Bilingual is Better

Whenever a new music CD for my kids enters our house, I soon end up mentally filing it under one of three categories.  First, we have the ultra-screechy children’s music that I would rather not listen to (but that my kids often adore).  Then, there are the rare few CDs that I like so much I’ve been known to listen to them in the car or while I’m working–without the kids.  And finally, there is a lovely middle ground, CDs we all like, staples that are in a permanent rotation in our home.  Any CD in Spanish gets bonus points and gets heavier play in that rotation.

When we first listened to Hap Palmer’s Learning in Two Languages, I placed in that second category.  The music itself is beautiful.  The album boasts that it includes piano, bass, drums, guitar, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, flute, piccolo, violin, viola, cello, marimba, bongos, congas, tambourine, and maracas.  Whew–no screechy synthesizers here, and the result is lovely.  Not only that, the instruments are sometimes used to provide great sound effects.  In “What Is the Opposite?/¿Qué es lo contrario?” for example, “big” is followed by a flourish of horns, “small” by some soft plucking on the guitar.

There are ten songs on the album.  The English song comes first, the Spanish version immediately after it.  I don’t think one is meant to listen to it all the way through–I could see listening to certain songs, or creating a playlist and listening to the entire album in one language or the other.  Then again, one of my sons was so thrilled about it that he stood by the CD player and announced, “¡Ésta canción es en inglés!  ¡Y ahora en español!” the entire time, so I have yet to make those playlists.

I could tell right away that the album is meant to be educational, but it’s not heavy handed about it.  The songs are fun, and very singable.  Some of the songs reinforce language in a more obvious way.  For example, “It’s a Seven-Day Week” is a call and response song that encourages singing back and fourth–we took turns singing the days of the week to each other in both English and Spanish.  There’s a song about colors, and the song about opposites.  Some are silly and fun to get up and dance to, like “Percival the Parrot/Lorenzo el loro” and “Walter the Waltzing Worm/Gustavo el gusano bailarín.”

While listening to the songs, it was easy to imagine what kind of activities or movement went along with them.  We stood up and sat down during “What Are You Wearing?/¿Qué tienes puesto?” and marched around during “Parade of Colors/Desfile de colores.”  However, a few days later I checked out Hap Palmer’s website and found a wealth of information.  All of the song lyrics are there, for one thing.  Then, an activity for each song is listed, as well as variations and sometimes even additional follow-up ideas.  There is an instrumental track for each song on the CD, and they can be used for singing your own variations, as well.  I was very impressed–the website will be very useful to teachers who use the album, and I plan on trying the activities out myself.  A lot of thought, care and energy went into this album, and it shows.   This care extends to the translation of the songs.  In addition to the translator, Claudia Orejuela Steeves, several Spanish language consultants are included in the credits.  There is a disclaimer on the website for one of the songs, “Witches’ Brew/Caldo embrujado,” stating that the translation is not literal, but rather strives for the same rhyme and alliteration.  Thus, “Dead leaves, seaweed, rotten eggs, too/Stir them in my Witches’ Brew” becomes, “Cucarachas y un tomate aplastado/Mézclalos en mi caldo embrujado.”  Fun lyrics, with just the right “ewww” factor for children, if you ask me.

So yes, this CD definitely falls in that second category, but when listening to it for the first time, we just danced around and had fun, I had no idea it ran so deep.

The Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations to the winners:  Maria H. and Benita.

We’re giving away a copy of Learning in Two Languages to TWO winners. All you have to do is listen to the samples of the songs here and tell us which one you like.

That’s all you have to do to enter this giveaway. If you want to up your chances at winning, then this is how you can get additional entries (only after you´ve completed the step above):

**Please leave a separate comment for each so we can count them and avoid mistakes.

1. Subscribe to our feed via email or RSS and leave us an extra comment letting us know you did so or that you’re already a subscriber.

2. Follow us on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway including a link to the post.

3. Blog about this giveaway making sure to include our link, and you’ll get TWO additional entries.

This giveaway ends Wednesday, May 26 at midnight EST and you must have a valid U.S. address to enter.

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