Instant Immersion Review
- DVD-Rom and 5 audio-CDs
- Available languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, English
- Homepage: Instant Immersion
This is the latest incarnation of a series of relatively successful programs from EuroTalk and Transparent Language, but this is certainly not the culmination of those programs. Instead, while Instant Immersion appears to be an entirely new and modern foreign language package, it seems to be created from bits and pieces of various courses, none of which are particularly cohesive with each other. The outcome of this is that Instant Immersion is rather a sprawling mess of a program, with very little to recommend it beyond the shiny packaging and extensive dictionary.
On the plus side, there is a lot of digital content here. Although the program essentially consists of a dictionary and spoken flashcards, the range of both these aspects is pretty far. The rest of the course is comprised of lessons, but as we will discuss later, these are really not useful when getting to grips with the language. You cannot rip most of the contents, so you will need to have the actual disc in the computer at all times when you are learning. That might seem like a small complaint in comparison, but if you’re trying to learn from your laptop while commuting or travelling, for example, it can get a little frustrating. Also, because you can’t upload the information to a flash drive, on a netbook or notebook without a DVD drive you can’t use it at all. The only parts of the program that you can download and use wherever you like are the mp3 audio files, which do work on either a Mac or a pc.
There are nine discs on the Instant Immersion program, and one wonders why there hasn’t been a shift to DVD for most of them. Six of the discs are CDs, which can’t carry as much information by quite a long way compared to their DVD counterparts. While this seems to suggest that you’re getting more for your money with the quantity of them, you’re not. The same information could fit on one DVD disc, and the fact that it isn’t just betrays how old-fashioned a lot of these learning tools are. I found that this really seemed to reflect this product: it seems like you’re getting your moneys worth, but you’re not.
The CD content seems to be arranged in levels of complexity, starting with one and going up to three. Intuitively, that is what ordinarily would be the case. However, in practice, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between discs. All of them seem to have an odd mix of complex and simple sentences and games, with no real feeling of progression through the program. This is part of the problem of having no set goals – there is very little sense of achievement. It’s just not that well laid out, leaving the learner unsure of their actual abilities beyond the specific situations that they have just learned.
There is also an interactive DVD, a murder mystery game, and an audio disc. The latter is the one you can download and use anywhere, which is surprisingly useful. The game should be a great little addition to a modern program, but the game itself is a very old point and click adventure, which won’t appeal to most modern learners. However, the audio disc alone proves to be much more useful than the lessons themselves. While this isn’t exactly a positive sign, it is worth mentioning.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get desperately lost when using this product. The instructions for using the package are minimal, restricted to the back of the box, and give you no real indication of where you’re supposed to start or what you’re supposed to be doing. In short, it’s a real mess of a teaching course, leaving the learner more frustrated than enthusiastic about picking it up again.
The argument against this, of course, is the claim of “immersion”. It is designed to confuse you; it is designed to make you pick up the pace of your learning because you simply have to. The simple fact is that this is not the best way to learn a language fully for the majority of people. Words and phrases, and certainly understanding the natural flow of a discourse, takes time and patience. If you really wanted to throw yourself in at the deep end of language learning, then it would benefit you much more to actually spend some time in the country whose language you want to learn. Or, failing that, purchase a program that is a little more than a spoken dictionary.
Instant Immersion basically chooses quantity over quality. There are a lot of flashcards and there are a lot of words in the dictionary, but beyond that, there isn’t really anything more to this package that is actually useful. It’s hardly the most comprehensive of foreign language courses, and it certainly doesn’t attempt to teach you anything more than words and phrases, giving the learner no guide on how to begin thinking or fluently immersing yourself in the language. This is the exact problem with this course; it claims to be immersive, but isn’t. At no point do you feel the language beginning to seep through to your understanding. Instead, the majority of this course is mindlessly parroting back simple phrases that are the only things it tries to teach you.
The other major flaw with Instant Immersion is that certain parts of the interactive sections are not translated properly. This might not be noticeable to every one, but if you’re using this product to brush up on your language skills then it soon becomes obvious. In other words, they’ve plumped for the easiest method of conveying meaning, without going into any of the subtle nuances that are vital when learning a language from scratch. Ultimately, it seems as though this is because their target audiences are those wishing to quickly pick up some phrases before going on holiday. The phrases are simplistic, and if you can navigate your way around the program they’re relatively easy to pick up, though you can’t hope to understand the true meaning of what you’re saying, only the gist of it.
But there’s another problem: actually finding your way around this package. There is just too much here. Too much un-necessary information and a very unclear way of setting it out. It seems as though “immersive” has been intentionally mistaken for “deliberate confusion”, which as any speaker of a foreign language will tell you, is not the best way to learn.
The focus here is clearly not on a genuinely immersive experience, though it does leave the learner able to cope with some specific holiday-making scenarios. However, this is not enough to really learn a language. There is little to no focus on independent thought, and doesn’t work on grammar of the language at all. This is one of the most important things to get to grips with when learning a language; the ability to understand the construction of sentences. If all the learner does is squawk back the phrases to very specific conditions, without any other information relating to which words are the verbs, nouns, etc, then this leaves them basically unable to grasp the ideas of the language internally.
Here, at least, Instant Immersion holds up pretty well. They’ve sold over 2.2 million units, and at what seems to be a reasonable price compared to a lot of what is on the market. This has clearly come at a price. There are no textbooks, or even guide books, included in this package, which can be incredibly confusing if you’re a genuine beginner. The haphazard way in which the course is compiled also lends to the idea that it is all just a little bit too slapdash to have been genuinely thought about in any real language-learning way. It feels as though “immersion” is just an excuse for having a shoddily thought out course, with no real progression through language. Though it is relatively cheap, there’s no point in spending money on it when it is this poor, and certainly won’t do as advertised.
This is just not the program for most people. It’s not particularly well set out if you’re looking for something easy to get to grips with for a holiday, it’s spread too thin to begin to teach to children, it’s too simple for those brushing up on a language, and too confusing for novices. The only person I would recommend this product to is someone who already knows a little of the language, and wants a fun little games package to help them expand their vocabulary. But really, there are much more superior courses out there even for that, and some of them for free, so I’m not even sure I’d recommend it to them either. With the relative uselessness of the lessons, this package is basically a glorified phrase book. If that’s how you learn easiest, then this might be the tool for you, but it’s very unlikely to be as effective as it claims to be. Still, at the price, it seems like it might be a way to see if you enjoy a particular language, but that seems like an expensive way to experiment.
Pro & Contra
|very cheap||course has no structure|
|does not offer much|
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