Impact belief is the conviction that parents have that they can aect their children’s
language development (De Houwer, 1999). This paper investigates how parents’ impact
belief is shaped and how it transpires into language management which supports
the bilingual and biliterate development of children in exogamous families. Interviews
with eight English-speaking parents raising English-Japanese bilingual children in
Tokyo, Japan were analyzed using the constructive grounded approach (Charmaz, 2014).
The results revealed that the parents’ impact belief was inuenced by their
individual experiences, the support of their Japanese spouses, and peer inuence.
Specically, it was positively aected by other parents with older bilingual
children. The parents’ impact belief was also strengthened by their involvement in
‘communities of practice,’ i.e., English playgroup and weekend school. Their strong
impact belief led to language management eorts which included their insistence
on their children speaking English and the regular practice of home literacy activities.
Keywords: bilingualism, biliteracy, family language policy, language ideologies, impact
Address for correspondence: Janice Nakamura, Sagami Women's University, 2-1-1 Bunkyo, Minami-ku,
2520383, Sagamihara-shi, Japan. E-mail: email@example.com
Psychology of Language and Communication 2019, Vol. 23, No. 1
Sagami Women's University, Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan
International Christian University, Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF IN RAISING BILINGUAL
AND BILITERATE CHILDREN IN JAPAN
Parents play a central role in fostering bilingualism (Hakuta & D’ Andrea,
1992), and active bilingualism may be considered as the direct product of
a successful family language policy (FLP) (Schwartz & Verschik, 2013).
Central to a successful FLP is the parents’ language ideology
(Curdt-Christiansen, 2009; King, Fogle, & Logan-Terry, 2008). Language
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
ideology is dened as ‘a set of beliefs concerning a particular language, or
possibly language in general’ (King, 2000, p. 168). Unlike an attitude, which
tends to be more specic, e.g., towards a particular language, a language
ideology is global in nature and reects an individual’s broad perspectives on
society or philosophy of life (Baker, 1992). Shaped by interwoven individual
factors, e.g., a missed opportunity to acquire a language (King & Fogle,
2006), and societal inuences, e.g., socio-political and economic benets of
language mastery (Canagarajah, 2008; Curdt-Christiansen, 2009), parents’
language ideology even leads to the development of lay theories, e.g., early
bilingual development is an unconditional benet for children (Moin, Scwartz,
& Leikin, 2013).
However, parents’ expression of their language ideologies in surveys and
interviews do not necessarily match their home language practices (Baker,
1992). King (2000) explains that such disparities may be attributed to the fact
that overt, expressed language attitudes may only represent one of the many
language ideologies that minority language speakers may have, and which
inuence their language behavior. Particularly, the acknowledgment of the
family’s role in minority language transmission conicts with the valorization
of the societal language for social mobility (Canagarajah, 2008). However,
the mismatch between language ideology and language practice may also
be attributed to parents’ lack of ‘impact belief ’. The term was coined by
De Houwer (1999, p.83) to describe the belief that ‘parents can exercise some
sort of control over their children’s linguistic functioning’. She distinguished
parents’ impact beliefs from their attitudes toward a particular language,
languages in general and bilingualism. Strong impact beliefs refer to parents’
conviction that their language use has a direct eect on what their children
will learn to say. Conversely, weak impact beliefs describe parents’ conviction
that they have little control over their children’s language development.
Baker (1992) has also touched upon this concept. He suggested that language
attitude has three components – cognitive, aective and readiness for action.
The latter refers to a ‘behavioral intent or plan of action’ (p.13). This action
or conative component of attitude closely relates to impact belief because
parents who have strong impact belief arguably demonstrate readiness for
action, i.e., they act to realize what they believe in. Therefore, parents’
impact belief is an ‘enabling’ factor of FLP. It reects their willingness,
determination, ability, and condence in playing an active role in their children’s
In her three-tier model, De Houwer (1999) proposed that both parental
attitudes and impact beliefs exert inuence on their linguistic choices and
interaction strategies, which in turn aect children’s language development.
Therefore, whereas positive attitudes towards the two languages being acquired
by the child and to early child bilingualism are a basic and necessary condition for
active bilingualism, they are an insucient condition on their own. She argued
139 J. NAKAMURA
that parents must also have an impact belief regarding their roles in their
children’s language development. Without an impact belief, there would be
insucient support for the development of active bilingualism.
Some studies lend support to this notion. For instance, Zapotec-speaking
parents in the US regarded their Los Angeles-born children as incapable of
understanding their native language and addressed them only in Spanish (Pérez
Báez, 2013). The parents did not think that they could or should inuence
their children’s language acquisition process and therefore did not engage in
language intervention measures to maintain Zapotec in the home. Likewise,
Papua New Guinean parents believed that they had no inuence on their
children’s language and spoke very little to them (Kulick, 1992). The lack of
impact belief is not necessarily culture-related. Migrant parents from China,
Turkey, Iran, and Serbia accepted with resignation that they had minimal
control over their children’s minority language development after assessing
the societal dominance of English in Canada and their children’s extended
exposure to English in daycare (Chumak-Horbatsch, 2008).
Velázquez’s (2013) observations of Spanish attrition and incomplete
acquisition in Latino families despite Latino mothers’ strong positive
attitudes towards the transmission of Spanish also demonstrated how such
attitudes are a necessary but insucient factor for supporting minority
language transmission. She likened the gap between a positive attitude towards
the minority language and positive actions in fostering bilingualism to other
parental beliefs about activities perceived as benecial to children (e.g.,
making healthier food choices) and actual, sustained engagement in them.
