Educational music review: Learning about Beth Manners Fun French and Spanish
Beth Manners, creator of a wonderful series of learning tools for kids, has been awarded many accolades from Parent’s Choice Silver honor award, Dr. Toy award, and the Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media award. Her dedication to teach her children foreign languages gave way to these fun music CDs: Fun Spanish for Kids, Magic Spanish for Kids, and Playtime Spanish for Kids. These 30 minute CDs include easy to follow lessons, clear understanding of instructions, clear pronunciation, and fun songs to sing along. Much of the organization for each CD lends itself for finger puppet play, dramatic play, and easy daily Spanish conversation, which is found in many preschool settings.
1). Being bilingual or multi-lingual, do you believe that readers learn better by listening with fun, rhyming music or just plain reading textbooks and workbooks? What do you believe could make a good Spanish lesson?
Adult learners are visual and like to see things in written form. However, in order to achieve fluency, they need to practice conversation and listening skills. Music and songs are beneficial for developing these skills. Children learn with their ears. They enjoy being engaged with music, songs, games and stories. It is important to keep it fun, so that they want to learn and associate language learning as a positive experience. A good Spanish lesson should not feel like a lesson. It should be an active experience based on a theme. For example, to learn foods – children pack a picnic basket and go on a picnic.
2). Obviously, you believe that learning another language besides your native language is important. You’ve taught your children both French and Spanish. How has these literacy skills affected them in school and standardized testing, if any?
My children are now 15 and 20 years old. In school, French and Spanish have always been their best subjects. They started French at a very young age and later it was easy to pick up Spanish. An early start has given them a “knack” for languages and made them strong and effective communicators. The standardized tests have reading and writing sections, so strong communication skills are key.
3). What were your first books or music recordings that influence your learning in Spanish? Do you have any favorite stories or songs?
I am a teacher at heart and I love simple songs to reinforce vocabulary. When we were developing our Classroom Spanish program, we tested it weekly in a local Kindergarten. After a few lessons, we needed to go back to the recording studio to make timing adjustments etc and it was several months until I returned to that Kindergarten class. When I entered the class, the kids spontaneously started singing songs from our CDs. I was amazed that after very little exposure, they had retained so much. Regarding my learning Spanish, I don’t know that any books or recordings have influenced me. I enjoy listening to Spanish pop music – Juanes and Julieta Venegas are quite enjoyable.
4). The ‘Fun Spanish for Kids’, ‘Playtime Spanish for Kids’, and ‘Magic Spanish for Kids’ all have the basic skills for preschoolers or early learners in Spanish to grasp the fundamental concepts in Spanish. Do you think that a booklet or picture book would help learners with the different themes? Besides the basic skills in Spanish, do you believe that preschoolers should also learn about literature and poetry?
The CDs were developed to stand on their own. A lot of parents tell us they play them in the car, or during rest time at home. We believe languages should be learned using all of the senses, so we have also developed coloring sheets, cooking recipes, and crafts for kids. It is never too early to learn about literature and poetry, as long as it is introduced using age appropriate techniques.
5). In all of the three collections of music and lyrics, there are many times that Spain and Mexico are mentioned, to name a few. Do you believe that the different Spanish dialect influences the pronunciation of preschoolers or early learners? What phonetic awareness skill would you recommend for such group of learners?
Children should be introduced to many different Spanish pronunciations, so that they can feel comfortable with them. Young children are so adaptable and comfortable with new sounds, that simply exposing them to the different dialects will promote phonetic awareness.
Beth Manners, writer and producer, worked as a project manager in international business for 10 years, and learned first-hand the importance of speaking other languages. She also observed, from European colleagues living in the United States, how easy it is for young children to learn new languages. Upon becoming a mother in 1990, her interest and passion for early-language learning developed. She started teaching her daughter French at age three, and was so successful that she decided to start her second child even earlier at 18 months. Both children studied Spanish beginning in elementary school and languages became their favorite subject. Beth developed many novel ways of teaching language through play and decided to share that information by developing products through her company, Future Boomers.