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Friday, January 21, 2011

Hablo Espanol with Speekee, a review

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Emma might not say “Hello,” but she can say “Hola!”

All it took was a muppy puppet singing some catchy tunes in Spanish with the kiddos each day.

Speekee is an online subscription service that will teach children ages 2-10 some basic Spanish while interacting with 10 immersion-based videos. The videos star Speekee (a purple puppet) and children of various ages, all speaking Spanish. No English is spoken, though captioning is provided that includes the Spanish transcript as well as an English translation.

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Each video follows a predictable story arc, beginning with “Hola,” and the opening song, “Hablo Espanol” (I speak Spanish), visiting a new place (like el cafĂ© o la estacion), meeting up with the sock puppets Dino and Lupi and so on, on up to the closing song, “Adios.” Each episode runs approximately 16-18 minutes.

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There are worksheets to accompany each lesson with most activities involving simple skills like coloring, drawing, and copying some Spanish words. I found that a few of these sheets were appropriate for my 5-year-old’s skills, but most of them were better for my older children.

The songs are cute, though I warn you…you might find yourself singing them in the shower. Or worse, when you are trying to fall asleep.

Dialog is easy to follow with plenty of repetition. The kids are real kids speaking real Spanish (not your textbook stuff with bad accents or anything). In fact, I noticed that the words used are in many cases different from what I learned in high school Spanish. The forms used tend to be less formal and probably more like what you might hear in real life.

Castilian Spanish (from Spain) is spoken in the videos, not Latin American Spanish (as if there is one Latin American Spanish). What does this mean? The pronunciation will be a little different from what you might here in, say, Mexico, but Spanish pronunciation varies among Spanish speaking countries anyway.

We’ve been using Speekee for the past month, and they all (ages 21 months on up to 10 years) looove it.

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Ok, my kids never sit quietly for anything for 15 minutes.

Except Speekee.

And, you can now view it on your TV through your Wii. (Only problem is that the subtitles don’t work through the Wii.)

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And yes, they have learned some Spanish.

As Emma would say: “Mira:”

Mary practices her Spanish by imitating Dino and Lupi.

Definitely not ready for a real conversation, but some of the groundwork has been laid. We’ve been through all the episodes at least once and a few twice.

A recurring question for us has been…is Speekee a boy or a girl? I actually don’t know.

In episode 4 (El zoo), Speekee says of himself/herself “Soy pequeno” (I am small.) I would expect a girl to refer to herself as being “pequena” (or at least, the subtitles say it’s “pequeno,” it sounded a little like the audio could have been “pequena”). So Speekee’s a boy, right?

But then in episode 7 (La estacion), Speekee is referred to in the subtitles as “she” several times. Hmmm.

There are some other instances where the subtitles are inaccurate (misspellings, missing apostrophes for contractions, etc.), so it could just be a mistake. Could go either way. It’s a little mystery, I guess.

Overall, it’s a fun, painless way to soak in some Spanish. Even hubby didn’t mind watching/singing along. And we’re not a TV viewing family, so watching educational programming is an oddity for us. On the plus side…no commercials. And a month or two of watching the videos is probably enough to learn what they offer. After a couple more weeks, I think we’ll be ready to move onto something else, so a subscription for a couple of months would be quite reasonable.

And (guilty confession here) it helps me get my laundry done (shhh!).

But, after using Speekee for weeks, I found out just a couple of days ago that there's a super resource available that I didn't even know about...and it will help me turn those videos into a real Spanish curriculum. Speekee has a resource site designed for teachers called Scheme of Work. It outlines the expectations for each lesson, lists all the vocabulary used (including pronunciation keys), and provides additional resources for extension activities. Many of the links there (including audio pronunciation files) are only available if you have a Scheme of Work license, but just having the vocab lists is a tremendous help to me as a teacher...and is going to make Speekee a much more valuable resource for my homeschool over the next couple of weeks. Be sure to check it out...it'll also give you a scope and sequence of the material covered in the Speekee videos.

Speekee is available as an online subscription for $7.50 (US) or £4.95 per month.

But, you get the first 2-weeks free if you sign up!

Also available on DVD for £95.00 (note, DVDs are PAL formatting, not playable on many US players).

You can Like Speekee on Facebook.

For more reviews of this product, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free trial subscription to Speekee for review purposes. I received no compensation. The opinions reflected in this review are my own.

3 comments:

  1. The songs get stuck in your head that for sure. My kids loved Speekee.

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  2. I enjoyed watching that video. Lisa is right, the songs do get stuck in your head. My kids loved Speekee too.

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  3. Hi Susan, Wonderful comprehensive review, great pictures and video. I have linked to Mary's puppet show from Speekee's Facebook page. Now, about Speekee's gender... well.. for reasons of global appeal we didn't want Speekee to be masculine or feminine, so at one stage Speekee is referred to in the masculine, and later is seen wearing a dress. Along similar lines, Speekee is not identifiable as a particular 'animal' and the color of the T shirt Speekee wears is orange - a color which is liked by boys and girls. In the end, Speekee is Speekee... Thanks for your contributions on our Facebook page, Susan, and please say Hola to the kiddos from me. Jim

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