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Kids Love Spanish: Volume 4 - Food
Kids Love Spanish: Vol. 4: Food is a short video program that introduces children to Spanish words, with the theme being "food" in this case. The program is basically a video vocabulary program: for the most part, the program runs through single words like "manzana," "queso," "fruta," etc. The approach taken is to have the words are said over and over again by a variety of people, both adults and children, backed up by the word being shown in print on-screen. The use of a variety of speakers is a good idea,to let the viewer hear the same word said by a variety of different voices, including children's voices.
However, one problem with this is most of the speakers here are not native speakers. The two adult sisters have good South American Spanish accents (one of them more than the other), but the little cartoon cactus-man who pops up at times has a terrible American accent. The quality of the pronunciation among the children varies; sometimes it's good but sometimes it's dreadful. (for instance, in Spanish "v" is pronounced like a "b", but most of the kids mispronounce "huevos" and "uvas," and most everybody mangles 'fresa" for some reason.) I definitely agree with the claim of the DVD program that kids benefit from early exposure to the sounds of a foreign language... but it ought to be pronounced correctly, consistently, in a program that tries to provide that exposure!
Since early on one phrase is introduced ("tengo hambre" - I'm hungry) I was hoping that the vocabulary would be supplemented by some grammar, but it's not: the program remains at the level of isolated words. There's a missed opportunity here: simple words like "many" or "there is" would have been simple to introduce and easy to say, and would have allowed the program to move into the much more valuable stage of constructing simple sentences. Even a total beginner can learn in one lesson to say "hay muchas ___" (there are a lot of ____) or "me gustan _____" (I like _____) to make use of the vocabulary words. The program doesn't even use the words for "the" or "a", which is a big lapse in my view.
The other questionable pedagogical approach is to use a mix of Spanish and English: as in, "That's a big glass of leche!" While this may teach isolated vocabulary words, I'm less convinced about its value for overall language instruction, as it may get in the way of understanding Spanish grammar and word placement later on.
The visual approach is interesting: some of the shots are in "live" settings, but in others, the speaker is superimposed over a cartoon background. It features bright colors and catchy graphics. I found the visuals to be attractive overall, but I didn't like the use of "creative" graphics when the vocabulary word is shown on-screen. Often it's done so that the word wobbles or pulsates, which would be a distraction for a young reader even if adult readers can handle it just fine.
One plus is that the program, which is listed as "approximately 30 minutes," is actually almost 50 minutes long.
The program opens and closes with a little song about "kids love Spanish" which, ironically, is in English only.
The program appears in the 1.33:1 format, and looks bright and clean. There's some evidence of digital artifacts, but overall it's a nice clean presentation with no distractions.
The stereo soundtrack is clear and natural-sounding.
A "Music" section plays the two "Kids Love Spanish" songs separately from the rest of the program. The "About Kids Love Spanish" segment provides the background on the creators of the program, giving their credentials and background, and pointing out the benefits of kids learning a foreign language at an early age.
I'm fluent in Spanish and I've done graduate work in second-language acquisition, so I am in complete agreement with the goals behind Kids Love Spanish. With that in mind, I wish I'd found the DVD of Vol. 4: Food to be more pedagogically sound. While I think the attractive visuals and variety of speakers go on the plus side, on the minus side there's a real missed opportunity for even a little bit of grammar, I don't approve of the mix of English and Spanish, and the pronunciation quality is uneven. I'll give this a "rent it" rating, reflecting the fact that it could be a good supplement to another language program, but not a stand-alone program.