Seth Gordon (sethg_prime) wrote in little_details,
Seth Gordon

Japanese-American teenager who studied Japanese as a foreign language

Setting: Boston suburbs, present day

My MC is a fifth-generation Japanese-American entering high school. When he was a child, his parents decided they wanted a closer connection to Japanese culture, and one of the things they did to that end was to enroll the MC and his younger sister in a school that teaches Japanese on Saturdays.

(1) If his aptitude for foreign languages is high but not superhuman, and he spends six or seven years in these kinds of classes, how proficient would the MC become in Japanese? On a visit to Japan (not to immigrate, just to be a tourist for a month), what would his social life be with boys his own age?

(2) What other notably Japanese characteristics would someone notice in this family’s day-to-day life (diet, home decor, the ways family members show affection to one another, etc.)?

(3) How much would the parents care about the MC dating girls of other ethnicities? (I realize that the intermarriage rate is typically high for Japanese-Americans of this generation, but these parents may be atypical.)

Research: The Wikipedia article on yonsei says that the yonsei generation in the US does not consider ethnicity as important as previous generations did, but that section is sketchy on details and seems to focus on the community in Hawai‘i. Related articles, like the one on Japanese Americans, are similarly sketchy on cultural details. This comic is telling, at least with regard to food, but I don’t know about other cultural signifiers.

(FWIW the parallel situation from my own cultural background would be a Jewish family that attended a Reform or Conservative synagogue and sent their children to a part-time Hebrew school. I have a sense of how “mostly but not totally assimilated” works in that context but I don’t know how much of that experience is common to other hyphenated-American cultures....)
Tags: japan (misc), usa: education: high school, ~languages: japanese

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