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on December 27, 2012
This latest edition of the Living Language self-study language programmes is a modified and enhanced version of their "Complete: Basics" series. It seems to be part of a program by Random House to consolidate their language courses. Unfortunately, the vastly superior "Ultimate" series has been abandoned in the process. The new "Complete" edition is divided into three levels. The first level, "Essential", is drawn from the Living Language "Starting Out In Spanish". The second and third levels, "Intermediate" and "Advanced", respectively, are, for the most part, slightly modified versions of the previous "Complete: Basic Spanish". The Intermediate and Advanced books contain "Units", each of which covers a theme (Family, Work, Hotel, Restaurant, Medical Appointment, etcetera). The Units are divided into four "Lessons", the first three of which present the Words, Phrases, and Sentences that are used in the fourth lesson Conversations. Although the approach seems quite logical, it does take a little getting used to at first as, occasionally, some individual Phrases or Sentences seem a little odd because they are missing the context of the end-of-unit Conversation. Each Lesson also contains explanations of grammar. Despite the publisher's decision to label the second and third books as Intermediate and Advanced, be advised that this is STILL an BASIC self-study language course. Nonetheless, enhancements include: a vastly improved visual presentation, some much-appreciated additional exercise material, and access to some fairly simple on-line learning activities. Also, a glossary and a summary of grammar are included as appendices in all three levels. Although I have detected a few, very minor errors, in my opinion, the "Complete" series merits five stars.

The audio recordings are, as always with the Living Language programmes, of a very high quality. The voices are clear, well-modulated, and at an appropriate speed. The latest set of recordings includes EXTENSIVE instructions in ENGLISH that are drawn directly from the printed material. This accounts for most of the expansion of the recordings from the original 4 CDs to the 9 CDs in this latest edition. Some users might find the English audio reassuring, as it will permit them to read through the text only once and then rely more-or-less completely on the recordings. The DISADVANTAGE of all of this English audio is that, as the learner becomes more comfortable with the material, reviewing the key phrases and dialogues will require some deft skipping forward to avoid - what will have become - superfluous English instructions.

I have found that finding opportunities to PRACTICE a language to be one of the greatest challenges. If you simply want to DRILL--DRILL--DRILL your Spanish, I suggest that you visit the website FSI-LANGUAGES-YOJIK.EU. The FSI BASIC COURSES were developed by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), U.S. State Department, in the 1960's through the early 1970's. While they were meant to be taught in a classroom by a qualified instructor, the texts and accompanying audio recordings are absolutely fabulous for practicing the basics of the language. And here's the really good part ... they're FREE as pdf/mp3 downloads! Have a look at FSI BASIC SPANISH.

In the event that you're striving to become truly functional in Spanish, then you might consider subscribing to the online monthly magazine "THINK SPANISH". The magazine is designed for adults who are at the Early Intermediate Level. The articles discuss the food, art, history, geography, science and culture of Spain, Central America, Central America. The goal is to help students improve their vocabulary and listening skills. The roughly 25 pages of text and 1 hour of audio can be downloaded as pdf/mp3 files. You can find them on the Internet at "THINKLANGUAGE.COM."
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on October 3, 2011
I bought this set after seeing a friend's copy of the French edition. I really like the set up and I do feel that I am learning a lot (though the first book seemed mostly a refresher of items I learned in high school and college).

-Division of chapters is clear and the companion cds read almost every word on the page. (Which makes it easy to read along with the chapter or use it as extra practice on your drive to work as I do.
-The book is written in a way that seems more organic to learning conversational Spanish. Instead of just learning a bunch of words and how to conjugate them or just a set of general vocabulary each chapter is topic based. This means the the number section isn't just "uno, dos, tres." It also includes "Tengo dos gatos" and "Ella tiene tres perros." (I have two cats. She has three dogs.) Slowly interspersing new vocabulary, sentence structure, gender-dominance of the terms, and of course conjugation.

Negatives: (why I did not give it 5 stars)
-You have to come in with a basic knowledge of the Spanish alphabet and sometimes the pronunciation doesn't seem as clear in writing.
-Sometimes some of the most important/interesting vocabulary is thrown into the summary paragraph at the end of the chapter giving the reader only one chance to familiarize with that set of vocabulary before it is either not referenced again or thrown into another part of the following chapter. (The cd does read this chapter to you but does not give you the option to repeat those words.)
-The cd can really only be used after reading the chapter for extra study. I tried to use some of the lessons ahead of where I was in the book. (Only the next lesson, not far in advance.) And I found myself tongue tied. The cd gives you a chance to repeat the Spanish out loud after they have given a definition in English and it has been read quite rapidly in Spanish. It did not give enough time for the me, as the reader, to repeat the more complex sentences and spoke so rapidly that it was hard to hear. So I will now only use the cd after reading the chapter. (It was very frustrating because I knew some of the vocabulary but not one or two words that I felt like the reader flew over.)
-The online learning content though useful seems a little slow or gimmicky at times.

