An independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks
Suenos World Spanish is a beginner Spanish course, complete with 4 cassettes and coursebook. The pack is £39.99 which I think is reasonable as you are getting a traditional coursebook as well as real Spanish on cassettes.
The coursebook has 20 units each with a language learning section divided into three parts, a cultural section, and a review and revision section. At the end of each unit there is a checklist so you can record your progress. After every five units there is a set of revision exercises so you can make sure you can practise the Spanish language you have already learnt.
I found it best to concentrate on five units at a time, as I could re-test the knowledge I had gained in the revision exercise. I didn’t want to try and do anymore that this, as I thought I would be learning too much at one time. The great thing about this course is that you can do as much or as little as you want to do.
The units in the book work alongside the audio tapes. There are exercises where you have to listen to the dialogues and then answer the questions. I found this helped me to really do the course, as with the question and answer sections you learn the language and don’t get bored as you are reading, writing and listening all at the same time. I find the courses that are just reading or just listening hard to complete as there is nothing to ‘engage my brain’.
In the coursebook, the BBC introduce cultural elements by using songs, or facts about certain Spanish-speaking countries. This is fun, as it gives you a break from the course but you are still learning important and interesting things to do with Spain. At the back of the book you have the answers to the questions, so you can check on your progress and see what you are getting wrong and how to correct it. There are also transcripts of the tapes, which again helps as sometimes I found it hard to fully understand the tapes (so I used the transcript to see what it was I didn’t understand and then listened to the tape again). In the section ‘word groups’, you have a list of words grouped into different topics to act as a very handy reference point, in case you have a memory block whilst doing the course (I had a lot of these!). Finally, you have the common English-Spanish glossary (in other words a dictionary). There’s a lot there!
The tapes are 75 minutes long and can be used separately as well as with the book. I found it easier to work along with the units in the coursebook rather than just listen to one full tape at a time. But as I mentioned earlier, the great thing about this course is you can do it exactly how and when you want to (although I think the book is slightly too big to be able to take on a bus!).
I just love how the BBC give you music at the start of each course. You can almost guarantee that you will hear flamenco or maracas when you switch on a BBC Spanish course (thankfully this one didn’t fail). The tape has a man and a woman who go through the steps of Spanish with you. They give you the words in Spanish and then repeat the same sentence in English. You then have pauses in the tape so you can repeat what you have learnt. I found the pauses to be the right length of time and so there is no need to stop or rewind the tape. You are asked questions for example “are the speakers well?”. You don’t actually answer the questions, it’s more to make you think and then the narrators on the tape answer for you and go on to give you other examples of words you could use. I think I would have found it more helpful if I could have answered the questions and then got their answer. In order to do this, I stopped the tape and then pressed play once I answered to see if I had the correct answer. The tape also provides you with a basic grammar section including, for example, the use of tu and usted. I found this useful as I learn more when I hear it rather than read it, so I found I learnt these grammar sections faster and could remember them easily. The tape is so easy to use alongside the book – it’s great. They also explain cultural things such as two surnames, or certain dates important in Spanish culture.
As you get closer to the end of the cassettes they do get harder (as expected), and on the fourth cassette there are more paragraphs of spoken Spanish instead of a Spanish sentence and then an English one. You don’t have to answer any questions on the paragraphs but it is good practise for your listening skills.
The tapes combine learning new Spanish with learning other areas of Spanish, such as history or culture. For example in Unit 15, you have a listening exercise where you have to match the dates to the events that are said on the tape. This is really good practise for your numbers and you are also learning new things about Spanish history.
This course is for beginners and gives you a good solid level of Spanish, as it really tests you and makes you work. The BBC know how to do language courses and they have not failed with this one. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn Spanish in a more traditional way, but who also want to carry on their Spanish language studies after they have done this course. It doesn’t give you just the basics, it gives you much much more and is definitely worth a go.