She suggested that parents need to know how active bilingualism can be
achieved, which arguably relates to beliefs of their own roles in their children’s
language development. Likewise, the practice of second-generation Turkish
parents in the Netherlands of using the minority language to children only until
school age despite a strong Turkish maintenance ideology probably indicated
a lack of impact belief that they could still aect their children’s language
development at older ages (Bezcioglu-Goktolga & Yağmur, 2018). Parents’
impact belief may also vary according to the language in question. Their
impact belief on maintaining the minority language may be weak but can be
comparatively stronger concerning the acquisition of the majority language
(Navarro & Macalister, 2017).
An impact belief is probably best inferred from parents’ actions, particularly
their eorts in home language management. Parents with a strong impact
belief are likely to assume authority as the family’s ‘language manager’
(Spolsky, 2009). They probably make explicit and deliberate eorts to activate
their children’s bilingualism through the use of discourse strategies (e.g.,
Juan-Garau & Pérez-Vidal, 2001; Lanza, 2004). Whenever the societal
language is used, parents may explicitly request the child to translate or feign
non-comprehension so that the utterance is reproduced in the minority
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
language (Chevalier, 2013 ; Döpke, 1992). Literacy activities are another form
of language management which is driven by parents’ impact belief that they
can develop their children’s literacy in the home. Parents with a strong
impact belief are likely to invest much time and eort in teaching literacy by
making original teaching materials (Saunders, 1988) and engaging creative
methods of instruction including drama, costume, puppets, and drawings
(Kopeliovich, 2013) to keep children interested and engaged in the language.
Enrolling children in minority language playgroups, weekend schools
(Spolsky, 2009), minority language tuition (Curdt-Christiansen, 2012), and
correspondence courses (Okita, 2001) also indicate parents’ impact belief in
developing their children’s biliteracy.
Nevertheless, despite a strong language ideology and impact belief, some
parents may nd themselves with children who speak only one of their two
languages. While many parents may regard the exclusive use of a language in
the One-Parent-One-Language (OPOL) setting as the best practice for bilingual
childrearing (Piller & Gerber, 2018), the OPOL approach has been criticized
for being a ‘double monolingualist’ strategy which does not consider
the exible multilingual practices that take place in the home (e.g., Danjo,
2018). The OPOL approach does not guarantee active bilingualism
(De Houwer, 2007), and neither does literacy instruction (Nakamura, 2018;
Smith-Christmas, 2016). Nevertheless, continued use of the minority language
by parents may help children speak the language later on. The children in
Slavkov (2015) and Uribe de Kellett (2002) successfully regained productive
ability in their minority language after a period of non-production. Sustained
eorts to speak the minority language despite the lack of child production
also indicate parents’ strong impact belief that they can encourage their
children’s active bilingualismat older ages.
Bilingualism in exogamous families in Japan
Since the late 1980s, exogamous marriages between Japanese and
non-Japanese people have become increasingly common in Japan. While
the percentage of exogamous marriages peaked at 11% of total registered
marriages in the year 2007, it has consistently remained between 5% to 6%
from years 2011 to 2017 (Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, 2019).
The rising number of non-Japanese spouses has the potential to alter the
linguistic landscape of a society which has been traditionally known for
its linguistic homogeneity. However, non-Japanese parents tend to speak
Japanese to their children (Ishii, 2010; Jabar, 2013; Nakamura, 2015;
Yamamoto, 2005). Language ideology plays a critical role in minority language
transmission, but non-Japanese parents tend to valorize and prioritize the
acquisition of Japanese, and evaluate their minority language negatively
(Nakamura, 2016; Yamamoto, 2002). For some parents, their language
ideology may be driven by their perception of society’s negative evaluation of
141 J. NAKAMURA
their minority language rather than actual experiences. In Nakamura (2016),
a Thai mother chose to speak Japanese to her children in front of their
Japanese kindergarten teacher and grandparents due to her perceived fear that
they would be angry if she used Thai. The tendency of non-Japanese parents
to attach little value to the acquisition of the minority language contributes to
a pro-Japanese FLP and leads to receptive bilingualism or Japanese
monolingualism in their children.
Bilingualism is arguably more attainable in Japan when the minority
language is English. The language is prestigious because of its prominence in
the Japanese education system and the business sector (Fujita-Round
& Maher, 2017; Seargeant, 2011). English-Japanese bilingualism is highly
valued by Japanese people (Yamamoto, 2001a), and English-speaking parents
raising bilingual children are aware of society’s favorable perception of
the language (Yamamoto, 2005). The high status of English in Japan even
motivates non-native English speakers to speak English instead of their
native language to their children (Billings, 1990; Nakamura, 2016;
Yamamoto, 2002, 2005). Nevertheless, not all children exposed to English
end up speaking it. Roughly one in three English-Japanese bilingual children
from exogamous families speaks only Japanese (Billings, 1990; Noguchi,
2001; Yamamoto, 2001b). Biliteracy is an even bigger challenge because
the task of teaching falls on the English-speaking parent. Therefore, while
English enjoys high prestige in Japan, its status is not enough by itself
for supporting active bilingualism. Sending children to an English-medium
school or having only one child are ways to create a bilingual outcome
(Yamamoto, 2001b), but these options may not be feasible for all families.
Other variables that support family bilingualism in Japan need to be explored.
