilingualism this month!


  1. I love this idea! It sounds like Spinky is having a lot of fun with it. Aleksander is a little young for this activity, but when reading starts in a couple of years, I'll definitely be giving it a try. It's great to know that it took so little time, too! And like you said - good thing for removable labels :)
    Looking forward to the Carnival!

  2. This is a great idea! I should do it with my kids. Now I feel like I am motivated to teach my children Japanese. I can write in Hiragana followed by Roman letters for phonetic purpose. I am sure my 4 years old will learn listening to her siblings. Thanks for the great idea!!!

  3. Great idea! I think this would've helped me in my own study of languages (just have to adjust the eye level :-)

  4. Fantastic idea! I´ll definitely be doing this when my daughter is old enough to start reading!


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