Over the past several decades much research has emerged indicating that second language learning should begin as early as possible in a child's life. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding and qualified teachers, the number of elementary foreign language programs in the United States is declining (www.cal.org). Early Start Language Programs has created "Tú y yo", a video-based program for elementary age children that can help alleviate this problem. The "Tú y yo" program is relatively inexpensive and is designed to be taught by regular classroom teachers with little or no knowledge of the target language (Spanish). The program includes a DVD with 16 different language lessons focusing on the same curricula found in traditional elementary school programs: colors, counting, days of the week, family, etc. The videos were filmed at schools in Spain; so, the language and culture the students see is authentic. It should be noted that language and culture in this program is representative of Spain and does not necessarily reflect the language and culture of the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.
In addition to the DVD, the teacher is provided a manual with detailed step-by-step lesson plans, worksheets, crafts, and game ideas to reinforce the vocabulary from the video. The step-by-step lesson plans are very flexible and are easily modified to fit the teacher's comfort level with the language. Each lesson is designed to be as short as 10 minutes, or as long as [End Page 719] 30 minutes, depending on the time available. Additional detailed descriptions of games that can be played with vocabulary from any lesson are found at the end of the manual. In this reviewer's opinion, all of the material, from the worksheets to the games, is creative, fun, and pedagogically sound.
At the beginning of each lesson, the authors have included a section called "How Spanish Works." This section is intended to explain simple grammar points. It can be helpful to the nonspecialist teacher with some prior knowledge of the language. However, for a teacher with no prior knowledge of the language, it could be confusing. For the teacher with more advanced knowledge of the language, the program provides additional words and phrases that can be taught. In addition, the manual provides some ideas for informal assessment of the student's language skills with clear and easy to understand forms.
The authors include a discussion of the pros and cons of introducing the written language to young learners, but they leave the ultimate decision to each teacher. In my opinion, this is problematic because most traditional classroom teachers (non-language specialists) do not have enough knowledge about second language acquisition to make an informed decision on the inclusion or exclusion of the written word. The program should clearly state whether or not the written word will be introduced.
At the beginning of the manual, the authors clearly explain the components of the program and its design. Included are a brief discussion of the four communication skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and a diagram of the "four stages in pupils developing active use of the new language." However, the authors do not discuss any second language acquisition theories or the various types of elementary foreign language programs: FLEX, FLES, or Immersion. Nor do the authors state any clear objectives to be accomplished through use of the program. According to the program designers, the regular elementary classroom teacher, rather than a language specialist, should decide the objectives for the program. However, the designers fail to take into account that most regular classroom teachers lack the background and knowledge of second language acquisition theory to develop these omitted components.
The most positive aspect of the program is its attention to cultural awareness. From the very first lesson on greetings, discussions about culture emerge. Students see the children and adults greeting each other with hugs and kisses. This provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on one's...