Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big Muzzy

We got Muzzy for Jonah for his birthday.

I picked it up cheap on Ebay. It's pretty expensive new (though it's now on DVD!), so I just found an old, used set which contains cassette and VHS tapes (yeah, you know-- you have to put them in a VCR and "rewind" them when you're done. You've heard of it?)

I've heard a lot of good things about Muzzy, and now I know why. It's fantastic.

Muzzy is basically an immersion-style language course for children (available in several different languages). It's a clever story that's amazingly complex and enjoyable (and the old-style cartoons make it even more fun, in my opinion) yet is made up entirely of very simple and repetitive dialog. The method is that the child watches the videos in English (or whatever the native language) to learn the story and then watches the videos in another language (in our case, Spanish). Ideally, they make the associations to begin understanding the other language in the same way that they learned their first language. Little kids' minds are ripe for this kind of learning and this ability is lost as they get older.

Now, I certainly am not expecting Jonah to become fluent in Spanish or anything. He doesn't even need to be and obviously doesn't have anywhere to use Spanish. But here's my reasoning for using this program: First of all, this will hopefully just stretch his brain in the direction of language learning, and if we continue with it over the years (Muzzy has a second level that I can get later), maybe it won't be so hard for him as it was for me when it comes to getting down to learning the grammar of the language. Maybe he'll never need it, but maybe he will, who knows? Secondly, we're homeschooling (and I say that in present tense even though he's only 4 because we're gearing up for it. We do all sorts of "unschooling" style school throughout our daily life and I'm making plans for his future schooling.) What are the main things he's working on learning at this point? Language and things pertaining to it: speech, syntax, letters, sounds, reading, writing. These videos cover all of those things, and there's nothing better than a different language to help you understand your own, right? I can see how even just watching the English video would be helpful to a child learning to talk. The story covers numbers, colors, letters, question words, prounouns, manners, "this one and that one", time, location and many other language concepts.

Also-- Muzzy is very systematic and WAY more fun (and less obnoxious) than Dora, which I despise (because Dora is teaching multiculturalism, not Spanish).

Jonah is addicted. He begs to watch one of the videos every day (in fact he's completely forgotten about the new Bob the Builder video he got!) and when he's not watching the videos, he's listening to the audio tapes.

I'm actually amazed at how quickly he's picking it up. He's seen the English video three times, and the Spanish version three or four times, but he knows the story well enough to be able to follow the audio tapes. He plays them over and over in his little tape player. (Aside: did you know that a kiddy tape player like that costs hundreds of dollars? No kidding: look at this one and this one and this one. When I looked a few months ago, there was one for $400. Insane. Seriously. I picked this one up at Salvation Army for 50 cents, only to get it home and find it didn't work. However, Daddy was able to wave his magic wand and get it working, and we've been regretting it ever since. Oh, the saccharine kiddy songs that run through my head daily!)

So we haven't even had Muzzy in the house for a week and already Jonah is repeating phrases. I was surprised, actually. I expected him to be frustrated or confused at not being able to understand, but he didn't miss a beat. He says, "Buenos dias! That means 'good morning!" Yesterday, he came to me while listening to the tape and said, "Mom! Mom, 'Llevenselo!' means 'Take him away!'"

I tell you what, it's fun way to learn.


  1. this is stinkin cool!! He WILL be fluent and then he can come to Colombia with me on mission and be an interpreter. Seriously never underestimate what God can do with this. Your such a great mom.

  2. AAAAAAHHHHHHH qué bueno chico! Su tío está bien excitado. Siga, no mas, pues! Espero qué muy pronto nos hablamos en Español.

    Teach him to say "sin dudas." It's like "no doubt." My favorite phrase right now.

  3. Last night I saw a show on TLC called "The World's Smartest People" (look for it online). There was a kid who is a music prodigy and his parents played music for him 24/7 from the minute he was born. They talked about he developing brain in babies/young children and though this kid was an obvious genius, playing music for him made him a genius in music. I think the same concept is at work here only you should have started four years ago?

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