Read My Lips (and learn Spanish)

You’ll know there are a great many products in the marketplace – more all the time! – which will help your child learn Spanish. Some are good, some are not so good. Some are brilliant, some are dreadful.

On what do you base your decision when it comes to choosing which product is right for your child? Today I’m going to introduce you to an aspect you have probably never thought of.

Lip reading!

Try lip reading Mickey Mouse and friends talking in Spanish:

Without listening to the words it’s impossible to know what those moving lips are saying isn’t it!

(Yes, but why are the moving lips important? I’ll come to that in a moment).

Imagine you sit your child down in front of a cartoon whose makers claim will teach Spanish. It may very well be capable of achieving that aim but it won’t do so by employing lip reading as a tool for language learning success; we have seen it’s not possible to lipread a cartoon character. However entertaining, however engaging a cartoon may be for children, no child can learn a language by watching how its characters’ mouths are moving.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that language learning is done through listening, speaking, reading and writing; that watching mouth movements is not important.

So the question is, what value is there in lip reading when it comes to language learning?

Good old Wikipedia informs us that “lip reading can be taught, but initially infants begin to lip read between the age of 6 and 12 months. In order to imitate, a baby must learn to shape their lips in accordance with the sounds they are hearing. Even newborns have been shown to imitate adult mouth movements such as sticking out the tongue or opening the mouth, which could be a precursor to further imitation and lip reading abilities. Infants as young as 4 months have the ability to connect visual and auditory information, which is helpful when learning to lip read. For example, one study showed that infants tend to look longer at a visual stimulus that corresponds to an auditory stimulus they hear from a recording”

There’s the proof that lip reading serves as a valuable language learning tool for infants. It also shows us that infants copy what they see. It’s one of the ways in which they learn how to talk.

(Incidentally, bilingual babies practice lip-reading long before monolingual counterparts).

Do we agree that lip reading for language learning is not confined to infants; that children, and even adults, can benefit from it too?

How does lipreading actually work? Wikipedia again:

your eyes help your ears
you watch the movements of the mouth, teeth and tongue

you read the expression on the face
you read body language and gestures
you use residual hearing
you anticipate

Here’s a Speekee clip from Series 2. As you watch it, consider how the points above apply, and how Spanish can be learned by lipreading these Spanish children:

Until next time readers,


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…