Top critical review
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OK for the price, but revolting graphics and interface
on May 28, 2011
I received a review copy of this product, which I was interested in for a future trip to Italy. I've learned several languages over the years and have a background in linguistics, and so had some expectations for what a decent language course should include.
This product includes four disks: (1) a DVD for use with your TV (or computer), (2) a CD with MP3 (digital sound) files that can be played on some car CD players, or copied onto any MP3 player, (3) a computer application DVD and (4) a computer "Where is Oscar Lake?" game CD.
The interactive DVD has cheesy graphics and marginal sound. My main complaint about it is that it says each phrase or conversation in English first, and then Italian. My experience has been that it is easier to learn a language when the other language is presented first or even solely (with English subtitles at most). Most annoying is that if you press the replay button, you have to listen to the English again, when what most people would want to repeat is the Italian as they fine tune their pronunciation and memory.
The DVD has menu buttons to go to the next/previous phrase, but does not have a home button to go to the main DVD menu - you must use your remote control for that, or if watching on a computer, your computer menus (right-click, or player menu).
The MP3 CD includes PDF files with the text of the audio content, making it easy to follow along and learn how things are spelled / written. Annoying stereotypical Italian accordion music precedes audio from a variety of individuals, some of whom have very poor diction, whether speaking English or Italian.
The computer application does not install on your computer, but runs from the DVD. This saves space on your computer, but means that there are long delays and you have to listen to your DVD drive spinning. The graphics, colors and sound effects are absolutely horrendous and amateurish; small children might appreciate them. Such a turn-off, that I simply couldn't go through the entire course. Bad as they are, the time delays to progress through the quizzes and lessons are just intolerable if you want to move along and learn.
The Oscar Lake game disk was equally pitiful. It displayed a 2 inch by 4 inch game screen on a black background on my 27" monitor. The Readme notes that it was originally written during Windows 98 days, which explains a lot. The game is kind of cute, but I had to read the PDF Help file to understand how to proceed. Sort of slow and awkward by today's standards. Can't say that I got very far though.
Because this is quite cheap, runs on Windows or Mac, has a DVD (TV) disk and an on-the-go audio disc, this course still offers a lot for the price. If I were rating purely as an instructional tool, regardless of price, I'd give this one or two stars. For the price, I give it three stars, meaning "it's OK".