Speaking in a second tongue is a challenge for any age group, even without involving computers. Traditional methods of flashcards, textbooks, and audio tapes can be effective, but we found that much of the learning in our house came when we introduced high-quality language software. A good program will incorporate natural-speaking situations and the capability for the child to “speak back” into the computer for auto-correction via a USB microphone. If started by age five, it’s possible for a child to become fluent in a second language well before their peers, all the while enjoying it as a fun activity, instead of as a tortuous chore.
Systems like Rosetta Stone can cost an upward of $500 for a complete set of lessons, but have been a top resource for home and public schools, alike. To get an idea whether a foreign-language program is appropriate for your five-year-old, request to see a demo before you buy. Also, remember, most children this age don’t have a firm grasp on reading the English language, so be sure that the program incorporates visual guides over the written word.
Cheaper alternatives include JumpStart Spanish (look for the Windows XP version), or even Sesame Street's site, which offers a more practical vocabulary than, say Dora The Explorer.