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Also available – 50 English Phrases

When bsmall contacted me to say that they were updating their 50 Phrases series and would I like a sneak peek, of course I said yes!

bsmall are a “small but mighty” (love that description!) award-winning independent children’s publishing company that creates and publishes children’s books for sale in the UK and around the world. “We’re on a mission to empower all readers with critical literacy skills, and our books are creative, educational and encourage children to think for themselves.” I’ve written about some of their books before. You can find out about their Hello Languages series here, one of their UKS2 parallel text books Los Mellizos del Tiempo here and their I can read series of books here (update – there are a couple of Spanish ones and more French available now £1.99 each from Apple Books)

The 50 Phrases series are currently available in French, Spanish and English, and aim to give children ‘a head start’ with a new language. Over 32 pages, they introduce some common phrases and useful vocabulary for beginner learners including how to introduce yourself, talk about your family and express opinions as well as asking questions about where and what things are, inviting others to play and requesting things. Each double page spread has between 2 and 5 key phrases that are highlighted, adding up to 50 over the whole book, as well as boxes of vocabulary that can be used with those phrases. There is also the suggestion of a game or activity to rehearse those phrases, and also a little bit of grammar is explained throughout. You can see an example below.

Each phrase is written in Spanish and English, and is also written ‘phonetically.’ I’m not a great fan of this ‘how to pronounce it’ guide as it can lead to very odd pronunciation, but I understand that some people find it helpful, particularly as this is intended to be used at home/independently. And that’s where the update comes in about which I am very pleased.

The book now comes with a QR code that gives the reader access to audio files of the 50 Spanish Phrases (and the same for English and French if you purchase those books.) that give a clear native speaker model of the pronunciation. You can see how it works with the sample below.

Links to the English book.

By giving the pronunciation of the key phrases, learners now have access to what they actually sound like which will facilitate more educated understanding of the pronunciation guide and more accurate Spanish pronunciation. So this is a great resource that can be used at home without need for a Spanish speaker to be present!

As I said, I was given a sneak peek as the updated versions are not released until May 3rd but you can preorder the Spanish French and English books via the bsmall website.

While you’re on the site, check out some of the other books they publish. My eye was caught by the Hide and Speak books with flaps to lift and the Mix and Match flashcards for practising questions and answers. Or download the Language Learning brochure to browse at your leisure! And make sure you check out the Activity Hub where you can download a copy of the Rights of the Language Learner as well as a beach picture labelled in French and Spanish – perfect for Y2s summer topic.

“As lovers of all things British AND foreign, especially languages, the team at bsmall publishing are leading a crusade to keep foreign language learning alive in the minds of our kids and parents at home.”

Thus starts the press release from bsmall publishing, announcing their new series of books entitled Hello Languages.’

I’ve blogged about bsmall products in the past including the I can read series and their dual language books for older KS2 pupils, and I also helped them with some advice a couple of years ago, so I was really pleased to be contacted for my comments on this latest publication.

bsmall have approached the creation of these materials with the following in mind:

“Kids like cool facts and fun things to do. That’s why language learning books for kids should … take the essence of the language… [and] be bright, bold, fun and colourful..filled with practical examples of language in everyday life and [encouraging] kids to just have a go without fear of making mistakes.”

The Hello languages series is available in three languages – English, French and Spanish – and is bold, colourful and fun. It’s intended to be used independently by children rather than as a classroom resource, and comprises four books;

  • Beginner’s guide
  • Picture dictionary
  • Workbook
  • Colouring book

I was sent the Hello French! materials to have a peek before they were released.

The Beginner’s Guide is organised under 6 topics and takes one aspect for each double page; for example, in Viens chez moi there are pages on Ma famille, À la maison, La cuisine et le salon,  and Ma chambre et la salle de bains. It gives vocabulary and some useful phrases as well as a very short explanation or comment in English at the start of each topic as well as for certain themes such as the weather and time. The vocabulary is supplied as labels on a vibrant illustration, in French, English and with a guide to pronunciation.* There is also a word list at the back of the book for reference.

*I’m not a great fan of this as I think it can lead to confusion – how many of you have seen children laboriously copy out the phonetic version of words from a dictionary, and also over pronounciation – grassy arse? However, given that this is a resource for children to access on their own, without phonics input or a spoken example, perhaps supported by a parent who is also unaware of how to say the words/phrases, I can see the value of including the ‘how to pronounce’ notes.

The Workbook goes alongside the Beginner’s Guide, giving children an opportunity to apply what they learn in a series of Challenges – as the front page says ‘Practice makes perfect!’ On completion, children can check their answers at the back of the book and are invited to assess how they’ve got on by colouring or circling one of three faces – Bien, Pas mal or pas super.

The Colouring Book takes some of the topics and themes from the Beginner’s Guide and offers the opportunity to colour the illustration used in the latter as the child wishes, reinforcing vocabulary which is labelled as in the Beginner’s Guide.

The French-English Picture Dictionary is organised by topic with nine vocabulary items per page, and an alphabetical word list of the 350+ vocabulary items in French-English and English-French at the end.

This is a resource that I could happily recommend to a parent who wants to encourage their child’s language learning at home. It’s suitable for younger learners with some adult support in part (the workbook is labelled 6+ due to the required level of literacy) and could be used in the language being learned at school – for my pupils, this is Spanish – or in a new language – in my case, French.

You can find out more on the bsmall website – www.bsmall.co.uk  and, on their language learning pages, you see their other language resources including books, dual language texts, play scripts, sticker books, activity books  and card games and download a catalogue.

 

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