Though the idea that music can enhance foreign language learning is not a new one, this set uses music in an original way that creates a fun atmosphere for learning Spanish. The audio, book, and CD-ROM set features 10 Spanish songs not as a supplement to learning the language, but rather as a base for learning. The book that accompanies the musical CD presents lessons and extension activities that revolve entirely around the lyrics of the songs. So, instead of using a dry textbook as its main focus, the songs themselves are the starting point.
The Musical Spanish CD can be played in any CD player and the songs can stand alone, if desired. But the real learning comes when children (and adults) play games, read lessons, and follow along with the songs through the CD-ROM's Adobe Acrobat program. With this program, kids can listen to individual phrases of the lyrics, click on key vocabulary words, and even sing along karaoke-style. Lessons are presented that extend the learning for each song. For example, the lesson that accompanies the song La Cucaracha presents important greetings in Spanish, polite sayings, and an exploration of the verb "poder."
Besides the option to sing along to music without the lyrics, kids also can select to hear the song sung without music so that they can pay closer attention to the lyrics without distractions. Printed lyrics and translations are given both in the book and in the software program. A grammar summary for each song is available as well, and quizzes and puzzles help round out the lessons.
The songs are very well presented, with exceptionally clear lyrics and a range of styles that include musica ranchera, a tango, and a Mexican folk song. Children will take to the upbeat music immediately, and most will recognize at least a couple of the selections (such as the opening track, La Bamba).
A teacher's guide is included that can be helpful for parents using the program with their kids in a home setting. Suggestions for presentation and extension activities are both fun and educational. Allowing students to write new lyrics to the songs by changing key verbs and nouns is an example.
Though the music itself can be enjoyed by the very young, the lessons are most appropriate for children from about fourth grade on up. An answer key is not provided for some of the quizzes, and a fair amount of reading is required in order to get the most from the program.
Because lessons in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar are presented as offshoots of the recording's 10 Spanish pop songs, this course is not as structured and organized as most. This fact makes the program ideal for children who are easily bored with traditional second-language-learning approaches but it also means that buyers should be aware that the course is not meant to be a comprehensive one. Note also that some exposure to the Spanish language is assumed.