Julia Pimsleur Levine is the President of the Little Pim Corporation, which produces and distributes the Little Pim: Fun with Languages series to introduce young children to a second language. I recently asked Julia a few questions about her products and how they can help make travel time easier for Traveling Moms. She also suggested some games for kids to play while traveling that incorporate language learning.
Culture Traveling Mom: Please tell us how your products can help make travel time easier for parents.
Pimsleur: Little Pim foreign language DVDs provide educational entertainment for your kids during travel times, and they will amaze you with how many words they can learn in Spanish, French or Chinese in one plane or car ride! Our “vocabulary booster apps” are also very easy to use and affordable ($1.99 each) even for kids as young as two, and reinforce the words taught in the DVD series. The flash cards provide a great activity for parents and kids to do together while on the go, and the parents do not need to speak the language themselves, as all our products come with easy to use phonetic guides.
Culture Traveling Mom: What is the value of teaching a foreign language to our children?
Pimsleur: There is a more of a need than ever for our children to learn two languages, not only for the social and cultural benefits, but to become active citizens of our increasingly global economy. Proficiency in foreign languages and an understanding of other cultures used to be a “nice to have” but have really become essential skills in the twenty-first century. If they start learning young, they will have better accents, learn new vocabulary with ease, and jump start a life-long interest in language learning. Children who can speak another language will have their pick of the best jobs when they grow up, and will be at ease living and working in more than one country.
Culture Traveling Mom: What is the Pimsleur approach and how does it differ from other language-learning products? Why is the best one for children?
Pimsleur: My father, Dr. Paul Pimsleur, created the Pimsleur Method, which is an audio only method that allows adults to get conversational quickly in a foreign language. I grew up in the language teaching business and was inspired by my father’s method to create a children’s version that introduces kids to a second language at the age they learn best, which is before the age of six. Our Little Pim DVDs use the “Entertainment Immersion Method”, which allows even very young children to start learning and speaking a second language via total immersion (with optional English subtitles for their grown ups). The method is a mix of real kids doing everyday activities, and Little Pim the Panda, the teacher, introducing and repeating simple words and phrases. Each 3-DVD set teaches 360 words and phrases, and the kids are exposed to native speakers with perfect accents.
Culture Traveling Mom: When should a parent start teaching their children foreign languages?
Pimsleur: The earlier you start the better. It’s never too young to start introducing your child to a second language and it will not interfere with their English language learning. Babies and toddlers can listen to CDs and books and as they get older, you can introduce DVDs and interactive games.
Culture Traveling Mom: How can a child have fun and learn a foreign language at the same time?
Pimsleur: Little Pim the panda makes language learning fun. Kids love watching his adventures and want to watch him over and over again. When they watch, and repeat after Little Pim, they learn. We know no child is going to tug on her mom’s pant leg and say “I want to learn Mandarin Chinese!” but she will say “I want to watch the panda!”
Culture Traveling Mom: What are some games that you can suggest for kids to play while traveling that incorporate language learning?
1) Play a game where every child gets a point for naming an object you see out the window in another language. Whoever gets the most points gets a treat at the next rest stop or upon arrival. You can help out by naming objects the first time (a tree = “un arbre” or a car = “une voiture”) and your kids can call them out the next time.
2) Print out the Little Pim coloring pages from our web site and have kids color them in the back seat (you’ll need crayons and a lap desk or a hard cover book to lean). Each coloring page teaches a new word or phrase. Go to GAMES on the web site and print out up to 10 pictures of Little Pim to color in, with vocabulary included.
3) Play music in a foreign language and encourage your kids to sing along
4) Bring flash cards and award prizes for the child who gets the most right, or with one child, a small treat if they can get 5 right in a row.
5) Get “countable” snacks (like peanuts, grapes or raisins) and count off in the foreign language. See how high you can get before forgetting how to say it! The winner gets their pick of snacks to eat.
Culture Traveling Mom: Are any of your products useful for kids to use on a trip?
Pimsleur: The digital downloads are very convenient to bring on a trip, as are the flash cards (which come in a sturdy box that is great for on the go). If you are traveling with a DVD player, bring along the DVDs. The apps are a great go-to game if you have an iTouch, iPhone or iPad (search “Word Bag” or “Talking Coloring Book” in iTunes).
Culture Traveling Mom: When a family is traveling in a country where English is not the native language, what is the best way to get the kids immersed and interested in that language?
Pimsleur: A few weeks before your trip, start introducing the language of the country you’ll be visiting by playing CDs and DVDs and reading your children books that expose them to the culture of the country. If you can, set aside a special time to learn with them (such as “Italian breakfast every Wednesday” or “Spanish at bath time”) as then kids will be able to know when to switch into that learning mode and you will also have a set time to bring these materials to their attention. Above all, try to make it fun! No vocabulary drills or memorization – just try to teach them a few simple words and phrases and show them what you love about the place you are visiting (the food, the music, the traditions, etc). They will have an even better time when they get there if they know a bit of what to expect and can speak a few words to make their needs known. They will pick up much more vocabulary when they are there, so no need to make that a chore before you go.
Culture Traveling Mom: Does Pimsleur offer any downloadables or online material for kids to take on a trip?
Pimsleur: We offer all our DVDs as digital downloads (35 minutes per DVD) that play on any computers or handheld devices such as the iPhone, iTouch, or iPad. They cost $14.95 per 35 minute DVD or a reduced price of $41.95 for three DVDs. Free downloadable coloring pages can be found under GAMES on our web site.