Harry Potter and the 64 Translations

With the penultimate instalment of Harry Potter’s new adventures just released … it is not only on a screen near you – but all around the world!  The new film, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (Part 1), will be released in different languages in many countries across the globe.  However, it won’t be dubbed into as many languages as the Harry Potter books, which have been translated into a staggering 64 different languages, including Ancient Greek and Latin! [Read more…]

MANDARIN CHINESE LANGUAGE COURSES FOR KIDS

language advantage brings you the best and most innovative language courses for children to learn Mandarin Chinese. Get the Chinese language advantage for kids!


01 Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii My Chinese coach

kids-chinese-coach-nintendo-dsCan’t get your kids off their DS? Well let them learn while they play! This Chinese language game, available on both the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii, teaches you Chinese in small chunks and then introduces tonnes of games to help you practice.
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids shop on amazon.co.uk>>
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids store on amazon.com>>

02 carry an electronic Mandarin Chinese dictionary translator

Fun and colourful, this handheld dictionary will give your kids the Chinese word they are looking for immediately. It will help build their vocabulary, especially when used on location in Chinese-speaking countries!
for more information and to buy a dictionary translator from Ectaco>>

03 get a Chinese-speaking Language Littles toy doll

kids-chinese-language-littles-dollThese lovely little toy dolls will enchant your child, and will also help them learn a language while playing – these dolls speak Chinese as well as English!  Each Language Little will recite between 25 and 30 phrases with the help of a sound chip in the dollâ??s tummy – including greetings, numbers, colours and days of the week. Language Littles toy dolls are not currently available on amazon.co.uk
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids store on amazon.com>> 

04 Vocabulary Builder Learn Mandarin Chinese

kids-chinese-vocabulary-builderA CD-ROM for children who are beginning in Chinese, with speech recognition, so that your kids can record their voices and then play them back in a cinema show! Great fun and packed full of games. Over 100 words including colours, numbers, actions and simple sentences.   For ages from 4 to 12 – but popular with adults too!
for more information and to buy from our Language Advantage Kids shop on amazon.co.uk>>
for more information and to buy from our Language Advantage Kids store on amazon.com>>


Other ways to learn Chinese for kids:
more Mandarin Chinese language courses and dictionaries for children on amazon.co.uk>>
more Mandarin Chinese language courses and dictionaires for children on amazon.com>>
more Mandarin Chinese language cd-rom software for children on amazon.co.uk>>
more Mandarin Chinese language cd-rom software for children on amazon.com>>


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JAPANESE LANGUAGE COURSES FOR KIDS

language advantage brings you the best and most innovative language courses for children to learn Japanese. Get the Japanese language advantage for kids!


01 Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii My Japanese coach

kids-japanese-japanese-coach-nintendo-dsCan’t get your kids off their DS? Well let them learn while they play! This Japanese language game, available on both the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii, teaches you Japanese in small chunks and then introduces tonnes of games to help you practice.
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids shop
 on amazon.co.uk>>
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids store on amazon.com>>

02 carry an electronic Japanese dictionary translator

Fun and colourful, this handheld dictionary will give your kids the Japanese word they are looking for immediately. It will help build their vocabulary, especially when used on location in Japan!
more information and to buy a dictionary translator from Ectaco>>

03 get a Japanese-speaking Language Littles toy doll

kids-japanese-language-littles-dollThese lovely little toy dolls will enchant your child, and will also help them learn the Japanese language while playing – these dolls speak Japanese as well as English! Each Language Little will recite between 25 and 30 phrases with the help of a sound chip in the doll’s tummy – including greetings, numbers, colours and days of the week. Language Littles toy dolls are not currently available on amazon.co.uk.
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids store
 on amazon.com>>

04 Vocabulary Builder Learn Japanese

kids-japanese-vocabulary-builderA CD-ROM for children who are beginning in Japanese.   The speech recognition gives your kids the chance to record their voices and then play them back in a cinema show! Great fun and packed full of games. Over 100 words including colours, numbers, actions and simple sentences.   For ages from 4 to 12 – but popular with adults too!
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids shop
 on amazon.co.uk>>
for more information and to buy, browse our Language Advantage Kids store on amazon.com>>