Rationale and purpose
The burgeoning body of FLP research has primarily concentrated on
industrialized Western societies where parents hail from another industrialized
Western country or a non-industrialized, and/or non-Western country
(Smith-Christmas, 2017). Only a handful of studies have been conducted on
the Asian context. Both Dumanig, David, and Shanmuganathan (2013) and
Curdt-Christiansen (2012, 2016) represent ground-breaking FLP work on
the multilingual societies of Malaysia and Singapore. As an industrialized
Asian country where linguistic and cultural homogeneity still prevails, Japan
presents an interesting and unique sociolinguistic milieu for FLP research
because eorts in maintaining the minority language need to be initiated
and sustained mostly, if not entirely, by the family itself. With support for
minority language learning lacking in the Japanese education system
(Fujita-Round & Maher, 2017), such family-driven initiatives are necessary
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
even for a language as prestigious as English. The study of the successful FLPs
of parents from industrialized Western countries who speak a language of
high global status, i.e., English, in an industrialized East Asian nation with a
highly dominant societal language, i.e., Japanese, would provide some valuable
insights on minority language maintenance which could benet other bilingual
families in Japan and elsewhere.
This paper also makes a novel contribution to the eld of FLP by
revisiting De Houwer’s (1999) concept of impact beliefs, which is arguably
a crucial factor in fostering children’s active bilingualism. While some
previous studies have indirectly indicated the role of parents’ impact belief
in children’s bilingualism, as far as the author is aware, it has never been
researched as a topic on its own. There is merit in studying parents’ impact
belief on its own instead of treating it as part of family language ideology
because we may be able to see new perspectives of family bilingualism
if we do so. With this in mind, this study sets out to investigate the impact
belief of English-speaking parents who are raising English-Japanese bilingual
and biliterate children in Tokyo, Japan. The parents’ relative success
in developing their children’s English-Japanese bilingualism and biliteracy in
a predominantly Japanese-speaking society makes it worthwhile examining the
factors that shaped their impact beliefs and how their impact beliefs transpired
into language management practices that supported bilingual development.
This study involved eight exogamous English-Japanese bilingual families
who sent their children to a weekend English school in central Tokyo.
The researcher, a Malaysian who is also involved in an exogamous marriage,
became acquainted with the families because her child also attended the same
school. Table 1 shows the details of the English-speaking parents (pseudonyms
used) who participated in the interviews. The participants were long-term
residents in Japan with 11 to 29 years of residency.
Table 1. Prole of the English-speaking parents.
Participant Nationality Years
of residency Education level Occupation
Hanna US 24 College degree Data analyst
Sheila US 11 College degree Full-time housewife
Martin Canada 17 College degree High school English teacher
Mel Australia 25 College degree Editor
Joyce US 16 College degree Part-time English teacher
Brian US 25 College degree IT entrepreneur
Jim Australia 29 College degree Editor
Gillian US 20 College degree Banker
143 J. NAKAMURA
All of the participants were in a heterosexual relationship with a Japanese
spouse. Five of them were Americans (Hanna, Sheila, Joyce, Brian, and
Gillian), two were Australians (Mel and Jim), and one (Martin) was from
Canada. Five participants were mothers (Hanna, Sheila, Mel, Joyce, and
Gillian) and three were fathers (Martin, Brian, and Jim). All of the parents
had college degrees and were working in Japan except for Sheila who was
a stay-at-home mother. Some of them had English teaching and editing jobs
(Martin, Mel, Joyce, and Jim). The families were nuclear families except
for Sheila’s family who lived with the children’s Japanese grandmother.
Table 2. Reported language use in the family.
Children’s language use Parents’ language use
P1 Policy Age C > P1 C > P2 C < > C P1 > C P2 > C P1 <> P2
Hanna MLAT C1 7 90% E 90% E -100% E 100% E 100% E
Sheila OPOL C1 7100% E 100% J 100% E 100% E 100% J 100% J
C2 1 -
Martin OPOL C1 8100% E 100% J 100% J 100% E 100% J 100% E
C2 5 70% E
Mel OPOL C1 13 100% E 100% J 100% J 100% E 100% J Dual-
Joyce OPOL C1 8100% E 80% J 100% E 100% E 80% J Dual-
Brian OPOL C1 9 90% E 100% J 100% J 100% E 100% J 100% E
C2 3 10% E
Jim OPOL C1 9 10% E 100% J 90% J 100% E 100% J Dual-
C2 5 90% E
C1 13 0% E
100% J 100% J 100% E 100% J Dual-
C2 9 50% E
C3 7 0% E
Note: English (E), Japanese (J), English-speaking parent (P1), Japanese-speaking parent (P2), First
child (C1), Second child (C2), Third child (C3), Minority-Language-At-Home (MLAT),
Table 2 shows the details of the children. Between the eight families, there
were 16 children between the ages of 1 to 13. All of them were born and raised
in Japan in an OPOL setting where they were exposed to English by their
English-speaking parents and Japanese by their Japanese parents. Only
Hanna’s family practiced the Minority-Language-At-Home (MLAT) policy.
Hanna’s Japanese husband was a long-term resident in the US. Being a uent
English speaker, he also spoke English to their child. Table 2 also shows
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
reported language use in the family. Siblings in the same family had the same
percentage of English use unless dierent percentages were given in separate
rows in the table. Except for Sheila’s second child who was pre-verbal, many
of the children were reported by their parents to be active bilinguals who spoke
English to their parents. However, Brian’s younger child (C2), Jim’s older
child (C1) and Gillian’s rst and third children (C1 and C3) were reportedly
receptive bilinguals who spoke Japanese to them. All English-speaking parents
(P1) reportedly used 100% English (E) to their children.
