Top positive review
54 of 55 people found this helpful
Worthwhile, especially if you find it a bargain price
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.