Other ways to learn Japanese for kids

more Japanese language courses and dictionaries for children on amazon.co.uk>>
more Japanese language courses and dictionaires for children on amazon.com>>
more Japanese language cd-rom software for children on amazon.co.uk>>
more Japanese language cd-rom software for children on amazon.com>>


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TEACH YOURSELF ITALIAN VERBS AND ITALIAN GRAMMAR REVIEW

teach-yourself-italian-grammarAn independent language books review by Andrea Martins

Whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced learner, the Teach Yourself language books are a must. I used the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar and Teach Yourself Italian Verbs books whilst studying for a GCSE * Italian course last year. Although we had a text book as the main learning tool for the course, I chose to buy these books as extra aids for my studies. Even if you are not taking classes, the Teach Yourself books’ purpose is to do exactly that – Teach Yourself.

There are over 300 titles in the Teach Yourself range and they are advertised as being extremely functional, simple and easy to use and cover languages from Afrikaans to Zulu. Most of the language courses have CDs or a cassette with them, but with the verb and grammar series, there are no cassettes; just you, your Teach Yourself book and your interest to learn.

It’s just you, your Teach Yourself book and your interest to learn …

There are 22 units of functional grammar in the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar book; functional in that each unit covers a basic communicative function such as ‘Ask someone else’s opinion’ or ‘Talk about events and actions in the past’. Each unit is laid out in a very clear and non-technical way. There is, however, a Grammar Appendix which lists any grammar points not explained in the book as well as a list of the common irregular verbs. The Index also lists specific grammar points.

Each unit begins with a brief synopsis of what the unit contains highlighting the particular language points covered. You are then introduced to a few examples. These are explained with some individual points being given additional coverage (this section is called Language Plus). A particularly useful section of each unit is ‘Language in Action’ which comprises of up to four exercises as revision based on what has been covered in the unit. Exercises include: fill the gap exercises, reading and writing exercises, translating and so on. I found this useful not only for grammar revision but also for communicative use as the exercises show you how to use the language and grammar in the context of everyday life.

But it’s not all verbs, grammar and verb endings. There are some pictures, postcards, maps, letters and written dialogues which all enhance the grammar being covered giving you examples from spoken and written language. I personally found it helpful to work through each unit only after I had completely learnt and understood the previous one. You do not have to have completed one unit to begin the next one, although I did feel that this helped me with my own greater understanding and fluency. You are given the choice of systematically working through each unit like I did or work at the grammar points that most interest you. It is entirely up to you.

One disadvantage of this book is that the pronunciation of the Italian is not explained as you might find in other language learning books. I feel that this could lead to confusion for the complete beginner.

It’s not all verbs, grammar and verb endings

The Teach Yourself Italian Verbs book is a great book for learning that aspect of language learning that we all love to hate…verb conjugations! You can consult this book about any verb as each one is presented in their full conjugation under each tense (including the conditional and subjunctive tenses). Not all the verbs in the Teach Yourself Italian Verbs are listed though. The book would be huge otherwise! Instead, 200 of the most commonly used verbs are presented in the verb tables and many more are catered for in the glossary at the back of the book. Here you can find the verb that you want and the glossary directs you to a verb in the book that behaves the same way as the one that you want to use.

Each of the 200 verbs are set out one to a page and at the bottom of each page is listed the basic uses of the verb with examples, and well known phrases and expressions using that verb. Whilst taking the GCSE course last year, I found this book really useful for learning verb endings and verb uses. Each verb is set out clearly and with some hard grafting and memorizing, you too will understand how the tenses are formed and use the formulae for each new verb that you come across in your language learning.

For the complete beginner or advanced learner using this book for revision, the first section of the book ‘What are verbs and how do they work’ clearly explains the formation and tenses of verbs together with their grammatical uses. It is a really useful book to use alongside the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar book.

The only disadvantage to this collection of books is that you do need a lot of self-discipline to use them and be determined to complete the units (especially those in the Grammar book). Depending on how self-motivated you are you may find it difficult to continue using these books on a regular basis. Unfortunately, grammar and verb conjugations of any language can be the crux for fluent language learning and therefore some attention does need to be made on these language points.

Grammar and verb conjugations can be the crux for fluent language learning.

I would also say that the language learner would have to have learnt some Italian in order to have a go at learning the verb conjugations in the Teach Yourself Italian Verbs book as many of the verbs are not looked at even at GCSE level. This could seem daunting for complete beginners. However, the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar book states that ‘you need no knowledge of grammar terminology to use it’ – an advantageous point as grammar can be a very complex and boring subject at any level and even for language enthusiasts!

