About a week ago I contacted Little Pim team and asked if I could possibly review one of their products. They generously agreed and sent me Wake Up Smiling DVD from their German language series. It arrived very quickly just in time for our “German week”. Anna and I watched it yesterday, and I want to share my first impressions. Just to give some language background – both I and my daughter have some receptive German (I tried to learn it through DVDs and grammar books before, and my husband spoke German to Anna at least in the first year of her life). Neither of us can speak the language except counting to 10 and a couple of basic courtesy phrases.
I was impressed with the quality of the program and with its intensity level. Despite its title, 35 minutes are spent going over everyday activities, not just over morning routine. Only German is spoken throughout the duration of the program, and I liked the choice of words and sentences.
The program is broken into nice 5 minutes segments with a review in the end of each segment. That’s how you are supposed to watch it, but for this first time Anna insisted on watching all of it.
I liked seeing words/sentences on the screen, since I am a print learner. I think younger kids might find it mildly distracting. Anna is also a print learner, so this first time having words might have been too much for her since she kept discussing how she cannot read them and why the rules are so different. In the future, however, having the words on the screen might prove to be useful as the first step to reading in German (it’s a lot more rule-oriented language than English).
German has more complex grammar than English, and I liked how it was subtly addressed in the program by repeating the same sentence for different genders without making it boring.
The program is targeted at children 0-5 years. Well, we followed “no TV under 2” recommendation in our house , and I still think it was a very wise decision for our daughter. I enjoyed the first viewing more than Anna (age 3 years 9 months) even though I am way over 5. I think she would have liked more time with Pim – watching real kids was a bit boring to her, at least for the first time. She kept asking when Pim would be back and giggled when unexpected things happened to him.
I really liked the fact that the program is broken into short segments. I am a big fan of “spurt learning” and it works very well for us in all subjects.
Suggestions to PIM team:
I think it would be nice to have a song/physical activity in the end – this DVD is too much “sit and watch” type even though I understand that the idea is to watch only 1-2 segments at the time.
I also think it would be very wise to expand your marketing into selling your segments as iPod podcasts (and offering pilot for free). I have visited iTunes and see that you are experimenting with iApps. They look great, but unfortunately “my” languages are not available yet. I also could only find one French pilot episode in podcasts section. I, for example, would be interested in buying individual segments and putting them on my iPod, so they can be played while we wait in line or drive somewhere.
Disclaimer. Do I believe that the children will learn to speak another language after spending some time with Little Pim? No, I don’t. Nothing will replace interaction with real people speaking that second language fluently, listening to songs in that language, playing real world games and having agemates who also speak the language. At best, PIM kids will be able to remember and reproduce words and phrases. However… this is a start, and I still strongly recommend taking a look at the Little Pim. Our situation is very unusual – after all, most American kids don’t even realize that there is more than one way to say something until much later in life. Also – they get exposure to the sounds of another language and form those special pathways in their brains that would hopefully allow them to pick up that language easier later in life. My daughter only speaks a few German or Russian words, but she is able to pick up someone in the crowd speaking that language, and this is already something to build on.
By the way – I just got good news – I won a Little Pim giveaway at Orange Juice. This time I requested a Russian program and can’t wait to review it from a native speaker’s perspective. Stay tuned :)