Audio-Visual Resources for Bilingual Children
Since my first trip to Costa Rica at the age of 15, I have always loved watching TV in Spanish. At first I enjoyed the challenge of understanding, and I think that now it’s more nostalgic than anything because I just love the way Spanish sounds on TV.
Watching programs that have been dubbed from English are less entertaining for me because I’m constantly trying to figure out what they were saying in English, either by reading the actors’ lips or by a weird reverse translation.
I noticed this the other day while watching The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! in Spanish with my daughter (we got it on DVD from the VPL). This show is great because it teaches kids about the natural world while improving language skills with rhymes and silly Dr. Seuss words of course. When watching this show I can’t seem to stop my brain from trying to decipher what the original rhyme was in English and it seriously gets to me if I can’t figure it out!! Fortunately this doesn’t happen to my daughter, she will watch TV in French or Spanish just as easily as she does in English and doesn’t seem to worry about the translation.
TV Shows in Spanish on YouTube
When we were living in Oaxaca, Mexico, I spent a lot of time at home with our daughter while my wife was working. During that time we had a TV but no cable, which meant that we had limited options for entertainment. Every afternoon when my daughter was napping I would watch El Chavo the cartoon (a remake of the original El Chavo del Ocho) which is both entertaining and educational for foreigners like myself.
This particular episode is one of my favourites, where Quico wins tickets to the fair for the whole neighbourhood (vecindad) by correctly answering the question “How do you spell nariz (nose) in English” by writing nose (no sé = I don’t know in Spanish). It’s a cute joke for language dorks like myself.
A preschooler show that I really enjoy in Spanish (and in English) is Pocoyo, an animated series from Spain. The main character Pocoyo is a dancing little boy who explores the world with his animal friends in 7 minute episodes that are all on YouTube. My daughter really enjoyed Pocoyo since before she turned 2, and she used to call it Copoyo.
In this episode “Los Zapatos de Elly”, Elly the elephant refuses to take off her new high-heel shoes.
A note to parents about YouTube: there’s a lot of content that may not be suitable for children, so it’s best to check the video before you play it and also be careful when the video ends, it’s very easy for your child to just pick another one from the squares that pop up.
Videos and Movies
If your child has a favorite show or movie that they have seen a million times and you can’t believe that they could possibly want to watch it again, you can try putting it on in their second language. Although this is a passive activity that should not replace active language exposure, it is a good way to reinforce some aspects of language such as accent and intonation as well as improve vocabulary and comprehension.