Too Controlled?

You know that piece of advice (I have heard it from two experienced parents of bilingual children in Japan) about the control of TV? The idea is to limit the childs viewing to 2nd language programs only, and have little to no exposure to local TV in the home. Well it sounded like a good idea until I tried it.

I didn’t want to create a reliance on TV, but I did want to use it to give my daughter exposure to English spoken by children, and also to give her a common point of reference for the all to infrequent visits to the UK when she gets to play with my friend’s kids. We used the internet in the beginning to access what we could of the UK’s childrens TV, then last year we bought a region free DVD player and bought / were sent shows from abroad.

All the while, the battle raged between the parents about which should get priority. The foreign shows? The shows that all our daughters friends here are growing up on? I had heard that limiting the TV to one language worked well, and I was all up for doing what I could to see that she got fair exposure. My wife wanted to enjoy the NHK kids shows with her daughter. It didn’t fit into my grand plan. Mine didn’t fit into hers.

To cut a long story short, a balance was reached. Not just by the parents either. My daughter enjoys both foreign and Japanese programs. We tend to keep the TV to a minimum where we can but on weekdays she can choose from the foreign selection before bedtime. At weekends she gets to catch up on the week’s local programs on Saturday morning before ballet.

To be honest I’m really glad it worked out this way. I love some of the Japanese shows. Pitagora Switch (Pythagoras Switch)? Brilliant. Nihonngo de asobo (Let’s play in Japanese)? Genius! If they made shows like that for young kids learning English, the country would be fluent in a generation.

It all relates to a previous post of mine (significant other) where I wrote about my daughter growing up Japanese with a foreign father. I don’t believe in the exclusion of one culture for the sake of another. Perhaps things would be different if we had chosen (could afford to) send our daughter to an international pre-school. We didn’t (can’t). I’m glad, to be honest. I’m having much more fun finding out how to sope by ourselves. I hope that we can continue to enjoy both cultures TV. Bi-Cultural, as Chris might say.


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