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Living Language Italian, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, and free online learning Audio CD – Abridged, Unabridged
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About the Author
Living Language has been a proven and effective language learning instruction for over 65 years. Using techniques originally developed for the US State Department, the Living Language Method follows a four point approach from building a foundation of essential words and phrases, advancing to full sentences and conversations, practicing with recall exercises aimed at both short and long term memory and developing practical language skills to equip the learner in any situation. Living Language is an imprint of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
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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 Duolingo.com 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.).
In the process of this study, I often found myself wanting to apply certain phrases or constructs in other contexts, and I discovered spanishdict.com to be exceedingly helpful. Here I could posit a potential sentence and see how it translated through three different translators. I also used the site for more clarity on certain grammatical points. This allowed me to bridge the gap between the study content and things clinical (or whatever your setting might be).
Let me strongly suggest this highly-cost-effective material for anyone who has no certain knowledge of the Spanish language.