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Whistlefritz Set: French Lessons Review by Wendy Robertson

Heidi Stock, CEO and Founder
Whistlefritz
PO Box 363
Glen Echo, MD 20812
301-229-2126
(Toll Free: 866-WHISTLZ [866-944-7859])
http://www.whistlefritz.com/

I love the French language. I’m rusty in my usage of it, but I love it nonetheless – so much so that I chose it for my children for their second language, even though by local standards, Spanish would make more sense. When I learned about Whistlefritz, I was super excited to try it out for my children (and my husband and me!). 

In exchange for a review, I received the following:

  • On va jouer DVD
  • Dedans et Dehors DVD
  • Allons Danser ! CD

The first thing I did upon receiving the package in the mail was to jump into the car and put the CD in (that’s our only CD player besides the computer). Ever since receiving the set, we’ve listened to this CD in the car on nearly every trip. We’ve had it for just over a month and it’s not uncommon to hear my oldest son (age 10) sing, “Quand je serai grand . . .” (when I grow up . . .) or my husband belt out, “Les petits poissons, dans l’eau . . .” (the little fish in the water . . .). Even my 2-year-old loves these songs. Whenever I start to sing “La tête, les épaules, genoux, et pieds” (Head, shoulders, knees, and toes) to him, he immediately gets a huge grin on his face. It’s been really rewarding seeing and hearing my family actually begin speaking (er, singing) French since we received this product.

In addition to the CD, we received two DVDs. Because Whistlefritz is an immersion program (which I love!), there is no English whatsoever during the program (not even subtitles). The DVD menu is bilingual for the sake of English-speaking parents, but once it starts, everything is French. The program is designed with a lot of repetition, which of course, is the best way to learn a language.  That’s how we all learned English, after all. (In case you feel like you need a translation, there is a vocabulary list in the DVD pamphlet.)

The host, Marie, has a really fun personality. She seems to truly be enjoying her time onscreen. She’s not the only one you see, though. There are les enfants (children) in the videos as well. The show also features “Fritzi,” an animated mouse, and “Rito,” an animated fox. The main talking points are all handled by Marie, though.

The first DVD, On va jouer, focuses on teaching parts of the body, clothes, numbers, and animals. The combination of speaking and singing, real people and animation, makes this a real joy to watch. We’ve chosen not to have a TV in our home, so we all huddled around the computer to watch. Dedans et Dehors, the second DVD, focuses on rooms in the house and foods. The standout song in this film is the one about all the different fruits.

Whistlefritz suggests their products for ages 2-7, and I heartily agree with that recommendation. Because many of the foreign language programs we’ve tried have been translation rather than immersion, it’s been hard for my older children (ages 7 and 10) to get “into” Whistlefritz. They watch them anyway, and don’t hate it, but it’s hard for them to wrap their minds around what’s happening. My 2-year-old, on the other hand, loves these DVDs. He gets so excited when I ask him if he wants to watch a movie, and immediately chooses a Whistlefritz DVD from the shelf. He laughs every time Fritzi pokes his head onscreen. My son doesn’t talk much yet (even in English), so he’s not quite repeating what Marie says, but he is starting to understand. When I ask him, “Où est ta tête?” (Where is your head?) he immediately taps his head, and then his nose. He always knows that my follow up question will be, “Où est ton nez?” (Where is your nose?) I can’t wait for him to start talking, in both English and French!

Because Whistlefritz is designed for younger learners, it’s not a curriculum per se. Really all you have to do is pop the DVD in and let the kids watch it. It’s colorful and vibrant enough that kids will be captivated by it, even during the first several viewings before they can understand any of it. It can, however, be a bit overwhelming before you start to understand some of the vocabulary (for us “older folks”). I found that for me personally, I could only handle about half of an episode the first few viewings. Not understanding much (or any) of the film can make one weary. Keep at it, though, and pretty soon you and your children will be well on their way to learning their new language.

You can get both DVDs and the CD, as well as one other one which I’m not reviewing today (Cha, cha, cha!) in a complete set for $55.95. Buying the complete set all at once affords you a 20% discount over the individual products. If you don’t have that much set aside for something like this, you can also buy the products separately. CDs are $14.99 each, and DVDs are $19.99 each. The films are also available on Amazon Instant Video. For the rental price of $1.99, you can watch the movie as many times as you want for a 7 day period. Or for $9.99, you can buy the digital version of the film.

Still not sure? Head over to whistlefritz.com where you can watch a snippet of each film to see exactly what it’s like. You can also view and download the translation guides (which are included in the DVD, but not the instant video version) and listen to bits of the songs.

I would heartily recommend this product to anyone looking for an immersion approach to foreign language teaching, especially for younger children with no previous training. And if you don’t want French, Whistlefritz also has a large selection of Spanish programs as well. Knowing what I know, I would definitely purchase the program if I hadn’t received a review copy, although because of our family’s limitations (no TV), I would opt for the digital version. These songs and films are great fun for anyone interested in learning French!

-Product Review by Wendy Robertson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2015

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