We were extremely blessed to receive 6 months of Middlebury Interactive Languages to review. We chose to focus on Spanish Courses and chose the first semester of their K-2 program. We are raising our children to be trilingual (French, Spanish, and English) and I always get so excited to try a new language program. Middlebury Interactive Languages have courses available in several different languages, including Spanish, French, Chinese and German, for children in grades K-12.
What it is:
The K-2 program includes a total of 35 lessons divided into 6 units (the last one just being review of all learned in the semester). The lessons are brief, which is great for kids with short attention spans. Each unit is set up with an introduction, learning the new vocabulary, a story that incorporates the new vocabulary (this is my favorite part of the program), and some interactive exercises to make sure the child remembers the vocabulary. Middlebury recommends the program be used two days per week for grades K-2.
The cost: $119 per semester without a teacher.
You will need a wi-fi connection whenever your student logs onto the course. None of the components are offline or downloadable. You’ll also need up-to-date Flash Player. The Speaking Lab requires that you have a microphone.
How we used it:
J-jo used the Middlebury Spanish K-2 First Semester lessons several days per week. Some weeks he used it daily and we took a week and a half off from school during the 5 week review period because of life circumstances. In spite of this he got all the way to the end of Unit 3, meaning he completed 18 lessons. He usually did more than one lesson in one sitting. He learned Greetings, Numbers, and Family related words. He has the unit on Colors and School related words left, as well as the review unit.
There are speaking labs in which the child can record his voice saying the words in the target language (in this case, Spanish). I just had J-jo say the words to me, since I was sitting there with him for most of the lessons.
There are coloring pages and worksheets to print out, but not that many. You can also print out a transcript of the story, but I was incredibly discouraged that they only had the English translation.
There are also songs that include the vocabulary words. The songs are cute and catchy, but can’t really be practiced outside of the lesson. How cool would it be for the songs to be available as mp3s to download onto our phones for the car or elsewhere?
I should have chosen 3-5. K-2 was too easy for J-jo. It was vocabulary he already knew. However, the mode of delivery was fun for him and I look at it as a great, fun review for him.
A Closer Look at It:
There’s a whole Welcome Section I didn’t realize was there until I started writing the review! It tells you how to use the program and it is here that the printable synopses of the stories and printables of the song lyrics are located.
The unit starts with an introductory screen with the unit’s goal written out for the student to see.
The instructions are spoken to the child. If you miss the instructions, you can listen again by clicking on the speaker button. In this section, the child interacts with the screen and learns the colors by clicking on various paint cans.
Next comes the story.
I included two screenshots of that.
Next, you hear the story again, but first the child is reminded to listen for these specific words:
Then, the child gets to practice hearing the colors again by “coloring” the deer.
Another chance to hear the colors again.
Now the child gets to practice the words by dragging the correct word to the color. If the child can not read, he can listen to the words read to him by clicking on the speaker icon next to the word.
The speaking lab gives an opportunity to practice saying the words. You can record your child if your computer is equipped with a microphone.
This was lesson 1 of Unit 4. Unit 4 has five more lessons that follow a similar pattern. There is much repetition, which helps with the language acquisition and recall.
What I didn’t Like:
The stories are read way too quickly. While I think it is good for a child’s ear to get used to the fluency of a language, I still would prefer the first reading to be slower.
There should be an option to print out the story in Spanish, with the illustrations so that the student can have a little book, like a little reader, to practice the story.
I wish the songs could be downloaded so we could sing them in the car.
Also, the lesson doesn’t move on by itself, you have to use the menu on the side. It took my son at least two days to get used to this.
What I like:
The story is reviewed throughout the unit, so the child hears each story several times. During the second reading, the story pauses and allows the child to interact with the illustration. The child is asked to focus on key vocabulary words from the lesson during this second reading. I think it is brilliant to use the phrases and words in context.
My son loved it and enjoys using it. When my child likes a program, that is always a great thing. It’s an engaging program. The animated story was certainly his favorite part.
Would I recommend it?
Yes and no. I loved that my son was very eager about it. I loved the vocabulary words in context of story and song, and I liked the interactivity it allows with the screen. However, I felt that the depth of the vocabulary learned was minimal. My situation is specific though. I need a program that goes deep in vocabulary because my husband speaks Spanish to the kids. While they understand what he says, they don’t want to speak it back to him. I look for a curriculum/program that will build their vocabulary and encourage speaking in full sentences. I don’t know that I would buy Middlebury for ourselves, because $119 is a lot to pay for videos of cute little stories, which really is what I want the program for. However, that is not to say that I don’t think Middlebury is a great program for families that don’t have a background in Spanish. Also note that the 3-5 program goes a little deeper and maybe I recommend going straight to that level. But then again, you know your kids best and you will need to judge that yourself.
It is a good, solid, engaging program, but it doesn’t fit the needs of my family even though my son really loved it.