Except for Hanna’s child, the children spoke Japanese (J) to their Japanese
parent (P2). For many of the children, Japanese was also the language used
between siblings. However, Sheila’s and Joyce’s children spoke English to
each other because the mothers insisted on English being used between
siblings. Language use between parents varied. Hanna, Brian, and Martin
used English with their Japanese spouses whereas Sheila and her husband
spoke Japanese to each other. Mel, Joyce, Jim, and Gillian communicated
dual-lingually with their Japanese spouses, i.e., they would speak English,
and their spouses would speak Japanese.
The children attended Japanese public schools on weekdays. Most of them
could read and write in English to some extent because they were taught by
their parents at home and attended the weekend English school. Only siblings
who were too young (age 3 and below) or too old (above age 12) were not
enrolled in the English school. The school was an independent school ran by
the parents. The children were taught to read and write in English by two
international school teachers and were streamed in four dierent classes
according to their age and ability. Every Saturday, the children received
between an hour to an hour and a half of literacy instruction.
An ethnographic approach was used as a tool of inquiry for this study.
Interviews were conducted with each parent to understand their FLP. These
ethnographic interviews were distinct from other interview types because
they were based on an established relationship between the researcher and
the participants (Heyl, 2001). In this study, the researcher had an on-going
peer relationship of mutual respect with the parents, which allowed open and
genuine sharing of views. Specically, she had known the participants for
more than a year before the study commenced and regularly interacted with
them in the weekends. It was a common practice for parents to chat with
each other while waiting for their children to nish their English classes and
the topic of conversation often revolved around the children’s English
development. Therefore, the interviews were an extension of the conversations
that commonly took place between the researcher and the parents. The
ethnographic interviews were unstructured to enable the parents to navigate
145 J. NAKAMURA
the interview in a way that was meaningful to them. They were only guided
to talk about their bilingual parenting experiences chronologically and were
not asked directly about their impact beliefs. The study of impact belief was
not planned and was only investigated after the parents’ impact beliefs emerged
during the preliminary analysis of the data. Each hour-long interview was
audio-recorded. Field notes were also taken and, whenever possible, keyed into
a word processor on the same day.
Data were analyzed using the constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz,
2014), which is a systematic yet exible approach towards collecting and
analyzing qualitative data. Constructivism builds upon the iterative and
comparative approach of traditional grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)
but acknowledges the subjectivity and the involvement of the researcher
in data construction and interpretation. In the rst phase of the analysis,
the researcher performed initial line-by-line coding. Table 3 gives an example
of the initial coding of a parent’s interview transcript. The initial codes on the
left column describe the narrative data on the right column. These initial codes
follow the data closely. A total of eight codes were constructed from Mel’s
account about how her English literacy eorts were inspired by senpai mothers
(mothers with older children) in her playgroup. Following Glaser (1978), coding
was done with gerunds (e.g., acknowledging children’s agency) to help identify
the processes the participants underwent and to ensure that the codes closely
reected the data.
Table 3. Example of initial coding.
Initial codes Narrative data
So when I was in the playgroup, I
saw a couple of the other mothers,
and they were talking about books
that they teach. I was like ‘Not only
can their kids speak English, they
were teaching them to read. Oh, I’m
going to do that too!’. I didn’t set
out. I was sort of like inspired and
encouraged and supported by
senpai parents who were doing
more ahead than me because their
kids were older. And I think our
literacy classes are like that. And if
your kid is willing, right? Some kids
are not willing, not gung-ho about it;
they’re not kicking up a huge fuss.
But if your kid is willing, it’s like
‘Oh, how did this mother get her
kid to do this?’. ‘Sticker charts!’. ‘
Oh, sticker charts!’.
Observing other moms teaching literacy
Feeling impressed by other mothers’ literacy eorts
Deciding to imitate senpai mothers
Not having the intention to teach literacy at rst
Being inspired and encouraged by senpai mothers
Acknowledging children’s agency
Acknowledging the potential of working with
Getting ideas on how to teach from other mothers
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
Focused coding was performed in the second phase. As the general
direction of this paper was to explore the parents’ FLP, the initial codes were
assessed, subsumed into a larger category, or trimmed down to focused codes
which relate to parents’ perceptions and experiences of bilingual parenting.
An example of focused coding is given in Table 4. The left column shows
the focused codes constructed from the initial codes in Table 3. Changes after
focused coding include subsuming the initial codes, ‘observing other moms
teaching literacy’, ‘feeling impressed by other mothers’ literacy eorts’, ‘not
having the intention to teach literacy at rst’, and ‘deciding to imitate senpai
mothers’ under the focused code ‘being inspired and encouraged by senpai
mothers.’ The initial code ‘acknowledging the potential of working with willing
children’ was also subsumed under the focused code ‘acknowledging children’s
Table 4. Example of focused coding.
Initial codes Narrative data
So when I was in the playgroup, I saw a couple of
the other mothers, and they were talking about books
that they teach. I was like ‘Not only can their kids
speak English, they were teaching them to read.
Oh, I’m going to do that too!’. I didn’t set out. I was
sort of like inspired and encouraged and supported
by senpai parents who were doing more ahead than
me because their kids were older. And I think our
literacy classes are like that. And if your kid is
willing, right? Some kids are not willing, not gung-
ho about it; they’re not kicking up a huge fuss.
