Learn to Speak Review
- comes on 1 DVD and 3 additional audio CDs
- Available languages: Spanish, French, German
- Homepage: Learn to Speak
The Learn to Speak foreign language courses are some of the most comprehensive around, if all you’re looking to do is go travelling with them. If you’re looking for a basic language package that follows a simple formula of listen, repeat, test, then this is certainly for you. The structure to this program is, admittedly, relatively basic, but still incredibly useful if that’s what you need it for. If, on the other hand, you are looking to learn a language a little more in depth, then perhaps this is not the best way to go.
This course is on one DVD and three CDs, as well as providing you with physical course material. One of the negative aspects of this course is that, to get the most out of it, you absolutely will need to purchase a microphone for your computer. As discussed further on, a chunk of the software requires this, and considering that the sound recognition technology is one of the positives about this particular package, not providing a microphone seems a little cheap.
In contrast, the written resources provided with this course are absolutely excellent. There is a reference book, which is more like a glossary, and a 170 page workbook. There are various options with this course as to whether you receive these materials physically or digitally (though I believe they are phasing out the use of physical textbooks) but obviously you can print out the pages as and when you need them, if you want to study away from the computer. The audio files are also easily transferrable to an mp3 player or equivalent, which is still just so handy.
The CDs can unfortunately be a little temperamental. I tried to play them in the car and had very little luck with them. I know of several other people who have had this problem. However, they seem to work absolutely perfectly on a computer, and if you transfer the files to an mp3 player instead of using the actual CDs, then this problem is solved. Altogether, there is a neat little package here, with a good mix of learning apparatus. A very solid course.
One of the clear advantages to this particular foreign language course is the choice that you are given as to where you begin your language-learning journey. The course is broken up into different sections that are based on everyday categories – dining out, travelling around, going to the doctors, etc – which is the designed way to progress through the program. However, there is also a plethora of different ways that this course lets you approach the topics, sectioning topics into verbs or genders or tenses, for example, or by engaging in naturalized conversation. This is absolutely invaluable in providing much more of a personalized experience, something that is highly important in the successful learning of language, and lets you focus on whatever you feel the need to.
For that reason, this program is clearly for those who are more aware of their abilities and can focus on their own shortcomings in order to progress. If you lack the ability to be honest with yourself about how well you are progressing, then this course is not really for you, and you could find yourself at a little bit of a loss as to what to study next. Planning out the learning route that you want to take is an excellent idea before you start, so it could be good practice to just explore the topics first and find out what interests you before you begin. It is easy to navigate and doesn’t give you too many confusing avenues as some products of this kind do; instead, options are simply given and making your way around the program is relatively simple.
While this program is certainly suitable for beginners, while so many aren’t, it can be a little difficult as you are really thrown into the Spanish language. Still, the difficulty of the course soon smoothes out, and if you can keep up with the first few lessons, then you will certainly be able to get quite a lot out of this course. The lessons, though intense, are brief, in manageable blocks of understanding. The only negative aspect to the lessons themselves is in relation to certain missing content. For example, each lesson only has one or two examples of each tense for each form of the subject pronoun, which isn’t exactly useful when trying to get a fuller understanding of the language. However, with the ability to split the lessons into areas such as the aforementioned pronouns, you can study a little easier, though it would be nice to have a little more depth to the individual lessons for some of the topics. You can tell which topics you need to work more on by completing a little mini-test, if you’re not particularly sure, but you still need a relatively high level of independence to get the most out of this course.
The topics themselves are very geared up towards a tourist standpoint. This is, like so many of this sort of product on the market, not the kind of language course that you buy if you want to become relatively fluent in the language. And that is not to say that it isn’t incredibly useful in terms of travelling, and compared to certain other programs, it really does give you much more of an in-depth look at language. Still, unfortunately, it is not quite in-depth enough to feel as though you are really connecting with the language on any kind of personal level. The same sort of learning through repetition is present here as in most programs, and doesn’t exactly teach you to be intuitive with your understanding of the language.
One of my favorite aspects of this particular course was how geared up towards adults it felt. Too many of the language programs I have used, while clearly meant for adults and discuss adult situations such as going to the bank or booking a flight, are presented in a very childish way, simply because the adult is a beginner. Here, even though there are certain fun educational tools such as the pronunciation games, at no point do you feel like you’re being talked down to by the program.
Similarly, one of the most positive aspects to this program is the voice recognition software. Each word you say can be recorded onto the computer, analyzed by the software to give you instant feedback as to how well you’re doing. While this might seem a tad prescriptive, this particular program seems to work fine with a lot of accents, and is some sophisticated software for a package of this price. You will need a microphone for this, obviously, but it’s certainly worth getting one if you want to buy this product, as without a microphone you’re not really getting your money’s worth. It will show you vowel sounds, slight corrections to your speech, and presents you with a moving animation of how the word should look and sound, as well as an accuracy gauge that you can push up to Native from Tourist if you try very hard. All very interesting, very motivational stuff, and really helps you to get to grips with the language in a lot more of a personal interactive way than simply listening and repeating.
This program is really surprising in terms of cost. There are several, more expensive, courses on the market at present that are ten times the amount that this course will cost you, and they won’t be half as effective. It seems as though the price for the Learn to Speak language courses are certainly very honest. There isn’t a wide range of activities and games as there are in some other products, but likewise, for what you’re paying for, it’s an incredibly reasonable purchase. I believe it is much wiser to spend your money on a product that, while simple, gets the job done, instead of a program that promises everything and delivers nothing. While not particularly complex, the Learn to Speak range of foreign language courses are certainly good value for what you get.
Certainly useful for those looking to go on holiday to use day-to-day phrases with ease. The range of subjects is very useful for travelling, and the methods used to communicate teaching are simplistic enough to be easily digested, while interesting enough to keep your focus. If all you want to know are some handy phrases for your next vacation, then you really can’t go wrong with this program. It’s excellent value for money, and is as effective as it could be considering the limitations of content. There are some fantastic ideas here, such as the visual images to assist with pronunciation, and the gauge to see how accurate your pronunciation is. However, if you’re looking to genuinely learn another language fluently, complete with the knowledge of how to build sentences on your own, etc, then I highly advise looking for a different course.
Pro & Contra
|offers much material||…although the material is not very effective|
|very cheap||lessons are very brief|
|you mainly learn tourist-phrases|
|only 3 languages available|
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