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Review CornerSoftware
KidSpeak Spanish French German Italian Japanese Hebrew
Rating: five stars
The Bottom Line
An exceptional foreign language learning title, this set is also an excellent value. It is packed with activities and learning opportunities and presents an effective and encouraging system for learning and reinforcing foreign language skills.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 6-up   Subject: Foreign Language  Brand: Transparent Language
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
KidSpeak 10-in-1 Language Learning Product Overview
KidSpeak titles are available that are each dedicated to a single foreign language, but this package is actually 6 of these programs packed onto a 2-CD set! For people interested in exposing their kids to more than one foreign language, or for those who are unsure which language will appeal the most to their child, this is an excellent value. Included are the languages French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, and Hebrew.

Each of the 6 KidSpeak programs contains 5 different "modules", and each module consists of a number of activities. The modules are dedicated to popular childhood themes:

  • Alphabet/Pictographs: Depending on the language, the letters of the alphabet may be familiar ones or totally new (take the Hebrew alphabet for example). This module contains various activities like Tic Tac Toe, Jigsaw Puzzles, the Alphabet Song, and more. The goal here is to encourage kids to see, hear and say not only the names and sounds of the alphabet, but also groups of letters as well. Kids learn to build words, identify lower and upper-case letters (in many of the languages), and read and write letters and words. In the Chinese KidSpeak program, the alphabet module is replaced by a pictograph one.
  • Numbers: Through games like dominoes, connect the dots, bingo, and more, kids learn to recognize, identify, and say numbers from 1 to 100, add/subtract terminology, and number phrases. They learn to recognize numerals and their corresponding quantities, read number names, and count by ones, twos, fives, and tens. Learning numbers through song is also a powerful foreign language tool used in KidSpeak.
  • Animals: Kids play games like Animal Sounds, Body Parts, Farm Animals, and more that will help them to learn to understand, say, and read and write animal names and body parts. They have to match animals with their sounds and names, and they can listen to the Animal Song as well.
  • Backpack: This module is designed to introduce kids to everyday vocabulary including such categories as school supplies, colors, food, clothing, transportation, and lots more. They play games like Fruits and Colors, Things for School, and Personal Things, and listen to the Backpack song.
  • Happy Birthday: What child doesn't like a birthday party? A wide variety of concepts and vocabulary are introduced to children as they play games like Telling the Time, Age Date and Months, and Greetings. They listen to and sing the Birthday Song and learn important vocabulary words by sight and sound.
This program is loaded with activities and learning opportunities — each language has 40+ interactive activities and 700+ words and expressions in authentic, native speech. Additionally, each language has 12 printable activity sheets available from the introductory screen in Acrobat Reader. These are in black and white and ready to print — they are designed to extend the activities in the game and include such things as word searches, scrambled words, connect the numbers, and alphabet puzzles. In each module there is a blackboard icon that kids can click on if they need to see the list of, for example, numerals and their names.

The approach to language learning is an immersive one — words and phrases in the foreign language are not translated. Research has shown that this is a highly effective way to teach people a foreign language, and even more so for children. Not only is it best for kids to learn foreign languages while still young, but they also tend to learn better when immersed in a language. This idea makes a lot of sense to me — after all, we all learned our first language in an immersive environment, when you really think about it!

For me, one of the most striking features of this program is the fact that it totally encourages exploration. In all of my experiences with software, too often I encounter programs that either overpraise and/or make a point of saying things like "No that's not it" or that make other remarks when a child doesn't do something correctly on the first try. Either way, kids can feel unnecessary pressure to perform. KidSpeak Language Learning is learning as it should be. Children are free to try different responses without being told they are wrong — instead, the real answer is spoken naturally. For example, when asked for "un queue" (a tail in French), my daughter clicked on an animal's paw. The host simply said (in the foreign language, of course) "paw" instead of telling her "that's not it" or something similar. Learning really should be unintimidating, and I believe this is one of the reasons my daughter keeps coming back for more.

The activities are quiet and unhurried. There is a tremendous amount of reinforcement going on in the program, and it seems to be highly effective. After only a short time with the program, don't be surprised if your child has learned a fair number of vocabulary words in the selected foreign language!

The suggested age range of 6 and up is probably right — some activities involve reading and spelling — but younger siblings will enjoy this game as well. There are plenty of activities, especially when played on the lowest level of difficulty, that preschoolers and Kindergartners can enjoy and benefit from. Additionally, adults may enjoy playing some of the games and find that the KidSpeak approach to learning foreign languages can "work" on them too.

This program will be especially helpful for children who are entering into, or are currently involved in, foreign language study at school. My own daughter will be entering Kindergarten and learning French as part of her curriculum. KidSpeak is providing her with some orientation to the language. Additionally, the program is helping my second-grader who has been learning quite a bit of French in his school since he started.

Please see our review of KidSpeak French that is sold separately but is also contained in its complete form in this 6-in-1 package. NOTE: This program was originally released as KidSpeak 10-in-1 Language Learning. This re-release now offers 6 languages instead of 10.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements for PCs are Windows 95 or 98, a 486, 8 Mb RAM, and CD ROM drive. Mac users will require at least a 68040 processor, 8 Mb RAM, System 7.1 or higher, and a CD ROM drive. The ultimate in no-fuss, Kid Speak runs directly from the CD so there is no installation process to deal with.

Skills Covered
foreign language learning: pronunciation, alphabet and word recognition, simple adding and subtracting, matching numbers to written words, associating numbers with quantities, numbers 1-100, spelling, telling time, plurals, understanding simple sentences, vocabulary, colors, body parts, animals

Educational Value
As a foreign language software title for kids, this program does an excellent job of teaching and reinforcing foreign language vocabulary words, phrases, spelling, and more. Kids learn through repetition and immersion, while playing some enjoyable games and listening to songs.

Entertainment Value
The numerous activities in the program are engaging. Although it is not state-of-the-art entertainment, the games are still great fun to play.

Design
Included are difficulty levels for all activities, except, of course, the songs. Normally I would penalize a program for not being able to click through instructions — but, in this case, the instructions are not lengthy and there is great value in repetition when learning a foreign language. There is a question mark icon in the menu that leads to instructions on how to play the various activities in English.

Replayability
I expect this title to appeal in the long term, and certainly there is enough content to keep kids busy for some time! The activities will appeal to a broad range of ages as well.

Dollar Value
The tremendous amount of content and the appeal to almost all ages makes this title worth every penny you pay for this program. Certainly, we consider this to be the best foreign language software title for kids that we have seen to date.

Released: Repackaged in 2002