But if your kid is willing, it’s like ‘Oh, how did
this mother get her kid to do this?’. ‘Sticker
charts!’. ‘Oh, sticker charts!’.
Being inspired and encouraged by
Acknowledging children’s agency
Getting ideas on how to teach from
In the third phase, the focused codes for all participants were compared.
Focused codes that were related to the same process were combined into the
same cluster. Theoretical coding was then performed by sorting the clusters into
four theoretical categories, i.e., language ideology, impact beliefs, language
practice, and language management. In the data, the parents’ impact belief
was distinguished from their language ideology when their experiences were
related to their role in developing their children’s bilingualism. For example,
while reading about the cognitive benets of bilingualism may implant
the language ideology that bilingualism is benecial, witnessing the bilingual
development of older children of other parents is assumed to strengthen parents’
impact belief because it provides a blueprint for them to achieve similar results
with their own children.
After clustering, memos were written based on each cluster of focused codes
to help raise them to conceptual categories. For example, the focused codes
147 J. NAKAMURA
derived from the example in Table 4 were included in three separate memos
on ‘peer inuence on teaching literacy,’ ‘child agency in language learning,’
and ‘community support in teaching literacy’ together with similar focused
codes from other transcripts. In total, 41 memos were written in the following
categories: language ideology (6), impact belief (5), language management
(23), and language practice (7). Related memos were used to understand
how parents’ impact beliefs were formed. Finally, theoretical sampling was
performed by retracing the theoretical sub-categories (e.g., peer inuence on
impact belief) to the data and using the data to explicate them.
Parents’ Language Ideology
The parents’ pro-English ideology was initially driven by their perception
that they would be providing the best linguistic input to their children in their
native language. In Excerpt 1, Martin explained how his native language
was the obvious choice for him. In Excerpt 2, Hanna shared her belief that
bilingualism was generally good for her child.
Martin: For me it just makes sense. For, if that is your native language,
that’s what you should be teaching, speaking to your kids. The language
Hanna: We think that it will help him when he becomes an adult. He can
become a little bit more global. I guess he would be able to see more than
just his surroundings right now growing up in Japan.
Personal experiences also aected parents’ language ideology. Mel’s lost
opportunity to acquire Cantonese when growing up in Australia inuenced her
decision to raise her children bilingually (Excerpt 3).
Mel: I am half Chinese and was brought up half Chinese, but it was
kind of frustrating. I was brought up in a Chinese community, but
my mother never taught me Chinese
The parents’ pro-English language ideology was also inuenced by
socioeconomic factors, particularly as they started to contemplate education
and career choices for their children. Martin felt that knowing English would
help his child get into better schools (Excerpt 4). Perceptions that English
would provide an academic advantage motivated the parents to develop their
children’s reading and writing abilities in English.
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
Martin: I think that when he (child) is going into junior high school, or
high school, knowing English will help him get into better schools. There
are schools now that, because his English is a lot higher than most kids,
they’ll accept him.
Many of the parents including Jim and Joyce (Excerpts 5 and 6) were
also keen for their children to attend high school or college abroad. Their
preference for a Western-style education stemmed from their dissatisfaction
with the Japanese education system. To enter prestigious junior high schools,
high schools, and universities, students in Japan need to attend a ‘cram
school’, an expensive specialized school that teaches an accelerated
curriculum after school hours aimed at preparing them for rigorous
entrance examinations. Most of the parents disagreed with this practice and
preferred to give their children an academic advantage through learning
English. Their expectations that their children would transition to an English-
focused junior high, high school or college in Japan or in an English-speaking
country motivated them to develop a high level of English prociency in their
children. These ndings corroborate with previous studies which showed how
parental expectations of children’s educational and career prospects inuenced
their FLP (Curdt-Christiansen, 2009; Bezcioglu-Goktolga & Yağmur, 2018).
Jim: We haven’t thought that far ahead but I’d expect that they’d want to
go overseas for university. It’s kind of like a natural course.
Joyce: I am thinking about sending her (child) to high school in America.
She can stay with my mom or my brother’s family. And then go to college
Parents’ Impact Beliefs
Analysis of interview transcripts revealed that the parents’ impact belief
was determined by four main factors, i.e., their individual experiences, spousal
support, peer inuence, and community inuence.
Individual experiences. The parents’ own bilingualism, interest in
language and literacy, and profession were individual experiences that
aected their impact belief. Hanna, an American of Japanese ethnicity, and her
Japanese husband were English-Japanese bilinguals who acquired their two
languages in childhood. Their experience arguably gave them condence
that their child could undergo the same process to become bilingual (Excerpt
7). Therefore, both parents decided to speak English to their child, a step that
helped maximize the amount of English exposure in the home.
149 J. NAKAMURA
Hanna: We both grew up with Japanese, but we were in an English-
speaking environment, so we just naturally spoke both languages as we
grew older. We thought it would be great for our child to grow up in a
Mel believed that bilingualism is the norm for everyone because of her
bilingual work environment (Excerpt 8). Her own bilingualism and interest in
languages also convinced her that she could help her children become bilingual
too. Mel, Jim, Martin, and Joyce were involved in English-related jobs as
teachers and editors. The nature of their work may have also provided them
with the skills and the condence to foster bilingualism in their children. Mel’s
and Joyce’s interest in bilingualism also led them to read books on the subject
before their children were born. While books that promoted the benets of
bilingualism encouraged a pro-bilingualism ideology, they also strengthened
the parents’ impact belief when the parents obtained specic advice on how
to achieve their goal. In Excerpt 9, Mel decided to expose her children
to mostly English books and TV after reading some books on bilingualism.
