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23 September 2014
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Who do you speak Japanese with?
"I usually speak English at home and community. But Japanese is my mother language and I usually speak with my Japanese friends who live in Britain." E. Anderson"Born in Japan and have a Japanese father and British mother. Went to Japanese schools until age 16, so read, speak and write Japanese. I still read Japanese for work, but have less opportunity to speak Japanese, other than with my father and brother. Although my brother and I are both bilingual in Japanese and English, because Japanese was established as the main language of communication when we were young, we still continue to speak to each other in Japanese, 13 years on after we moved to the UK." Shogo Suzuki

Japanese in the UK today:
"In Scotland, Japanese are quite rare, but I would like to teach Japanese to our son both speaking and writing.

I strongly believe the language is most important to show the culture. I would like our son will be a polite and fair person for everyone in the world.

We are a bilingual family (Japanese/English) with two children who speak Japanese at home and English elsewhere. There are a tiny number of other Japanese speakers in the area with whom we have contact, but Yoko teaches Japanese at the Japanese Saturday School in London, where there is a large community. There are also many pockets of Japanese speakers in the UK, some of them quite substantial, centered around mostly industrial areas such as Telford, Cardiff and Swindon. " Yoko & David Hatcher

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If someone refers to you as a Cuddie Wifter, a Ciotach or Corrie Fisted it's probably because they have realised you are left-handed.

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Japanese in the British Isles by Viv Edwards

Japanese is spoken by approximately 125 million people worldwide. It is sometimes classed as a member of the Altaic language family, but its exact relationship with other languages remains to be determined.

Japanese writing is extremely complex and is made up of three different systems:

• kanji, a logographic script derived from Chinese characters, and often used for the main content words

• hiragana, a syllabic script used for additional grammatical information

• katakana, also a syllabic script, used for representing English or any foreign words other than those of Chinese origin

In newspapers and magazines, Japanese is usually written from top to bottom in columns which run from right to left. However, the print in many textbooks runs horizontally from left to right.

The number of Japanese speakers overseas has increased as the Japanese economy has expanded and there are currently approximately 50,000 in the UK. Most are sent by companies or the government for varying periods of time, or come as students. There are also long-term settlers - restaurateurs, estate and travel agents, and retailers serving the Japanese community.

The overseas Japanese tend to move periodically from one place to another, ultimately returning to Japan. This poses a range of difficulties for children's education. Schooling in Japan is highly pressured as young people compete for the highly coveted university places which will ensure them a management position and a job for life. Children educated outside Japan will inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage. Some attend Japanese boarding schools abroad; others go to Saturday schools. Special consideration is also given to children who are returning to Japan from overseas.

Your Comments
What is your experience of Japanese?

L. Nielsen & K. Ohashi, West Midlands
We are a bilingual Japanese/English that have just come to live in the UK in April. Prior to coming here our children had grown up in Japan and spoke little English, but after just 6 months here English is beginning to take over! It's very important to try to keep both languages going. We brought many books and DVD's with us from Japan. We also try to make our children proud of their Japanese heritage. We emphasise the Japanese moral and spritual values: a love of family and children, working hard, cooperation, and empathy for others. Luckily there are a few Japanese families around us so we can hook up with them to read stories or celebrate Japanese festivals, and eat Japanese food (oh, how we miss Japanese food!).

Mary Whitsell from Dumfriesshire
Our family (two parents, two children) lived in Japan for many years. Both our children lived in Japan as infants (the youngest was born there) and attended Japanese schools. We all speak, read and write Japanese to some degree. We moved to the U.K. when the children were ten and seven respectively. It is very difficult to find opportunities to speak Japanese here. Initially our children did not want to be identified with Japan and were reluctant to keep up their Japanese language education (carried on at home in a sporadic and piece-meal fashion), but lately they have become more interested in speaking Japanese. Sadly, they have forgotten much of what they used to know and no longer sound as fluent as they once did. They can still read Japanese, but their writing has suffered even more than their reading and speaking ability. I wish that they could find other U.K. residents who are -- even roughly -- bilingual in Japanese and English, with whom they could find some common linguistic and cultural ground.

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