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Review by White Room

Languages For Kids: Pip Teaches German

Languages For Kids is an award-winning series of eleven Windows/Macintosh CD-ROMs, designed and produced by Smarty Pants Publishing, a division of Beam International Limited. Targeted at primary age children, they aim to make learning a second language easy and fun, and feature some very slick animation, lots of games, sing-alongs and other activities.

The first thing that strikes you about these titles is just how well presented and attractive they are. Colourful and hip, they are bound to appeal to youngsters, but there is much more to them than that.

Pip Teaches German is typical of the series. Pip and his cool but clumsy hedgehog take you through six sections designed to introduce you to the basics of the language. These deal with the alphabet, numbers, animals and some simple areas like holidays, birthdays (and birthdays parties) and songs. As with the graphics, much care has been taken with the audio, which is always clear and lively. The structure is deceptively simple, with all activities a single screen providing access to all sections, and a further screen providing access to all activities within that section - there's almost no scope for becoming lost or frustrated with the navigation.

In all, there are more than 600 words and expressions to learn, presented through more than 25 games and activities (each with three levels of difficulty). In addition to basic vocabulary, the disc aims to teach the skills of alphabet and word recognition; word building; understanding simple sentences; using plurals; simple addition and subtraction; telling the time; number recognition; and pronunciation. A Teacher's Manual is available.

If you were looking for a stimulating CD-ROM to help children learn German, this one would be hard to beat.

Pip Teaches German and the other titles in the series are available from Scholastic New Media (tel: (02) 4328-3555). Other titles in the series are: Mike Teaches English, Claudine Teaches French, Fiore Teaches Italian, Pepa Teaches Spanish, Michio Teaches Japanese, Insu Teaches Korean, Budi Teaches Indonesian, Lin Lin Teaches Mandarin, and Rivka Teaches Hebrew.

A number of downloadable modules are available from the Smartypants site at http://www.smartypantsco.com and these are designed to show the range of activities as well as provide a feel for the style of the discs. For example, while the section on 'Greetings' is available from Pip Teaches German, the 'Memory Game' and the Word Puzzles are available from Michio Teaches Japanese and Lin Lin Teaches Mandarin respectively.

Individual titles in the series have won Australian and international awards, including the 1996 ATOM Multimedia Award for Best Primary Resource, finalist in the 1997 International Digital Media Awards (Michio Teaches Japanese), and World Medal Winner at the prestigious New York Festivals Awards (Mike Teaches English). The whole series is also a finalist in multiple categories at the 1997 ATOM International Multimedia Awards and the AIMIA Australian International Multimedia Awards 1997.

The Languages for Kids series had a budget of $2 million and was jointly financed by the Australian Multimedia Enterprise Limited.

Review by Sydney's Child

Kidsbyte: Languages for Kids (Claudine Teaches French)

Available for French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Mandarin, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese and English. For ages 5+. Specifically designed to meet the Victorian Curriculum (LOTE) guidelines. Available at most major department stores, or phone Scholastic on (02) 43 28 3555 for your nearest retailer.

'Claudine Teaches French' is a language program that uses the 'immersion' technique. Claudine is a native speaking character with a good French accent who guides the learner through a range of interactive multimedia activities, with three different skill levels. Skills taught include written and spoken language (letters and word recognition), pronunciation, word and sentence building, numeracy and vocabulary. The themes are age-related and there are songs, games and activity sheets in the Teacher's Pack. Also in the Pack is a resource list (text books as well as reading material).

Constant reinforcement is used to encourage a learner, with a 'guess and check' function. Used in conjunction with the work sheets and language lists, progress is guaranteed.

Thoughtfully produced, this program is challenging, absorbing and entertaining all at once. Although French is spoken throughout, there is a help button that will give an English translation, as well as a help function which explains how to complete an activity if you do not understand.

The Languages For Kids programs would suit beginners in French, those who already have a basic understanding of the language and students with special learning needs. It is also valuable for children who are being home schooled or learning a language in isolation.