Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Review of Spanish in 10 Minutes a Day by Bilingual Books

For a short time, I would speak Pig Latin when discussing with my husband a topic that I wanted to keep from little ears. It was a short-lived strategy because my preschooler soon become more fluent in Pig Latin than my husband. Idskay areway ickquay. Not only are most kids curious about language, they pick it up very easily. I've always been a bit jealous of those households that were bilingual and the children had the benefit of learning two languages with ease. Unfortunately, with the exception of said Pig Latin, English is the only fluent language in our household. My practical foreign language expertise is limited to a year of junior high Spanish - many, many years ago. I retained enough to teach my daughter how to count to ten in Spanish when she became very interested in learning a new language, but Dora the Explorer would have been a better teacher. Maybe I can get my kids, now 9 and 12, to watch Dora?

Thankfully, Spanish in 10 Minutes a Day arrived for review before further consideration of PBS morning programming as a serious foreign language learning tool. My review package included a 132-page workbook with supplemental CD-Rom and an audio CD set.

Expert linguist Kristine Kershul is the author of the 10 Minutes in a Day series by Bilingual Books, an established foreign language program of over 28 years. After years of teaching in the classroom, Kershul recognized that most students studying a foreign language were doing so for personal enrichment, a goal often unmet with a strictly academic approach. Bilingual Books' building-block approach, achieving results quickly, was created for language learners studying for their own enjoyment or travel. The short and fun lessons introduce vocabulary in bite-sized pieces to be learned at your own pace. For more explanation of the method, you can listen to Kristine Kershul explain the playful step-by-step approach taken in the series.

Each workbook comes complete with a CD-Rom, 150 sticky labels and flash cards. The colorful workbook pages start out with seven key question words: where, what, who, why, when, how, how much. Throughout the workbook, simple phonetics are included above the words so there is no guessing on pronunciation. The key question words are built upon with vocabulary needed to ask basic questions if you were to travel to a Spanish-speaking area. The focus is on words commonly used in everyday life, quickly getting the learner up to a functional speaking level. Spanish culture and customs are also introduced. You can view the 25 steps covered in the workbook here.

The sticky labels are to label household items for further practice and immersion. The flash cards help practice vocabulary away from home. If you are learning a new language in preparation for a mission trips or overseas travel, the flash cards can easily be brought along to use while traveling. The interactive CD-Rom contains matching games of common words with instant feedback (see right).

The audio set contains six CDs covering the material in the workbook with nearly 8 hours of instruction. Fifteen different Spanish speakers deliver the lessons for the student to hear and copy proper pronunciation. The audio set can be used independently or as a supplement to the workbook. You can listen to one of the beginning lessons and learn the Seven Key Question Words for Spanish here. You may also want to listen to the following lesson to get an idea of how the material is reviewed and practiced in the program. To see how the audio CDs coordinate with the workbook, you can print the workbook pages that go along with the two audio lessons above here.

This is truly a low-pressure and fun approach to learning a new language. While designed for adults, the workbook is simple enough to be completed by elementary children. Non-readers and young children can join in using the audio CDs and learn along with the rest of the family. I have two very different learners in our household. My daughter is very language arts oriented and I utilized both the workbook and audio CDs, so she could both see and hear the language. My son is dyslexic and I mostly focused on learning through the CDs for him because I did not want to complicate the phonics and spelling remediation we are doing with him. He enjoyed listening and practicing new words with my daughter while keeping his hands busy with Legos. Regardless of what type of learner you have, I would highly recommend purchasing the audio set to complement the workbook. The reinforcement of hearing the words spoken can only aid and strengthen the use of a new language. We found them a helpful tool for easy review in the car as well.

While Bilingual Books can be a useful tool for students wanting to explore a new language, I would not consider it comprehensive enough for use for a high school foreign language credit. However, it would be excellent to spark or satisfy an interest in a new language, to prepare for a family or mission trip to another country, or to introduce a language as the first step of further study. The design is to quickly learn a new language for immediate use. The teaching parent does not need to have any previous knowledge of the language. If your child is interested in learning Japanese, Hebrew, Chinese or one of the 16 available languages, Bilingual Books is a fun way to quickly try out and explore the language.

Keep in mind that the original target audience for this program is adult travelers. Parents should be aware that one of the first things taught in the program is how to ask for a glass of wine! The menu section also contains a selection of alcoholic beverages. Obviously this is appropriate for the adult traveler, but you may not want your 10-year-old learning how to order a beer and should modify accordingly. While some phrases wouldn't be something a child would need, e.g. asking for certain beverages or learning how to pay the restaurant bill, overall the program is quite adaptable to homeschooler users wanting to experience a new language.

Can you really learn a new language in just 10 minutes a day? Si! With some practice, you and your children can be speaking Espanol in no time.

Visit Bilingual Books to view products for the 16 languages offered. “Cuanto cuesta (how much does it cost),”, you ask? Workbooks with the CD-Rom, offered in all languages, are available for a list price of $24.95. The audio CD, available for Spanish, French, Italian and German, has a list price of $42.95. You may purchase both the workbook only and audio CDs as a package, which lists for $59.95. Also available are language maps, a convenient list of important words and phrases, for $7.95. Furthermore, Bilingual Books offers a 25% discount for all prepaid orders placed by homeschoolers, making this program even more affordable. You will not find this discount on the website yet and will need to call to receive it. You may also find products by Bilingual Books in many stores and popular online sources.

Be sure to check out what other Crew members thought of Bilingual Books by clicking here.

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