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The French Collection (Whistlefritz) Review by Wendy RobertsonDedans et Dehors (Inside and Out) DVD
On Va Jouer (Let’s Play) DVD
Cha, Cha, Cha CD
Allons Danser! (Let’s Dance!) CD
(Toll Free: 866-WHISTLZ [866-944-7859])
PO Box 363
Glen Echo, MD 20812
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: Dedans et Dehors (Inside and Out) DVD, On Va Jouer (Let’s Play) DVD, Cha, Cha, Cha CD, and Allons Danser! (Let’s Dance!) CD.
The first thing I did upon receiving the package in the mail, was to jump into the car and put the Allons Danser! CD in. That’s our only CD player besides the computer, which isn’t always readily available. Ever since receiving the set, we’ve listened to this CD in the car on nearly every trip. We’ve had it for a few months, and it’s not uncommon to hear my oldest son (age 11) 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 (singing) French since we received this product.
The Cha, Cha, Cha CD is full of wonderful songs as well, but we’ve found that besides one or two (B-I-N-G-O and Sur le Pont D’Avignon specifically), they don’t resonate with us as well as the Allons Danser! songs did. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them as they are wonderful learning songs that teach things like the months of the year, days of the week, numbers, fruit, vowels, and seasons. I don’t really know why we didn’t love them as much as the first CD we listened to. The only possible explanation I can think of is that most of the songs on Cha, Cha, Cha, are sung by a different woman than those of Allons Danser! Both have lovely singing voices, but we just liked one better than the other for some reason.
In addition to the CDs, 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.
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, which is also found on the Cha, Cha, Cha CD.
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 8 and 11) 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. All you have to do is pop the DVD in and let the kids watch it. It’s colorful and vibrant enough that children 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 both CDs, in the French Collection, on sale right now 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. Head over to www.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. They also offer 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, November, 2015