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Language regrets: mixed-ethnic children’s lost opportunity for minority language acquisition in Japan

  • Janice Nakamura ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Multilingua


Mixed-ethnic children in Japan do not usually acquire the language of their non-Japanese parent. This study looks at their lost opportunity to acquire their minority parent’s language through a retrospective investigation of their language experiences from childhood to young adulthood. Transcripts of interviews with ten mixed-ethnic children (ages 18 to 23) were analyzed based on the constructive grounded theory approach (Charmaz 2014Constructing grounded theory, 2nd edn. London: Sage). Analysis of codes which emerged from the interviews revealed that family relations, parents’ reluctance to speak the minority language and the prioritization of English were some of the factors perceived by the mixed-ethnic children to have contributed to the non-transmission of the minority language. Many of the children described their lost opportunity to acquire the minority language as regretful. Questions posed by Japanese people about their identity and language reminded some participants of their mixed-ethnicity and inability to speak the minority language. These findings suggest that the non-transmission of the minority language has long-term implications on the social and emotional well-being of mixed-ethnic children in Japan.

Funding statement: This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science under the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (18K00698).


I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the participants of this study for sharing their experiences with me. I am also thankful to Yoko Sasaki for transcribing the interview data and Setsuko Miyamoto for her feedback on the Japanese-English translations. My sincere thanks also go out to the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback on an earlier version of this paper.


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Published Online: 2020-01-11
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

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