Review of the Best Language Programs for
Spanish, French & Mandarin
Forget Rosetta Stone and the others I tried – I’ll Explain Way
by Stephanie Relfe B.Sc. (Sydney)
I have always, always wanted to learn to speak Spanish, but it wasn’t offered at my school in Australia. So I had to learn French for four years. Not that I ever really “learned” it at school well enough to understand fluent speakers. But now, after trying virtually all the language programs on offer, thanks to Fluenz for French, Spanish and Mandarin, plus Visual Link Programs for Spanish, I am happily learning both Spanish and finally French really well. My young son is learning these with me, plus he is also learning Mandarin (he sounds really good!).
Once I got married and moved to the USA and had a son, I became re-motivated to find a way to learn to speak Spanish. The importance of this became even more urgent because of stories I read of American graduates who couldn’t get any manual jobs – not even in McDonalds, or a laundromat (owned by Chinese) without being able to speak Spanish! In the USA!!! And I’ve read of fire fighting bosses losing their job because of not speaking Spanish! It pays to look into the future and see that being able to speak Spanish will be very useful, especially for your children.
See a 36 second news video: Supervisors of Firefighters in OREGON are fired for not speaking Spanish!!!
About 300 million people speak Spanish. It’s possibly the world’s second most spoken language, after Chinese. With English a close third. As the economies of the world become more and more global, it makes sense to learn another language, as long as it is easy to learn, as well as effective, which I have found that Visual Link and Fluenz is.
I tried a bunch of different programs – Rosetta Stone, Rocket Spanish, Tell me More and Pimsleur. I found them all hopeless for a beginner. Maybe they will be useful later on when I am looking for something more challenging. Here’s some of the reasons why:
Rosetta Stone and Tell Me More think they are teaching you to learn “the way a child learns to speak”. There are a number of problems with this. First of all, children takes YEARS to master a language, even one they are hearing many hours a day. Before they say even one word, they have to listen to the language for a number of years to work out the grammar, how to put different words together in the correct order so they make sense. And a child hears the same word over and over again in many different contexts. In fact, it’s quite a miracle that children get to speak at all! You really need someone to explain why things are the way they are, so that you don’t get confused. Fluenz for Spanish, French and Mandarin, and Visual Link Languages for Spanish, do this.
Tell Me More just throws you into the sentences – leaving you to work out the rules. I can tell you, that learning the rules for Spanish takes quite a bit of doing, because they seem to do a lot of things back to front from the way we do with English. You really need a teacher to explain to you what the rules are, one step at a time, so that you can sort them out. I was frustrated from the beginning with Tell Me More.
I found Rosetta Stone very frustrating also. They give you a bunch of pictures and you have to work out which is the spanish word for them. Trouble was – with some pictures, I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl – and they DIDN’T GIVE THE ENGLISH WORDS for the pictures. You are meant to “figure it out as a child”. But a child has a constant teacher with them. I was throwing up my hands in despair after just a few lessons.
Pimsleur I didn’t like because I have to SEE the words to remember them, and even to help me to work out what I am hearing. Plus, I want to be able to READ Spanish. Maybe there is a more expensive version that gives you visual stuff, but I didn’t get that one.
I thought I would never learn to speak Spanish until I found Visual Link Languages. My son and I love this program. And now that we have found Fluenz French, Spanish and Mandarin, we love learning languages even more. It’s actually enjoyable! So enjoyable that it’s easy to find the time to do it several times a week, which is what you need to do if you want to learn to speak any language. I learned more Spanish within a few dozen hours than I think I may have learned in four years of French at school!
Your teacher for Visual Link Languages is Dave Clark. He taught university level spanish. And it was from seeing the huge problems that people had in learning spanish that he developed his fantastic system. A major block to learning is “Too much, too fast”. Dave breaks everything down into concepts that anyone can understand. And he does it with:
Big, clear words.
Computer games – lots of different ones.
Fluenz does the same.
Step by step lessons on meanings, pronunciation, weird rules – you name it – both programs makes it easy to understand! And therefore, easy to remember!
Now that I have learned spanish verbs from the Visual Link programs, and when to use them, I can’t imagine how on earth I would ever have learned them from Rosetta Stone.
