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Foreign Languages For Kids By Kids (Crew Review)

Foreign Languages For Kids Review
The one subject I feel inadequate for teaching my children is foreign language.  Yet it’s also one where I really want them to be successful, because I think it is more important than ever to be able to communicate with people around the globe.  We’ve dabbled in several Spanish programs over the last few years, but I was excited to get a chance to try Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.  They sent us their Starter Set 1 to review, and it has definitely been a hit with our whole family.

About Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids uses videos to immerse students of all ages in the Spanish language.  The videos are introduced in English by a kid dressed up like a pilot, who is presenting them as “in-flight entertainment” on a trip to Spanish speaking countries (Peru, Columbia, and Costa Rica).

FL4KBK in flight
The rest of the videos are completely in Spanish and feature three brothers.

FL4KBK brothers
The videos on the DVD are definitely the core of the program.  The three levels build upon each other, and viewers are instructed to watch previous videos several times so they understand them well before moving onto the next ones.

Vocabulary is taught very deliberately in several ways.  Sometimes the boys (and other actors) emphasize certain words/phrases.  Then the story part of the video stops to present a special lesson focusing on that word.

FL4KBK lesson
Things are also labeled on the set, so viewers see the words for things they’re hearing about (and other things as well).  The stickers included with the program make it easy to label things around your house in a similar way.

FL4KBK labels
In addition to the videos, there are several other products that help reinforce what is being taught.  Here’s what we received in Starter Set 1:

  • DVD with videos for Levels 1-3
  • Three Parent-Teacher Guides (1 for each level)
  • Student workbooks for Levels 1-3
  • “Go Squish” Card Game
  • Stickers for Levels 1-3

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

The teacher guides provide detailed lesson plans, including a suggested viewing schedule (for watching smaller segments of the video for that level), plus extra activities (e.g. games or workbook assignments) to help practice the vocabulary being focused.

Go SquishThe “Go Squish” cardgame we received is one of those activities.  Similar to “Go Fish,” the game is played using vocabulary cards.  At Level 1, the students just say the vocabulary words (“Desayuno?”  “No desayuno.”  At Level 2 they use complete sentences (Tengo desayuno.  Tienes desayuno?”  “No, no tengo desayuno.  GO SQUISH”).

Our Experience

We heard about Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids last year, and from the first time we watched the sample video on the website, my kids have been eager to try it out for themselves.  It did not disappoint!  From my 8-year old down to my 2-year old, all the kids really liked these videos.  I put them on several times a week while I was preparing lunch, and the kids loved how much they were able to understand after a few viewings.

The only problem with putting the DVD on like this was that the segments recommended in the lesson plans all flow into each other, so if you’re not standing right there watching the clock so you know where to stop it, the video just keeps going.  That meant my kids ended up watching the entire video each time, which made them reluctant to go through all 11 lessons in the teacher’s guide because there was nothing new being presented.  They kept begging to be allowed to go on to the next video.  (The videos can also be watched through the website with a subscription, which eliminates this problem since they are broken into segments there.)

The workbooks are recommended for 3rd grade and up, so I gave them to Ian to work through.  They are printed in full color on fairly glossy paper, which made it difficult to see pencil on.  I ended up giving Ian a permanent marker to write with because it was the only thing we found that really worked well (though that caused its own problems).  The workbooks are beautiful, but the price of printing them at this high quality is a bit of a turn off for me.  I’d gladly give up some of the vibrancy to have something more affordable.

Workbook Collage
Ian’s favorite part of the program was definitely the stickers.  He went a little nuts slapping labels on things around the house.

Sticker Collage
My husband was cracking up when he opened up the fridge to pack his lunch and found the bread labeled “el pan,” and the fruit bearing “la manzana” and “la naranja” stickers.

Food Collage
I love that the videos use an immersion approach.  As I said, I feel so inadequate trying to teach them a language I have only minimal knowledge of, so I am so grateful to be able to give them an opportunity to hear native speakers using the language fluently.

