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on May 24, 2008
Since I bought this for considerably less than $129, I am quite happy with this product, although it's not perfect. I would have given it 5 stars but for a few things: the designers of the CD ROM software could have made it easier for beginners by not "hiding" function buttons, which suddenly appear when the cursor is put in their neighborhood. These icon buttons suddenly show up, and it took me quite awhile to discover that I could return to "home" without exiting the program and restarting it (the 'home' button is in the lower left, barely visible unless you put the cursor near it). Once you find and understand all these functions, however, it becomes much easier to use. Also, the program has had a tendency to occasionally crash (I'm using XP on a 64bit AMD processor, 80GB hard drive and 512MB SDRAM) and you'll have to start over. This seems to happen in certain parts of the program more than others, and so far has been only a minor annoyance. Another thing to realize is that each CD ROM has lots of lessons. By hiding the home button, I didn't realize for a time that having gotten through all the activities of the first lesson, there were still many other lessons left on that disc (seems obvious now, but....) And finally, there's quite a bit of spoken (and very funny) "cartoon" material hidden away in the "grammar explanation" section containing lots of spoken material (connoted by a smiley face icon next to the sections that contain this feature) that you might not even realize is there - so definitely explore every section of each lesson before deciding it's not of interest - you may be surprised at what's hidden away. In fact, now that I've spent a couple days using the first CD ROM, I realize there's really a lot of material to go through. In addition, you get 8 audio CDs which contain the basics of grammar, useful expressions etc, which are spoken by a bilingual woman at a much slower rate than the material on the CD ROMS. The CD ROMS use several native speakers who speak rapidly for the most part. This may be disconcerting at first, especially when you're trying to repeat what they've said, but the software allows you to isolate both sentences and words in a sentence, repeat them over and over, and also has a high tech speech evaluation program if you're computer is equipped with a microphone. This allows you to check your speech by a visible phonogram and computer evaluation. So overall, this is a sophisticated product. I think once you get past the nuts and bolts of finding out how to operate it, you'll be glad you bought it. If I were to make any recommendations about the method employed, I would say that adding substitution drills of the kind used in Foreign Service Institute courses (where a model sentence is introduced, followed by the student being given a prompt to change one aspect of it, such as "I met her at the bank" - "near the stadium - "I met her near the stadium" etc - would have made for a truly 5 star product. Substitution drills take the student beyond repetition and require more active involvement in juggling sentence components and aid in fluency, and also allow for old material to be constantly repeated in new contexts. Overall though, this course is quite impressive.
11 comment54 of 55 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 6, 2007
This software is very highly rated in comparision with similar products, and I have found it to be interesting and effective in helping me learn Spanish. I'm still pretty early in the process, and there is MUCH more to learn (learning all the software can teach me will take a year or more, I'm sure), but the exercises are clear and interesting, and online help is very useful.
0Comment26 of 29 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The software is great and my Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds (says my Colombian boyfriend). I transferred the audio CD content to my mp3 player and I'm using it to learn and practice to and from work and at lunch. Very good product for the price range.
11 comment25 of 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 5, 2009
This is James from James Spanish (the learning Spanish blog). This set of CDs presents interactive language learning at it's best. There are literally thousands of exercises, and hundreds of hours of lessons, making the program highly comprehensive. There are three levels included in the course, with more than enough information to give students a solid understanding of the Spanish language and a strong vocabulary to get by in most situations and conversations. Starting with the basics, the lessons build a foundation of language and then move on to more complex phrases and concepts, gradually increasing your level of skill.

It pays to take some time to familiarize yourself with the format of the lessons in order to easily navigate through the program and access all of the features. For example, menu buttons are hidden so that they do not take up space on your screen while studying, but can be made to reappear simply by hovering the mouse over a specific area. If you have never used an interactive software course, learning the navigation and structure of the lessons will prevent you from getting frustrated as you learn.

The animated features are fun and engaging, keeping your interest level high and presenting information in a way that is both easy to learn and remember. There are also cultural activities designed to help you to apply your newly learned vocabulary to an interesting context, therefor making it easier to remember. These also give you a sense of accomplishment.

In addition to the 3 CD ROMs, there are also audio CD's with a further 6 hours or so of lessons. These are great for when you don't have access to a computer and are a nice way to complement your virtual learning. Audio lessons are a great way to continue your studies in the car, or you can download them to your iPod or other mp3 player to listen to anywhere. There are multiple native speakers on the audio, which is an excellent way to get used to hearing how words sound when spoke in different Spanish voices.

One of the unique and possibly most valuable features of this program is the use of the Spoken Error Tracking System (S.E.T.S.) which assesses your pronunciation as you repeat phrases into a microphone. The software will correct you when you are wrong, allowing you to improve your speaking skills and develop an authentic Spanish accent. If you have ever wondered "Am I saying this right?" then this program can give you the answer!

The flexible learning model allows you to study at your own pace, progressing through the lessons comfortably. If you find a sentence has been spoken too quickly, the software allows you to isolate a single word or phrase, so each student can break down the lessons into pieces that they can manage. The full package is comparable to much more expensive programs, so represents excellent value for those who are serious about learning Spanish.

In closing my review of this product, I'd like to share with you the three Amazon products that I have found most helpful in my pursuit to learn Spanish. If you are truly serious about achieving fluency, I'd recommend getting all 3 of them if you can afford it.

