Learn a new language with Little Pim
Who is Little Pim?
Well, Little Pim is one smart panda who knows 10 languages: Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew, English (ESL), German, Arabic, and Russian.
And this cartoon panda has his own line of foreign language learning DVDs, phrase cards and even iPhone apps. In the Little Pim DVDs, geared for infant to five years old, this cute panda rolls down a hill, bounces around and introduces the various segments. Some of these scenes are funny, or even hilarious, to my 4-year-old and they do provide a nice break between themes.
The original series, which first came out in 2008, is available in all 10 languages and covers Eating and Drinking (Disc 1), Wake Up Smiling (Disc 2) and Playtime (Disc 3).
Parents and children can watch the entire 35-minute DVD or break it up into 5-minute segments, which feature real children of varying ages, adults and even dogs and cats doing everyday things. You watch the people in action while Little Pim narrates in your selected language and the words appear in that language on screen. For example, in Playtime (Disc 3), one scene shows a boy playing with blocks and Little Pim says in French, "Il joue avec des cubes" and those words appear.
You also have the option to repeat each segment to reinforce memorization and if you have that selected, Little Pim climbs down a tree trunk and asks if you want to see it again by saying, "Encore une fois?” in French or “ Una vez más" in Spanish (or similar phrase, depending on the language you’re watching).
My daughter and I have watched all three in French and recently viewed Playtime in Spanish. I am familiar with both languages but I am much more comfortable with French, s I did have a little bit of a learning curve with the Spanish DVD that I didn't experience with the French ones. However, the nice thing is you have an option to turn on the subtitles in English. So even if you're a little rusty, or don't know the language at all and are just getting started, you can help your child relate the activities with what is being said and posted on screen in the other language.
Earlier this year, three more DVDs came out but right now they are only available in French, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish with the titles: In My Home (Disc 4), Happy Sad and Silly (Disc 5), and I Can Count! (Disc 6). These three new titles introduce more themes, more than 100 new words to learn and new characters.
Yes, Little Pim now has an entourage.
Little Pim is now joined by Bob the Bobcat and Lola the Elephant and the segments between scenes are a little longer and tell more of a "story" than the first three DVDs. There also are cartoon cameos from a dog, two squirrels and some ants. Even though these scenes are geared toward kids I still chuckled when Bob got wet, was blow-dried by Lola's trunk and then puffed up to about twice his size.
One nice feature the latest DVDs have is the option to pick any of the 5-minute episodes from the main menu. In the original series you hit play and have to hit "next" or "search" until you get to the scenes you want.
My daughter and I also watched Happy, Sad and Silly in Spanish and I didn't initially like the voice (one of the original voice-over people is not on this disk) but after a bit I didn't mind and my daughter never noticed a difference.
If you plan to buy multiple language DVDs from the series there is a potential drawback – or plus - depending on how you look at it. The languages are different if you buy French instead of Spanish but the videos are exactly the same. The drawback is that your child could get bored watching the same video. However, the benefit is they might learn the additional language a little faster (say you watch Little Pim Spanish first and then buy Little Pim Russian) because they’ll already be familiar with the actions. If you stick with one language then this isn't an issue at all.
How does Little Pim compare to other language DVDs for children?
Little Pim sells their 35-minute DVDs, for infants to 5, separately for $17.95 or in 3-packs for $49.95 and is available in 10 languages in the first series and 3 languages in the second one.
Professor Toto, for children 2 to 12, is available in 5 languages (Spanish, Chinese, Italian, French and German) and their cheapest set, the starter kit, includes a 60-minute DVD for $29.95. Their multimedia kits include 4 DVDs, 2 CDs, 2 activity books and reference books for $199.95.
Muzzy, targeting toddlers to 12 years old, is available in more languages than Professor Toto but not as many as Little Pim with Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, Chinese Mandarin, Russian and Portuguese (Brazil). They only sell complete sets for $199 - including 3 DVDs plus 2 vocabulary-building DVDs, a storybook and a CD - but you can try it for free (sort of, they charge you for shipping and handling) .
Baby Einstein's Language Nursery is a 30-minute DVD with select phrases in seven languages for ages 1 year to 18 months old. It came out more than 10 years ago so you'll have to search for it.
Brainy Baby offers 45-minute DVDs in French and Spanish for $14.99. I'm not familiar with them and their own site doesn't really tell you about the DVDS, but you can find them on Amazon with mixed reviews from people who have watched them.
Muzzy is the only one offering interactive software (for ages 7 to 12 for $89). Little Pim is the only one offering iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps (see sidebar).
We tried watching the Muzzy program and my daughter, who was 3 years old at the time, really didn't like it. I thought it was more suitable for children at least 5 or older. I have not had the chance to see Professor Toto but an age range of 2 to 12 seems too broad. Honestly a range of 0 to 5 years is pushing it, but I think Little Pim does it in such a way that it could still be a great introduction for a 5-year-old or even adults with no experience with the language. Five years old is a good peak age for Little Pim because by that time your child will likely get foreign language exposure in school.
Going beyond what they're trying to sell, Little Pim is the only one of the three whose website offers free learning options including "Word of the Day" coloring pages and short learning video clips. If you have an ipod, you can download free Little Pim podcasts.
If price or offerings don't sway you, maybe it'll come down to mascots. Little Pim is a jolly little panda, now joined by a bobcat and elephant. With Muzzy, you get a green gorilla, a lion and other cartoon characters and Professor Toto seems to be a caricature of Albert Einstein. Come on, who wouldn't like a cute panda? Especially when he's available as a plush toy.
Little Pim also can be purchased on the Little Pim website for $17.95 for one DVD, a set of 3 DVDs for $49.95 and in gift sets that can include a plush Pim, phrase cards and/or musical CD for up to $84.95. Amazon is selling some of the first series in three packs for $44.95.
Foreign Language Info
Little Pim Extras
Don't know what language you'd like your child to learn? Even if you opt not to go with Little Pim, they offer a great quiz (right side of home page) that will help you decide.
The Little Pim DVD comes with a parent guide that gives a basic summary of how to get the most from the DVD. For example, one of the tips is to model proper pronunciation instead of correcting your child if he or she mispronounces a word or phrase.
The guide also includes some interesting panda facts, such as how much pandas eat - 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo a day.
Little Pim also sells word and phrase cards (in French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish) for $14.95 for 60 cards. And there are two music CDs - Spanish Bop and French Bop - for $14.95.
If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, you might want to download their free podcasts and there are two apps. There is the Little Pim Word Bag for $1.99 that is available in French or Spanish with 27 vocabular words. Be aware that some reviewers didn't like it, complaining that the background music was too loud and there were no English subtitles. I have not tried them yet so I can't comment further.
The Talking Coloring Book, also for $1.99 for your mobile device, is available in English, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, but it only comes with a few scenes to color. FYI, you can get it for free on your computer from the Little Pim website.
Some of the Competition