Shopping for Spanish Language-Learning Software? Read This First!
Why I Chose These 3 Products
If you are looking for a language-learning program for an elementary-school child, these are not the ones. The three programs selected for review--Transparent Language's Complete Spanish Learning Suite, Topics Entertainment's Instant Immersion Spanish Deluxe v2.0 and Auralog's Tell Me More Spanish, Premium were chosen because they represent products from low, middle, and high price ranges. While my highest praise and strongest recommendation is clearly for Auralog's Tell Me More Spanish, all three are good programs, if matched with the right learners and, of course, with their pocketbook.
In order to help you decide which program is best for you, we shall examine the various types of purchasers and their motivations for buying a software package to learn Spanish, along with a few observations about why some of the features of each package will make your choice a good match for you. If you can identify with one of these buyer profiles, then you can trust my recommendations and buy your product with confidence that you will be satisfied.
Getting a good match of learner to product is important. Before examining any of these packages or considering why you might want to buy one over the other, I would urge you not to buy such products for someone else (as a gift, for instance) unless you know a great deal about their situation, needs and motivations for learning Spanish.
Why Learn Spanish?
In any event, whether you are looking to buy for yourself or someone else, the first question is whether or not Spanish is definitely the language to be learned. The follow-up question to that is why Spanish is the language you wish to study. Hopefully, you will not make Spanish your language of choice because you have heard that it is the "easy language." If that were the case, many, many more students who take it as their "required" language in college would have learned it much better than I have observed.
All languages present peculiar difficulties as well as some aspects that are easy. It depends on many factors, such as whether the learner speaks a related language, has to learn a new alphabet, is presented with sounds he or she has never heard before, and so on. No language is easy, really, but if you want to learn one, it becomes easier.
So please believe me when I say that it is really and truly possible to learn a language after adolescence, and when I say that all three of these packages will make it probable for you. Enter into this great adventure of doubling your world, knowing that it is going to require discipline, consistent practice, and most of all, conscious effort, unlike the way children learn a language (like a sponge).
The Right Software For Your Budget
The more definitive, strong and clear your motivations are, the more inclined I am to urge you to buy the most expensive of the three, Auralog's Tell Me More Spanish Premium. If your job requires you to learn Spanish, by all means, go for Auralog's program, dig in, and enjoy it.
On the other hand, if your budget makes you reluctant to buy Tell Me More Spanish, then Instant Immersion Spanish Deluxe is the right choice. It is an excellent buy, since it combines an earlier version of Auralog's program with audio CDs produced by Topics Entertainment.
If you are unsure whether Spanish is the language for you, but you think that it is, then Instant Immersion Spanish is also the right product for you. If you turn out to be correct, you will probably want to plan on buying Tell Me More Spanish after you have exhausted all the material in Instant Immersion Spanish, and you'll be very comfortable with it. Tell Me More Spanish is essentially the same program, with the same look and feel, but the volume of material has been vastly increased.
If you are going to be learning with others, then the multiple-user feature of both of these products (along with the day planner to set goals and assess the progress of individual learners) make it a wise choice. Institutional purchasers would be advised to not go on the cheap--buy Tell Me More Spanish, as 10,000 academic institutions already have.
Finally, Transparent Language's mid-priced Complete Spanish Learning Suite remains to be considered. First, the price is easily justified because there are several valuable programs in the suite, including a large, useful dictionary and audio CDs. For total beginners who know they benefit from flashcards (and most do), Before You Know It is the cat's meow. Being able to import, export and create your own flashcards is a very attractive feature for learners who have a difficult time learning a foreign language just because of their trouble with retaining vocabulary. The testing system in this component is superb. For visual learners, LinguaMatch is also a terrific component of the suite. It is likely more appealing to junior-high-aged learners and older than Tell Me More Spanish or Instant Immersion Spanish.
That said, LinguaMatch is not juvenile, but its look and feel have a lot in common with the environment of computer games. All three programs use voice recognition software. The usefulness of the waveform graphs in Transparent Language is questionable, but even so, the quality of the playback is very good, and the readings of the speech meter will give you reliable feedback about your pronunciation. If you have a good ear for music, you will be able to discriminate between your speech and the native model without needing a graph to tell you.
Every aspect of the voice-recognition feature, including the graphs and scoring in the other two programs is terrific. Tell Me More Spanish or Instant Immersion Spanish re better for learners who mistrust their ears and/or appreciate a meter with a good scoring system. Without any knowledge of any particular learner's needs, my ranking of these three products is, in descending order:
- Auralog's Tell Me More Spanish Premium
- Topics Entertainment's Instant Immersion Spanish Deluxe
- Transparent Language's Complete Spanish Learning Suite
To conclude, if you are determined to learn not just a foreign language, but Spanish in particular, and money is not a real issue, then the choice is clear. If you have only budgetary reasons for not buying Tell Me More Spanish, then Instant Immersion Spanish, ironically the cheapest of the three, is my number-two recommendation. Transparent Language's Complete Spanish Learning Suite, the mid-priced package, is my third choice. One of its three components, LinguaMatch, is great for learners who are visual learners. They also will appreciate the variety of other programs in the suite that address the different learning strategies of learners and the varied tasks learners have to perform in order to master a second language (such as vocabulary and the availability of in-depth grammar analysis).
I hope that these comparisons and my more detailed, separate critiques of these great programs have helped you narrow down your choice. Whichever you select, "¡Buen viaje!"
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