The Little Magical Computer Will Make My Kids Bilingual

by Alice · 4 comments

By Alice Lapuerta

I have decided that my kids are going to be fluent Spanish speakers after all. My kids are going to be balanced trilinguals! Hooray! We’ve been saved…

…by a toy.

It’s one of those supremely annoying toys that in my still sane, pre-motherhood, single life I’d never even have touched with a 10-meter pole. It is one of those things that I used to swear (in my still innocent, naïve pre-kids days) I would never, ever, EVER have in my house. I would take a look at it and RUN.

Why? Because it’s loud, it plays one of those terribly shrill clinkering tunes that keep ringing on in your ears forever, and you will never be able to get the melody out of your brain, ever.

You will walk down the street and hum the melody to yourself collecting odd stares from strangers, who now not only think you are a Zuagroasta, but a crazy one as well.

These toys come in shrill, clashing colors that offend an adultish taste. It is plastic. And it is virtually indestructible. So let this thing into your house, and you will have to listen to it for the next hundred years, from early morning to late at night. In short, these toys have been designed by evil-minded capitalists to drive parents INSANE.

Along comes The Hubby, returning from one of his trips to Ecuador, bringing along one of those toys. His sister gave it to us, specifically for Dominik, he explains, as a present. Bless her! I gasp.

I looked at it with mistrust. Then I opened the lid. Carefully. Off goes the jangling tune. Argh!


My mouth drops open. This thing actually speaks! And not just any language, no. It speaks Spanish! Now, isn’t that cool!

Dominik using his new Spanish-speaking toy.

You pop in any of the 30 random cards that come with it, and learn along.

“Spell avion,” it commands, in Spanish. I type it. A-v-i-o-n.

“Muy bien!” the computer lauds. I beam.

“Donde esta el avion?” OK, so now it wants me to tell him where the airplane is. I type my response.

“No es correcto!” he snaps. Amazing!

“Hey Mami, this is MINE!” protests my son. “Give it to me!”

“Later, later, “ I mumble, too busy trying to spell “maleta”.

I am fascinated. I am enchanted. I am EXCITED! This computer is going to help us in our Spanish acquisition!

And my kids take to it like bees to honey.

“Mami, I need to work on the computer now,” Dominik tells me in an important voice, first thing in the morning. He puts the computer on the table, next to my laptop, inserts a card, and learns how to spell “cuchillo”.

Thanks to this little magical computer, Dominik has increased his Spanish vocabulary repertoire tremendously! And virtually overnight, too!

Exciting, or?

Dominik is particularly excited about getting things WRONG. He laughs delightedly every time the computer says, “No es correcto!”

“No es correcto,” he has added to his repertoire of phrases. He plays with his Thomas-train. “No es correcto,” he sings, when he discovers that he’s wrongly placed a rail.

Thanks to this little computer, Dominik can also speak, and spell correctly the following words: horno, cacerola, cuchara, cuchillo.

Except, I do wish that he’d kind of move on to another card, like the airport, for example.

What’s so exciting about learning all about kitchenware, I wonder?

Alice Lapuerta, the Editor of Multilingual Living Magazine, is a regular contributor at Multilingual Living. She grew up in a trilingual household of German, Korean and English. She and her husband from Ecuador live in Austria where they are raising their three children trilingually in German, Spanish and English.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marta July 14, 2010 at 6:17 am

Hi Alice! Your post has made me smile. The Reyes Magos (3 wise men) gave my child a “guitar that speaks English” and some other toys for him to improve his vocabulary last year. Now, I can’t get those annoying songs out of my head, but I have to admit my son loves them and has learnt ALL the possible combinations by heart: one cat, two pigs, arghhhhhhhhhh! 🙂


2 Wendy Bergonse July 14, 2010 at 11:47 am

Why not go for 4 languages and include Korean?


3 Kate March 13, 2011 at 6:16 pm

First of all, I LOVE your description of these toys!! My in-laws bought my 1-year-old a walker train that teaches letters. Then my friend gave us a walker Pooh train. Really??? However, she also gave me a life-saving tip… Put some electrical tape (you can even get it in fun colors) over the speaker and voila! the voice is not longer screeching in your ear! Okay, it won’t keep the songs from playing over and over in your head, especially as you’re lying awake trying desperately to fall asleep. But it still is a huge help!
You took me from grinning (with your description) to cracking up when you described your son laughing when the computer tells him he has something wrong. My toddler was playing a little game of toss the socks into the basket and thought it was much funnier when I made a buzzer sound when he missed! Too funny!
My little boy is only 16 months old and still isn’t even talking yet. But it’s great to know that technology can really get kids excited about language learning! Thanks!


4 Alice March 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Loved your comment, Kate! I definitely have to try the trick with the tape!!! 🙂


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