Mel: I majored in languages, so I studied French, German and
Japanese at university. And another thing is, at work, I am in a bilingual
environment. I work for an international news agency, so, to me, it is
‘atarimae’ (obvious) that everybody is bilingual and function in both
languages to some degree.
Spousal support. Due to the exogamous nature of the families, the
English-speaking parents were largely responsible for fostering their children’s
bilingualism. However, language-related family decisions inevitably involved
their Japanese spouses, for example, the kind of TV programs that children
should watch or the places where they should go for holidays. Therefore,
Japanese spouses’ approval and cooperation were required for home
language management practices to be implemented successfully. Some
parents discussed with their Japanese spouses about raising their children
bilingually before their children were born. Informed by general literature
on bilingualism, Mel negotiated with her husband to create an English
environment at home (Excerpt 9). His cooperation arguably strengthened
her impact belief because it gave her more control over their children’s
Mel: After reading some books, I also agreed with my husband that
to increase the chances of the kids having strong English, most of the
storybooks and most of their TV time until at least when my eldest hits
school would be in English.
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
Spousal support also included language support. Hanna’s Japanese
husband was highly uent in English, so the couple agreed to make English
as the language of the home to maximize their child’s exposure to it. In Excerpt
10, Martin also shared how his Japanese-speaking wife would speak English
occasionally to their children to show her support for their bilingualism.
Martin: My wife and I speak mostly English to each other, and there were
times when she would speak English to the kids to show them that the
mother can speak English as well.
However, not all of the English-speaking parents had the full support of
their spouse. Gillian revealed in Excerpt 11 how her husband was indierent
to bilingual parenting. The lack of support from him may have made it more
dicult for Gillian to foster active bilingualism in her children.
Gillian: When you look at other families who decided on stricter rules
about language in the house, you would probably see that they have
spouses who are more supportive about language…It doesn’t matter
to my husband. He doesn’t really mind. He doesn’t say anything about
supporting the language.
Peer inuence. The parents’ impact beliefs were reinforced when they
observed the bilingual development of other children. Jim knew that it was
possible for his children to become bilingual because he saw how the children
of his friends had undergone the process (Excerpt 12). At the pregnancy
stage, Mel was already inuenced by other expecting mothers who were keen
on bilingual parenting. Later on, she was inspired by senpai parents in her
playgroup who were teaching their children to read English (Excerpt 13).
Senpai parents positively aected her impact beliefs and raised her initial
goal of bilingualism to biliteracy. The experiences of senpai parents were
probably more inuential than the bilingual books that Mel had read because
they were real examples of bilingual parenting in circumstances which were
very similar to herself. The presence of senpai parents was also empowering
because Mel had access to their knowledge and experience whenever they
Jim: I have friends who have had children go through schools here and
have been bilingual.
Mel: So when I was in the playgroup, I saw a couple of the other mothers
and they were talking about books that they teach. I was like ‘Not only
can their kids speak English, they were teaching them to read. Oh, I’m
151 J. NAKAMURA
going to do that too!’. I didn’t set out. I was sort of like inspired and
encouraged and supported by senpai parents who were doing more
ahead than me because their kids were older.
Community support. Some parents’ impact beliefs became stronger
after participating in a parent-run English playgroup when their children were
younger. The playgroup was a ‘community of practice’ (Wenger, 1998)
because parents took turns to organize weekly sessions of crafts, games, and
book-reading to support their children’s English development. Mel experienced
the “power of the community” when she started taking her rst child to
an English playgroup (Excerpt 14). She attributed her child’s progress in
speaking English to the interaction she had with other children and their
parents. Mel became convinced that playgroups were important for developing
bilingualism and even set up her own English weekend playgroup when she
returned to work. Hanna also felt that participation in English playgroups
helped her child’s English production (Excerpt 15). When the children
started English playgroup, they were very young and were only starting to
speak English. The parents were probably concerned about their children’s
bilingual development, so they were reassured when the social interaction and
additional English exposure in the playgroup setting encouraged their
children’s English production.
Mel: She could see all the kids speaking English. And it all started. She
started speaking in full sentences and saying more.
Hanna: It helped him to speak a lot. It helped him to sing English songs.
It also helped him to express himself more in English. He just had a lot
of fun with the kids.
Not all of the children joined playgroups when they were younger, but
most of them studied at the weekend English school. The school was also
a community of practice that beneted not only the children but also
the parents. Teaching reading and writing at home was challenging, but
the parents’ biliteracy goal for their children became more reachable due to
the support that they received from the teachers and other parents in
the school. The teachers gave spelling, reading and writing assignments that
the parents helped their children to complete during the week. Parents such as
Martin and Brian found this helpful because they were guided by the teachers
as to what to teach at home (Excerpts 16 and 17). Similar to the playgroup,
the parent-run weekend school functioned as a community of practice because
there was mutual engagement (e.g., interaction between parents), joint
enterprise (e.g., volunteer roles), and a shared history of engagement (e.g.,
organizing Halloween and Christmas parties). Membership of this community
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
of practice reinforced the parents’ impact belief because the parents who sent
their children to the weekend English school were mutually interested in
biliteracy and interacted with each other about ways in which English reading
and writing could be fostered. For instance, Brian found it helpful to get
ideas from other parents on teaching resources (Excerpt 17).
