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A descriptive study of Japanese biliterate students in the United States: Bilingualism, language-minority education, and teachers' role

Yoshiko Nagaoka, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Japanese student in the United States have an opportunity to receive education in American public schools and in Japanese weekend supplementary schools guided by the Ministry of Education in Japan. This "bi-schooled" situation emphasizes positive aspects of educating biliterate children. However, developing literacy skills in both English and Japanese is a complicated task for students. Focusing on maintenance and development of literacy skills in Japanese as a first language, this study provides an intensive description of the Japanese writing experiences and practices of four ninth graders and of teaching experiences of three Japanese teachers in one weekend school in the United States. The students are native-born Japanese who have received more than five years of education in both American and the Japanese weekend school. All three teachers have experience teaching in Japan and have lived in the United States for over seven years. There is gap between the present situation of Japanese bi-schooling students and these teachers' standards in the weekend school. Investigating these students and teachers allows us to perceive this gap. Data collected through a phenomenological in-depth interview method is presented in the following three aspects: students' self-understanding, their positive perspectives on learning two languages, and their difficulties under current conditions of bi-schooling. Also from teachers' perspectives, the teachers' observations of problems in the students' essays, their perception of problems in the students' bi-schooled situation, their strategies for instruction in Japanese composition, and their understanding of the role of Japanese weekend schools are examined. The examinations of thirteen students writing samples by the teachers were included in the interviews. The findings identify important insights and approaches in the following areas: bilingual education, language-minority education, and teachers' roles, including their academic expectations of students, in educational settings. This study has implications for meaning of bilingual education, issues of language-minority education, the importance of teachers' awareness of issues and problems faced by language-minority students, the importance of parental involvement in education. In addition, it has ramifications for Japanese education in the United States as well as Japanese bilingual education in Japan.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Language arts|Rhetoric|Composition

Recommended Citation

Nagaoka, Yoshiko, "A descriptive study of Japanese biliterate students in the United States: Bilingualism, language-minority education, and teachers' role" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909196.