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What Is It?
Earworms is not an online language learning tool, but a self-teaching method that consists of two CDs; volume 1 and volume 2, for several languages. MTB stands for Musical Brain Trainer and is based on the principle that song and verse are very powerful memory aids. Music as it enters the aural cortex, and combined with words, will remain in your brain and nearly automatically enable the pupil to learn a language just by listening to catchy tunes. However, repetition is essential.
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What Earworms Promises
I have already tested Earworms volume 1 for German and find it helpful to compare the Spanish learning course with the previous one.
I quote from the accompanying booklet:
"Simply by listening to these specially composed melodies with their rhythmic repetitions of Spanish and English a few times, the sound patterns are indelibly burned into your auditory cortex. You will have learned the Spanish phrases and have the correct accent ringing in your ears."
Let's find out if that promise has been kept.
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Earworms Rapid Spanish volume 1 consists of a booklet with the printed words and phrases used in the different sections and a CD. I have used the CD on my computer without a problem and the CD can also be inserted and listened to with portable devices, although I have not tried that out myself.
The course's subtitle is: 200+ essential words and phrases. Having listened to the complete volume 1, I can only emphasize that the vocabulary offered is very basic indeed. What Spanish you learn here serves for a holiday, but not for any in depth knowledge of the language, let alone even the basics of any grammar. For anyone interested in really learning Spanish, this course serves as an appetizer.
The CD is divided into 10 sections, which are as follows:
- I would like
- To order
- Have you got...?
- To the airport
- Numbers, days and time
- Is there...?
- Where & what time?
- Problems, problems
- Do you speak English?
The pattern follows the German learning course.
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An essential part of this learning method is, of course, the music. The tunes chosen for this CD remain very much in the background and are much less catchy than they were for the German course. It's basically some endlessly repeated guitar music which sometimes can even distract from the spoken words. I also didn't like very much a sort of fading out echo, which means that music and words were repeated over and over again, but created an echo effect which was unpleasant. Admittedly, it's a question of taste, but the music part of this volume is not the best.
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Let's now look at some of the sections and see if some basic Spanish can be learned.
- I would like.
This is the first section and the pupil gets his first impression of how the concept works. There are male and female speakers, the woman being the teacher and the man the pupil. They alternate efficiently, repeating phrases and giving questions and answers. In some instances, the pronunciation is not clear enough. For example: una botella de vino ( a bottle of vine) sounded, repeatedly, like una botella divino (which means: a heavenly bottle) and a learner wouldn't have known without following the booklet.
- To order
The second section follows the same pattern. Here it's vocabulary which I didn't find entirely correct. The word for 'olives' in Castellano, which is classical Spanish, is aceitunas, whereas here the word olivas is used. Spanish is a language which differs widely from country to country where it is spoken, but the course should adhere to Castellano.
- Section 4 is plain misleading. It's titled "To the airport", but what it deals with is shopping for shoes! I would have expected words for time table, departure times, departure gates, ticket counter, aisle seat, even for airplane, but none of this is mentioned. There is only one phrase relating to airport and that's telling a taxi driver to get there.
- Section 5, which deals with numbers, days and the time, introduces another language learning device, which is 'memory hooks'. They are used here to remember the numbers and I found them very far fetched. For example: the pupil suggests to memorize "she says" for the Spanish word for 'six' which is 'seis'. Or 'see it' for the Spanish word for 'seven' which is 'siete'. There is more of the same and, in my opinion, it is not helpful.
- Section 6, titled "is there..." again contains a vocabulary inaccuracy. 'Nearby' or 'near' is translated as 'por aqui', which means 'here, on this spot'. The correct word for 'nearby' is 'cerca', which should at least have been mentioned.
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Length of Sections and Time Spent
The sections last an average of 7 minutes each. The Earworms booklet suggests the following: 'Listen to the whole album the first day to get a feel for the sounds of the language. Then listen regularly several times over a period of one or two weeks and then make individual refresher courses.' How fast one learns a language depends on the individual ability and the time one can spend, but I guess Earworms' suggestions are feasible.
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I liked the German course better, because the music was definitely more ear catching and therefore more enticing for repetition. In that sense, the above-mentioned promise has not been fulfilled. However, the words and phrases are repeated often and clearly and will stick. For a quick fix of very basic language, the course is fine, but as it is not an online method, just a CD. There are cheaper courses on the market that serve the same purpose.