Martin: It (weekend English school) gives more focus. We have a lot of
workbooks, writing things at home but not a lot of focus.
Brian: It helps me personally as the father who is trying to teach the
child because there’s structure. There’s a little bit of homework. There
is interaction. We like that, and then it helps me. There are websites I
can look into, or I am talking to parents like you, and we are interacting
about dierent programs that are going on – homework, websites, or
The parents’ descriptions of their language management practices in the
home revealed a strong impact belief. Two common aspects of the parents’
eorts in developing active bilingualism and biliteracy were their insistence
on their children speaking English and their regular practice of home literacy
activities. Some parents were highly aware that production was necessary
for fostering active bilingualism and consistently prompted their children to
speak English to them. Joyce was particularly rm about her children’s use of
English. When her children spoke Japanese to her, she would ask for it
to be rephrased in English (Excerpt 18). Joyce’s use of the ‘instruction to
translate’ discourse strategy (Chevalier, 2013; Döpke, 1992) at the very
beginning helped her to establish English as the home language. She did not
need to make such requests later because her children became accustomed to
using English. Likewise, Martin rmly told his child not to use Japanese and
explained that he did not understand it (Excerpt 19). Meanwhile, Mel took
an intermediate approach. She rephrased her children’s Japanese utterances in
English or asked for them to do so (Excerpt 20).
Joyce: It is the same as saying please and thank you. If they ask for
something and they don’t say please, they don’t get it. So, if they say
something in Japanese, “No, say it in English”. With my rst child, I
was quite strict, and then that was established, when my second one
started speaking, it was already established that they only speak English.
153 J. NAKAMURA
Martin: I’ll say to T (child) ‘Listen, don’t talk to me in Japanese. I don’t
know what you’re saying.’
Mel: I never pretended I didn’t understand Japanese. I don’t really believe
in that. I always made sure she heard an English version. I never pushed
her to say something to the point that she would cry or something. It was
like ‘okay, so how do you say that in English?’.
However, unlike the other parents, Gillian and Jim allowed their children
to speak Japanese to them. Gillian admitted that she was lenient about
language use and reported that her children did not speak much English even
though she used it consistently with them (Excerpt 21). When she realized
that they were mostly speaking Japanese, it was dicult to get them to speak
English. Gillian’s reluctance to prompt her children to speak English in the
beginning suggests a lack of impact belief. Her experience also indicated that
it was important to encourage English production from early on because it
would be hard to do so once the children were already accustomed to speaking
Japanese. Likewise, Jim felt it was dicult to ask his older child to speak
English because he was already used to speaking Japanese to him.
Gillian: I was pretty lenient because I didn’t want to force what language
they want to speak in. And for a little while, I thought maybe I needed to
be stricter, but it didn’t work. It just caused more tension. So then I just
kinda got into it again.
Joyce and Sheila (Excerpt 22) also insisted on English being the language
used between siblings. From the very beginning, they required their rst
child to speak English to their younger sibling. The children’s use of English
with each other helped Joyce and Sheila tremendously because they could
provide each other with English input and interaction instead of relying
on their mothers. Joyce’s, Martin’s and Mel’s insistence on their children
speaking English is an extension of their OPOL approach. They spoke English
consistently and expected their children to reciprocate in the same language.
While the parents’ insistence on English being used by the children may
be regarded as a monolinguist approach to bilingualism (e.g., Danjo, 2018;
Piller & Gerber, 2018), it was what the parents perceived as an eective way to
promote the active use of English. It demonstrated their strong impact belief that
they could aect their children’s choice of language.
Sheila: I told her (rst child) even before H (second child) was born, you
have to speak to her in English.
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
The parents’ strong impact belief was also evident in their home literacy
eorts (Excerpts 23, 24 and 25). They helped their children complete their
spelling or writing homework for their weekend English school and even
gave them additional homework to do. The parents also helped their children
with their daily reading, which was required by their teacher. Some parents
made it a habit of reading aloud to their children every night. This practice
continued even when their children got older. The parents’ reading of long
chapter books provided the children with much richer English input
than in everyday conversation and enhanced their English literacy skills.
Joyce: We read long chapter books, and usually I would read a page, and
she (child) would read a page.
Jim: So probably six out of seven (nights) we do reading. Sometimes it
might only be ten minutes if I am tired. It takes at least 30 and typically
45 minutes to an hour.
Mel: I read the whole Harry Potter series. Actually, I am in the middle of
Book Seven still with K (child), but I read the whole thing.
The perceived benet of English-Japanese bilingualism heavily
inuenced the language ideology of the English-speaking parents in this study.
In particular, the parents had the perception that English could give their
children an academic advantage in the future. Their valorization of a Western
type of education and their disagreement with the Japanese education system
led them to consider sending their children to English schools in Japan or
abroad in the future. These expectations of their children’s future education
inuenced their FLP. However, the parents’ eorts to raise English-Japanese
bilingual and biliterate children were also guided by a strong impact belief
that their actions would inuence their children’s linguistic outcome. The
parents’ strong impact belief was not directly elicited from interviews but
emerged from their reported eorts in bilingual parenting. Specically, the
parents’ insistence on their children’s use of English and the time they spent
reading to their children every evening indicated their determination in
developing their children’s bilingualism and biliteracy.
