Over the last several years, I have been on a mission to locate a kid-friendly Spanish program to introduce my lower elementary-age students to the Spanish language. I thought I'd never find what I was looking for. Things were either too expensive or too boring. Required too much teacher preparation or too much prior knowledge of the language. We had tried a variety of software packages, workbooks, and instructional DVDs and nothing was the right fit.
Nothing, that is, until we were introduced to Speekee. This language learning program is designed specifically for young children. Speekee is the main character, a purple puppet that might remind you of a Sesame Street character. Here's Speekee and two of his puppet friends:
The program covers 10 video units that focus on a specific location or theme:
- El parque (park)
- El cafè
- La casa (home)
- El zoo
- La clase (class)
- El mercado (market/store)
- La estaciòn (station)
- La playa (beach)
- El jardìn (garden)
- La fiesta (party)
Meant to immerse your child in the language, there is no auditory/verbal translation into english. The student just jumps right in to learning Spanish (although captions are available that have both the english and Spanish words). Each video is relatively short--15-20 minutes. To watch a unit daily or a few times per week serves as a great reinforcement of the material. You could even break each video down into smaller units and focus on a particular unit over several weeks.
For each unit, there are additional activities suggested for extending the learning as well as a set of worksheets you can print off and use to help reinforce the concepts introduced in a particular lesson. The main thrust of the program is vocabulary building. Learning the names for things as well as some common adjectives (color and number words and some opposites such as large/small, happy/sad, etc.). Some verbs are introduced within songs and conversations but they are not the main focus. Basic phrases or questions such as, "Where are you going?","My name is_____", "How are you?" are continuously reinforced through all units.
What did my kids think?
I have to say that after the first viewing, my 3 and 5 year olds were hooked! They loved the songs, the kids in the videos and the variety of skits. They just loved it all. They'd be singing the opening and closing songs with the video (and would often hum or sing it throughout the day). It took my 7 year old a little longer to get interested in the videos but after several days of hearing Speekee, he too was enjoying it. He liked being able to read the captions of the translation. I personally found the captions helpful so that I could help explain a few things that my littles didn't quite grasp from the videos (or that they didn't quite hear correctly the first time through).
With a bit of explanation and with the help of the worksheets that accompany the lesson, the vocabulary has started sinking in. I really like the extra activities that were suggested to help clarify the concepts closer to home. The program required virtually no teacher preparation. You just sit and view the videos and let Speekee and his friends do all the hard work. Then with a quick click of the mouse, I had worksheets at my fingertips. The worksheets were not overwhelming and were a direct extension of the videos.
What's the Verdict?
Overall, I'd give this program 5 out of 5 stars for its ease of use, reasonable pricing, and entertaining format that will appeal to children. The kids in the video seem to range in age from elementary to perhaps middle school so even older kids might enjoy the program. It certainly can be a study the whole family uses. I have to say that using children to teach Spanish to children makes the program particularly appealing. Well done all around!
What Does it Cost?
Speekee is available on DVD (PAL format only) or by online subscription. If you happen to have a PAL compatible player, you can check out pricing for the DVDs here. The online subscription is $7.50 (US dollars) per month and there is no minimum number of months required. The first 2 weeks are free so you have a risk-free way of trying out the program to see if it's a good fit for your family. Schools can also purchase Speekee; according to their website, it includes work and resources to last two years. For information on a 30-day school trial, check HERE.
Just a side note that the series was filmed in Spain with Spanish-speaking children. Hearing the language from native speakers is a wonderful aspect of the program (and not just adults speaking it). There are some minor pronunciation differences between Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Mexico and South American countries. For an early introduction to Spanish, those differences are relatively minor. By the time a student is pursuing more formal language instruction, they should have no problem transitioning to the Spanish typical for their region.
You can learn all about Speekee at their website: www.speekee.com or find Speekee on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given an opportunity to use the online version of Speekee for free for the purpose of reviewing and blogging about my experience. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.