By Señior Tech from the December 2014 Edition
My wife and I spend our winters in Manzanillo. This poses some problems when we try to speak with the locals because we are mostly English speaking. We are attempting to learn the language so we can better communicate without using hand gestures or adding “o” to the end of every word as we raise our voices. There are many ways to learn how to speak Spanish, one of them is to go to one of the local language schools and attend classes. This is an effective method, but it can be expensive and the class hours may not be convenient. We have tried a private tutor which is more convenient, but also expensive. Another method is to take the courses online at your convenience either on your computer or on a mobile device. This method is the cheapest and easiest way to learn at the speed you choose. I am writing about three different services, which offer different methodologies to help the user learn a new language.
Fluencia has a free trial program (15 lessons), which must be upgraded to a monthly subscription after the trial. Fees are US$6.95 per month on a 2-year plan, US$7.95 on a yearly plan, or US$14.95 on a monthly plan. The program can be used on the browser of your mobile devices or computer.
She has been using this program for over a year and is very happy with the overall ease of use. The program uses a repetitive algorithm to ensure the information sticks in your memory.
As this service requires the Internet, it is unavailable when there is no Internet service.
Fluencia offers 9 levels with 10 units per level. Each unit contains interactive lessons, which cover conversation, grammar, vocabulary, culture, communication, as well as pronunciation. They claim the material is equivalent to more than a year’s worth of college Spanish. Since the first 15 lessons are free, it is worthwhile to try to determine if this fits your learning style. Fluencia only offers Spanish as a language.
The direct link to Fluencia is www.fluencia.com.
My preference for a Latin American Spanish learning program is Rosetta Stone.
Rosetta Stone has been in business for over 20 years and is typically known for their CD-ROM language programs. They offer over 30 different languages and have millions of users worldwide. In order to keep with the times, they now offer their language programs online.
The Latin American Spanish program has five levels and each level has four units. Each unit is made up of between 25 to 30 lessons. So in total there are over 500 lessons available in the whole course. Each lesson takes between 5 to 10 minutes to complete.
The lessons have different types of input. For instance, you may be asked to speak in Spanish into the microphone what you see on screen. Or you may have to type in Spanish what the displayed picture means to you. I have been practicing, and have noticed an improvement in the proper use of vowels and in my pronunciation. Although Rosetta Stone is listed for $500 dollars for either online courses or for the CD set; they continue to offer deep discounts, I was able to get the three-year online course for $220 US.
Rosetta Stone also offers apps for Android and Apple phones and tablets. If you use one of these devices the microphone is built in.
Rosetta Stone also offers live tutoring, either one-onone or in groups of up to four. This is a fee for service. However if you purchase the computer version you get a 3-month trial with 4 sessions/month. The online version offers 1 per month when you hit specific milestones. The direct link to Rosetta Stone is www.rosettastone.com.
We have friends that use a program called DuoLingo. DuoLingo is completely free and can be used on mobile devices or your computer browser.
DuoLingo is able to offer this service for free because they use crowd sourcing to translate documents for a fee. The reviews of this service are mixed; who doesn’t want to get something for free? The detractors claim that the program content does not teach the users to speak the language. DuoLingo has 343 lessons within 63 units.
If you look at the graphic, ‘Immersion’ is listed on the top menu of the DuoLingo page. Their interpretation of ‘immersion’ is to have their users translate written documents for their paying customers. To some this may be a small price to pay for using the service. The direct link to DuoLingo is www.duolingo.com.
All three programs use repetition and quizzes to burn the information into our brains.
One other option is live online tutoring. I found a service called ‘italki’. With this service you can find a teacher to provide one-on-one tutoring. The site has a list of language instructors based on the following qualifications:
1. Professional and Certified – Professional Teachers teach as a job, or possess a degree or certificate in education.
2. Experienced – Trained to teach a foreign language to non-native speakers.
3. Structured Learning – Can teach using structured lesson plans and academic materials.
Students rate the instructors, and the number of sessions and ratings are displayed. The hourly rates vary but range from $9.00 to $30.00. The direct link to Italki is www.italki.com.
If you are interested in communicating in Spanish, any of the above will help you. My goal is to be able to complain in fluent Spanish to Telecable when they screw-up my telephone and Internet access, but that is a story for another time.