Have you ever had a moment when you said something and then thought: ‘Oh my God, I sound just like my mother! ‘
I must admit, I’ve certainly had moments like that and I am not exactly proud of it.
It was, actually, very scary for me.
I’ve also had a few moments with my bilingual children when they were talking and I could hear myself talking!
That’s even more scary!
In one of my previous blog posts I mentioned how a good old TV was a life savour for a sleep deprived mummy of two early risers, not only because of the entertainment itself, but how it helped our bilingual children to expand their vocabulary.
Bearing in mind our ‘strict internal policy’ at our bilingual house where mummy puts on programs in her native language only and daddy does the same in English, this becomes tricky once your bilingual kids get older and they develop their own taste for what they want to watch.
And also once they’ve worked out how to operate the remote controls. Damn!
Once my walking-talking bilingual monsters told me that they didn’t want to watch ‘this, what I was just putting on’, but they wanted to watch their favourite Disney movie.
I almost thought I was stuffed and my idea about consistency’ gone completely out of the window.
Not really, we just had to get smart about it:
Luckily, most of the Disney and other children’s movies get dubbed into my native language, so it wasn’t such a big deal in the end.
Most of the English speaking cartoons are always available in other languages and that doesn’t mean just with the subtitles, because they aren’t really very helpful if your children can’t read yet.
Also, I don’t think this method works well if someone is not exactly determined to work on their language skills. 🙂
No one would make an effort to read subtitles if they understand the movie anyway.
So what I am talking about as being really helpful is either dubbed movies or at least voiceover movies.
Obviously, our kids didn’t watch just one program when they were little, they were exposed to a variety of programs, but they had some periods of time, some longer than others, that they had a favourite program or movie and that was it.
If anything was on, it was THAT one thing.
When this happened I went on the internet and found a certain movie like Cars (yes, Cars!, about the famous Lightning McQueen, that’s what I am talking about here) in my language and asked my mum to buy it and send it over.
That way our bilingual rule could continue:
Daddy was putting cars on in English and mummy, well, you know the rule by now: of course, in her language. Sneaky little devil.
Mummies can be crafty, you see.
We even stopped buying the children’s movies in the UK and when they were released bought them straight away in my home country, because they would always have the original English version.
But in the UK you’d be hunting around for versions of DVDs including also other languages.
Can watching two identical programs in two different languages really help your bilingual children to expand their vocabulary?
If you ever watched any movie that’s originally in English that was then dubbed or subtitled into your own language, you might have noticed that the characters don’t always say exactly the same things, especially if they are joking, singing or playing with words.
You might have even got annoyed with it and accused the translators of doing a poor job.
But I can tell you one thing, that translating jokes and humour in general is an ART itself.
Very often it’s not about the same wording, because that’s just not possible, but it’s about the impact of the joke on the audience.
Basically, if there is a scene that’s funny for kids in English, the translator must find a way to translate the scene so it would create the same effect on kids in German, French…or any other language.
If an English kid would laugh, so should the German, French… you get the idea here.
It obviously also has to make sense within the context of the movie too.
And this is the moment when you might be thinking:
Well, I get the idea that if bilingual children are watching the identical programmes in the two different languages they are learning, that makes sense if they are hearing the same… but what if they are not?
Well, they are not, not always.
Will it then teach the bilingual kids wrong vocabulary or even phrases by listening to words or phrases that don’t match?
I don’t think so.
Could it confuse them?
To start with maybe a little bit, but I wouldn’t worry too much.
I’d trust them, they’ll work it out. As I said, this happens with movies, it happens regularly, but it teaches your bilingual children to get the idea that they don’t have to understand ‘a word by word’ account but they will understand ‘the meaning’ which means that they will find a funny situation funny regardless what language a joke is being told in or even if it’s the same joke.
And that’s what really matters.
After all they are learning about the context of the situation and understanding it.
Clever, don’t you think?