Language development in a bilingual child can be severely retarded if they see no point in learning to communicate in a language that is not spoken locally. So, as the parent of bilingual children, one of the reasons you need to make regular trips back to your homeland is to demonstrate to your offspring that your native language has value, and thus to give them the impetus to learn it.
Learning to speak the language at home, or with friends in the classroom is one thing, but learning it in its country of origin is another. It is a far faster and much more rewarding process. This I can testify to, having made no progress in languages myself until moving abroad.
My first born son is also proof that quality time spent in England is one of the few ways to encourage very young children and toddlers to speak English. He’d gone through a mute period for almost a year before we took him to the UK for a month, and he finally began to talk.
We now make regular trips to the UK to ensure both our kids stay au fait with the language: its grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.
One treat for them when we’re over is to have CBEEBIES on in the evenings. English language entertainment for kids, non-stop, usually educational in some way; so naturally we’ve been happy to let them watch it… until now.
The cause of this sudden distrust of BBC children’s output is Rastamouse. A stop-frame animation based on a series of books about a Jamacian Rastafarian mouse. While as an adult I find it mildly amusing, as a parent I find it insulting that it should be aimed at pre-schoolers.
I am prepared to overlook the various incompatible beliefs of the Rastafarian movement with the way I want to raise my children (canabis and anti-westernism) – because it’s cute in its stereotyping; but I cannot stomach the ritual slaughter of the English language on the nation’s publicly funded television channel for toddlers. Not least because it flies in the face of what I am hoping watching British TV will do for my children: improve their English.
Rastamouse would be better suited to an older age group who already know how to use grammar and pronunciation properly, and can appreciate that Caribbean Patois is a phonetic, slang, version of English… but this is something nigh-on impossible to explain to a four year old.
We have a hard enough job in France persuading our kids to pronounce their ‘ths’, which are habitually exchanged for d’s or v’s. So you can imagine our disappointment to lean that on British Television “dat ting” has become an acceptable way to pronounce “that thing”.
But that’s a small complaint when compared to the ‘sentences’ the characters in Rastamouse regularly construct:
Oh dis is bad, an me not mean dat in a good way. Wicked!
In short: gobbledegook. If linguistic regression for the nation’s youth is on the BBC agenda then Rastamouse ticks all the boxes. However I would guess that it is in the cultural diversity section of the programmers remit that the boxes are duly ticked for this particular emission. Someone is obviously happy.
In my view Rastamouse should be removed from the under-six schedules and placed onto CBBC or CITV where it belongs.