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Article:    Helping Kids Learn Spanish

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Starting kids on foreign languages at a young age seems to get the best "results". Children's brains are primed to pick up and absorb languages almost effortlessly. What follows are what we feel are the best selections of music, software, and videos that will help kids learn Spanish as a second language.

Music/Audio

One of our favorite series of children's foreign language products is the Teach Me series. Teach Me Spanish (A Musical Journey Through the Day) is an exceptional and easy-on-the-ears bilingual product for children of all ages. The tunes are catchy, and both Spanish and English are spoken (and sung) so that beginners are never overwhelmed. 

Both the CD and cassette versions come with an activity book so that kids can follow along. The songs roughly follow a child's day, and in between tunes, children talk about their day. Some standout songs include Bingo, La Bamba, and El Sereno. Some of the things kids will learn with this set: the alphabet, parts of the body, days of the week, and numbers. The children on the recording are natural and native speakers.

Once kids have enjoyed this audio recording, they can graduate to Teach Me More Spanish and Teach Me Even More Spanish.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Teach Me Spanish (Paperback and Audio... CD/book]

Baby's First Steps in Spanish by Living Language is a high-quality, professional, and well put together audio CD and book set specifically designed to be played when children are babies, from ages newborn to 24 months. The CD offers a combination of songs, rhymes/rhythms, and dialogues that emphasize the unique sounds of the Spanish language. The book in the set is designed to not only explain the philosophy behind the CD, but to offer parents some helpful tips for developing children's language skills. This is a superior product that is both palatable and useful. See our full review of Baby's First Steps in Spanish for more information.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Baby's First Steps in Spanish (Baby's First Steps) at Amazon.com.]

coverUni-Verse of Song: Spanish by Music for Little People uses simple songs and basic phrases to introduce children to Spanish. Like the Teach Me Spanish product mentioned above, this is a bilingual recording--both Spanish and English verse is included so that true beginners are not overwhelmed. Bilingual songs include Row Row Row Your Boat, and If You're Happy and You Know It. Conversations in between songs help round out a fine children's recording that teaches as it entertains. Very upbeat--never dry. Because of the translation approach, adults can learn some Spanish along with their kids.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Uni Verse of Song: Spanish at Amazon.com.]

Top Pick. For kids a little older, an excellent audio CD and activity book set is Learn in Your Car for Kids: Spanish by Penton Overseas. We love this set! Kids learn Spanish words, phrases, and sentences as they follow along with the CD, in which children are on their way to a "fiesta".  The reusable, laminated full-color activity book contains exercises that help reinforce the vocabulary learned on the audio CD, and the set includes reusable stickers and an erasable marker.  Bilingual songs are featured on the CD, in addition to the dialogues and vocabulary drills. See our full review of this Learn French CD/Activity Book set. We rated this set with a grade of A+.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Learn in Your Car for Kids Spanish: On the Way to the Fiesta Activity Kit (Learn in Your Car for Kids) at Amazon.com]

 

Children's Spanish Games & Audio

 

LinguaFun! Spanish: Language Learning Card Game offers an ingenious approach to learning Spanish words, numbers, phrases, and sentences, including sentence structure. Kids play popular card games like Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Solitaire, and Concentration with cards that include Spanish phrases. Putting the color-coded cards together means kids instantly form sentences. This set includes an audio CD that helps model the pronunciation of the included phrases, which include cards from two decks: the Family series (everyday words and sentences) and the Travel series (words and sentences commonly encountered or used when traveling).  Appropriate for children ages 7 or 8 and up, and for adults too!

[See our review of the LinguaFun series. For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Linguafun!: Spanish Language Learning Card Games (Linguafun! CD and Card Games)]


Children's Spanish Instructional Videos and DVDs

coverBilingual Baby: Spanish introduces young children (not limited to babies) to basic Spanish words and simple phrases in a step-by-step fashion. Live-action video is used, and the video is quiet and well-paced. Children learn Spanish vocabulary of familiar objects, like apple and dog, concepts, like numbers and colors, and learn common expressions, like thank you and you're welcome

The Bilingual Baby video series also includes videos for different languages, and each follows a similar format. The screens are uncluttered, and the vocabulary is clearly spoken. New vocabulary is introduced one word at a time before it is combined into a sentence. For example, in Section 1, the Spanish equivalent of boy, eat, and apple are introduced one by one, and then the sentence, The boy eats the apple, is spoken and illustrated. Each new vocabulary word is demonstrated in two different ways--for example, two women in different settings illustrate the word for mother

Appropriate for children ages 1-6.

[See our review. For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Bilingual Baby, SPANISH, Vol 2 video]

 

cover If your child happens to be a Sesame Street fan, the old standby, Sesame Street Fiesta might certainly teach him/her a few things. At the very least, your child will receive a healthy dose of Spanish songs. This bilingual video is silly and fun--the perfect introduction to bilingualism for young children.  

Appropriate for children, ages 2-6.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Sesame Street - Fiesta!]

