Sunday, January 30, 2011

Learning Spanish with Speekee TV

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her daughters’ experience with Speekee TV, an online Spanish-language learning program. Bargainista was approached by Speekee founder, Jim Porter, who offered us a free two-month trial.

Young kids are hungry for language acquisition. My 2-year-old is constantly pointing at objects and asking “what’s that?” and my 6-year-old has been asking for the French and Spanish words for things since she found out that I studied both languages in high school (more years ago than I care to count, but I still retain some key nouns and verbs).

Learning Spanish with Speekee TV, a series of online webisodes with optional accompanying worksheets and parent study guides, seemed like a great opportunity for me to give both girls some extra language exposure. It’s a deceptively simple setup: you log onto their website with a username and password, then view each webisode as often as you like. They’re short – about 10 minutes – and feature Speekee, a friendly purple puppet host, as well as a number of children engaged in interacting with their environment. Each webisode centers on one activity – a trip to the park, a visit to a café – and the accompanying vocabulary. The webisode dialogue is entirely in Spanish, with English and Spanish subtitles.

After a few days of watching one Speekee webisode a day, I asked my 6-year-old what she thought of the program.

“Really cool,” was the verdict, “but a little confusing. I think they should say the word in English, too.” She’s not the fastest reader, and she often found it hard to keep up with reading the subtitles to connect the Spanish words she heard spoken with the corresponding words in English.

That said, through repetition (several of the webisodes repeat key phrases such as “hello”, “how are you,” “my name is”), she has picked up some vocabulary already, and is keen to learn more!

An unexpected result was how engaged my 2-year-old was in the webisodes. She doesn’t usually sit still long enough to watch TV or online shows, but she was rapt whenever Speekee or his puppet friends were on the screen, and after one webisode she took to shouting “Hola!” (Hello!) at anyone who comes to the door!

If you’re looking for something akin to an educational TV show to teach your kids Spanish, I would recommend Speekee – with the caveat that older kids or faster readers will get the most from it. However, even youngsters as little as my toddler can absorb the simple language lessons Speekee offers!

Speekee TV offers a free two-week trial. You can also connect with Speekee on Twitter and Facebook.

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