Several of you know me, and for those of you that don’t, I’ve been a Spanish teacher for more than 12 years. Based on the experience that I’ve gained from my students during all this time, and with the help of other professional friends, I have created and I continue creating articles, CDs, books and ebooks to help people learn Spanish.
I decided to write this article after several people, knowing I was Spanish teacher, asked me which software was best for learning the language. And sometimes I’ve answered, “Who wrote or created it?” (And the name of the company doesn’t count, because it doesn’t tell me anything. It’s like if someone asked me if the Saturday Spanish class at UCLA was any good, and I asked who teaches it, and they answered, UCLA.)
I know; there are many “online companies” that don’t mention the creators of their software. Why? Because most of them are contracted teachers and tutors who were only hired once to create the software. The executives or owners of these companies, who only speak one language, are not involved on the creation of the software. And because they don’t speak any other language, they cannot review, revise or analyze the results of using their software.
However, they affirm that their program is excellent. So when they sell such “excellent programs,” shouldn’t they know at least three languages? But no, the managers and executives of these companies don’t speak the other languages that they claim are so easy to learn. And moreover, many of them have never tried their own programs. So how can these executives ensure that their products use the best learning methods? Not to mention, do you believe that a single method can apply to learning different languages? Is it possible that the way to learn Spanish is the same as the way to learn Mandarin?
Nevertheless, I think that any software can help you learn the basics, whichever method is used: matching pictures with words, useful phrases, videos, audio tapes, etc….but I don’t know that they can help you as much when it comes to starting a conversation with phrases that are a little more complex.
I’ll tell you an anecdote: This year, we attended the LA Times book fair at USC, and a girl came to our booth and told us that she had come over out of curiosity, and that she had been using a very well-known software (I think you know which one I’m referring to) to learn Spanish. I asked her, “How’s it going?” And she answered in Spanish, “Muy bien. I’ve just finished level 1 and I am about to start the level 2.” I said, “Great! Good for you!” Then, excited, I told her, “I can speak to you in Spanish!” And I said to her, very slowly, “De donde eres?” (“Where are you from?”) And suddenly I realized how much software can teach you. Her silence was the first feedback I’d had of this prestigious program. And of course, I helped her and said again, much slower, “De—donde—eres? Eres? From the verb ser, to be: yo soy, tu eres…”
And so, here’s what I can suggest to people:
If you are going to buy a Spanish Learning software, search for a software that have many reviews from other people. And search for a company that can support you and help you in your study of this new language, and where you can practice what you’ve learned.
Remember that many companies that sell language learning programs focus on marketing, and unfortunately forget to check if the software is really working or not.
Good luck in your search of software—unfortunately, we haven’t created software. We are bigger believers in books with audio and Spanish classes.
I hope that I have helped.