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Review of La vaca que decía oink

La vaca que decía oink

By Bernard Most

Review by Blue Lindner

This is my all time favorite book for conveying the incredible advantages of knowing more than one language. I have never read this to a child that didn’t love it. It can be easily understood, even by a novice Spanish speaker, through the context of the expressive illustrations, and is effective for both preschool and elementary Spanish lessons.

Just as the title conveys, the book is about a cow that can oink, but cannot moo. All the farm animals make fun of her, but one day she hears a friendly moo. It turns out to be a pig that says moo (but cannot oink). The cow teaches the pig how to oink and the pig teaches the cow how to moo, and they become the only animals on the farm that know two languages.

Without moralizing about the benefits of learning a second language, your students will get it on a more fundamental level—it’s cool to master a second language. Like knowing how to do a round-off back flip or fly an airplane, it’s an incredible skill that takes dedication and time to master. Just as the friendship between the cow and the pig unfolds because of their “language skills,” learning a second language opens doors in our lives that we don’t even know exist.

This book has many applications for the bilingual parent and the preschool and elementary Spanish teacher. For bilingual parents it can reinforce and affirm the extra energy that a family puts into growing up with two languages. For the Spanish teacher, beyond the theme of promoting bilingualism, the text has lots of repetition of useful language like decía and decían. Also, phrases describing emotions can be taught or reviewed through the phrases se sentía muy triste, and estaban muy contentas. Further, it is an excellent book for making comparisons between Spanish and English onomatopoeia. Standard 4.1 of The National Standards for Foreign Language Learning states: “Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.” Reading La vaca que decía oink supports this standard. Children enjoy learning the Spanish interpretation of sounds that farm animals make and comparing them to the English interpretations of the same sounds. This exercise can reveal and bring attention to very subtle similarities and differences between English and Spanish. If you are using the Sonrisas Spanish School curriculum, this book can be read as a part of lesson 6 in Sonrisas Level II or lesson 8 of Sonrisas Cultural Curriculum.

As a Spanish teacher I have used this book with children ages 2-12, although I can also see older students and adult learners appreciating the theme and the potential language learning. Every bilingual parent and teacher of Spanish should consider this book a vital part of their Spanish library. La vaca que decía oink can be purchased in the Sonrisas Bookstore.

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