Top positive review
122 people found this helpful
Very effective way to learn basic Spanish
on September 27, 2007
I did a formal review of the Fluenz Mandarin program and have had the opportunity to use the Spanish software before its official release. Fluenz Spanish 1 is designed for beginners (teens and up) who want to develop a good foundation before pursuing more advanced Spanish study or who simply want to be able to communicate on a basic level in Spanish. Familiarity with the Spanish language is an increasingly important skill in the US and it's very useful that Fluenz has come out with such a comprehensive intro-level Spanish course.
Like previous offerings from Fluenz, the Spanish program uses an elegant modern aesthetic, relying on the latest flash technology for video sessions and "workouts." The Fluenz learning system is unique in its use of an on-screen tutor who guides users on video throughout the program and its practice of "leveraging" your knowledge of English to help you learn Spanish faster. The developers have kept the same types of challenging exercises used in the Mandarin version, but have enhanced the crispness of audio and video and made the interface more user-friendly by allowing easier navigation through the many program components. I encountered somewhat awkward navigation with the Mandarin program, but this has been fixed in the Spanish software.
The program is divided into 30 sessions, each of which opens with tutor Sonia Gil, one of the developers of the program, who explains all content for the lesson and relates personal stories about the trials and tribulations of learning Spanish. After Sonia's introduction, there is a conversation which can be followed with or without subtitles (in English and/or Spanish). Next, Sonia comes back for the heart of the lesson, where she thoroughly breaks down every word and expression from the conversation, relating English and Spanish usage straightforwardly and effectively.
After Sonia's "breakdown," the session finishes with a series of interactive workouts designed to review the material from the lesson and help the user absorb it. There are at least 10 types of workouts by my count, covering (in various combinations) vocabulary, listening comprehension, writing, reading, and speaking. These range from simple exercises asking you to write the word you hear spoken to more complex matching games and voice recording. Each workout has its own color scheme for easier navigation if you want to jump to a specific type of exercise. The recording device in the Spanish program is similar to the one used in the Mandarin software, allowing the learner to record and compare her or his Spanish with that of native speakers. This device first covers simple phrases, and then offers you the opportunity to insert yourself into a conversation. After the completion of the review workouts, Sonia comes back to summarize and conclude the session.
There are a number of Spanish learning programs on the market, but few if any can match Fluenz in quality and visual attractiveness. The personal touch of having an on-screen tutor really stands out and the software feels like it was tailor-made for Spanish rather than taken from a generic mold. Given the price, I would have liked to have seen a more advanced voice recognition device (this feature is unchanged from earlier Fluenz software), but overall the Fluenz program is a refreshing new inclusion in the world of Spanish learning software.