Overall I think it is a great purchase and since I am a librarian with access to many self study guides at my local library I would still recommend this to a person wishing to get serious on relearning what they vaguely remembered from high school over some of the other sets available. Also at the library since I have many Spanish speaking patrons it makes it easier to converse, granted it is still for the both of us Broken English and Broken Spanish. I do find that I am understanding more structure and the in between words that I was previously missing.
[End note: It would be excellent if Living Language decided to make something like this for ESL, since I have many patrons in the library who wish to have a firmer grasp on English and have been asking me what I have been doing in order to converse better with them in Spanish.]
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on June 6, 2013
The Living Language "Ultimate Spanish" taught **all** the verb tenses. This new series is not nearly as advanced and leaves out **all** the compound tenses such as the present perfect, so you will never learn how to say such basic things as "ya he comido" (I have already eaten). You will be able to say "I ate " instead of "I have eaten" so you will be able to make yourself understood, though you won't be able to understand when others use the perfect tenses. To it's credit at least it does teach the subjunctive mood, something courses like Fluenz,Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur all ignore which is a shame because it's very important. The lay out is nice and for what you learn it is well done, but for three books of material it's a shame you never learn any of the compound tenses Living Language used to teach . I would recommend Assimil Spanish instead , or if you are going the software route I recommend the whole Visual Link Spanish series.
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on June 4, 2012
I have been teaching individuals (adults and children) foreign languages for over 20 years and have spent countless dollars on books and other learning materials that always fall short. FINALLY, I have materials I can use with older children, teens, and adults. The Living Languages materials (only this one - not other Living Language materials) are concise and thorough, with content organized in a logical fashion. Audio cds are a good supplement for learners to hear a native speaker. I use this material in conjunction with Rosetta Stone. Together, they provide a COMPLETE learning experience.
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on April 24, 2014
Having completed Living Language Spanish, Complete Edition, I took an online Spanish aptitude test and was graded at an A2 level, which is still elementary. I would say that the Living Language course is a good introduction to Spanish, but you certainly won't be able to speak Spanish or even read a newspaper after finishing the course.
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on July 23, 2014
I'm only half way through the first book, but so far it has been great. I've taken several beginning Spanish courses over my lifetime and none of it stuck, but I feel like the design of this course is a lot better because, contrary to what one "reviewer" said, they do NOT just give you a list of words to memorize. You are shown words which will be emphasized in a lesson, but they are presented in context in a variety of ways.

To get 9 CDs and 3+ books for $28 is just an unbelievable bargain especially compared to big-name systems which, ironically, consistently get poor reviews and cost much, much more.

Just after I started this course I stumbled across which is a free online school for various languages, including Spanish. I've been working it the same time as this system because they each have their own advantages. The main advantage of the Duolingo course is that it is interactive -- you have to type in answers and if you get too many wrong, you have to repeat the lesson. With a non-interactive course, it is easy to lose focus/attention and not realize that you have missed something, which is the case with Living Language.

On the other hand, the speech in Living Language is much clearer and it is easier to back up a bit and repeat something. Also, you can read the LL books and/or listen to the CDs anywhere and any time, while you must be online to use Duolingo.

The Amazon page and other Living Language materials say that you can just listen to the CDs to learn Spanish without using the book. While that may be theoretically possible, it would be VERY much harder and time consuming. For one thing, the book has extra exercises to reinforce your learning which the CDs do not have. Another thing is that listening to spoken Spanish and reading it at the same doubles your learning capacity as aural and visual input are stored in different parts of the brain and subsequently reinforce each other. If you do not look at the book while listening to the CDs, you are simply missing out on that.

IMO, the best way to use this course is to read and listen to a chapter at the same time, then read the chapter again, working the extra exercises, then repeat both of these steps until you feel comfortable that you have learned the material. I would only listen to the CDs by themselves, such as in a car, as additional reinforcement. But I seriously doubt that anyone can learn Spanish by listening one time to these CDs while driving around (hopefully also focusing on traffic, etc.).
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on August 6, 2013
I've been using this CD set every day I step foot into my car, since the day I received it in the mail. I really must say I love it, the voices are for the most part, pretty true to form (not too exaggerated) and the conversations, really represent those in the real world. I studied 2 years of Spanish in high school, grew up in a Latino area, and have tried my hand at Rosetta. I must say though, this is far more entertaining to me, than Rosetta, and I am happy to say I can now say things with such ease, I find myself going through the scenarios without even thinking: "What will I say", or "How will I say it"! Instead I just react. This is my muscle memory!

I am Very Very Very happy to say that my fluent Mexican American honey, has complimented me on my Spanish, time and time again, since having invested in this product! And I'm only on the first 3 CD's. I find it's best to perfect before moving on. Cant believe it's only been 1.5 mos. My confidence has skyrocketed! And I am no longer tired of the top 100 chart toppers on the radio, because... you know... I spend my time on more important things, and no longer listen to the radio! ;) (OK... every now and then I do, but only when my brain needs a break).

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on March 5, 2012
So much easier than a class! no stress & easy to comprehend. I took a spanish class for the first time at age 48, and really strugled until I bought this program.
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on March 31, 2014
Speaking purely in regards to audio content, this product is a step back from the older generation of Living Language Spanish (back when the audio was on cassette). This newer version just fails to present the material in a manner that makes learning as fast and easy as the old product. For example, the info is presented rapid-fire, with little audio review of the material. And although having native speakers that speak fast and are a little mumble-y may seem like a good way to "immerse" yourself in the true language, it's no good for beginners or intermediates.
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on August 22, 2015
EXCELLENT material, well organized, complete!
Simply perfect!
Worth every penny.
I'll certainly buy Living Language again.
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