Review: Elementary Chinese 1 from Middlebury Interactive Languages

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I’ve got another foreign language curriculum to review for all of you!  I’m excited because too many of us moms sadly grew up in the American school system where we might have gotten a few years of Spanish or French and then promptly forgot it all 10 minutes after we walked out of high school.  How do we tackle teaching our children a new language?  This makes me sweat far more than the idea of teaching upper level math (and that’s saying something considering I was a pre-calculus dropout).  I’ve actually had the chance to review for Middlebury Interactive Languages in the past.  That time we took up the opportunity to their German class  but this time we took on what, in my mind at least, was a much bigger challenge… Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5.

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Why would I choose Chinese?  Of course we love to stretch ourselves and experience new things.  We are also studying the Eastern Hemisphere this year and we started with China.  So this review felt like a great fit.

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I used this program with my 8 year old son Ezra but his older brother Noah often looked on.  He couldn’t help it as it sort of draws you in.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Middlebury Interactive Languages uses an immersion approach to teaching children foreign languages.  I LOVE this approach.  I despised my experiences with learning foreign languages because for me it was always very dry, memorizing long lists of on sort of related terms or phrases.  Then we tried to apply those terms to stilted made up “conversations” within the classroom.  Middlebury takes an entire different approach by introducing children to the language within the context of every day life or through memorable stories and this makes it all… well… memorable.

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All of Middlebury’s courses are completed online.  You choose your course based not only on the language but by both the grade of the student and their level in the language.  Elementary levels are broken down by grades k-2, 3rd-5th, and then you enter the Middle School and the High School levels.  It is easy for children to start early with a language and work their way up until the gain fluency.  All of this is done through the use of cultural stories, songs, art, and more.  If you are diligent your child will learn to read, write, and speak the language of your choice.

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How We Used It

About three days a week Ezra would log onto the website and begin his lessons.  Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5 is broken down into 16 units and each unit contains 6 lessons.  Through these units your child will learn the Chinese words for things like, food, places, animals, etc.  It begins with numbers.  All of the units contain a variety of activities including a speaking lab (where children record themselves saying the words and then play them back – microphone required), matching the Chinese words to English words, learning Chinese characters, and lots of review.  Most new materials is presented through cultural stories (like legends or folktales) and songs.

The language the children hear and copy is all taught by native Chinese speakers.  At this level it is assumed that the child has no previous experience with the language and they begin with the basics.  Included are some printables for use as well.

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Ezra loves this program.  He finds it a challenging yet fun.  He retains the information he’s learned well enough but the built in review is essential and he appreciates it.  The program itself functions well. Navigating to lessons or through lessons is pretty intuitive and we didn’t experience any technical issues.

I love this program because it is so easy on me! I have nothing to plan or prep or research.  My son is learning a language that I don’t otherwise have the resources for him to learn.  He is also learning more about a great culture of the world.  Everything is self-graded and I, as the parent, can log in and review his progress whenever I’d like.  Can there be anything better?

If there is one thing I’d change about this program I’d ask for more time with it.  You are given just 6 months to complete the course and with a language this difficult I’d really like a 9-12 months.

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Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
 

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Review: Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
I’m a typical American.  I speak only one language… English.  That’s it!  I was miserably failed my high school French classes and developed a nasty taste for learning a foreign language… ANY foreign language.  (True story… every time an opportunity to review a French program pops up I all but refuse to do it.  I’m sorry but no! NO FRENCH EVER AGAIN!) However, I certainly see the value in it and would truly love to have a real grasp of a second language myself.  How does one teach a child another language when the teacher does not speak the language herself at all?

I’ve reviewed a number of Spanish programs over the years and each have all had their pluses.  I actually really liked pretty much all of them for various reasons.  Each time we attempt a new program my children seem to retain just a bit more of the language.  That is awesome!  This time I was given the opportunity to review  the Starter Set 1 from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids .

The name itself struck me… Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.  So you mean to say in this program there will be children teaching my children how to speak Spanish? The answer is pretty much.. YES! This program is a lot of fun and it uses a more immersive style to teach Spanish in every day life situations.  It is best compared to how we all learn language as infants and toddlers.  We watch and listen to the world around us and then we try it!

How fantastic! Instead of beginning with colors or a list of objects or places you begin with words that you can wake up the next morning and begin to use as you move about your day.  And that is exactly what I encouraged my children to do.  The videos bring about an immersion experience paired with the visual element and the children and I really seem to retain what we’ve learned. (Yes I’m including myself in this too) Let me back up and explain to you exactly how all of this works.

Starter Set 1 includes:

    • A 20 Week Curriculum Guide
    • DVD 1 with 3 different videos
    • 3 Workbooks that go along with each video
    • Sticker Set for Basketballs Aren’t for Breakfast
    • Flashcard Set
    • The Game “Go Squish”

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
I began this programming by reading through the curriculum guide so that I could get a good handle on what we were diving into. Then we all sat down together and watched the very first video called… “Basketballs Aren’t for Breakfast”.  Just the title alone grabbed my children’s attention.  They felt at ease since surly this was going to be fun!

The first video introduces us to trio of boys (that we assume are brothers), all speaking in Spanish. You can view a sample of the video RIGHT HERE.   It is morning and they are entering the kitchen and down to breakfast.  They talk about what they are eating.  We get a sense of what they like.  (One child loves to eat a lot, another child loves books, and a 3rd child loves basketball).  Through their interactions we learn the names of some common foods and objects.  The whole thing is funny and very entertaining.  The video goes by quickly and the kids would always beg to watch it again.  The end of the video features a review section for all of the Spanish words that were covered.