Rocket Spanish is nice to listen to. But it is so very, very limited. They give you a tiny, tiny bit. Without explaining anything about how to conjugate verbs – the most crucial part of learning spanish – you are not going to remember enough.
What is conjugating verbs? Well, we have to learn a bit in english. We say:
“I sit, you sit, he SITS”, we sit, they sit.”
The verb changes with the pronoun “he”. It’s quite a bit more complicated in Spanish. Don’t let that stop you from starting. Dave Clark has found a fantastic way to teach you, one step at a time, with very thorough explanations and exercises that build on what you learned earlier. My 6 year old son was able to conjugate Spanish verbs at university level with Dave’s course!
I actually find learning Spanish with Visual Link programs to be fun! Forget wasting time doing crosswords puzzles, surfing the net or watching TV. Just do a few of his fun programs every day. And every day your brain will keep using new pathways through the braincells so that you get better and better.
A strange thing about learning languages is that it is easier to learn a third language than a second one. You would think that your brain gets “full” of words. In fact, the brain has infinite capacity. What it needs is to use different pathways for working out how to work with the language. Once the pathways are made, it doesn’t need to do as much work to add some more words – the ‘roads’ are already there.
This is why the trick with learning Spanish is to find a program that is not frustrating – that explains everything as you go. There will be a few times when you run into something that may seem a bit tricky. But give Dave a chance – listen to the lesson, do the fun exercises, don’t worry about mistakes, get a good night’s sleep, and next time you look at the lesson, you will be amazed at how easy it now seems to be. Because you brain has gained the ability to do it. And you then never have that particular problem again.
Learn Spanish Learn Spanish Today. Free Lessons! Learn Spanish
To get fluent in Speaking Spanish you will need:
1) The basic program. One reason why this program is SO DIFFERENT from other programs is because you will be speaking WHOLE SENTENCES right from the beginning. Because you are learning whole sentences, rather than a bunch of words that are not related to anything else, the words stay in your memory much better.
You will also start to learn about some of the different rules of the Spanish language, while you increase your vocabulary. You will also have really comprehensive lessons on correct pronunciation.
2. Verbs 2 and 3. Learning verbs is key to learning a language. I would get the verbs 2 package right away, and start learning it about 1/2 way or 3/4 way through the basic program. This has fantastic lessons, and also a ton of different games to cement what you learned in. Once I started learning about Spanish verbs, I realized that I would never,ever master speaking Spanish with Rocket Spanish, because it was just too limited.
3. Once you have got a considerable way through Verbs II, or maybe even earlier, it’s time to enroll in the Personal Proficiency Program (PPT). This program is even more different from other programs. Dave found that he knew a lot of people who could speak and read Spanish VERY well, but who couldn’t understand native speakers. Learning to HEAR the words uses a different part of your brain from learning to SPEAK spanish. He found that most programs used staged conversations, where people spoke too slowly and too properly – not like in real life.
Do you say, “I am going to go to the store now”.
Or do you say “I’mgunnagot’thestorenow”?
The PPT is a lot of fun, and is inexpensive. We get 8 UNSCRIPTED, REAL conversations every month to listen to, of different levels of complexity. You can then translate them, slow them down and replay them, phrase by phrase if you want to.
When I listened to the first conversation, I thought that maybe I would never learn to understand what they were saying. But now it is amazing how my son and I can understand so much of what is being said. It would take months and months of living in a country to get as good at speaking and understanding Spanish as these programs make you. In fact, I think the PPT teaches better than going to another country.
First of all, it gets rid of the embarrassment until you get to a decent level of fluency. Also, not everyone wants to sit there while you struggle with your dictionary. And when you are traveling, the kind of things you talk about will not cover all the subjects that you want to know to learn a language – it will be questions and answers mostly about food, sightseeing and plane trips, over and over.
Do it now! Get started! Speak Spanish! A few months from now you will be SO GLAD YOU DID! Click below:
After learning the Visual Link Languages, we have been learning Fluenz French, and now I can finally actually speak it and understand whole sentences! My ear is now attuned to it. There was never anywhere near enough spoken French in my French lessons at school.
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