Thursday, August 5, 2010

Little Pim German
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 :)


Christy said...

Great review. I am very interested in this program. I would love to introduce my children to another language. They have picked up a few words from TV shows they watch (Dora, Ni Hao Kai Lan, etc.) and while I don't think they will learn a language this way, it is nice to just have some sort of introduction to different languages.

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

I'm a big fan of exposing children to foreign languages at an early age. Great review! I never knew they had iApps -- interesting!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Thanks for the review. I don't think we'll probably rush out to buy this one - it sounds about the same as some of the others we already have. But, I look forward to hearing your review of the Russian progam. I've found sometimes a program that works well for one language, doesn't do as good a job with another - I'm curious to hear how Prim measures up.

vanessa @ silly eagle books said...

We have the Spanish ones and Juliet enjoyed them when she was younger. We haven't watched them in awhile, but you reminded me to get them out!

Infant Bibliophile said...

Can you believe I had Little Pim spanish open in another window when I read your post?! This is why your blog is one of my favorites. :) My son is really into learning spanish now. I don't believe he'll become fluent in it from the random vocab words I teach him or the videos we watch here and there, but I think the exposure is good, and I always like to encourage learning in the directions that he seems drawn. Thanks for the review!

Infant Bibliophile said...

PS We were also a 'no tv until age 2 family' (though I cheated with youtube clips starting sometime after the first year). I'm worried about how this will work with baby #2, but I really think it made a huge difference in our son's learning trajectory.

MaryAnne said...

This is a really great review. Maybe I'll look into the French segments...

Joyful Learner said...

We tried Little Pim Chinese when JC was younger and she showed absolutely no interest. I, on the other hand, thought it was one of the better programs out there. If I remember correctly, there's an interactive game portion toward the end. That offered a good review of all the words we learned during viewing time. I also liked that they made the pronunciation portion very clear for non-native speaker of Chinese like me. I learned that there are basically 4 different intonations in the Mandarin language. Recently, we found a Chinese play based class for $8/hr. which I'm hoping will work better in introducing the language.

Just in case you are interested, there's also Muzzy which I liked due to the repetitive fun story format but unfortunately, the pronunciation could have been clearer. Also, the stories are geared toward older students. You might be able to find it in the library to try since it is on the pricier end.

Once Anna starts school, she will probably get a choice of languages she can learn as schools are introducing it earlier now.

My Family My Forever said...

I appreciate your honest review.

I am very much looking forward to your review of the Russian program. It will be extremely interesting to see what you think of it!

Ticia said...

I'm with everyone else. I can't wait to hear your review as a native speaker.

Elise said...

Your reviews are always balanced, informative and honest - perfect for all of your readers. I enjoyed reading your suggestions you made to the Little Pim team.

I thought Anna's shape family was such a sweet idea. Some of our best crafts have been impromptu ones.

Once again, you have mentioned another great book - I Fall Down. Earlier in the week we received a large box of books that I ordered and a few were books that I had seen on your wonderful blog.