By Dena Luchsinger
SymTalk Visitor Review:
When my daughter was in second grade, we tried a few different Spanish workbooks and software programs. My daughter didn’t like any of them, even the computer program with the cute little talking mouse.
In third grade, I discovered the SymTalk textbooks from EMC Publishing. What a find! The SymTalk method is simple: students learn to identify pictures with specific words. Then, they “read” sentences like “Isabel come el queso” and “Pablo escribe en su cuaderno.” The textbooks include a line for students to write out these sentences, but I felt the program was far more valuable for oral practice. From 3rd grade until 5th grade, my daughter practiced speaking Spanish for maybe 10-15 minutes a day. She retained all of her vocabulary, gradually learned new grammar concepts, and thoroughly enjoyed learning Spanish. In sixth grade, we moved on to a high school program, the first half of which was largely review at that point, so she flew through it and spent the second half of the year memorizing and singing Selena songs. 🙂
For parents interested of elementary aged students who want to introduce a foreign language (which I highly recommend), Symtalk is a great way to go. Since communication is a social activity, I don’t recommend sitting any kid down in front of a computer to learn language (although a fun software program might be a good supplement activity).
Symtalk gets kids speaking in a foreign language and introduces new vocabulary and grammar very gradually, so the program never becomes tedious or taxing. The pictorial nature of the program appeals to students and helps them learn to associate pictures with Spanish words so that they’re never translating from English to Spanish but actually thinking in Spanish. Having used this curriculum with a co-op group, I can truthfully say that most students enjoy slowly working out a sentence, repeating it more fluently, and then–in a little exercise I made up myself–racing me to see who can say it faster. Great training for the lengua!
The con’s, for elementary students, are few; the main one, I suppose, is that a parent must have some idea of how to pronounce the words. Apparently Book 1 does include pronunciation for true beginners (we used Spanish Books C through F, which is considered a middle school level curriculum).
We also used Book F only of the French textbook as a jumpstart into high school French for my oldest daughter, when she switched to French after completing four years of high school Spanish. I would recommend these textbooks for older students who want to practice with pronunciation and gain fluency speaking in a foreign language prior to delving into a more challenging curriculum as well.