Billingual Babies – Totoro and friends

10th January 2016

Etta's first toy

Stick with me here as I am rambling a little but I do make a point … I promise.

Being an absolute Japanophile, from living there for eight years, we take some unusual things as being the norm in our house. My work colleagues keep reminding me that eating rice at lunch with chopsticks or having a seafood cup ramen just isn’t the usual behaviour of a mid 30’s dad working in surrey.

Eating Alice’s home made miso soup, Etta eating sushi and noodles with chopsticks as well as doing the majority of our weekly shop in the korean supermarket in new malden, the one thing that really stands out to me as being different about our life, because our time in japan, is Ghibili movies rather than Disney. Special mention to the fab Olive Loves Alfie where we picked up the baby chopsticks!

Etta and her chopsticks
Etta and her chopsticks

Now Etta loves a Twirlywoos or a Sarah and duck as much as your average swoddler (thats south west London toddler to you) but nothing makes her glaze over and chill out like a Ghibli movie.

Totoro trance baby
Totoro trance baby

It might be that we have watched the with her since she was little or maybe its because we enjoy them more than a Disney or a Pixar. My theory is that the colours are all a little more pastel and the shows movies themselves although darker and more real to life are all together calmer. i.e. plenty of calming classical pieces by the most amazing composer Joe Hisaishi. Check him out as a great way to get your little ones into some music that they can then associate with a movie and a soft toy.

Without realising we have been doing it, we have been putting Etta in front of foreign movies and TV shows since we had cbeebies on. Looking back I wish I had been clever enough to make it a conscious decision because at the moment we are surrounded by Swedish film noir that comes in the form of The Bridge and The Killing, although I don’t recommend putting your mini in front of those! As well as all manner of excellent crime films coming out of South East Asian cinema. I think that if the acceptance of foreign films / TV continues as it has done in my lifetime then when Etta is a teenager it will be the norm to be watching foreign TV on the BBC and going to the cinema to watch a subtitled movie. Will our children be at a disadvantage if we do not expose them to foreign media?

Watching some more Ghibli
Watching some more Ghibli

Do any other bilingual families watch in both languages? Who out there is exposing their minis to a second language and at what age? And what are we going to do if the proposed cuts to the BBC means that cbeebies is taken off air … seriously check it out!!


    1. London Dad,
      By introducing her to other cultures now through film, food, books, etc., your child is learning at an early age that her world is much larger than her experiences in London. This will serve her for the rest of her life. We used to take our children to the Eolian Islands in Sicily for the summer. They picked up the language by playing with local children and watching films in the piazza. This helped them later to pick up other languages and view world events from a different perspective. Love the baby chopsticks!! ??

    1. My wee man is bilingual as his dad is Italian and I am hoping it serves him well. It’s very positive him experiencing the different cultures and it’s supposed to make them smarter too. He has been spoken to in Italian by his dad from the start but only started speaking it himself when he was about 2 and a half. Only now at 4 though is he starting to feel comfortable speaking to others in Italian outside his family. It has certainly been very interesting to watch. I guess hopefully we will see it all bear some fruit as he grows.

    1. Your babies are so cute and the photos are amazing, loved the quality. A lot of studies and teachers say that kids can learn two languages at the same time and it’s better to learn when they are kids instead of learning when they are older.

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