Friday, January 21, 2011

TOS Review: Speekee

I took four years of high school Spanish, and I honestly don't remember any of it.  But when I was seven years old, I spent a week in Chihuahua, Mexico, living with a host family during a music tour.  They didn't speak any English, and I didn't speak any Spanish.  By the end of that week, I had a pretty solid grasp of some basic words and phrases - enough to get by - and I remember all of them.  Research has shown over and over that learning a 2nd language requires total immersion.  You best learn to speak a new language when your environment is saturated with it and you aren't given the translations in your first language.

Speekee tries to accomplish this immersion teaching with it's new online videos.  Directed at ages 2-10, the Speekee program is comprised of 10 videos, each teaching the basics of everyday life through songs, puppets and simple props.  Speekee has optional captions for each video (English/Spanish concurrently).  Additionally, Speekee offers worksheets and activities to go with each video, to reinforce the words and phrases the child is learning.  According to their website, Speekee is the number one Spanish course for young children.

Speekee is available online for a monthly fee of $7.50.  Alternatively, you could purchase the DVD set (you must have a PAL-compatible DVD player) for the US equivalent of £95 (95 British Pounds).  I believe several crew members were able to get the online ("tv version") to play through their Wii, as well.  You can try out Speekee with a free two-week trial subscription!

I wanted to like Speekee, and I hoped that this might be a good solution for some 2nd-language introduction. We have introduced all the kids to English Sign Language using the Signing Time DVD program, and they all have a fairly good grasp of basic signs.  I had hoped that Speekee might give them a similar introduction to Spanish.

My kids are 5, 7, 11 and 13, and none of them would watch Speekee voluntarily.  The two older kids, both boys, complained after about 5 minutes into the first video.  My oldest likened watching Speekee to watching Barney.  (He also noted that Speekee, the puppet, was "creepy-looking").  The younger kids, both girls, were frustrated because neither of them can read well enough to follow the captions, but without them felt they didn't have any idea what they were trying to learn.  My youngest watched through most of the videos, and I realized belatedly that she thought the "uno, dos, tres" were colors, not numbers (the characters in the video were counting different colored blocks and balls).  I could sit next to her and translate as they went along, but that seemed to defeat the purpose of the "true immersion" approach.  It was also annoying to constantly have to start/stop the videos.

I think that some of this might be an issue with US culture vs. European culture.  I think that the "puppet" teaching is much more widespread in Europe than it is here.  In the US we seem to stop doing puppet-teaching (if ever) by the time most kids are in kindergarten.  I think it's much more widely used in Europe (I'm thinking of Muzzy, and other videos coming from Europe that use puppets for teaching).

Overall, I think Speekee is a good approach to teaching Spanish.  And from some of my other crew member's reviews, it seems like it works well for many people.  It just wasn't a good fit for us.

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary subscription to the online version of Speekee in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your comprehensive and honest review of Speekee TV. Truly, if we quoted every single viewer saying it were a hit with their children, then the parent seeking a Spanish program for their child would get quite suspicious.. 'It can't be THAT good can it?' So to hear that some children don't take to Speekee is as 'real' as it is to hear about the many that do. That said, I do hope you find a suitable alternative Spanish program if you are indeed looking for one. Sending you my best wishes from Spain - Jim, the one in Speekee