We watched that Basketballs aren’t for breakfast video more times than I can count.  My children found it hilarious to use every word they learned as often as possible.  Every food they ate for about two weeks was labeled as either me gusta or no me gusta. (I like it or I don’t like it).

We worked through the lessons as they are laid out in the curriculum guide.  I used that guide to help us review the vocabulary frequently since it is all listed in there.  We worked through some of the activities listed in there as well.  It is all so well planned out and easy to follow.  I loved how my boys (ages 10 and 8) could work through the activities at their level but my six year old, who isn’t quite ready for any sort of Spanish writing could still fully participate with the videos and learn just as much as her brothers.  Did I mention the 2 year old seems to have picked up a word or two along the way as well?

Included is a sticker set of word labels to be placed around the house on appropriate objects.  Call me mean mom but I limited where those could go.  Perhaps it reminded me of my days as public school teacher where we used to do that sort of thing all of the time.  I had a classroom with labels on just about every darn thing!  I’m not a fan of doing that to my home.  However we did use them in our school room and on some toys.  Its a great idea and well executed but like my horrible French experience which scarred me for life I might still be suffering from the after affects of teaching in a traditional setting. HA!

We did finally move on to video two which is called The Little Magic House Part I.  We’ve watched that one many times as well. The difficulty of this video is kicked up a notch and we’ll be paying close attention to it.  Here we get fully engaged in the whole male or female forms of words and the differences between formal and informal words.  But its just as much fun and my kiddos are just as excited for it as they were for video two.

This is such a fun program.  Certainly the most entertaining foreign language program we’ve ever tried.  Every member of my family is learning so much with it.  We are really excited to move forward with it and I anticipate buying the other levels as we complete Starter Set 1.

 

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
 

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Review: Middlebury Interactive Languages

Has anyone noticed anything about our homeschooling?  This mom is obsessed with my children learning a foreign language (or two).  Perhaps it is because that is the one thing I can’t teach at all, as I flunked out of French in high school. Or maybe it is because there were a number of jobs I once wished I could apply for (before kids) that all required fluency in Spanish as well as English. I just see so many advantages for those who have a solid grasp of multiple languages that I want that for my children too.  That is why I leaped at the chance to review Middlebury Interactive Languages and their German Courses for grades 3-5.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
Why German? Well, we’ve had many opportunities to look at Spanish.  In fact we are currently taking a Spanish class in our co-op.  My husband is of German descent and our children know this.  When I explained to son Noah who is 8 that this course would not only teach him the German language but also lots of things about the German culture, he was excited!  So German it was!

Middlebury Interactive Languages takes an immersive approach to learning foreign languages.  It was designed by linguistic experts to be fun, engaging, and using friendly.  I’d certain call it all three of those things.  Noah thoroughly enjoyed every lesson but don’t let me get ahead of myself.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
Middlebury Interactive Languages offers full semester self-paced courses for all grades k-12. Courses include Spanish, French, German, and  Chinese.  To see a bit of how Middlebury Interactive Languages works click on the video below.

What is the Course Like?

Each day my son logged in and was met with a fun interactive adventure story like experience.  The program uses a immersive type experience.  The words he was to master that day were used repeatedly in a German story in context.  Afterward he had the opportunity to practice saying those words as well as interact with the program in a game like manner to ensure he was learning and retaining those words.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

The program strives to instill vocabulary into the student but there is also some grammar concepts taught along the way as well. It is all done through stories, games, quizzes, and fun activities.   The program is so gentle and low-stress.  If foreign languages had been presented to me like this as a child I am certain I would not have flunked.

This program includes a “Speaking Lab” where a child can record his or herself speaking the words and listening back to them.  While I think this is an amazing feature we did run into one problem.  All of the children in my house found this so hysterical that they’d come running from other rooms to get themselves recorded.  The giggle fests were enormous! Which was fine but then it was difficult to get my son back on track. I had to install some ground rules for this feature! No other children allowed!

In the end my son will learn over 600 German words.  He is beginning to be able to read and write in German as well as speak the language.   He is excited!  In fact this is a program I hold off on until the end of our school time.  I use it as a bit of an incentive to get through other things efficiently.  That is how much he adores his German time.

When you enter the program you click on the little menu icon in the top left of the screen. There you can choose calendar or table of contents to access your lessons. We usually used the table of contents since our family didn’t follow the calendar precisely. There are some days we did multiple lessons and on busy days we didn’t do any at all.


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Here you can see what the table of contents looks like.

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All of the activities in the program are super simple yet totally effective.  Nearly all of them involve dragging and dropping appropriate responses into indicated areas.  Immediate feedback encourages the student along.

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There is a dashboard for parents to follow along and see how their child is doing.  I love this area.  As a busy mom with four children to school and care for. I didn’t necessarily sit with my son through every lesson so I found it invaluable to be able to log in a see how things went when it was convenient for me.

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Overall

If I haven’t made it clear we absolutely adored this program.  It is a highlight in our days.  We typically completed about 4 lessons per week, sometimes more.  I even had my son ask to do this on non-school days.  Each lesson generally only takes 15 or 20 minutes to finish.  Perfect for a wiggly eight year old boy.

This truly is self-paced. My son could fully operate this program without me and that is a blessing.  It didn’t take any prep work from me.  He could do as much as he wanted per day and if he had any questions he could easily go back and review past lessons.  However, the review sections were so well done he usually didn’t need to.

Both of us enjoyed the video lessons.  There were fun and engaging.  Most importantly they did an excellent job of infusing the vocabulary into my son’s mind.  I was skeptical that an “immersion” system of learning could work in just 20 minutes or so a day.  It really does!

Pricing

$119 for one semester per child.  

I totally recommend Middlebury Interactive Languages!  It is a truly fantastic program.

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