My son will be starting Kindergarten this August, but will not be doing so in a regular class. He is signed up to go through a Dual Immersion program, where he will alternate weeks of the year in a class spoken entirely in English, and one entirely in Spanish. It’s a K-6 program, and with my son being as verbal as he is (and, at 5pm at the end of a long day, it is a quality that is difficult to stay proud of), I imagine he will thoroughly enjoy the chance to become bilingual.
The only issue is that we are hitting him with a one-two-whammy. Not only is he starting school (which he’s excited about), but we are also asking him to spend half of his school year in a class that speaks a language that he knows nothing about (aside from what Handy Manny says). While racking my brain for ways to help give him a preview of Spanish, along came GoGoLingo (by way of GeekDad, who did a nice write-up on it, as well).
Read on for thoughts from me and, more importantly, my Kindergaren-aged son.
GoGoLingo serves as a great at-home tutor in teaching your child Spanish vocabulary. The program does not teach Spanish in a conversational way as Rosetta Stone does, but instead teaches your child the various vocabulary terms necessary to speak Spanish. As such, I would say GoGoLingo would make a great supplement to any formal Spanish instruction your child may be receiving; however, it certainly won’t hurt to have your child explore the program even if they aren’t in a Spanish language class.
What makes the program stand-out from other edutainment sites popping-up these days is in its execution. Immediately after registering my son, he was able to log on, and go through the verbal tutorials on how to navigate the GoGoLingo Land in which he and his little Lingo friend live. Instead of having the program be cut up into separate sections, stilted and disjointed, they are all woven together in an overworld map that your child navigates. All of this exploration is guided by an overarching narrative of an evil king who hates talking, and what’s to make all the Lingo’s mute. It’s your child’s job to teach their Lingo friend Spanish, and defeat the evil king.
This is where my son really got pulled in. By making the child be responsible for teaching their Lingo (think pet) Spanish, it becomes more quest based, with a purpose, as opposed to simply clicking through a series of language games. Since my son is already familiar with Club Penguin and Webkinz, he was easily able to navigate through the overworld, and instantly begin learning. Here are a few highlights:
What You Care About
- Basic Version is free with access to lots of content. It doesn’t feel like a “lite” version in the least;
- The Paid Version gives you the ability to enroll up to 5 children, gives your child more access to vocabulary, flashcards, activities, workbooks, and customizable curriculum;
- Your child can learn up 150 words and phrases;
- Receive weekly personalized reports of your child’s progress via e-mail;
- Track your child’s trouble areas, their achievements in the game, and what words they’ve learned
What Your Child Cares About (these include reactions from my son playing)
- Your Own Lingo. Your child is put in charge of taking care of a pet Lingo. They will need to feed it, play with it, keep it happy, and (of course) teach it Spanish
My Son’s Reaction: “I can choose what color he is? Awesome!” and “I’m going to feed him el jugo!” (which he learned from a previous game)
- Games. In the Basic version, there are 6 games available. All of them have scaffolded levels to teach your child Spanish. For instance, in one game, your child’s Lingo needs to pick up paint swatches, and put them in the correct trash can. To start with, they see the color of the paint swatch on the trashcan. When they drop it in, it says the word in Spanish (i.e. “Verde!” or “Rojo!”). On the next level, the labels on the trashcans are gone, and now they need to determine where the paint goes by listening to the audio.
My Son’s Reaction: “Verde! Verde! Verde!” and “I got seis stars!”
- MP3 Player. Your child can listen to hybrid songs (part Spanish, part English) about topics. So, the first two available to my son were about Colors and Food.
My Son’s Reaction: Lots of dancing, and singing along with his emerging Spanish words (i.e. “Hamburger-teesa!”)
- Audio Books. So far, the books we’ve encountered have been only in Enlgish; however, their simple vocabulary makes me think that they will eventually play in Spanish once he has learned the words.
My Son’s Reaction: He didn’t say much, but every time it asked him if he wanted to read the book again, he clicked “Yes.” I now have the My Family book almost entirely memorized.
- Tasks. Everyday when you child logs in s/he will have a clipboard on the right that will give them 2-3 tasks to complete. They vary from “Feed your Pet el jugo,” to “Read the ‘My Family’ story.”
My Son’s Reaction: “I clicked on the box, but nothing happened!” (the box you click on to check a task is only slightly bigger than the cursor hand the page uses. He got particularly frustrated with this)
- Stars. Your child can collect stars, which are used as currency in the game. With the stars, your child can go to the store and buy food, toys, clothes and more for their Lingo. This is where the game really shines in giving Webkinz a run for its money.
My Son’s Reaction: “My Lingo loves bananas! I’ll buy cinco more.”
- GoGo Cards. After your child finishes a game, a mini-quiz appears asking them to name a card. They show a card with an image on it, then 3 Lingos say 3 different words. If your child clicks on the Lingo who said the correct word to go with the card, they win the card. The cards are then held in a scrapbook for your child to go back to and review. It’s appealing as a collection game for the child, and great as a communication piece to you of what vocabulary they’ve learned.
- Overworld. There is a world to explore (in point-and-click, not MMO style), and is navigated by a map. Your child simply clicks on the location on the map, and is taken to the related building. There is a library, a movie theater, a store, and even their own home. Of course, looming off in the dark distance is the Munn Castle.
My Son’s Reaction: “My own home?!?” and “Why can’t I go to My Grandparent’s House?” (which, appears to be locked, either by means of progression in the game or our Basic status)
Overall, GoGoLingo meets so many needs and desires of kids aged 3-7, it’s really hard to not recommend it. When compared to Club Penguin and Webkinz, it does lack a little bit in terms of customization and gaming content; however, it was never their intention to go completely toe-to-toe with those two.
My son is accustomed to getting 20-30 minutes a night on Club Penguin or Webkinz, so it’s nice to have a much more educational alternative that still retains all the fun of his previous Internet gaming choices. When we finished our first session, I asked my son what he thought, and he left me with this question, which surely attests to the appeal of GoGoLingo (more specifically, their character design):
“When will they make a stuffed animal of my Lingo so I can take him everywhere?”
Closing Note: While GoGoLingo gets a whole heckuva lot right, I would love to see them implement some sort of MMO feature. A way for kids to interact with each other, using their newly acquired language. The text could be completely scripted, not allowing them to type in free text (much like Togetherville), and would actually be a great assessment piece. Sure, your child memorized words, but when presented with a question in Spanish, can they pick out the correct response? Just a thought.