Whistlefritz: Spanish and French Immersion Learning for Kids (at home!)

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I have heard loads of great things about Whistlefritz Spanish for Kids and French for Kids language learning DVDs and CDs, but I had no idea that the company was based right here in the DC area in Glen Echo, Maryland! Heidi Stock is the founder and CEO of this award-winning language program for children, and she is herself a mother of two.

Eager to learn more about the Whistlefritz philosophy of teaching children Spanish and French in the same way they learned their first language, I was delighted to interview Stock and to share our insightful chat with you.

A Parent in Silver Spring: What inspired you to create the Whistlefritz language learning series?

Heidi Stock, CEO and founder of Whistlefritz: I started languages young and studied abroad, but I learned them the American way, when you begin a language in junior high and you really can’t speak it very well by the end of high school. I learned however, that if you begin language learning with children at a young age, they can obtain the accent of a native speaker — something that a language learner after early childhood may never be able to get.

I started my children in the language classes offered in the Washington, DC area beginning in 2006. The classes that my children took were fabulous! But I was not able to find DVDs and CDs that I felt really complemented their language learning and followed the immersion formula my children were receiving in their classes. The videos I found back then were predominantly English. So I sought to create what I felt was lacking in the market. I was a reluctant entrepreneur.

Can language immersion be achieved through DVDs and CDs? I thought that one had to travel or have a native speaker in your household to get that experience! 

Yes, all Whistlefritz products provide language immersion. Language immersion means that only the language a child is learning is used — no English words or patterns. The child hears and speaks the language she is learning. The children receive many context clues, lots of expressive speech, for that is how we all learn our first, native language. With an immersive method, there is no internal translation required for the children. The child can make a direct connection.

Why is language immersion important, versus allowing English in the DVD or CD “classroom?”

I think it is crucial that children can listen to the language in context, without having to go to English first and then understand. This is why in the Whistlefritz DVDs and CDs we use songs, skits, jokes, gross motor movements. Children learn in different ways. The DVDs and CDs prep children for how the foreign language they are learning really works. The collections are also great for moms, parents, who themselves do not know the language — you can learn right along with your child.

My daughter Alice just turned three. Is she too young to begin watching and listening to Whistlefritz?

I think two years old is just the perfect time to start, or any time during the preschool or early years. As children get older, they become more self-conscious learning a new language. The older they get, they also become so much more competent in their native English that learning a new language is frustrating. At a young age, everything is new, they are constantly, already learning, so they are open to a new language and switching between the two.

Why do you believe it is important for children to learn another language, even before it becomes a school requirement?

Studies have shown that starting a new language improves test scores, and it even delays the effects of Alzheimer’s in the elderly. There is something so beneficial to our brains about switching our mechanism from one language to another.  Learning another language also influences the way you look at the world, and improves our creativity, our flexibility, our ability to relate to others.

Tell us about the Whistlefritz musical CDs. 

When my children were young, I found most children’s music so annoying. I suffered through it. When we produced the Whistlefritz music CDs, we incorporated enjoyable adult musical themes such as salsa, merengue, rumba, bachiata, cumbia, corrido, reggae, samba, big band and Caribbean rhythms.  The artists themselves — Jorge Anaya, Didier Prossaird, Marie-Louise Desage, and Lynn Veronneau — are professional bolero, salsa, and jazz performers.

It was important to me that the music be good and not dumbed down. Putumayo and Zumba have licensed Whistlefritz songs, and some of those compilation CDs have been at the top of the Latin children’s music and even the standard all-ages Latin music lists!

Your DVD collections are impressive and have won almost every single parent product award! 

Thank you! The DVDs have a combination of fun, high-quality 3D animation as well as live action segments. There are humorous elements to keep the kids interested. The live action portions are very important in language learning because the children can see the position of the mouth during pronunciation. The speakers — both adults and children — featured in the DVDs are all native speakers so that the native accent can be learned. It is also important for kids’ learning that they see their peers doing all the things asked of them in the DVD — the getting up, dancing, yelling — important engagement that is not possible with solely cartoon teachers. Other kids on the screen helps approximate a real classroom. The adults on the screen talk directly to the children watching, simulating a classroom teacher.

I am excited! I had no idea that it was really possible for my children to learn a language, right at home! 

Last summer in the Outer Banks we were staying in a house with several families. The house had some Spanish flash cards in the game stash and so we brought them out. Many of the adults at the table had studied Spanish in junior high, high school, even college. But a six year old, who has been learning Spanish in the Whistlefritz and immersion model, was just killing all of us.  By the end, she had 100 more cards than the rest of us.

Whistlefritz offers special savings offers here on the website, as well as on the Whistlefritz Facebook page to followers.  Whilstlefritz offers language immersion instruction in Spanish and French for families, as well as educator and homeschool programs. 

This post was sponsored by Whistlefritz. All thoughts expressed during the interview are my own. 

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