Friday, January 21, 2011
Had I known decades ago that I would end up living in Florida, where at least half the population speaks Spanish and for many of them it is the only language they speak, perhaps I would have devoted a little time actually learning Spanish instead of spending 5 years studying French for no greater purpose than crossing off as "completed" the language requirements of one high school and two colleges. Fast forward a few years, and now I have my own children who, conventional wisdom tells us, should learn a second language. And alas, none of them has a keen interest in Spanish either, but for them the need is much more practical, so when the opportunity to review Speekee, an online Spanish curriculum designed to help young children learn key Spanish words, I jumped at the chance.
Speekee is "the world's number one Spanish course for young children." Originating in the UK, Speekee features real Spanish children (and a few adults and puppets) speaking only in their native tongue over the course of 10 "episodes" (roughly 20-25 minutes in length each). This immersion based approach is designed to teach children ages 2-10 some basic every day Spanish vocabulary and expressions. Speekee uses catchy songs, a muppet-like puppet (Speekee himself), a few sock type puppets, and the interactions of the children and adults to convey the meaning behind the Spanish words, thereby allowing your child to "deduce" the meaning for themselves. Captioning is available also. Repetition is a strong component-repetition within each episode, repetition verbally by your child when Speekee asks "et tu?", and repetition by watching the same episode over and over. Downloadable worksheets and coloring pages are also available to reinforce the learning.
The Pros: Speekee is fun. Kind of like a Spanish version of something you'd find on PBS. The episodes are long enough to be educational and short enough not to be "too much". The songs are very catchy and the characters in the episodes are clearly native speakers and are very genuine. And at $7.50 a month, with a free 2 week trial, this is foreign language the inexpensive way.
The Cons: Honestly, this program just didn't work for us, as much as I really wanted it to. My older kids (13, 11, and 9) all wrote it off as "too babyish" after watching just one episode. My 5 year old, on the other hand, really enjoys it, but does NOT want to rewatch episodes she has already seen, she just wants to watch new ones. And while she enjoys it, she has yet to show that she really has picked any of it up. She's a bit too young to do any written reinforcement work, and without her being able to read the captions, she has not really made any connections between that the characters are saying and what it means. I'm sure rewatching the episodes over and over would help, but she isn't keen on that.
The bottom line: I know lots of people LOVE Speekee. Obviously that's true or it would be the world's number one Spanish course for young children. It just wasn't right for my family. I'd highly encourage you to check out Speekee's website HERE, as it has much more information and even DVDs for purchase (although they are PAL versions and may not be compatible with all US players). I'd also encourage you to check out what other members of the TOS Crew had to say HERE.
Legal disclaimer: I received a free subscription to Speekee TV online so that I could offer my review. That access was the only compensation I received.