The Learnables

If you’re looking for a language program, check out The Learnables.  On the website you can see lesson demos, some of which can seem quite dull but make sense in their approach.  Instead of learning the words “for” things (ie memorizing the word in each language: apple – manzana, etc.), you see a pictorial representation and hear the word or phrase in the language you’re learning.

There are of course many programs that lean toward immersion; this seems worth checking out if the interest and motivation are there for a language and you’ve either got a kid who’s not reading English yet or one who just prefers pictures and sound. You might have more luck than with more bookish materials.

See also my older post about Berlitz’ Rush Hour series.  I get lots of happy feedback about their materials.


I passed a young dad and his baby on the sidewalk tonight.  He was talking quietly to her in that soothing way that parents of young children (and others) often use.

When do we stop talking to them that way?  How old are they when we decide it’s time for them to graduate to a generally sharper more authoritative tone, one that tends to offer instruction, analysis, mandate before the comfort and curiosity that characterizes much of our interaction with infants?

I heard someone say recently, in response to a 2 year-old’s behavior, “Oh, she knows what she’s doing.  She knows she’s pushing my buttons.”  Maybe that’s it.  As soon as we think they know what they’re doing – that they’re capable of directing behavior at us – gone is the benefit of the doubt we grant them when they’re tiny.

What if we gave that benefit of the doubt to older kids?  What if we assumed that their expressions of displeasure or discomfort were just that, and not deliberate plots designed to bother us?  I’m oversimplifying on purpose in the interest of brevity – I know we don’t actively, consciously think that kids are plotting against us when we get frustrated with their resistance to what we want them to do.  But we do often respond as though it’s personal.  We err on the side of taking it as an attack or affront rather than a communication.  What if it were all communication?  All the testing and resistance. What if we listened and responded to it as though it were, just to see what could change if we did?

Learning Language in the Car

Here’s a good language program for those who are tight for time and hesitant to sink too much money into a program whose kids are at high risk for abandoning: Berlitz Rush Hour. It’s available in Spanish, French, German, and Italian (all for English speakers) and in English for Spanish speakers.

As the title suggests, the CDs are designed to be used during a commute or other drive. The heart of the program is the silly songs which, though they may annoy you, will stay with you, which of course is what you want. If you like learning by ear, or your child does well with this kind of learning, these are worth a try. There’s a book that accompanies the CDs, so if you want to use the discs when you’re not driving, you can follow along with the book.

It’s a low-cost program and really only enough to get your learning off the ground – it won’t get you all the way to fluent. It’s great, however, if you’ve got a young one who wants to learn a language and isn’t sure which one, or just thrives with playful/silly but content-rich materials.

Here’s a link to the Spanish version.

I also stumbled upon a free online word game which is associated with the series. You’ll also find that there are several different versions of the program. (One comes with headphones, another is an audio download, another is designed to complete in an hour…)