Wink To Learn – Speak & Read English

In case you still have your TV and DVD player at home (some parents are talking about making their homes TV-free-zones in this Forum thread), here’s another product from our intrepid local producers Wink To Learn that will give you some reason to continue employing the services of the Tube in your home.

The 4-DVD Wink To Learn Speak & Read English is a set of educational lessons on DVD that progressively teach young children under the age of 7 the basics of the English language.  The pedagogy used is flashcards comprising word and picture cards.

There are several different modes of flashing – from the normal mode where both the word and picture cards are shown consecutively, to high speed "brain training" mode where the cards are all displayed at 2 times the normal speed.

In fact, the Speak & Read English programme is a lesson-by-lesson knock off of the very popular Speak & Read Chinese programme as we reviewed in our previous article.  So if you have seen the Speak & Read Chinese programme, you will be very familiar with the English version.  The only difference is that the content is entirely in English (of course).  And although there are only 4 DVDs compared to the 6 DVD Chinese version, the 1st two DVDs pack 2 sets of lessons (16 lessons compared to the 6 lessons in each of the Chinese DVDs).  So there are 8×6=48 lessons compared with the 6×6=36 lessons in the Chinese programme.

The product comprises 4 DVDs encased in an oversized DVD box.  Each DVD has a standard structure.  It contains 2 levels of instruction, each comprising a series of 8 lessons, followed by 4 different revision methods.

The Lessons

Each lesson is a 2 minute slide show of static flash cards catering to a specific theme, structured under 6 different levels of progressive learning.

Levels 1-4 focus on Vocabulary Input, and uses the themes of Action, Animals, Birds, Body Parts, Colours, Creatures, Flags/Countries, Flowers, Food, Fruits, Marine Creatures, My Family, Modes of Transport, Nature, Numbers, Personal Belongings, Places, Stationary and Shapes, and Things at Home.

Levels 5-6 focus on sentence creation, using the following themes: Favourites, I am…, I can…, I have…, My House, Opposites, Picnics are fun, Please…, Things I do, Self-Introduction, Water Is very useful.

There are about 10 items presented per theme. Each item is first displayed as a picture, followed by the word, with a voice-over accompanying both the picture and the word. The entire sequence is then repeated once.

At the end of the sequence of learning flashcards, the viewer is then treated to a montage of high resolution pictures of various cities, birds, culture, etc. It is pure eye candy.

The Revisions

The revision lessons go through the entire 8 sets of flash cards on the DVD in various formats:

  • Pictures & Words.  This is essentially the same as each individual lesson, except that all 6×10 picture and word flashcards are displayed in 1 sequence.
  • Picture Only.  This is similar to Pictures & Words, except only the picture cards are displayed.
  • Words Only.  This is similar to Pictures & Words, except only the word cards are displayed.
  • High Speed Right Brain Training. This is similar to Pictures & Words, except that the playback is at about twice the normal speed.

Analysis

Again, the product does pretty much what it promises, which is to captivate the child’s attention with beautifully taken high resolution photographs while reinforcing the learning with clearly articulated and proper English enunciation. The sound quality is good, and the background music is soothing, not sleep-inducing, and caters to all ages.

A key differentiator in this product is the very high quality images.  This is not some poorly rendered or copied-off-the-web production. You can easily watch this on your spanking new full-HD to enjoy the professionally taken close-ups of animals, birds, and nature which could well double up as a screen-saver too. The stunning images draw the viewer in, setting up the context for the lessons.

There is really little to explain about the pedagogy. It’s about using flashcards to induce right-brain learning in children. If you subscribe to the Glen Doman, Shichida, Little Neuro Tree methods, which are all variations of the flashcard method, then you should have no problems accepting fundamental pedagogy espoused by the Wink To Learn DVD flashcard system.

Here are the key features offered by the product:

The words are color coded to highlight the distinct components that make up the parts of the word. While this is a good feature, again, it appears that the color coding focus on separating whole words in a given word: eg. flybutterfly, dragonfly. Perhaps a phonetic treatment to highlight the letter blends might be a better approach.

  • The publisher took particular care with choosing the best font sizes and rendering to make the words a lot easier on the eyes, and provide more impact to young viewers.
  • The speed of flashing is constrained under 3 seconds, the recommended speed by flashcard protagonists such as Glen Doman.
  • The length of each lesson is also just right to maintain interest without making the process into a chore for the child. Each lesson is only about 2 minutes, and includes a "reward" of eye candy of pictures taken all around the world. The child gets to learn 10 words or phrases within that time.
  • The English Wink To Learn finally includes the autoplay feature from the DVD! This is a welcome feature if the product is to be shown in the family car where it will be difficult to safely operate the player controls when the car is moving. However, the publisher does not recommend showing more than 2 lessons per day to a child. The revision lessons are useful for reinforcing the learning.
  • By flashing only word or picture cards in separate sessions, the child could be taught to associate sounds with words only or pictures only.
  • The Right-Brain training accelerates the flashing to about 2 cards per second to achieve high-speed learning. However as a result of this acceleration, the pitch and pronunciation of the narrative becomes distorted and cartoonish. The publisher is aware of this problem and will be enhancing the Right Brain flashing programme in its next release.

Conclusion

The Wink To Learn Speak & Read English DVD is an effective tool for exposing young children below the age of 7 to English words and phrases. If you are looking for something to supplement what your child is getting from right-brain training programmes such as Little Neuro Tree, then the Wink To Learn DVD series should be an easy buy decision for you. If you already have the Chinese version, the familarity of the child with the product could actually reinforce bilingualism. First show the child the product in his/her dominant language, and then show the child a similar lesson using the other language.

However, I feel that it cannot replace the more comprehensive phonics programmes offered by services such as Zoophonics or I Can Read, nor can it replace the actual right-brain training programmes. It still lacks the animated interactivity that a live right-brain training session will provide, such as flashing with synchronized music.

But it is a very good attempt by our local publisher who has managed to put up a very high quality product. If you are a childcare operator, you should look at getting this product to supplement your lessons. It is much better to show this to the kids while they are waiting for their parents to bring them home then to show cartoons!

Editor’s note:

KiasuParents.com will be holding an online auction event for a set of Wink To Learn Read & Learn English DVDs kindly sponsored by Wink 2 Learn from 9:30am and closing at 10am on 29 May 2009. The Auction will be done using KiasuPoints, and not cash :). If you missed that Auction, you may go to our Kiasu Mallto exchange your KiasuPoints for up to $10 discounts off all products sold on Wink To Learn’s Online Store.

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