Maya and Miguel go trilingual

Do you know Maya & Miguel? My kids largely eschew PBS for Cartoon Network, these days, but they still love Maya & Miguel.

What’s not to love? From a kid’s perspective, you have a couple of very human, fallible kids (read: Maya makes a lot of bad decisions that come back to bite her, but it works out okay in the end) doing extremely kidlike things. From a parent’s perspective, you have a couple of very human, fallible kids (read: Maya makes a lot of bad decisions and hopefully seeing the consequences play out will teach your kids not to err in a similar fashion) doing kidlike things while teaching your children Spanish on the sly. Oh yeah.

(And this is not even mentioning the huge advantage of PBS over Cartoon Network, from a parental perspective: No pesky commercials.)

(I also won’t mention how you can get hard-to-find Maya & Miguel party supplies in Ty’s Party Palooza section, because that has nothing to do with this, really.) (Whoops.)

Yesterday was a landmark day for the series, as—in celebration of Deaf Awareness Week—a new, deaf friend was introduced in the debut of “Give Me a Little Sign.” From the show’s website:

Tito befriends a new boy, Marco, who is deaf. Marco starts to teach Tito some American Sign Language, and they decide to do a project together for the schoolââ¬â¢s ââ¬Å“Contraption Convention.ââ¬Â But when Tito makes some pronunciation mistakes in school, he decides he doesnââ¬â¢t want to do the project anymore (since it involves public speaking). Only when he sees how Marco persists in getting across what he wants to say ââ¬âœ even when people misunderstand him at first ââ¬âœ does he realize the value of practice and determination, and decides to go ahead with the project.

The New York Times has a great article (registration required) about the backstory on bringing this episode to life.

The logistics of animating sign language that was detailed and accurate enough to read on the screen stretched production of the episode to nine months, far longer than typical, and pushed costs up by 50 percent.

Worth it? Absolutely.

The idea for the show originated with Lupe Ontiveros, the actress who voices the role of the childrenââ¬â¢s grandmother, Abuela Elena. At a taping session Ms. Ontiveros, the mother of two grown sons who are hearing impaired, broached the idea of a sign-language-theme episode with Deborah Forte, creator of the show and the president of Scholastic Media, which produces the show for PBS.

“The deaf community is hungry to see itself in the most positive way,” said Ms. Ontiveros, who lives in Pico Rivera, Calif. “They are always proud to see themselves, their images, their role models, up there.”

Scholastic liked the idea for many reasons, Ms. Forte said. “It had someone who was hearing-impaired who was teaching another child a language. The whole message behind this is that no matter what language you are learning, it still takes practice.” She said that the show also promoted the need to plunge in to a new language without feeling embarrassed.

Did you miss it? Don’t worry; it’s rerunning every day this week. Pay close attention to the signing animation; it really is quite good. Thumbs up to Scholastic on this one!

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One thought on “Maya and Miguel go trilingual

  1. Wow! I have grandaughters that re hooked on Dora but Maya and Miguel seem so much more real. It\’s so important to incorporate songs into the programs. We found that kids enjoy singing and reciting as they learn Spanish. Even if they just mouth nonsense that sounds like Spanish, they are learning the intonation of the language and it is a basis for further learning.