Disney English System for Japanese

I just learned from my wife that she has sent off a request for a free Disney English System sample DVD. It’s widely accepted that if you want your child to be proficient in a foreign language, then you should start their learning from a young age.

Disney English System websiteThe last decade has seen Japan’s “English conversation” schools fall over themselves trying to recruit students at a younger and younger age. For example, when I started working at ECC in 1998 their Kids English World program was really taking off, with classes for kids as young as four. The next year, selected teachers were picked and given “special” training for their new course for three year olds. NOVA stepped up and offered classes for toddlers and every other school followed.

The youngest kids I have taught are one and a half year olds, and while fun to watch, you don’t really get much out of them. The argument is however, that because they are listening to native English, they will “absorb it like a sponge”, especially picking up on rhythm and intonation.

So, it’s not really a surprise that Disney is pushing this philosophy hard, offering two programs – one for pregnant mothers, and the other for 0-4 year olds.

I’ll reserve judgement until I see the sample, but my initial reaction is I don’t want my son, little Riku, sounding like Mickey Mouse… or even worse… Donald Duck!

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2 thoughts on “Disney English System for Japanese

  1. Nick, I saw a really interesting program the other day about a study that showed kids as young as 4 months could tell when different languages were being spoken. The had these little tykes in front of the tv watching a person speak with the sound turned off. They would lose interest when the person was speaking their native language, but as soon as they switched to another language the kids were drawn back to the tv and paid much closer attention. The intersting thing is that this was true for kids up to 4-6 months, but after 8 months only the kids in multi-lingual homes could differentiate. The theory is that we are all born with these abilities, but soon after birth we start to get rid of the ones that we don’t need or use.
    Another thing that I have heard is that kids who grow up in multi-lingual homes generally have better problem solving skills. The research I read attributes this in part to the early concept of synonyms. Usually kids get this concept by about 4 yrs old, but multi-lingual kids get this concept right from the get-go.
    My oldest son, Shuntaro, who is almost 3 goes back and forth between English and Japanese all the time and even though both my wife and I speak both languages to him he will often translate depending on who he is talking to. For example I will say “tell Okaason to be carefull” and he will tell Mariko,”okaason kiotsukete”. The only mix ups he has is sometimes he will say things like “stoptai” meaning he wants to stop.
    In any case take the research for what it is worth, I will try to find it so that you can see for yourself.
    Bigus Mackus

  2. Thanks Big Mack, it’s always nice to hear from you!

    That’s interesting stuff, and I’ve heard similar from other “international” parents. I’ve no doubt growing up in a bilingual environment is beneficial and can’t wait to get started with Rikuto. I have a student whose Japanese parents have bombarded him with English since birth. He’s six now, but even when I was teaching him at four, he would do as Shuntaro does, and also made silly jokes in English. Like if I asked him the weather, he’d say things like “it’s sunny, Mr. Funny!”

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