Radio 101: Holding On To My Native Tongue

Radio 101: Holding On To My Native Tongue

10:12pm Sep 09, 2016
Radio 101 reporter, Hayato Yamanouchi, talks about his relationship with his native language.
Lopa Shah

Radio 101 is WFDD's education program for high school students. Radio 101 reporter, Hayato Yamanouchi, talks about how he's holding on to his ethnic roots while living in America.

Language is one of the most contested areas for children of immigrants. Teachers and friends expect them to speak English in public. But at home, parents are often waging campaigns to get their children to speak the parents' native tongue.

Hayato Yamanouchi emigrated from Japan when he was five years old. His relationship with his native language, Japanese, has changed throughout the years. 

A couple of months after arriving in America, Hayato's mother suggested he go to a Japanese school in Charlotte every Saturday. Hayato's mother, Etsuko Yamanouchi, says that he wanted to go at first. Etsuko believes, though, that he later resented having to go to school six days a week. Hayato agrees. He adds that it didn't help that he was also embarrased that he wasn't "normal".

Wake Forest psychologist, Debbie Best, tells Hayato that kids don't like being different, especially once middle school starts and they want to fit in with their peers.

Hayato relates his memory of being in a grocery store with his parents in middle school. His parents were speaking Japanese.

I thought everybody was looking at us. They probably weren't, but I felt like they did. When we got home, I asked them, "Can you just talk in English?" And they were like, "No!"

Best tells Hayato that there are advantages to being bilingual. She says that bilingual people are more flexible mentally. They can often see things from multiple viewpoints.

So you have this identity that has a foot in both worlds, and sometimes that's a little difficult for a young person to deal with, but it's often a richness.

Hayato's mom says that Hayato now realizes why he should be going to Japanese school and how beneficial it is. Hayato responds that he is now thankful for what his parents did. He says, "Not only am I friends with Japanese people my own age, but I've also kept my mother tongue."