 


Rock'n'Learn Spanish is designed for older children up to adults. The video uses rap, song, and dance to introduce viewers to common expressions, colors, body parts, and so forth. A translation approach is used, and, in fact, textual reinforcement is used without. The format is well-structured, with learning content progressing from basic to relatively complex in a gradual manner. Although the video is certainly lively, the repetitive format demands that children view the lessons in short segments. The content is quite excellent. 

Appropriate for school-age children.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Rock 'N Learn:Spanish]

 

Software

There are a number of software titles designed for kids to acquire foreign language skills--all with different approaches and styles. KidSpeak Spanish, for example, is a full-immersion approach that involves kids in simple games. Language Excelerator, on the other hand, uses a straight-shooting approach to learning. Our favorite of the titles currently available is EazySpeak Spanish.

 

Top Pick Ages 10-up: Eazyspeak Spanish Levels 1 and 2 (PC & Mac)  
This is a very unusual program for a number of reasons: the cartoon characters are quirky, the humor is irreverent, and the format is free-style. What sets the title apart is the huge content spread over two levels, as well as the fresh approach that draws kids in. Read our full review of EazySpeak Spanish here for more details.

Good Choice Ages 4-up: Rosetta Stone Spanish Explorer  
This is a great program that can be used as effectively by a four year old and an adult. Mind you, younger users won't be able to participate in the reading and writing exercises, but they'll still benefit from the many other exercises that rely on beautiful photos and multiple-choice questions. 

Once users understand the different options, they sail through the exercises that painlessly boost their listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Of the programs available, we like this one the best. Although you won't get a full foreign language course in one box, this one is the first program to buy. This title is discontinued and currently difficult to find, however. If you can get your hands on a used title, we recommend purchasing it.


Ages 3-6:
JumpStart Spanish
JumpStart Spanish is a moderately educational CD-ROM. It provides a colorful backdrop for introducing the Spanish language. The learning environment is playful. We thought the program could be better, but it does a decent job of introducing languages to young children (preschoolers and Kindergarteners).

 

coverGood Choice Ages 5-7: Math and Reading Excelerator Grades 1...
Unfortunately, the title of this program doesn't invite families who are looking for a Spanish program for their kids--but one of the 4 CD-ROMs included in this bundle is an effective and fun program for teaching Spanish basics. It's a great back-up for children in K-2 Spanish language programs. Spanish with Phonics builds basic vocabulary (the alphabet, numbers, colors, common expressions, etc.) in a step-by-step, steady manner. Bonus: you'll get three more decent titles in the bundle. An economical and educational choice.


coverGood Choice Ages 6-9: KidSpeak 6-in-1
KidSpeak Languages 6-in-1 includes 6 foreign languages on CD-ROMs, including Spanish. This is a strong title that uses a full immersion approach to learning new languages. The learning is embedded into games, and no multimedia flashcards are used. Consider this point when purchasing a foreign language software for your child. Your own child may prefer a more straightforward learning environment. However, the approach used in this title can be very effective because children learn the language almost effortlessly. Games include tic tac toe, jigsaw puzzles, dominoes, connect-the-dots, and bingo. Songs are incorporated into the program and include Happy Birthday and The Alphabet Song. Vocabulary learned includes days and months, greetings, fruits, school items, body parts, numbers, clothing, and more. A total of 6 languages are covered in separate sections -- Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Hebrew. See our full review.


cover Ages 6-9: Language Excelerator (Ages 5-12)  
This set of CD-ROMs was just released in 2003, although users will notice that the graphics in the programs are not state-of-the art. The featured languages are French, Spanish, German, and Italian, and English--5 in all. Each CD-ROM has the same format. One of the CD-ROMs is Quixel's Spanish Adventure. Quixel is a Martian whose spaceship has crash-landed on Earth. Children participate in a number of vocabulary-building activities in order to win spaceship parts. Topics covered include food, professions, time, months, days, alphabet, numbers, colors, clothing items, and more. There is a family tree activity that helps children get acquainted with Spanish words to describe family relationships; an asteroid-style game in which kids blast asteroids in the form of geometric shapes; and so forth. The program is quite straightforward and uses a translation approach. It's a decent supplement for children learning Spanish in school, simply for reinforcement of Spanish vocabulary. This title is discontinued and currently difficult to find.

Ages 6-9: Instant Immersion Language Starter For...
This CD-ROM set uses a completely different approach than KidSpeak, above. Children scroll through multimedia flashcards in order to pick up basic Spanish vocabulary. This one also features a number of different languages, so kids can "sample" different foreign languages in one shot. The graphics are certainly outdated in this one, but the learning experience is strong in a straightforward way. This title is discontinued and currently difficult to find.


  Good Spanish Software Buy:

Instant Immersion Spanish Pro  

coverInstant Immersion Spanish Pro includes two particularly child-friendly CD-ROMs mentioned above: Rosetta Stone Spanish Explorer and the Spanish CD-ROM included in Instant Immersion Language Starter. There are 7 CD-ROMs in this bundle, and the package is rather confusing as a whole, but it is a good buy for children, simply for these 2 CD-ROMs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 2003/Updated December 2004/April 2005/June 2005
 

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