Learning a new language in a foreign country can be quite difficult for adults and children. However, it can also be a very fun challenge. Here are some things we've been doing as a family to make it most productive...
1. Ordering movies that have a choice of either language plus English subtitles. We have been thoroughly enjoying Ponyo, a Disney/Japanese Studio Ghibli production by Hayao Miyazaki
We first watch it in English, then watch in Japanese to learn new words. There are several other movies in the series by Studio Ghibli which we hope to either rent or buy.
2. Labeling household items in both languages (with the help of Google Translator.) In our case we like using "Romanji" Roman style letters and Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji the Japanese character representation. You may have seen our "Welcome" window art made using Kanji symbols. We also had fun doing door signs on the kids' rooms. Fist I put their name in English, then Japanese characters, and also added words like older brother "Ani" or "onisan" son, and younger sister "imoto" or "mesume" daughter. We also have on our door, "chichi" for father and "shujin" husband, and "haha" or "mama" mother and "tsuma" wife. This of course helps parents more than kids until they are able to read.
3. Activity books. Who doesn't enjoy a good activity book with puzzles, mazes and word searches? Why not try one in the language you want to learn? Much more challenging. Many here also have outlines to draw the Hirigana or Katakana alphabets.
4. Computer games and lessons. Obviously not everyone has access, but there are plenty of good interactive games and classes for nearly any computer system, and of course Ipads and Iphones.
5. Fridge magnets. Yes, like the ABCs we put on the fridge for the kids, here they have Hirigana and sometimes other characters.
6. Listening to music in the new language. This is particularly good if you can find the lyrics translated for comparison.
Most importantly, language pronunciation is best retained interacting with those who speak it. For kids, a fun and exciting way to learn is just going to the park!