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Dora the Bilingual Kid February 26, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Canada, English, French, Spanish.

It was my wife’s birthday two weeks ago. I went to the mall to search for a gift. Finally I bought one … for my daughter Michelle.

It was a DVD from the ‘Dora the Explorer’ series. My wife was not happy after knowing this. She said Michelle is watching Dora everyday from the TV channels for free. Why on earth would I want to buy her a DVD? I defended by explaining that, with a DVD we can play Dora any time we like (or rather, any time she likes).

For those who don’t know about the animated series, Dora is a Hispanic kid who is bilingual. She speaks almost all English but throws in a few conversational Spanish words whenever she meets Spanish-speaking characters, both people and animals. She teaches Spanish nouns, adjectives and commands, as well as math, music, and physical coordination.

A more personal reason I bought the DVD is that it has 3 language tracks: English, Spanish, and French. I believe only the Canadian version provides the French track. I was curious in knowing how the bilingual scenes are rendered in Spanish and French.

In the Spanish track, the English parts become Spanish, and the Spanish parts become English. Interestingly enough, in the French track, the English parts become French, and the Spanish parts become English. I wonder why they don’t provide a version in which English remains English and Spanish becomes French. I believe this is more useful in Canada.

Another interesting thing I have observed is that there is no subtitle, not even for the Spanish words. The children are supposed to learn the words just by listening.

Dora was the top-ranked preschool show on commercial TV for five years. Her tremendous popularity comes at a time when many English-speaking parents desire for their children to learn a second language. The children also feel good about the ability to speak a foreign language.

Michelle loves Dora very much. Now she frequently cries out ‘Dora … Dora …’. I think she got a bit addicted to it. As for me, I just came back from the mall yesterday with another Dora DVD and some Dora toy storage bins. Oh no!



1. Danling - March 1, 2007

I caught a glimpse of Dora’s Chinese version when I visited China last year. The main part is in Chinese and the Spanish parts become English. The program seems to be quite popular among kids there.

2. edwinlaw - March 1, 2007

The English in the French and Spanish tracks has accents. I wonder if in the Chinese version, they speak English with Chinese accent.

3. Scott - March 4, 2007

This morning my 3-year old son gave me something. I said “Thank You” in Thai, since we are teaching him Thai. He replied “de nada”, which surprised me very much, since neither of us speak Spanish.

When I asked him where he had learned “de nada” , the answer was obvious. He learned by watching Dora.

4. edwinlaw - March 4, 2007

Scott, that was funny!

In the DVD that I had, Dora goes as far as teaching the Spanish words for ‘wheel’ and ‘horn’. Scary!

We as parents better equip ourselves with enough Spanish. Otherwise, we may have difficulty communicating with our kids later!

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