|The Japanese button for bilingual might look like any of these:
How bilingual televisions work:
Television stations normally send out a stereo signal, which is picked
up by your TV set, and pumped out through both speakers. So some bright
spark realised that you don't necessarily have to send out the same
soundtrack (taking a stereo effect to be a single soundtrack), and
you could instead broadcast two different soundtracks (e.g. Japanese
language or English language), which could then be thrown out of two
separate TV speakers; the left speaker in English and the right speaker
in Japanese. So essentially the difference between bilingual and
non-bilingual TV is the capability to produce stereo sound. To choose
between the languages, you simply need to turn off the speaker you
don't want to hear.
So how do I spot a bilingual TV?
Simple - look on the front (where many TVs have sockets for video
cameras etc.) or the back of the TV (where you'd plug in your speakers).
If you have three colours of socket, yellow, white
and red, then you're in luck! If you only have yellow and
white, then the infernal machine won't do bilingual - feel free
to punch and kick the machine until you're blue in the face, or at
least mildly curse the ancestry of the idiot who bought a non-bilingual
What about VCRs?
Your video works in exactly the same way, and also needs the three
colours of socket. If you have a bilingual TV, but a non-bilingual VCR,
then you'll only be able to watch in English when it's broadcast.
Therefore taping a movie to watch later is a complete waste of time.
However if you have a bilingual VCR, but a non-bilingual TV, you
might be able to tape a movie, and watch it later in English on
the VCR channel. Maybe - it depends on the specifications of your set.
Follow all that?
So what's worth watching?
Your best bet is to brush up on your katakana skills, and then buy a
monthly TV listings guide. At time of writing (2001), the best magazine
by far is TV Taro, available in the last week of every month.
Under 400 yen, it lists every movie shown on satellite or terrestrial
television for the entire month, with a small screen shot next to the Japanese
description, and the title written in both Japanese and English. The
magazine (shown left) is easy to recognise by the cover, which always
features a colour portrait of a Hollywood star's face, but with white
How do I know whether a program is bilingual?
For normal television shows, a kanji sign is briefly shown in yellow at the top right of the TV
screen to indicate whether the program is in mono or stereo, but if the
program is available bilingually, the sign is usually shown in red.
So that's about it - have fun... and don't turn vegetable!