I’m so glad we’ve found Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids, and my kids are already asking for the next DVD.  (Volumes 2 and 3 are also available.)  They’re taking ownership of the vocabulary they’ve learned, and I hear them using words and phrases throughout the day, even when we’re not “doing Spanish.”  Just the other day, I set my 2-year old’s lunch in front of him, and he exclaimed, “Oh! Me gusta!”

That’s what I’m looking for in a foreign language program.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
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Revisiting Middlebury Interactive Languages (Crew Review)

Foreign language is the only subject I feel completely unqualified for teaching my children at home.  It’s really hard to teach something you don’t know, especially when your pupils are quicker at learning it than you!  I’ve tried a few different ways of teaching Spanish, and one of my favorites is an online course from Middlebury Interactive Languages.  Last year Ian went through the first semester of Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2, and we recently got to review the second semester as well.

About Middlebury Interactive Languages

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers a wide range of online classes for various ages, giving students a chance to study Spanish, French, Chinese, or German (not every language is available at every level–see chart below).

Screenshot (37)

Students can complete the course one of two ways: independently or interacting with a state-certified teacher fluent in the language. (The second option costs more but is necessary for the student to receive official credit for the class from Middlebury Interactive Languages.)  The courses are designed to cover one semester (the K-2 course contain 35 lessons per semester), but students using the independent option can work at their own pace and have up to six months to complete the lessons.

About Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2

Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 is an engaging way for young students to interact with the language.  Each lesson consists of several activities that involve listening to traditional stories from Spanish-speaking countries, matching vocabulary words and pictures, and recording themselves speaking the words they are learning.  (You do need a microphone for this feature, but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Our’s laptop’s built-in mic worked perfectly.)

word match

The first semester (which Ian completed last year) has lessons grouped into 6 units:

  • Greetings
  • Numbers
  • Family
  • Colors
  • School
  • Review

Ian is now about halfway through the second semester, which includes the following units:

  • Body
  • Animals
  • Calendar
  • Food
  • Descriptions
  • Review

The units do not build upon one another.  They’re essentially just ways to build vocabulary related to different topics.

Our Experience

Although these courses are designed for one student, we usually have our school computer displaying on our family room television, allowing all the children to follow along and learn.  All of them really enjoy the program and often want to repeat the stories over and over.  I appreciate that the stories are told completely in Spanish, even though there’s no way children going through this course will understand every word.  They learn to recognize the key vocabulary words as they go through the lessons.  English translations are available for all the stories, and Ian always asks me to read them after the first time he hears the story in Spanish.  Other than that, he is able to complete the lessons completely on his own.

The one thing I think would improve the program would be more chance to use the words and phrases the students have already learned.  It’s a great way to build vocabulary, but I don’t feel like Ian had to retain anything except when he came to the final review unit.

Overall the entire program is a hit, but Ian’s favorite part is definitely the speaking portion.  There’s just something fascinating for kids about recording their own voices and hearing them played back, especially when they’re speaking new words in a foreign language!  I love listening to them pick up the nuances of Spanish pronunciation.  I think this is such an important part of learning a new language, and it’s something impossible for a non-native speaker like myself to teach them.

If you want want to find out more about the different languages and grade levels in other courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages, check out their website and then read some of the other Crew reviews by clicking on the banner below!

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
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Middlebury Interactive Languages (Crew Review)

Middlebury collageAs someone who’s never managed to master a second language, I am always eager to try out new tools to help my children achieve what I have not.  I think all children are fascinated by the idea of being able to communicate in a new language, and so mine were as excited as I was by the chance to review the first semester of Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 from Middlebury Interactive Languages.

What is it?

