Even though I took two years of Spanish in high school, I would classify my Spanish knowledge as "un poquito." I have good memories of Spanish class in ninth grade from Senor Perazo. He taught me everything I know about verb conjugation, plus we played Spanish BINGO on the last Friday of the month, and got Smarties candies after we took quizzes. Muy bueno. My language skills were rusty at best, but ten years later I was able to put some of my knowledge to use when I was waitressing. I spent a few minutes every day practicing my Spanish with my bilingual co-workers, and I actually improved a small amount. Nevertheless, I'm still far from conversational. If my job was just to count things in Spanish I could do that. But not more than 100 things.
While I realize the importance of getting kids to learn another language, I'm not fully jumping on the bandwagon. Not because I don't think it's a good idea (it is! your children will be so much smarter for knowing more than one language! they'll learn to read faster!), but because it's not high on my priority list of things Sydney needs to do. Plus, it seems like there's a lot of work involved. Not as much work as folding laundry, but still. More work than wiping the crumbs off the countertops.
So when Parent Bloggers Network asked if I wanted to try out a Spanish language program for kids, I agreed and then promised myself I would feel no guilt if Sydney didn't learn a lick of Spanish from it. Guilt, be gone. I have no need for thee. Not to mention the fact that Sydney isn't exactly proficient at English. She can communicate plenty, but I know there are times when she's speaking gibberish just to be funny. Heck, maybe she's already speaking Spanish and I don't even know it. (Maybe she's speaking French! I could have Margaret come translate.)
We received Boca Beth in the mail several weeks ago, and it came with so many treats. First, a CD: My First Songs in Spanish. Second, a DVD: I Like Animals. And then a duck puppet (yay for puppets! it became instant friends with the pig and bear puppet the girls received from Raehan), a coloring book, and a mini-maraca (a shaker! we love things that make noise!). From the second I opened the package, Sydney was smitten with the shaker. She loves it. She takes it to bed with her. She sings songs to Jules with it. She wants dozens and dozens of them to have as tiny noise-making children. Of course, it doesn't teach her a bit of Spanish, but it's fun. We have had quite the time listening to the CD and using the shaker for the necessary percussion. Lots of jumping. Lots of shaking. Donde esta mi maraca? Necesito.
As for the learning Spanish part, well, we have had some small successes. Syd enjoys listening to the CD a great deal, and since I did have those awesome two years of Spanish I can pretty much sing along and help out with the words. For instance, I have fully memorized the second song that is sung to the tune of Frere Jacques: "Hola Amigo. Hello Friend. Coma Estas? How are you? Muy bien y gracias. Very well and thank you. Y tu? And you?" It plays in my head, often. More often than perhaps I'd prefer, but it's meant to be catchy. I hear Sydney singing this tune throughout the day, trying to get the Spanish words as well as the English. I have to say she's not so good at the Spanish pronunciation, but she is making an effort at any rate. The fact that she even recognizes that Spanish is a different language seems like a major accomplishment to me.
I enjoy playing the CD because I would rather have Sydney listening to music than watching TV. I also enjoy the CD because the DVD wears on me a bit. I should be clear, however, that Sydney would watch the DVD more often than I allow. "I can watch my Spanish movie now? With the duck? And the kids?" It is educational and entertaining and very engaging for little kids. These are all very important things. Part of my hesitancy to pop it in at any given moment is that the DVD runs almost an hour, which is longer than any other program she watches. The other part is the production element. The scene transitions aren't as smooth and the sound quality not as good as some of the other children's programs we have watched. I've become accustomed to DVDs that are a little more, shall we say, glossy. True, Disney is behind Baby Einstein. And Exclaim Entertainment is behind Boz the Bear. That's serious money and resources. Boca Beth does pretty well considering they don't have a Disney-sized production budget. And, good golly miss molly, a person has to start somewhere. I have nothing but admiration for Beth Butler, the creator of Boca Beth, for coming up with this concept and creating a language-based program that is very affordable. Go mamapreneurs.
In short, I think it's good that Sydney is getting exposed to a second language. Maybe some of it will stick, if only the counting and colors part. I learned to count to 10 in Spanish from watching Sesame Street, and if Boca Beth can teach Sydney that much -- and she can create positive feelings about learning a second language -- well, that's good news. It's a positive step in laying the groundwork for when she does eventually try to learn a foreign language. Gracias, Ms. Butler.
If you'd like a chance to win your own Boca Beth educational set, leave a comment at Parent Bloggers' Boca Beth post. Go on, you know you want that mini-maraca.