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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whistlefritz DVD and CD Review and Coupon Code

A little while ago, I shared the story of my personal experience of teaching my daughter to be bilingual.  It's a journey that will continue throughout her life, but a major milestone was reached thanks to Whistlefritz's amazing DVDs and CDs for preschoolers.

Today, I want to go through some of the amazing features of both the Los Animales DVD and the A Bailar CD.

Los Animales DVD  
Whistlefritz.com has come out with a great selection of two CDs and four DVDs that teach language to kids (ages 1-7).  I was blessed to be able to try out their Los Animales DVD on my 21 month old and I fell in love with it.  She even asks for that particular movie now "Spanish movie?" especially since it's the only TV I'll let her watch unbridled. 

Why Preschoolers?
As I said, the DVD is made for small children.  Studies show that people who learn a second language before puberty hits--especially in the earliest years--will speak like a native, and will learn the language more effectively.  Students who attempt to do so in middle school and high school are much more likely to never gain fluency, to find foreign language learning difficult, and to eventually quit.  If you don't speak a foreign language fluently, it's probably because you took a few years in high school and then forgot because you never studied further.   This is the case because childhood is when all the devices involved in helping a human being to learn their first language are hard at work.  If you want to take advantage of what many call the language acquisition device that we all have until puberty, it's important to expose your child to a second language before then.  Recent studies have also shown that learning a second language at a very young ages helps cognitive development. 

The Goal: 
"To expose children to a second language early when the brain is most receptive to language development."
The goal of these DVDs and CDs is to make bilingual babies/children.  However, on their own, the DVDs and CDs won't be able to do that, though they will be able to push them in that direction.   The level of English immersion that your kids get at home (assuming I'm speaking to an audience of English speakers) so far outweighs the little bit of Spanish that they will hear from the DVDs and CDs that the Spanish just won't be able to compete.  However, your child will be exposed enough to the language to be able to speak and understand a little.  You'll also find that later in life, when they formally take a Spanish class, that they'll be more receptive to the language and able to pick it up faster.  Let me reiterate.  If you're expecting that your child will become fluent just by listening to a DVD--even daily--then you're incorrect.  This DVD is an amazing tool that takes bigger steps than any other program that I have ever seen towards successfully teaching your children Spanish, and I am positive that should you buy it and use it with your children, their lives will be positively enriched.  But we humans need much more than just a DVD to fluently learn a language.  You wouldn't expect your child to become fluent in their first language if the only time they heard it was on a 30 minute DVD once a day, would you?

If you want fluently bilingual children, the best way to get that it to expose them to the language in many different contexts.  It's ideal if they hear two (or more) adults modeling the language to them.  It's also great if they have a person who will interact with them in the target language.  Adding things like music (The A Bailar CD is AWESOME for this) to the mix and then you're really starting to get a recipe together that will begin to give the second language a fighting chance compared to English, or the language spoken at home.  Just think quantity in addition to quality.  I do my best to speak both Spanish and English to Bunny, and I expose her to as many situations where Spanish is spoken as possible (like these AMAZING DVDS!), and hopefully, when the opportunity comes for her to either take a class or to be completely immersed in the language in another country, the groundwork that I've laid will make fluency much more attainable for her.

The Method: 
The method used in these DVDs is immersion with language spoken by native speakers. Immersion means that Spanish is taught through communication and context, the same way you learn your first language. It also means that there is no translation.  Translation just adds an extra step, teaching your brain to work harder to acquire the language needed to communicate.  If the language is taught without translation, then you are teaching the student to actually think in the target language.  For instance.  I could say "apple is manzana" to you over and over and you'll learn that what manzana means in English.  You'll learn to translate.  But if I show you an apple and say, "Es una manzana," you'll learn to look at that fruit and identify it with the correct Spanish term without having to refer to English.  As someone who learned Spanish in high school and college, I can attest to having been taught both by translation, and my immersion.  When I was taught using immersion, my Spanish blossomed and my fluency increased exponentially. 

In addition to immersion, the DVD mixes live action with puppets and animation, giving little eyes lots of wonderful colors and different kinds of action to follow.  Maria is the narrator, and she's a very engaging adult native speaker.  There are lots of kids who interact with her, repeating all the vocabulary she says, and answering her questions.  Then, there are the puppets, such as the perrito (doggy) who seems to be the star of the whole thing, and there is animation as well, such as Fritzi, the ratoncito (little mouse).  It really keeps Bunny's attention.  What I love best about the live action is that Bunny can actually watch someone's mouth as they produce the words which I feel will better help her learn how to produce those sounds herself. 

