Monday, September 20, 2010
Video Review: Amharic 4 Our Kids
I recently purchased a video from Amharic.com entitled "Amharic 4 Our Kids, Vol. 1". Here is the blurb about the product on the website:
This is the first fully animated DVD that is designed specially for kids to teach them Amharic (the most popular language in Ethiopia). It is suitable for kids of all ages and skill levels. The educational section focuses on the Amharic alphabet, vocabulary, and writing, while the entertainment section contains popular songs and dancing. Run Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.
I was hopeful that this would help us learn some basic Amharic with Nate and Dexter in preparation for our adoption, and then to use post-adoption as well. The fact that it was in an animated kid-friendly form seemed to be a good fit, as it would allow us to all learn together.
Overall, I was very disappointed with this product and I give it a 1/5 rating. It contains 4 different sections, which I will review individually.
This section presents approximately 20 color and body part vocab words. The primary problem with the vocabulary section (and truthfully, the whole video) is that it is not a research-based language learning tool. The way that the material is presented in this video is not consistent with current research about how children (and adults) learn language. In order to facilitate language learning, words should be presented clearly and repetitively with as many visual cues as possible (visual cues might be footage of a real person saying the word, multiple examples/pictures of the word, the phonetic spelling of the word, etc.) Instead, this video uses very poorly done animated characters with robotic voices who speak the word only once, and even then it is nearly impossible to hear over the loud background music and sound effects. The only thing that saves this section from being completely and totally useless is the quiz portion. Here they actually show a phonetic spelling, which allows the words to be understood and repeated. (They also use the real Jeopardy! theme song and if they paid for that privilege I will be surprised, given the low quality of the rest of the video!)
Music & Dance
This section is neat because it shows traditional dances from different regions of Ethiopia. That being said, these videos are easily accessible on YouTube and certainly not worth buying the video for. There are also 2 animated song/dance parts that I found to be borderline creepy. The animation is so poor that it really takes away from the presentation.
This part is totally useless. An animated character sings a very annoying song that repeats letters of the Amharic alphabet. You can't understand what he's saying and it is not the kind of song that can serve well as a mnemonic device because it just repeats the same tune for each set of 2 letters. If you already knew the Amharic alphabet, the song might be a fun way to repeat and review the letters, but if you don't know it this video certainly won't teach it to you.
Writing in Amharic
Again, I found this section useless. An animated character says the names of all the Amharic letters, while a person's hand is shown drawing them. This is repeated over and over, but no explanation is ever given of what the letters represent. The letters are never used to make words, or explained in phonetic terms, so they are virtually meaningless unless you already know them.
The video is called "Amharic 4 OUR Kids," and after watching it I am certain that OUR kids does not mean MY kids... perhaps it would be more beneficial for use within an Amharic-speaking family as a teaching tool to help children retain their language in an English-speaking country? Even then, I'm not sure it would be very beneficial.
So here's the funny part: MY KIDS LOVE IT. They ask to watch it every day. They usually get bored with each section quickly, but they still like watching it. The vocab section is their favorite, and I think after several viewings (with lots of reinforcement from me) they might actually learn a few of the words presented. So... I do not count it a total loss. I had planned on buying another one of their products (Amharic the EZ Way), but now I am definitely reconsidering. Anyone know any good, research-based language learning programs for Amharic??