Last month, this colourful copy of “28 Bilingual English-Spanish Fairy Tales & Fables” by Adam Beck came through the post. This book has been a real surprise to me, as it turns out it is by no means an umpteenth edition of classic fairytale and fables. No, it is not your average fairy tale book…. it is a real language learning tool.
Adam Beck’s book is a collection of 28 classic fables and fairy tales narrated in a concise text that holds onto one side of a page. Simple understandable texts for children. No verbal flourishes.
Each story is available in English and in Spanish, presented on dual-facing pages.
The stories are not illustrated, which I confess worried me a little at first as my daughters are very drawn to pictures. However, our experience proved me wrong, in fact it turned out to be a good thing.
A big feature for us has been audio of each story in both languages available online.
My youngest’s (4 and a half) experience
Her interest was caught the minute she discovered it was an audiobook, since she is all about audiobooks at the moment. At first, she seemed a little disappointed at the lack of pictures. Notwithstanding, the absence of illustrations actually forces her to pay more attention to the audio’s narration and pronunciation, she is not distracted like she would have been had it been illustrated. Hence, with every reading of the book, there is incredible learning going on.
Another feature that caught my youngest’s interest is the dual language. She is now very aware of being trilingual, and I can tell from how she requests the English or Spanish version of the stories (or both!) that she really enjoys surfing between her languages. She also noticed that each story is presented facing it’s translation on the opposite page and she clearly finds this concept interesting, regularly checking that it is still the case as we flip through the book. She enjoys playing with her languages, hearing one version then the other, switching to and fro. It is an undervalued asset as it reinforces her bilingual identity: the ability to switch at will from one language to another.
My eldest’s (8 and a half) experience
My eldest did read some of the stories and liked listening to my reading aloud or the audio tracks, but I think her most significant experience with this book has been using it as a tool to work on translations. As part of our minority language homework, I used one of the stories as part of a translation activity, to initiate my eldest to translation. The book is particularly good for this kind of exercises as the texts are narrated in a simple language, making it easier for young budding translators to find the right words in the other language. There is also the surprise to discover how close the translation was to the one in the book at the end of the activity. Where she had dragged her feet at the beginning of the experience, she in fact discovered something a lot easier than she feared. It helped her build her confidence and she felt pleased with what she had done. A really positive language learning experience.
From a bilingual mum’s perspective
Besides all the benefits identified from my daughters’ respective experiences, as a mum I see a lot of other qualities to this book:
- It is the ideal length to read aloud to infants as part of a talk-talk-talk strategy to expose them to simple minority language and stories.
- It is the ideal length to read to toddlers, who have a notoriously short attention span. 😉 It might actually help them to begin to learn to sit down and enjoy stories by having the right story duration for them.
- It is captive reading material (and if you follow this blog regularly, you know how I feel about this!😉), as in fact Adam Beck first wrote the English stories as captive reading for his kids!
- A lot of learning material potential. I am no education professional so I am no expert in the matter, but the potential of this book did take me by surprise. Adam Beck shares some suggestions at the beginning of the book, but if you read Spanish Playground’s review referenced below you will see that if you think out of the box there are yet more creative ways to make the most of this resource.
Need more information?
- Bilingual Monkeys – includes more excerpts from the book, if you wish to check out the content.
Need more reviews?
- Spanish Playground – inspiring post jam-packed with language learning ideas using this book!