The Language:  
This particular DVD works mostly with animals and the sounds that they make.  Since the animals are taught in context, the audience is also exposed to verbs such as, "Es el perro.  El perro corre.  El perro corre rápido." (This is the dog.  The dog runs.  The dog runs fast).  In other words, the kids aren't taught isolated vocabulary words, but they are taught vocabulary in the context of a sentence and a story.  There are also a couple of songs taught on the DVD that also deal with animals.  My daughter already has the phrasing to one of these songs memorized and goes around the house saying, "Vengan amigos" (come, friends) over, and over and over...

A Bailar CD
We were also delighted to find that a CD came in the mail to review along with the DVD.  I actually hadn't been interested in the CDs when I looked at their website because I felt that Spanish CDs for elementary students are a dime a dozen--well, easier to find at least.  I've always been able to find great Spanish CDs through my Teacher's Discovery catalogues.  I wondered when on earth I'd find the time to just sit down and listen to it and  I have to honestly say I didn't really want to.  But the opportunity came when we were playing in Bunny's room.  I thought, "Why not play the CD while we color?"  so I did and I was delighted to hear some very didactic songs! The songs not only encourage dancing and movement and have lots of easy to understand repetition, but they tell you how to dance.  "Like, put your hands up, put them down" or "We dance with our knees or our hips," and even a Spanish version of "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Feet" (the Spanish word for toes just doesn't fit!).  This means that she's not just listening to the music, but with proper parental interaction, she can act out the music and thus learn the words the music is talking about.  Now, not all the songs are that way.  Some of the songs are the same ones found on her DVD, which means she's already exposed to the meaning through the visual context there.  And some aren't on the Los Animales DVD but I suspect that they may be on some of the other DVDs from the sample clips I've seen on Whistlefritz's facebook page.
So what am I saying?  I'm saying that even the Whistlefritz CD stands out to me.  I've seen lots of really good CDs and this is definitely one of them!  I'll definitely be using it in my classroom to augment some of my units next year (And I have a secret to tell you, even the high school kids love this stuff.  They only pretend that they don't).

The Price:
 The price starts at $19.99 for a DVD and $14.99 for a CD, but gets cheaper and cheaper the more you buy. You save 25% by ordering the whole collection (four DVDs and two CDs), 20% for four DVDs and one CD, 15% for four DVDs or any three DVDs and one CD...and so on and so forth.  You can check out more specifics of the pricing here.

You can also rent each DVD on Youtube.  It's  $2.99  for 72 hours.  And Amazon  sells Whistlefritz products as well, and their prices vary, as you may know if you're familiar with Amazon.com.

For the month of July, Whistlefritz is offering my readers and additional 10% off their purchase with the code bilingualbaby.  I plan on using it to get the remaining three DVDs and one CD that I don't already own. 

My Experience:
My experience with this DVD--as I highlighted in more detail in this post--has been highly positive.  My daughter is extremely engaged when watching the movie (which is saying a lot since at only 21 months not even Sesame Street can hold her attention 100% of the time) and after viewing it only four times, I heard her start to replicate the language she heard--and this was before I started speaking to her in Spanish again (I used to use some Spanish when I spoke to her before she knew how to talk).  She'll watch the DVD over and over and it seems to only get funnier to her with time.  You should see the excitement on her little face as she watches and listens to all the animals.  I think her favorite part is when the doggy makes the wrong noises--like when he meows, or makes elephant sounds--because she knows something is wrong.  She also LOVES to chime in when the roster says, "Kikiriki!"  (pronounced: Kee, kee ree kee)
Bunny particularly loves the CD, and asks me to "put da music on?" all the time, and even to "turn it up!" so that we can dance around the room to it together.  It's just so stinking adorable to watch!

My Verdict:
I'm a well-trained, and experienced Spanish teacher, so I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the matter of foreign language learning. That said, I highly recommend the Los Animales DVD and the A Bailar CD.  I give them both four out of four stars.  They're awesome! Really! And I'm pretty picky about the kinds of Spanish materials I use because so many of them use translation, which I feel can actually detract from second language learning in many cases.  I can't wait until school starts again so that I can use this DVD--and the others that I will have bought by that point--in my classroom! Well, I can wait until school starts, I thoroughly enjoy summer, but you know what I mean! 

So, go ahead over to Whistlefritz and check them out for yourself! Remember, the coupon code bilingualbaby is only good until the end of July, so take advantage of the savings while you can!


Little BGCG's Mommy said...

This looks awesome, I'll have to check it out for Mason it's so important to me that he learns and it's about time I learn too so maybe this will help me too!

Little BGCG's Mommy said...

This looks awesome, I'll have to check it out for Mason it's so important to me that he learns and it's about time I learn too so maybe this will help me too!