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Review CornerSoftware
KidSpeak French
Rating: five stars
The Bottom Line
An outstanding French as a second language program that will truly help your kids learn the language easily and naturally.
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 French Product Overview
The host of this wonderful French language instruction software title is Claudine, and she will guide you through the many activities. She greets you in French: "On va apprendre le francais, on va s'amuser" — in fact, she will only speak French (no translating) throughout the program. This full immersion approach to learning a language is generally accepted as an excellent way for young children to pick up a language. The phrases kids hear are repeated often and reinforced well.

There are 5 different modules in the program:

  • L'Alphabet: Kids learn the alphabet and more. Watch animations as you listen to the alphabet song, play a game of Concentration ("Jjeu de la memoire") that is excellent for reinforcing the letters of the alphabet because letters are named each and every time they are uncovered. This can be played against a friend or the computer as well. On level 1, kids work with uppercase letters, and level 2 contains lowercase. Tic Tac Toe requires that kids fill in a missing letter (ex. li_re) before being able to place their "X" or "O". Kids have to complete sentences to assemble puzzles, and more.
  • Les Nombres: There are 6 activities in this section. Play a traditional game of dominoes on level 1 (matching dots to dots), or on level 2 your dominoes contain numerals, but the playing board has dots. This is good for matching quantities to numerals. In the connect-the-dot activity, work with numbers from 1-20 on level 1, with written number words on level 2, and on level 3, Claudine says two numbers to connect (not consecutive) and kids must follow her instructions to complete the picture. Les Additions involves solving addition equations with help from counting apples, and bingo can be played with a friend or against the computer with varying levels of difficulty (level 3 contains numbers from 1-100).
  • L'Anniversaire: This module contains a number of activities. An example is "L'heure" which involves matching statements of time of day with the appropriate clocks. (Ex. Il est trois heures et demie).
  • Le Cartable: Children are exposed to a number of common objects in this backpack section. For example, in Les Fruits et Les Couleurs - on level 1, kids explore the screen of colors and fruits, and level 2 requires them to paint fruits a given color (they are told "Les bananes sont jaunes" and they must click on the yellow blob to color the bunch of bananas). Kids also learn vocabulary words for school supplies, personal items (gloves, sunglasses, etc.) and more. In "Voyager", kids are exposed to a bit of culture — a map of France is shown and Claudine asks children to click on the item or method of transportation for a number of cities ("A Paris, j'ai besoin de mon bonnet").
  • Les Animaux: Kids learn parts of the body, farm animals, domestic animals, and more by playing games like "Les Parties du Corps", a Concentration game (pictured) in which kids match pictures of animals with pictures or words depending on the level, and more.
Additionally, there is a separate song section (Les Chansons). All the songs from each module can be found here, in one place. Kids listen to music while watching cute animations.

The suggested age group is 6 and up, probably because some higher levels require working with words. However, a child entering kindergarten can also benefit from exposure to this program. (In fact, studies suggest that the earlier kids are exposed to a foreign language, the better).

In KidSpeak French, emphasis is on playing and learning through reinforcement and repetition. Children play fun games while being immersed in the French language.

The voice for Claudine is especially pleasant and wonderfully clear. There's nothing forceful about the program, and kids are free to play at their own pace in a non-linear, non-hierarchial manner. This program (and others in the series) will be especially good for kids who are showing signs of resisting learning a foreign language. My own 5 year-old daughter told me at first that she didn't want to play a program in French, but after seeing me start to play KidSpeak, she quickly took over. When she clicks on the "wrong" item, nobody tells her she's wrong — she simply is told what the item she has clicked on is! This is a wonderful feature that helps to encourage exploration.

Each activity contains an audio-visual dictionary that provides help (simply click on the blackboard icon). If kids are having trouble understanding what to do in a particular activity, they can click on the "help icon" and get instructions in English.

Included are printable workbook pages to be used off the computer. The manual is very helpful and filled with tips and suggestions for parents to do with their kids. Also included is a free KidSpeak T-shirt mail-in offer.

Also available is KidSpeak 10-in-1 Language Learning which represents a tremendous value. It contains not only the complete program of KidSpeak French, but also 9 more languages (a number of which are difficult to find on the market). Each language program is similarly designed.

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.

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
This program is highly educational and extremely effective. There are 40+ activities to play and 700+ words and phrases to learn.

Entertainment Value
The activities contain many tried and true favorites, some with interesting twists. Claudine is a pleasant and encouraging hostess.

The program is quite easy to navigate. There are difficulty levels for the activities (mostly 3, and sometimes 2) that are easy to adjust. Kids cannot interrupt the instructions by clicking, which is probably best when learning a foreign language -- repetition is more important than anything.

There is a good amount of content in the program that will not only keep kids coming back, but that will appeal to a wide age group, so kids can grow with the title and their siblings can enjoy it too.

Dollar Value
$20 US is not much to pay for such a valuable program. If you are interested in more than one language, KidSpeak 10-in-1 for $40 US is an excellent deal.

Released: 1998