As an independent learner myself, self-motivation is the key to using these books. It may be best to use these books in conjunction with your own tapes and a course book (if you are taking classes) in order to hear the correct pronunciation and get an all round Italian language learning experience. Grammar and verbs and the way they are used are essential to learning any language but cannot be used alone. The great thing about these particular Teach Yourself Italian books is that they give you the freedom to choose whatever grammar point or verb you want to learn allowing you greater flexibility in your learning.

So give these Teach Yourself language books a try…..and see how motivated and enthusiastic you really are!!!

to buy Teach Yourself Italian Verbs or Italian Grammar [UK]>>
to buy Teach Yourself Italian Verbs or Italian Grammar [USA]>>
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TEACH YOURSELF INSTANT GERMAN, GREEK & ITALIAN REVIEWS

teach-yourself-italian-instantAn independent language course review by Lisa Zealey

The Teach Yourself ‘INSTANT’ language series from Hodder Arnold is a must if you’re off to another country for your holidays or work and have little time to study. The INSTANTS are a way to learn the ‘get-by’ essentials without being bogged down with heavy grammar and confusion.

I have studied Greek, Italian and German using this series and have found the results amazing.

I have studied Greek, Italian and German using this series and have found the results amazing.
   

The Teach Yourself Instants are available in eight popular languages (and four for learners of English from French, German, Italian and Spanish), but each one is made up of the same structure and designed to be completed in only 6 weeks with 35 minutes of study per day. The book is divided into six sections with an accompanying cassette. This way you can mimic the speakers to get the perfect pronunciation!

At the beginning of each chapter the week is divided into individual days with instructions telling you which exercises to do each day. You have a set day-by-day study programme to follow of just 35 minutes each day which really gets you into the discipline of learning your new language every day. You can cross out the exercises you have done and test your progress at the end of each week, so you really feel that you’re getting somewhere. The great thing about these is that they are flexible and you manage your own time – if you miss a day, do an hour the next day!

You have a set day-by-day study programme to follow of just 35 minutes each day which really gets you into the discipline of learning every day.
   

On the first day of each section there is a short dialogue between Tom and Kate who are travelling in the destination country. You can listen to it and read along with the English equivalent on the opposite page which is translated ‘literally’ into French-speak or German-speak, so it is easy to become familiar with the different word order. Then you have a list of all the new words of the week for you to read through and then test yourself on what you’ve learnt. There is one page per section called ‘GOOD NEWS GRAMMAR’ to cover the basic points of the week and a passage to learn by heart. Even though this is tricky it is really worth doing because it is great for your fluency.

Each week you are given questions to answer in your chosen language to give you added practice of writing. These packs contain only the most useful words and phrases and are an incredibly useful tool for any lover of travel. They have the added bonus of FLASH CARDS with the English on one side and your chosen language on the other so you can really see how much you know. I found these really helpful, especially if you are learning with a friend and you can test each other.

The first pack I tried was INSTANT GREEK before going on a beach holiday to Zante with a friend. When I managed to tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go, where to stop and ask how much it cost, I felt a real sense of achievement because it is nothing like the languages I am used to leaning. It is worth noting though that if you are learning a language like Greek or Japanese which has a totally different alphabet the real written form is not used. Instead the foreign words are written with English script so that you can just focus on the pronunciation. I didn’t find this a problem with Greek because all I wanted to do was get by in the country but a little knowledge of the script would have been useful to recognise the written form. However, just a basic knowledge of the language is a great way to start conversation with the locals!

When I managed to tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go, where to stop and to ask how much it cost, I felt a real sense of achievement.
   

Secondly, after finding the Greek so helpful I learnt INSTANT ITALIAN for a tourist holiday in Rome. I found my new found Italian extremely useful when I was lost with a friend late on the evening of our arrival, trying to find our hotel! It was also great for ordering meals and getting information about trains etc. The INSTANTS just make it simple.

I completed INSTANT GERMAN at the end of 2001 for a New Year’s party in Germany. I was with some friends who spoke a little English but a basic knowledge of German was essential to introduce myself, communicate with them and wish everyone a ‘Frohes Neues Jahr’ (Happy New Year).

