When languages fascinate, the opportunity to review an online language learning program is exciting. The youngest giggly girl loves languages and Middlebury Interactive Languages has been a great fit for her. We reviewed Middlebury previously and J used the first semester of their Elementary Spanish I, K-2. This time around she was able to complete the second semester of this course. There are a number of Spanish Courses available, from Kindergarten through high school, including an AP course.
J was just as excited this time around as she was before and insisted on completing more than one lesson each time. Most common, she completed an entire unit at a sitting. She will be going back through the lessons if time permits before the subscription runs out to help engrain the learning in her mind. But she is getting it and remembering it.
That is what happens for her when learning is authentic. What I mean by that is the learning is done true to the situations in which it will be encountered or through stories and songs and discussions. Middlebury teaches their elementary courses through themes – colors, numbers, body parts, and more. Then, using authentic stories, fables, myths and legends, the vocabulary is emphasized within the story to help the student understand and gain the context use of the words. This helps the student understand the culture while learning the vocabulary.
When the learning is authentic like this, I see the application of it happening in daily life. It is not at all unusual for J to use Spanish words to ask for something or to discuss something. No, they are not yet complete sentences but she knows and understands the words she is using. A big part of that understanding comes from the authenticity of the teaching and the age-appropriateness of the topics and themes. The immersion in the language, combined with the funny cartoon characters and variety of activities has made all the difference.
An Example Unit
In any given unit, the student will experience a wide variety of activities and immersion moments. Each unit begins with an exploration of the words that are the focus of the unit. Then there will be a story told entirely in Spanish with illustrations and words on the screen to help the student follow the story line. Then the student will revisit the cartoon and the movement will stop on certain scenes to help focus the student’s attention on the key words for the unit.
After this, the student will begin listening to words and matching them to a picture or setting. The student might match the written word to an audio of the word. The student might have to click on the matching picture of an audio prompt. There is a lot of verbal work with the program. The student is exposed to the pronunciation a lot during a unit, as many as 20 times or more. This is very helpful and by the end of a unit, J’s pronunciation is pretty good.
Each unit generally has at least one printable worksheet for the student to complete. There are coloring sheets, vocabulary lists, full stories, and worksheets to go along with the lessons. Most units have seven lessons.
At the end of the unit, there are tests for matching the words and phrases but there is also a speaking lab test. In the speaking lab, the student has to pronounce the words. This provides a well-rounded, experiential exposure for the student to the language and its use.
Each part of Middlebury’s unit works together to give the student a very diverse, immersion into the language and culture for a better understanding.
What You’ll Need
Middlebury is an online course. To use Middlebury Interactive Languages, you will need:
- a computer with speakers and a microphone; and
- a subscription to the site (either with or without a teacher; see options for Spanish Courses).
***We used this program without issue on both a relatively new desktop PC and a pretty old Mac laptop.
***For the microphone, we hooked up our video conference camera. The microphone worked with the program just fine.
A Couple of Notes
We had some of the same issues this time around with navigation. When you log into the site, there is a fairly blank screen. Time and again, I have had to remind her where to click to find the table of contents. Then she had to remember which unit she was on. Once to this point, there are check marks that come up when you have completed a lesson (if the student remembers to click to have the activity checked) so it is easier to find which lesson of the unit you are on. I would love to see a navigation that required a lot less clicking from the initial page, especially for these younger ages. My 11 year old was more than capable of helping her get to her lessons but as a 6 year old, it was just too many clicks for her to remember.
We have really enjoyed this course, yet again. We love the interactivity of each lesson and the inclusion of cultural lessons and stories/myths/legends. It makes for a language learning experience that is remembered.
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