Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Kid Loves Spanish

A second language is always helpful, right? OK, maybe Latin is a little outdated, but there are many other languages that can be handy. In our area, we have a large Spanish-speaking population, so Spanish is a commonly taught second language in the schools.

But by the time kids get to school, much of their capacity to easily learn a new language is gone. Starting when a child is a toddler or preschooler is optimal, which leaves more of the responsibility on us as parents.

Cordy has learned some Spanish thanks to her two best friends: Dora and Diego. Not a lot of Spanish - just enough to get me in trouble. Yet somehow, I keep encouraging her to know more Spanish, because I know it will be good for her in the future.

The Parent Bloggers Network sent me the entire DVD set of Kids Love Spanish and asked for my thoughts on it. The series was created by two Southern California moms (and sisters) as a way to help address the need and importance of a second language for kids in our country.

The set contains seven volumes: Basic Words, Alphabet & Numbers, Family, Food, Colors & Shapes, Animals and Basic Phrases. Each DVD follows the same basic format. Words are taught one at a time, and each word is repeated many times before moving on to the next.

Each word is not only said by the two moms, but also by several children. This gives the viewer the chance to hear a word pronounced with slight variations by each child. There is little pressure to say the word exactly the same. After the word is repeated several times, one of the moms repeats the word one last time, and they move on to the next word.

It's clear this isn't a big-budget production. Bright green-screen effects and occasional rough patches of audio were a little distracting to me. But Cordy enjoyed watching these DVDs and didn't pay any attention to production value. She especially liked the songs at the beginning and end, and also really liked seeing all of the kids. Kids learn well from other kids, and I noticed Cordy paying more attention when children were the ones saying each word.

Some of the words had more explanation given, while others did not. For example, comida (food) was said several times by the kids, but little more was said or done. The kids simply stood in front of the camera and said the word. Having them point to or eat food might have been more helpful.

However, other words received a lot of explanation, such as agua (water). Agua was presented in several ways, with kids drinking glasses of water, babies splashing in water, and kids swimming in a pool (with commentary such as "The baby is splashing in the agua."). This worked really well - Cordy picked up words that were given more explanation than she did with words that didn't receive such treatment.

I liked how other Spanish words were worked in to a topic when possible. This was especially good when teaching the alphabet. Cordy learned quite a few words just by hearing a word that started with each letter.

The only thing that would have improved Cordy's enjoyment of Kids Love Spanish would have been more songs. She is a musical child, and learns well through song. Had they taught catchy Spanish songs, she probably would be singing them every day. (I can't tell you how often I have to hear, "C'mon, vamanos, everybody let's go...")

Grammar isn't really taught on these DVDs, but they do give an excellent introduction to basic Spanish words and phrases to get kids interested. They provided the spark to get Cordy interested in learning new ways to describe old things ("kitty...gato!"), and when she does finally start language instruction in school, she'll have a good start on vocabulary so she can focus more on sentence structure.

The important part of teaching your child a new language is just to get started. Make it fun, keep it simple, and reinforce what you teach. The Kids Love Spanish series provides an interesting and fun introduction to Spanish, providing simple words with a bright, cheery delivery.

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