One minor disadvantage that I found was the fact that each pack contains the same set of six chapters so, if you have completed one INSTANT course and then go on to try another, you are faced with the exact same scenarios. This has the problem of being a bit repetitive but at the same time I can easily see how the stories are carefully structured to contain all the useful vocabulary which is great to know in any language.

So go on, before you go on your next travels get the INSTANT language advantage and give it a go!

to buy Teach Yourself Instants [UK]>>
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BBC SUENOS WORLD SPANISH 2 REVIEW

bbc-intermediate-suenos-world-spanish-2An independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks

Suenos World Spanish 2 is the follow on Spanish language course from Suenos World Spanish 1. It is £39.99 which again is a reasonable price as you are getting a course book as well as 4 CDs with authentic Spanish conversations and not staged ones.

The course book is divided into 10 units and each of these units has four main sections: asi se habla 1 (where new language is given and presented), asi se habla 2 (building on the language you already know), un paso mas (listening to spoken Spanish and understanding written Spanish) and temas (cultural aspects of Spain and Latin America). This is one aspect that makes the BBC Suenos course stands out as it doesn’t just talk about Spain, but other Spanish speaking countries too which many other courses tend to leave out.

Following the 10 units there is a reference section which includes self tests, reference grammar, answer keys, transcripts of what you have listened to on the CD and a Spanish to English glossary – in other words you get a lot of extras for your money.

The ‘presenter’ who take you through the course are Julio and Carmella (even their names sound genuinely Spanish) and they both have convincing Spanish accents.The BBC have adapted the tasks so that you can continue to learn Spanish without the book, meaning you could take it on the bus with you to do or sit down and have a go during your lunch hour without necessarily dragging the book along with you.

The dialogues on the CDs are in Spanish and then afterwards you have the English repeated. After the English the Spanish is repeated and then you have to repeat and practice saying it. After this second repetition, instead of repeating the exact same thing they change the dialogue to the other way round. For example: why would people in England want to learn Spanish has turned to why would Spanish people learn English? They then pose questions to which you have to give the answers. I think this is a great way of learning without actually realising how much you have learnt. The repetition really makes the new words and phrases stick in your head and you remember a lot more than you think you do.

This CD course is great as it doesn’t use only Castillian … Spanish … , but also Mexican Spanish … I think this is a good way of hearing the different accents side by side.
This CD course is great as it doesn’t use only Castillian or Continental Spanish (as in Spain), but also Mexican Spanish. The units incorporate Spanish speakers from different Spanish speaking countries, for example Jorge from Mexico visits Laura in Madrid, I think this is a good way of hearing the different accents side by side. You can tell the difference in the accent and I found that this was helpful as after I had learnt Spanish, I went to Mexico as part of my gap year, and at the time I found it harder to understand what they were saying as I had never heard the Mexican accent before. It is a little like hearing and learning English from courses using only the Queen’s English and then coming to England and hearing a Bristolian or a Liverpudlian speak.

The units in the book work alongside the CDs. There are exercises where you have to listen to the dialogues and then answer the questions. I found this really useful as you had to listen and answer the questions rather than just listen and not really take anything in. Sometimes the answers to the questions were said a little fast, and before I got a chance to answer myself, but I just stopped the CD and skipped back to the start. I think the speed of the dialogues were right as they were real Spanish people speaking. In real life, this is what you would hear if you asked someone in the street or were having a telephone conversation with someone. In other words this Spanish language course prepares you for real life situations rather than just making you learn words and grammar constructions.

The CDs and the associated exercises obviously get harder as you go along, CD1 acted more of a revision of the previous course and you weren’t introduced to a huge amount of new words or grammar. However, as you get further along with the course, the dialogues do get longer and while there are still English repetitions, there are not as many and only when the new vocabulary is learnt.

This intermediate level Spanish language course was everything that I expected from BBC languages and I am glad they didn’t let me down with this course. Although it is a comprehensive course, I enjoyed learning and it didn’t feel like a chore.

Buena suerte!

to buy BBC Suenos World Spanish 2 [UK]>>
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BBC SUENOS WORLD SPANISH 1 REVIEW

bbc-beginner-suenos-world-spanish-1An 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’.

There are exercises … which … helped me to really do the course, as with the question and answer sections you learn the language and don’t get bored.

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.

BBC Suenos World Spanish doesn’t give you just the basics, it gives you much much more and is definitely worth a go.

