An independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks
Get Into Spanish is apparently the ultimate interactive learning experience from the BBC. It certainly seemed to be that way – the language pack contains 2 PC CD-ROMs, a book, audio CDs and access to online learning resources.
The CD-ROM is the main part of the course. It has two CD-ROMs, with CD1 being the installation CD and CD2 being the language course. The CD-ROM has eight language units which include animated dialogue, interactive activities and learning support which gives you the opportunity to listen, speak, read and write the language. You have to download the program onto your hard drive and this took my computer around 10 minutes to complete which isn’t very long at all (since it’s three programs altogether) and while you are waiting for this to load up it is the perfect opportunity to have a flick through the book.
Once the CD-ROM is loaded you can create a character which will be you in the program. You can choose your hair colour and clothes, and all this helps you to really feel like you are involved in the course and that it has been made just for you. The CD-ROM is easy to use and pretty self explanatory but there is a “how to use this CD-ROM” section just in case.
You can choose which areas you would like to learn through navigation via a map of the town. You click on the different places to take part in the different role plays, for example, I clicked on the hotel and took part in role plays about checking in/out, booking a room and making a complaint. You can choose to learn some things about the situation first such as vocabulary, or you can enter straight into the “have a go” section. The “have a go” section is listening to the Spanish speaker and then recording your answer. In this way, you can interact with the program and compare your answer to that of a Spanish speaker. This helps as you can hear what words you are pronouncing correctly or incorrectly and it gives you an incentive to improve. You can also choose to “zoom in” on certain areas of the screen. I clicked on a price list on the wall which was then enlarged for me and I could then choose to translate the text. This is a fab way of learning new vocab and it’s not forced upon you, which makes you want to learn even more.
The only thing that was annoying with this CD-ROM was that you needed a microphone to be able to complete the role plays. If you haven’t got one built into your computer or laptop, then you are advised to buy one which would cost even more money on top of the course. But the CD-ROM does have a wow factor and personally I absolutely loved it. The BBC really have found a fun way of learning a language and have made it very modern and funky. It felt like I was playing a computer game like “The Sims” rather than actually doing something educational.
“You can choose your own hair colour and clothes for your character in the course. It felt like I was playing a computer game like The Sims rather than actually doing something educational.”
The Get Into Spanish book is designed to help you to refresh and revise the Spanish already learnt on the CD-ROM. It has 10 units and covers the GCSE areas of the language such as eating and drinking and asking for directions. The book is a handy size which meant it was easy for me to carry in my bag and read on the bus. I found it very useful that it was a standalone book so you didn’t have to sit and do the CD-ROM at the same time.
The book has 10 units and each is loosely connected to the CD-ROM. In each unit you have a CD-ROM box section (there’s a little picture of a CD-ROM so very straightforward to know when to refer to the CD-ROM if you need to), then there’s the cultural rule bit, where they tell you when to use certain tenses, pronouns etc; for me this was a plus to this language course as the last thing I would want to do in Spain is be rude to someone within the first hour of arriving. You also have a key vocabulary box which makes it easier. The book is very interactive and gives you exercises to complete. This is a good way of getting people to practise what they have learnt. I don’t know about you, but when I read a book and there is nothing interesting to do I often don’t take in what I have learnt. This book allows me to practise my newly learnt Spanish and helps me to remember what I have learnt.
At the back of the book, there is a grammar section with basic-intermediate grammar information. I found this great as when I learn a language, grammar is the hardest part for me to learn as its boring (at least I’m being honest!). But with this book, all the grammar is laid out in small chunks and it doesn’t go into too much depth and so is not boring to look at and learn. Throughout the book there are ‘have a go’ sections and luckily the book provides the answers at the end. In the past I have had to buy answer books to accompany certain language learning courses, so this way I can see if I have got it right without having to buy a whole new separate book.
Finally, the audio CD is a way to develop your listening skills and improve your level of learning. As usual, you have the token English tourist trying to find their way around the town. This time it is a British web designer called Simon who travels to Alicante.
The audio CD comes with a separate book where all the conversations are written down, so if you so find it hard you can look at the words as they are being said. At first it is hard to concentrate especially when Simon’s London accent comes out when he speaks Spanish but after the first couple of sentences you get used to it. The speed of the Spanish is at a level where if you are a beginner and have completed the other parts of the course you will have no trouble understanding it. This is also good for people who have previously done Spanish and want to refresh it.
The telephone calls that Simon makes to his friend and business partner are slightly annoying as they are like telephone calls on a soap opera when it is obvious there is no one on the other end! The conversations are quite fun, without giving too much away it turns out that Simon helps the police with a problem they have been having. Unlike other CDs I have listened to they add in fun conversation and words that you would be unlikely to learn otherwise, even the words “you look like a gangster” are thrown in.
You can buy the CD-ROM separately to the audio CD and book. But to be honest I think the best way to “get into” Spanish is to buy the whole set. All of the parts were so helpful and it never got boring, which for me is a huge thing.
“You can buy the CD-ROM separately to the audio CD and book. But to be honest I think the best way to “get into” Spanish is to buy the whole set. All of the parts were so helpful and it never got boring, which for me is a huge thing.”
In my opinion the BBC were correct to describe this as the ultimate interactive learning experience – it certainly is that. With all the material and resources given in the pack, it is definitely an ace way of learning Spanish thoroughly. They seem to cover every basic situation and give you lots of information but keeping it fun at the same time, so it doesn’t feel like a chore to sit down and do the course. I would recommend this 100% to anyone who wants to learn Spanish in an entertaining and different way.