I think I’ve mentioned that my motto around here is, “Anything goes, as long as it’s in Spanish.” This means we have quite a few DVDs in Spanish but not many in English. It’s why we’ve put together quite a library of books in Spanish as well, so that we always have plenty to choose from. However, when it comes to computer games in Spanish, I’ve found the selection lacking. In fact, the only Spanish website my sons are ever on is the Discovery Kids en Español site. When they get tired of that, they go back to their games in English, and I let them, because I haven’t found any other Spanish sites I like better.
So I was excited about reviewing Foreign Language Friends, a website that offers a variety of games and other educational activities in Spanish. The program is web-based and is very easy to access—all you need is an internet connection. Once we punched in our login information, we were up and running in no time.
There is a short explanation in English at the beginning of each activity, but everything else is in Spanish. The main characters are a little girl, Lily, her dog, Sansón (I loved the name!) and Pedro, the grasshopper.
I liked the way the program is organized very, very much. It currently consists of twelve themes, such as colors, shapes, transportation, emotions, and sports, and you can go in order or easily switch between themes at the bottom of the page. Each theme includes seven activities, which are also visible at the bottom of the page. The first activity introduces basic vocabulary. Then there is a matching game, a cartoon, a song, a spelling game, another game (which is different for each theme), and printable coloring sheets that include the vocabulary your child has learned. Once an activity is completed, the icon at the bottom of the page is grayed out, so it’s easy to see what your child has already done.
Initially, I was mainly curious to know if the Spanish would be too basic to hold my children’s interest, but that was not the case. I think the developers got the balance just right. For beginners, there is plenty of vocabulary and lots of repetition, and words are supplemented by images, say, in the middle of a song. Also, Lily and her friends speak slowly and clearly, which will be very helpful to children just learning the language. My children, who already speak Spanish, absolutely loved the songs, cartoons and games.
I was also curious as to how much both of my children would enjoy it and what they would get out of it, since they seem to operate on two different planes a lot of the time. Primo started reading Spanish two years ago, googles the games he wants to play and taught himself to use the mouse with his left hand so he can suck his right thumb while he plays on the computer. Secondo is just starting to read simple words—English only—and loves watching his brother play but is not remotely interested in using the computer himself. I logged them in and let them have at it. Primo was in charge of the mouse and easily navigated his way through the themes and activities, and he, not Secondo, played the games. However, they both loved the cartoons, which made them laugh uproariously together. (Though they went through a total of about half of the activities, they went back to the cartoons—and some of the games—over and over again). And though I felt lukewarm about some of the songs, they loved those as well. The lyrics appear at the bottom of the page with a little ball bouncing over them, karaoke-style, and I must admit that I got really excited when I saw Secondo trying to read in Spanish for the very first time as they both tried to sing along. This program could definitely help as he learns to read in Spanish, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
The site sells both monthly and yearly subscriptions. I would probably choose a monthly subscription, myself, just because my boys can be fickle and invariably move on to something else. The site promises that new content will be added periodically, but I suppose I would want to know how often before making a lengthy commitment. At any rate, a free seven-day trial is also offered, which seems like a good idea for any parent wondering if it’s worth it. Good news is that every SpanglishBaby reader receives a 25% discount when using the code SPANGLISHBABY!!
I read on the website that programs in other languages are being developed as well. Since I’ve been toying with the idea of at least exposing them to some French, I would be interested a French version as well. The Spanish version was an unqualified success around here, and I’d love to see what the developers come up with next.
Congratulations to the winner: Elizabeth a.k.a Liz!!!
We have a free one-year subscription to Foreign Language Friends to give away to one lucky winner. To enter please visit the Foreign Language Friends website and tell us something you learned while there.
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