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.

to buy BBC Buongiorno Italia [UK]>>
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BBC QUICKSTART SPANISH REVIEW

bbc-quickstart-spanishAn independent language review by Sarah Maddocks

BBC Quickstart Spanish is a 140-minute audio language course on 2 CDs, designed to be an all listening, little reading, no writing kind of course. It’s aimed at people who want to learn the basic ‘holiday’ vocabulary and who don’t want to know the ins and outs of the grammar. The Spanish CD follows three friends, Susana, Miguel & Alex for 24 hours around Madrid. The 24-hour ‘language adventure’ is split into sections, each one dealing with a different situation that you are likely to come across when travelling.

When I first plugged my headphones in I couldn’t wait to get started as I hadn’t studied Spanish for a very long time and wanted a refresher course before booking a holiday. As soon as I pressed play I decided that maybe I should have waited! The CD greeted me with the typical language learning music, supposedly from the country whose language you are learning (cue the flamenco guitar playing!!), and the corny joke of “Susana & Miguel, two friends, purely platonic” (cue fake laughter). It really made me think that this was going to be a tacky learning course which I wouldn’t be able to listen to for one minute – let alone 140 of them! But I’m pleased that I didn’t press stop and give up. I managed to learn to block the music and the bad jokes out of my head long enough to learn some new Spanish and refresh the old Spanish that I already had.

The CDs each have seven episodes with two conversations on each. The episodes are split into four separate sections, “time to listen” (listening to the conversations), “time to reflect” (explaining the conversation) “time to kickstart” (practicing pronunciation & language) and “time to recap” (seeing what you have learnt). These sections are overall well-structured and useful when learning the language. The only thing that does get irritating is the repetition of “right, now it’s time to kickstart your Spanish” (by the way it’s a play on ‘quickstart’. Pure genius!).

The subjects of the sections are typical day-to-day topics which will be needed when in the country, i.e. CD1 covers everything from “hola (hello)” to buying postcards & stamps, while CD2 covers going out and dealing with any problems you might come across.

… they don’t overload you with the grammar, but they give you enough to get by if people ask you something that isn’t included on the course.

In the “time to reflect” section, there are often very basic grammar tips. This is ace as they don’t overload you with the grammar, but they give you just enough to get by and adapt what is on the CD if people ask you something that isn’t included on the course. By the end of episode two, you already know two of the pronouns and verb endings for one of the most commonly used verbs. But don’t get too excited, as you still have the corniness of language learning CDs shining thorough in this section (“now do you think you’ve got a few greetings under your belt” is just a little taster of what you have to come)! Obviously the grammar isn’t a huge part of the course, as this is primarily an audio course. It would defeat the object if you had to write down all the grammar. I think this is a fab way of doing grammar, as I always used to get unbelievably bored doing verb drills. This way you learn the most common verbs without having to do the boring bit.

The course is accompanied by a small phrasebook and a transcript of all the conversations. This is very helpful when doing the course as you can also learn to recognise the Spanish words written down, rather than just recognising them from speaking. Some phrases are a little obscure if you’re only spending 24 hours in Spain. For example the BBC have included “te quiero” meaning I love you – I’m not 100% sure if this is the BBC implying that you will find love if you know Spanish and are on holiday!

As far as the speaking on the CD is concerned, the Spanish is not too fast and not too slow. There is a slight change in the speed of the Spanish after Episode 1, but the narrators do not jump straight into reeling off Spanish so fast that the only words that you get are the first and last ones. On the contrary, the speed is slow enough to hear the intonation and the way the individual letters are spoken by native speakers. Each episode also gives you the chance to repeat what has been said straight after the native speaker. This is good, but I couldn’t help thinking that maybe I was pronouncing it wrong (but to me it sounds exactly like the CD!). I suppose the only way I could try this out was to go to Spain. So I’ll let you know how it goes and if people understand my Bristolian turned Spanish accent!

Overall I think this course is an effective and fast way of learning basic touristy Spanish. It also gives a starter block to go on into more in depth Spanish (bear in mind this may be more grammar!!). The course is available in other languages such as French, German and Italian and I will definitely consider the Italian CDs. I’m not sure how well a Bristolian accent would sound trying to be Italian, but I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

to buy BBC Quickstart Spanish [UK]>>
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BBC HINDI URDU BOL CHAAL REVIEW

bbc-beginner-hindi-urdu-bol-chaalAn independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks

The BBC’s Hindi Urdu Bol Chaal is a beginner’s course in spoken Hindi and Urdu.
The book provides material for approximately 100 hours of study and covers topics including simple greetings, family, jobs, health and education. The book is sold separately but can be accompanied by a set of two cassettes which contain conversations, listening exercises, pronunciation guides and listen and speak practices.

