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¡HOLA! Let's Learn Spanish! (ages 6-10) Review by Karen Waide

Judy Martialay
Polyglotkidz Press
http://polyglotkidz.com

I enjoy finding new resources to help the children and I learn foreign languages. Recently we have been focusing on Spanish, so I was thrilled to get a chance to receive ¡HOLA! Let's Learn Spanish! from Polyglotkidz.com. This book is written by Judy Martialay, a retired foreign language teacher who advocates for foreign language education for all children. It seemed like the perfect book to share with the children as they are all in, or close to, the recommended age range. My youngest son is 5 ½, while the girls are 7, 9, and 10.

We received the soft cover, 30 page book to read, plus there is access to the audio of the book on their website. I downloaded this audio as recommended so we could have the book read to us, and have the opportunity to hear the Spanish words read by a native speaker.

There are six sections in the book, plus an acknowledgments page at the back of the book. The sections are as follows:

  • ¡HOLA! (Hello!)
  • Panchito (Panchito)
  • Tetoca a ti (It’s Your Turn)
  • Rincón cultural (Culture Corner)
  • Una máscara (A Mask)
  • Palabras (Words)

The first section, ¡HOLA! (Hello!), is an introduction to the children from Pete the Pilot, who is taking the reader on a “trip” to Mexico. Included in this section is a list of 15 common words/phrases, along with their translation. It is suggested to practice these words before “arriving” in Mexico. You and your child will practice such words/phrases as: hello, my name is…, please, yes, good-bye, and the numbers 1-5.

After this two-page introduction, you will find the bulk of the book, the story titled “Panchito.” Panchito is a lonely Mexican jumping bean who we first meet as he is jumping around the bean field looking for a friend. When he sees some workers filling baskets with beans and loading them onto a truck, Panchito jumps in so he isn’t left out. So begins his adventure that takes him to a market and on to a house where a birthday party is soon to be held. He ends up inside the piñata, until a child breaks it open, of course. His search for friends is finally over, and the story ends as Panchito becomes friends with the children.

The neat thing about the way this story is presented to the children is that Spanish words are included in the story, in bold letters. When each word is first introduced, it is included along with the English translation. Each word continues to be used in the story; however, the translation is no longer provided, requiring the reader to recall what was previously learned. Most words are used quite a few times, providing lots of repetition. When listening with the provided audio, there is a pause after the lady reads the Spanish word(s) so that the reader/listener can repeat the word(s).

The next section, TeTocaATi (It’s Your Turn), provides activities for more practice with the words already learned, plus quite a few new words and phrases. Children can practice introducing themselves and asking how someone else is. They can talk about what they would like at their birthday party. Then they can talk about where they can find different objects. There are treasure hunts, where children are to try to find the things listed, both at home and at the grocery store. And there is a chart where children can record how many times they use a specific Spanish expression during the day, a different one for each day of the week. Finally, there is a skit to act out, written in Spanish, with the English translation alongside it.

The next section is called Rincón Cultural (Culture Corner) and it delves into some more details regarding the culture of Mexico. Children will learn where Spanish is spoken, what a jumping bean actually is, more information about dried beans, markets, and piñatas. Also included is a song to be sung while trying to break the piñata: Dale, Dale, Dale (Hit it, Hit it, Hit it).

The section titled Una Máscara (A Mask) is mainly a craft for making a mask using dried beans, though it does give basic information about masks in Mexico as well. Templates for the masks are included.

The final section, Palabras (Words) lists each of the almost 100 Spanish words learned in the book, along with the translations.

The children and I enjoyed gathering around the computer while listening to the story multiple times. I really appreciated the chance to have someone else read the story to the children. And having a chance to hear the Spanish pronunciation was wonderful, seeing as I do struggle quite a bit with knowing how to pronounce words in foreign languages. After we had heard the story a couple of times we completed the activities. I will say, the children have been exposed to simple Spanish conversation before, so some of this was a review for them. We haven’t had a chance to make the masks yet, as I would like to buy a variety of beans before doing so.

Though we read through the skit, we really haven’t acted it out yet. I would love if there was a downloadable copy of the skit and the Daily Expression chart so each child would be able to have their own in order to make completing these activities easier.

I do love the way so many Spanish words are introduced to children through a story. I thought this was an ingenious way to help these words “stick” in our minds. We got to hear them multiple times, and I know how important repetition is for learning things. I do wish the additional words that are introduced in the skit had actually been included in the story. To me, it would have been better to have more practice time with these words before having to act out a skit. There are so many new words, that we have to listen to the skit over and over before we are able to act it out on our own. One of the sentences was said so quickly, using words not heard before, that it is still difficult for me to try to repeat it.

I would love to see a follow up to this book, where children (and parents) can practice the words learned while learning more and perhaps getting some lessons in the grammar that is being used.

¡HOLA! Let's Learn Spanish! is a neat introduction for elementary age children who are learning Spanish. Children can listen to a cute story and start memorizing Spanish words right from the beginning. There are multiple activities to help reinforce the vocabulary, and children can learn about Mexican culture.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018

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