Our son is just over 2 years old and he has now started to distinguish between Japanese and English. His dominant language is Japanese, as he goes to Japanese nursery school 5 days a week (from 8am-5:30pm). He also speaks Japanese with my husband, so his only exposure to English is talking with me in the mornings, at nighttime and on the weekends, and with my family in Australia on Skype. After much research on raising bilingual children and talking with our friends who have experience, my husband and I decided to be very strict with only speaking in our native language – ie. “Japanese with Daddy” and “English with Mummy”. If our son speaks in Japanese to me, I say “What do you say to Mummy?” or “Talking in English with Mummy please!”, and he switches to saying the same word or phrase in English to me. We decided this before our son was born, so we have been consistent with this way since the beginning which I think has helped. My next challenge is how to maintain this with two children, if they both go to Japanese school!
Now, I think every parent needs some time out or to sit down and have a cup of tea in peace. We don’t have a TV in our house, but we do show our son some programs on YouTube when we need a few minutes to ourselves. In terms of the types of programs, we decided to only play English programs in the home – again, as our son is exposed mostly to Japanese language, we wanted to give him as much exposure to English as possible.
Here are the English kids programs that we love. These are all programs that have been recommended to us from my family and friends, are great for learning English and have very cute stories suitable for toddlers (nothing scary or violent like some others!):
My sister introduced me to Octonauts last year when we were in Australia. It is a fantastic program – very multicultural (all the Octonauts and sea creatures speak English in different accents). My son loves Kwazii and Peso:) All the shows are about 10min long, and there are lots to choose from on YouTube.
This is our son’s favourite show at the moment. Cute 5min stories with beautiful clear English in a British accent which is very cute. I also love the program as it has quite funny jokes.
Cat in the Hat
I came across this cartoon on YouTube. There are only three 10min programs available (tails, dancing & sticks), but all are great for learning English and reinforcing some key day-to-day phrases that I also say at home. My son loves the song when they go on an adventure and often sings it now when we are on our bicycle riding home from nursery school.
I like the Playschool shows from Australia – particularly the “Monday” and “Tuesday” shows. The shows are quite long – about 20-30min long, and have a lot of great songs and stories.