We’ve been having a great time since the twins were born in February, playing and watching them grow and I would love to share with you some of the bilingual activities that we’re undertaking as we go.
It’s said that the younger we are the better we are at learning languages. We have to be, really. We’re tossed into a foreign land when we are born and expected to learn not only how to move our mouths, but to make coherent noises come out of them that the people around us will understand. These sounds would need to be completely different simply based on the geographic location where we pop out. There is no DNA coding for speech patterns, accent, or vocabulary, the only way we can all initially communicate is through crying. (And we’ve been having plenty of that with the twins, trust me. In stereo!)
Over those first few months, babies are already building their paradigms; they are becoming familiar with the sound patterns that they will hear for the vast majority of their lives. I’ve been doing as much as I can to expose them to other unfamiliar sounds that are outside of what they hear most of the day. Just a bit of exposure to help their brains recognize and become familiar with many of the sounds that exist in Japanese but not in English. I’ve been showing them words in the books we read; most of which are English books but some are Japanese, some French, some Italian. Undoubtedly, the Japanese characters will look the most different to them, but at this point it’s all about exposure and new experiences.
We haven’t really exposed the boys to any television yet. I’m sure this would be a good topic for discussion, because there is certainly plenty of exposure to be had by watching some Japanese cartoons on YouTube that would be both engaging visually and full of new sounds and great exposure, but we’ve decided, at least for now to keep the exposure to the physical realm. When the boys do see a TV or computer screen somewhere they are instantly mesmerized and seemingly get lost in some subconscious nether-world.
I do enjoy playing music for them, they love the guitar and they love songs, and I try to expose them to different music genres the same way that I do different languages. I have also been using TuneIn Radio on my smartphone to pick up radio stations in Japan so that they have the opportunity to listen to fluent native speakers (the DJs) and Japanese lyrics in the songs. I’ll be continuing to expose them to as much as possible and will keep you posted on anything that I learn that might be of interest.