Wednesday 10 March 2010

Speekee - complete fun programme for kids to learn Spanish

5-year-old Juliette and 8-year-old Sophie (and 8-month-old Pierre, once he actually starts talking !) are French/English bilingual. I'm fluent in French and did German up to A-level (even if I've forgotten most of it !). But none of us have ever learnt a word of Spanish, apart from the odd word the girls have picked up from watching Dora the Explorer and Diego on TV, so I was interested to see how we'd get on with the Speekee DVDs. As it's aimed at 2-9 year olds, the girls are right in the target audience.

I was initially surprised as there isn't a single word of English - you're thrown straight in at the deep end and start off with 100% Spanish. I'm a French teacher so I know that immersion is a great way to learn but I wasn't sure how young children, used to being spoonfed and told exactly what to repeat and what it means on Dora, would get on with this method. Well, they loved it and took to it like ducks to water !

The central character Speekee is very cute and is really appealing to the CBeebies generation of pre-schoolers. He introduces a whole group of Spanish children who talk real Spanish, not badly pronounced or dumbed-down Spanish, and show common situations that even the youngest of viewers will be familiar with. The first two episodes are set in a park and a cafe so despite the language being unknown, the situations are familiar and reassuring. The basic framework reminded me a bit of Sesame Street - you have mini films of real kids, amazingly catchy songs, glove puppets, repetitions ... there's so much going on that kids never get bored and will happily watch it several times over, thereby committing it to memory so much easier.

The first time I pulled out the box set, I called over the girls to watch one episode with me and see what they thought. They watched all three episodes on the first DVD in one go and wanted to watch some more the next day (luckily it was a weekend !). I asked if they wanted to watch the next episodes or the same ones again to see what they remembered and could answer now, and they opted for a repeat viewing. I was amazed at how much they had already memorised, just from one viewing ! As a language teacher, it surprised - and if I'm honest, disappointed - me slightly that we never see any written words on the screen. I know how important it is to associate the written word with the sounds, once it's been learned orally - but we cheated and put the subtitles on for the second viewing ! As an adult, it reassured me to know that I was repeating things correctly and I enjoyed seeing the spellings of the words. Sophie liked seeing the written words too, but as 5-year-old Juliette can't read yet, she proved that the method does work without the subtitles because - even if she was slightly slower - she still picked up the answers and learned the songs. Once I'd put down baby Pierre and had a chance to have a thorough look, I realised that the parents' guide that accompanies the DVDs contains all the lyrics to the songs, a Spanish dictionary and a whole host of ideas for follow-on activities so I stand corrected, we could have done without the subtitles after all !

Their Dad's face was priceless when they ran downstairs to greet him home from work babbling away in Spanish ! Especially as he does speak a bit of Spanish and could actually understand the words they were saying ! I really knew that they were learning, not just repeating sounds without understanding them, when Sophie pointed at little brother Pierre and said "me gusta le leche" when he was feeding ! If she could take the words out of context and use them in different situations, she was actually speaking Spanish, not just repeating sounds - fantastic ! And the fact that I understood what she wanted to say too meant that I'd been picking it up as well - even bigger bonus !

It's not cheap (£95) but it is a very complete programme with 10 episodes on three DVDs - a total of three hours of easy Spanish learning – a bonus DVD of all the songs, a 34 track song CD for in car-use and a comprehensive parent guide book, so if you break it down into individual components, it's actually reasonable value, especially if you compare it to some of the other language-learning programmes out there (that are much less entertaining and efficient). It's appealing to kids but also enjoyable for parents and I absolutely love getting to spend quality time with the kids and learning a new skill at the same time as them. They love the fact that Mum doesn't have all the answers all the time and that sometimes they know more than me ! I wish the kids in the classes I teach had as much fun learning languages as the girls ! It would actually be great to see Speekee expand and offer other languages. It really is Muy bien. Me gusta Speekee !

RRP : £95

star rating : cinco / cinco (5/5 if you were wondering !)

for more information :

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...