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers online courses for students in Kindergarten all the way through high school in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.  Here are the courses they offer at each level:

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

The courses are semester-based, with the amount of lessons in each depending on the grade level.  You can work at your own pace (as we did), or there is also an option to have the student work with a teacher state-certified teacher fluent in the language, which gives a set schedule.  The teacher option is necessary if the student wants to receive credit for the course.  (Middlebury Interactive is accredited as a virtual course provider.)  The cost of each course is $119/semester without a teacher (add an additional $175 for a teacher, making the course $294 total) per student.

Ian has been working in the first semester of Spanish for grades K-2, which has 35 lessons grouped into 6 units:

  • Greetings
  • Numbers
  • Family
  • Colors
  • School
  • Review

Every unit (besides the review) consists of 6 lessons that contain multiple activities.  Although directions are given in English, the rest of the lessons are almost entirely in Spanish.  They use traditional stories and songs from Spanish-speaking countries to provide context for the vocabulary used in that unit, with various activities to allow students to practice what they are learning.  Each lesson includes at least one opportunity for the student to practice speaking, so a microphone is necessary in order to complete these activities.  (The built-in microphone in my laptop worked perfectly without me having to do anything to set it up.)


How We Used It

I used this primarily with Ian (6), but because we have my computer hooked up to our television, my little ones were able to enjoy the program as well.  They mostly just watched Ian work through the different activities in each lesson, saying the phrases along with him.  Occasionally Elijah (4) wanted to do a lesson too, so I would just show him how to go back through the activities Ian had already completed (which were now gray on the sidebar), but each student really needs their own account.


Ian was able to complete an entire lesson within 5-10 minutes.  If we’d missed a lesson I occasionally had him do more than one in a day, but I found that it to be much more helpful to just have a little bit of exposure each day.

For the most part he was able to work independently.  Each unit has a story to go with it, and the video is only in Spanish, so after Ian had watched it a few times I would pull up the translation and read through it with him to make sure he understood as much as possible, but that was really the only time I got involved.


What We Liked

The independence was one of my favorite things about the course.  After a bit of initial instruction (which the program did a great job taking us through), Ian found it very easy to work through the lessons on his own.  Since my own Spanish is limited, I need a program like Middlebury to expose my children to more of the language than I can share with them.

I was also very grateful for the scripts and translations available for each story.  Although usually the pictures were enough to follow along, on the first story there was one part we just didn’t understand until I pulled up the English translation.  Capture2

Ian didn’t dislike any of the activities, but the recording feature was probably his favorite part because he just loved hearing his voice as he played it back.  I also really liked this feature it because I felt like it addressed the biggest difficulty I have had myself in learning new languages: moving beyond reading the words in my head and actually training my mouth to say them.

What Could Have Been Better for Our Family

We really enjoyed Middlebury Interactive Languages and I really don’t have any major complaints.  There were a few minor things that I would have changed for our family:

  • I would have preferred to have the next activity load automatically once one was completed (though neither of my boys had any trouble just clicking their way through).
  • I understand that each lesson is focusing on key phrases, but I found it frustrating when it said, “Click on the ocelot to see what he said,” and then it only gave us a translation for the key phrase.  I would have liked a complete translation with a way of focusing on the specific vocabulary being learned.
  • The calendar has the lessons scheduled one per day 5 days a week (even though Middlebury recommends only using it twice a week in K-2).  Although we were still able to work on lessons whenever we wanted, I would have appreciated a way to schedule them for Ian according to the pace I had set for him (following their recommendation) rather then just having to tell him to ignore the calendar.

My Overall Impression

I really liked the way Middlebury Interactive Languages lessons were taught.  While some of the material was review for Ian, it was presented differently than he has done it before, and there was still plenty for him to learn.  I would recommend the program to anyone looking for a way to immerse their children in a foreign language.

That said, as the mom of a large family, I am more inclined to select resources that I can use with multiple students.  Without some sort of family subscription I am unlikely to use the program beyond this semester, even though we all really enjoyed the lessons.  If such an option were offered, we would enthusiastically return for more semesters with Middlebury Interactive Languages.

Connect with Middlebury Interactive Languages on Social Media

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