1. Lights, Camera, Spanish (Book + DVD): Learn Conversational Spanish by Watching a Romantic Adventure This is actually a 90 minute movie for Spanish-language learners. It gives the option to watch the movie with subtitles but I'd recommend not using them to improve your Spanish. This "movie" also includes a workbook so that you can reinforce the Spanish vocabulary words and phrases from the film. The workbook also has lots of exercises to keep you engaged in the film. But be prepared to hear Chilean accents. Although pleasent to the ear, the accents from Chile are very different from most Latin American accents.

2. Verbarrator Version 1.1 (Windows Version) This software replaces the traditional verb conjugation books and makes learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs an interactive and fun activity. This should be a required resource for anyone who wants to improve their ability to conjugate Spanish verbs. Especially anyone who is challenged by the drudgery of learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs and who is looking for a new way to make learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs an easy and fun activity

3. Diccionario esencial de la lengua espanola de la Real Academia Espanola (Spanish Edition) If you are really serious about speaking the language fluently, then at some point you will need to replace your Spanish-English dictionary and get a pure Spanish dictionary with both the vocabulary words and the definitions entirely in Spanish. I use this one only because it was highly-recommended by a friend from Spain who teaches Spanish. According to him, in academic circles in Spain as well as Latin America this Spanish dictionary is the standard.
0Comment12 of 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 16, 2009
If you've never taken a single Spanish course, then this is not the software set for you. While the packaging notes that it is for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced learners, the reality is that the beginner's lessons are considerably advanced. The software appears to have been designed with the understanding that a user has at least some background information-- vocabulary for body parts, numbers, and places in addition to the conjugation of verbs in the present indicative and an understanding of feminine versus masculine articles/endings. To jump into this software without a couple basic lessons under your belt will leave you beyond frustrated.

However, if you've had some exposure and are looking to clean up your grammar and add some depth to your conversation, this set is an unbelievable bargain. The sheer volume and diversity of types of practice exercises will give you hundreds of hours of quality practice. The ability to hear proper pronunciation and check your own quickly becomes an indispensable tool.

As long as this is just one of many tools in your arsenal of educational aids for learning the language, you'll walk away impressed and thoroughly satisfied.
0Comment11 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 5, 2009
First off, this is the first language software that I've purchased, so I have nothing to compare it to. That said, given how highly this one is rated, I doubt I'll ever purchase language software of this type again.

The software itself is some of the worst I've used. It looks nice, but the pretty icons don't make up for the utterly confusing interface. It's impossible to tell what a button will do without hovering over it with the mouse to get a tool-tip; the tabbing through the exercise forms is hard to follow, slow, and confusing; options I would expect are unavailable for no clear reason. Also, for some reason, it isn't possible to type the non-english characters (á, í, etc.); instead, there are a series of buttons at the bottom of the screen that you have to click for each of these letters. Needless to say this is very slow and incredibly annoying.

As for the learning program itself, another review had it right: this is nothing but a bunch of exercises. It does little to actually help you learn the language, other than brute force repetition of the exercises. The activities will ask you to line up associated words, conjugate verbs, make nouns plural, etc., without any introduction, help, or translation. There is a help button for each item, but unless you already know some spanish, you have to click for each and every word to get a translation, memorize it, and then do the activity - this is exactly what these programs are supposed to avoid (I thought). The verbal recognition exercises just read off phrases displayed on the screen; there is no test for comprehension, and no translation to tell you what is being said.

I didn't find the audio CDs to be any better, taking eight disks to cover what I already learned in a few hours listening to a spanish podcast (which is free), and in a much less interesting way. I may get some use out of the practice dialog tracks, but that's not much value out of the whole package.

This program might be useful to some who need a refresher from their high school classes, but for learning spanish this is horrid. I'd highly recommend starting with one of the spanish podcasts that are available for free online - I've been listening to Coffee Break Spanish, and have learned more from those, and much more easily, that this would provide. Don't waste your money.
11 comment16 of 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 24, 2007
One session in a non credit earning course is about $30 so this cd set as introduction to a new language is good value. The design feels more European than American. A microphone is needed for practicing pronunciation. I don't have one yet so I am only going through the drills.
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on June 27, 2009
It has everything you need if you are well into spanish. I am about 2 months into spanish with 2 other programs. I am not disapointed with this product. except the beginner is at least INTERMIDIATE. I can't wait till I am far enough along to really use all this program. What a beginner can use this software for is the part where you talk spanish to the program throgh a microphone and it grades your pronouciation. You don't need to know what you are saying, just how well you are saying it. Besides it is my suggestion if you really want to learn spanish--to speak it. You need more than one program. Several modules included in this software are worth the money that it costs at Amazon. if you don't believe it. check the price of other good programs out. Its just that this one does not start at ground zero, but in a few months you will be glad it does not. Hopes this helps. We have spanish speakers in the family and the agree with these starements. phoenix Az
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on February 3, 2010
I purchased this product in spanish and french and have really enjoyed it. I was willing to spend $500 for Rosetta Stone until I came across Instant Immersion. I'm soooo glad I did! It isn't the most up to date software system but it does the job and is fun and YOU CANNOT BEAT THE PRICE! ;)
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on October 12, 2009
This is a great way to learn Spanish on your own and at your own pace. The CDs give you exercises as well as downloads for your ipod so that you can learn "on the go". Better than most of the programs I have checked into but much less costly than Rosetta Stone but quite comparable.
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