Five-year-old Mehdi Rahimi watches his favorite cartoons on TRT Çocuk, a Turkish channel for children that his family gets on satellite TV in their home in Fatmayi, a village just outside of Baku.
“There aren’t many interesting things on Azerbaijani TV, plus there is no special cartoon network,” said his mother, Zhale Rahimi, by way of explanation. “While I’m busy with my work, I turn on the TV and leave him there.”
Mehdi’s viewing habits have had an effect on how he speaks: he uses Turkish more than Azerbaijani, his mother says, for example favoring the Turkish salatalık over the Azerbaijani xiyar (cucumber) or using the Turkish word uzay instead of the Azerbaijani kosmos (space).
Rahimi says she is not worried: for one, most of the children in their neighborhood and family are in the same situation, so they all communicate easily with each other. Secondly, her older son had also picked up Turkish from watching cartoons, but largely switched back to his native tongue after starting school, where instruction is in Azerbaijani. “Now he speaks in Azerbaijani almost without any mistakes,” Rahimi said.
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Durna Safarova is a freelance journalist who covers Azerbaijan.