I must admit I was slightly apprehensive about learning Hindi and Urdu, because up until now I have only ever learnt the romance languages such as French and Spanish, whose grammar and vocabulary are kind of similar. To attempt to learn Hindi and Urdu meant that I had to learn a whole new system of language (I suppose that comes with learning a new language and culture though, it’s all about broadening horizons!)
The book has 10 units, each with different sections, including dialogues and notes check up (just to check that you’ve understood the dialogue), keywords (pretty self explanatory I think!), sound systems (pronunciation hints), how the language works (grammar), exercises (a chance to practice what you have learnt), background (history of Hindi and Urdu – I know sounds tedious but is actually very interesting), and review sections. The exercise section is absolutely ace, you can do crosswords using the new vocabulary you have learnt and also fill in speech bubbles (it felt like I was back in school again which without sounding too much like a geek was actually fun).

The exercise section is absolutely ace – you can do crosswords using the new vocabulary you have learnt and also fill in speech bubbles.

When I first played the tapes, I felt like the course was too hard and I would never be able to pronounce the words. But I just rewound again, told myself I could do it and carried on. It did take about three plays of the same conversation before I felt I could say the words correctly. At the end of the day the course is designed to be used however you want it to be used and as long as you are learning, it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the tape.

The tapes are used with the book; you know when to play the tape as there are small tape signs by the text. They are designed to be played with the book, and you will not get any value if you listen to the tapes without the book. You simply learn the words you have looked at in the section and hear them being pronounced. There is a man on the tape who sounds like an English-speaker but has a different accent on some words (perhaps he is bilingual!). Unlike most language tapes where you have to stop the tape, this program allows you to answer in the pauses provided and surprisingly these are long enough to answer (even with added thinking time!)

There are exercises where you have to listen and answer questions. In unit 1, they were short conversations; you have to answer the questions: “Are the greetings Hindu Sikh or Muslim? What are the names of the two people? How are they?” These may look like simple enough questions but they really help you to learn, especially when it is a language completely unknown to you. I liked the fact this tape asked you questions and you had “fun things” to do – it made learning this language a lot easier to do for me. I think even if you had some prior knowledge of the language through family and community ties, you’d still find the course useful and fun.

As mentioned above the tape is meant to be more of listening practise than actually learning new language from the tape. It is the book which provides most of the information to learning this language and the tape is kind of a back up so you can get used to hearing the language being spoken. The idea is to listen to the dialogue to get yourself familiar with the sounds of the dialogue and then to read through the book and look at key words. Then you are meant to return to the tape to listen to it again so this time you can understand what you are listening to. To me this was slightly exhausting, as I prefer to have language courses where you can listen to the tape as the main part of the course and then use the book as a back up. But then again, this was all new to me because I haven’t done a course like this before.

The tape is aimed at beginners, so the level does not change throughout. A good thing I found with this approach was that instead of recapping what you had already learnt with faster dialogues, you actually ended up learning more content. I found this better as I prefer to have more knowledge of lots of subjects rather than have knowledge of one subject but be able to speed through it so fast hardly anyone would be able to understand me anyway.

I even managed to surprise one of my friends by asking her how she was and what jobs she had done.

I really enjoyed doing this course – it really was something new for me. I live in Birmingham in the UK where there is a big Hindi-speaking population, so found this very handy. I even managed to surprise one of my friends by asking her how she was and what jobs she had done. It was only when she replied with a very long answer that I realised maybe I should go and buy an intermediate course so I can have a proper conversation with her in Hindi!

to buy BBC Hindi Urdu Bol Chaal [UK]>>
to buy BBC Hindi Urdu Bol Chaal [USA]>>
to find out more about BBC language courses>>

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BBC GET INTO SPANISH REVIEW

bbc-spanish-get-intoAn 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.

to buy BBC Get Into Spanish [UK]>>
to buy BBC Get Into Spanish [USA]>>
to find out more about BBC language courses>>

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