With Ricky exposed to far more Japanese than English (he spends 45 hours a week at nursery, hearing and speaking Japanese, and always uses Japanese when with his cousins or friends), we know it’s entirely down to us as parents to help him embrace English, too.
Even though we both only use English at home with Ricky, he doesn’t necessary respond in English. Typically, he’s now using Japanese as his base, and then substituting key words for their English equivalent.
As we’re learning ourselves, raising your child to be bilingual takes a bit more effort than just talking to them in the second language! We need to not only provide a suitable environment, but also actively engage in the language learning process and encourage him to enjoy using both.
Currently, the four main methods we’re using are:
1. Only using English at home (including replying to him in English to confirm what he has told us in Japanese, as mentioned in our previous blog)
2. Having a lot of English books at home
3. Not watching any Japanese TV, and as much as possible encouraging him to go for the English language kiddies videos on YouTube (Ricky is a big YouTube fan…)
4. Making a point of praising Ricky for trying hard when he uses English
Specifically, Ricky’s been a big fan of Barney, the purple dinosaur who starred in the popular US kids TV program _Barney and Friends_ that was first broadcast in the early 90s.
There’s a lot of episodes online now, and they all attempt to teach the usual lessons connected with being a good responsible member of society (sharing your toys, helping people, not lying etc). There’s a nice dose of song and dance in there too, which Ricky has really enjoyed, and which we’ve been able to integrate into our daily lives, such as singing the song about Mr. Sun on a sunny day.
Recently though, Barney has been usurped by a more recent British rival… Peppa Pig!
Peppa Pig is an award-winning pre-school animation that has been around for over 12 years and is now broadcast in 180 countries, but it was only last month that we first came across it through a suggestion on YouTube.
It would be fair to say that Ricky is kind of addicted to Peppa Pig. Whilst we try to avoid having him watching his iPad for hours on end, he would be perfectly happy to watch Peppa all day long!
We personally prefer it over any other content on YouTube as he’s learning a lot of vocabulary related to everyday life. It’s also very British – not only in terms of the accents the characters speak in, but in terms of the British humour that runs through it. Ricky will sometimes burst out laughing when Daddy Pig does something silly and is caught out by his family.
He’s started using vocabulary that he’s learned on Peppa Pig with us too – the other day he called me ‘silly daddy’!!
We’ve also started using Ricky’s knowledge of Peppa Pig to ask him questions by doing mini Peppa Pig Quizzes. What’s Peppa’s favorite colour (red)? What does George like most (dinosaurs. George always says dinosaurs)? It’s quite extraordinary how much he’s learning.
Anyhow, that’s where we are the moment. Ricky seems to be happy with his mix of languages, and as of last month understands the distinction between the two. It’ll be interesting to see how his skills develop over time, and as we, learn more ways to help him in the process.
Peppa Pig books