Analysis of the interview data showed that several factors shaped the
parents’ impact beliefs. Firstly, it was determined by individual experiences
such as the parents’ own bilingualism, interest in language and literacy, and
English-related professions. Parents such as Mel, Hanna, and Joyce were
uent English-Japanese bilinguals who saw bilingualism as being replicable
155 J. NAKAMURA
by their children based on their own experiences. The parents’ knowledge
and expertise in their professions as English teachers and editors also made
them more willing and condent in encouraging their children’s bilingualism.
Secondly, given that the families were exogamous, parents’ impact beliefs
were aected by the extent to which their Japanese spouses supported their
FLP. Those with cooperative spouses had more conviction about their bilingual
parenting because they had more control over the home language environment.
Supportive spouses also help improve the ‘status’ of English in the home
by speaking it. Peer inuence also determined the parents’ impact belief.
Previously, Baker (1992) explained human modeling as an inuential source
of attitude change, that is, imitating the attitudes of positive role models
can reinforce one’s beliefs. In this study, the parents’ impact belief was
strengthened by the presence of senpai parents whose older children were
already demonstrating higher English skills (e.g., reading independently).
Senpai parents shared their experience and gave advice to parents with
younger children. Lastly, the parents’ impact belief on promoting biliteracy
was reinforced by their communities of practice, namely their involvement in
the English playgroup and the weekend English school their children attended.
These ndings indicate that external factors played a critical role
in strengthening the parents’ impact beliefs over time and that seeking
out support from peers or a community with common interests was important
for fostering children’s bilingualism and biliteracy. In addition to these factors,
the parents’ impact belief also seemed to have evolved as a result of their
children’s bilingual development, i.e., it was self-reinforcing. Seeing their
children develop bilingually gave some parents greater conviction that they
were able to make an impact. Jim noticed the cognitive benets of
bilingualism in his children and continued his eorts to read aloud to
them because he wanted to “see more of it”. Conversely, Gillian’s impact
belief weakened because her children were not speaking much English.
Consequently, she felt that language was something that “comes when you
need it more than when you try to force it”. Just as the parents’ pro-English
ideology grew stronger as they pondered educational options for their growing
children, their impact beliefs also changed based on their actual parenting
experiences. The parents’ experiences conrmed the bidirectionality aspect of
De Houwer’s (1999) three-tier model where the children’s language
development can inversely aect parents’ language practices and consequently
reshape their language attitudes and impact beliefs.
Nevertheless, the extent to which the parents were able to foster
bilingualism and biliteracy also depended on the children themselves.
Previous studies show that children play an agentive role in determining
their own bilingualism (e.g., Said & Zhu, 2017; Tuominen, 1999). Likewise,
bilingualism in some children in this study did not turn out as their parents
desired. The success of the parents in raising bilingual and biliterate
PARENTS’ IMPACT BELIEF
children seemed to have depended on a combination of their impact belief
and their children’s willingness to go along with it. Mel admitted that her
bilingual parenting was successful because her children were quite “malleable”
and enjoyed learning English but noticed that some other children were less
willing to study English and had other interests such as sports. Jim’s older
son spoke very little English despite being able to read and write to some
extent. Jim acknowledged his child as being “xed” in his ways and did not
insist strongly that he speaks English. Nevertheless, Jim kept reading aloud to
him and his younger sibling every night with the conviction that the English
input would help their language development. While children also aect their
own linguistic outcome, Jim’s experience shows how parents’ impact belief is
crucial for keeping the possibility of active bilingualism open. A strong
impact belief made it possible for Jim to maintain his English literacy practices
even when his child was comprehending but not speaking much English.
While this paper contributed to FLP research in its investigation of the
role of parents’ impact beliefs in raising bilingual and biliterate children, it is
necessary to mention some of its limitations. Given the fact that the ndings
relied on interview data, there is a possibility that the parents may have
presented themselves favorably to the researcher during the interviews, and
their narratives may not be an accurate account of their actual home language
practices. Nevertheless, the variables that inuenced the parents’ impact belief
probably did not deviate far from reality because they were specic accounts
of their individual and family conditions (e.g., spousal support) as well as
their actual involvement with other parents and the community (e.g., the
weekend English school). Another limitation is that the research focused
on only eight exogamous families in Tokyo, Japan. The English-speaking
parents had similar educational and professional background, and their children
attended the same weekend English school. While it was useful to investigate
the impact belief of parents who had some degree of success in raising bilingual
and biliterate children, the ndings on their impact belief may not necessarily
apply to parents of dierent backgrounds. Specically, parents who do not
live in urban areas probably do not have access to playgroups or weekend
language schools. Organizing playgroups for young children may also be
a Western concept which is foreign to parents from non-Western countries.
Moreover, the ndings on English-Japanese bilingualism in this study may not
be relevant to other forms of bilingualism in Japan given the high status of
English in Japanese society. Nevertheless, these results give us a better
understanding of the necessary conditions for the successful maintenance
of a minority language in Japan. Specically, senpai parents are a potentially
important inuence on parents’ impact belief. Just like the English-speaking
parents in this study, parents who speak other minority languages may be more
motivated and encouraged to raise their children bilingually if they have access
157 J. NAKAMURA
to a positive role model. The sharing of rst-hand experiences in bilingual
parenting by successful senpai parents might be a useful addition to an outreach
program aimed at educating parents on minority language maintenance.
The author would like to extend her most sincere thanks to the families
who participated in this project and to the anonymous reviewers for their
valuable feedback on an earlier version of this paper.
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