Summary (4 out of 5)
Podcasts are basically online broadcasts. Spanishpod is all about providing their listeners and subscribers with fun lessons and a variety of other language resources. After subscribing, you can download lessons to your computer and your mp3 player. This is nice because you can take lessons and additional learning materials with you just about anywhere. Think of it as Spanish learning, on-demand. The focus here is mostly on immersing yourself in Spanish. There is a lot to be said for listening to another language being spoken by native speakers if you want to learn it.
There are lessons for all skill levels (newbie, beginner, intermediate, or advanced). More fluent students will want to start at the intermediate or advanced level. The other levels are for people who have never really studied Spanish. In each lesson, you will find the materials you need to be comfortable speaking in many different situations. There are a number of extra features for those who have Premium Subscriptions. You choose the level you want to subscribe to (basic, premium, praxis). Each comes with a certain number of features and resources, according to subscription price. You can subscribe for one month, six months, twelve months, or 2 years at a time. There are price breaks for longer subscriptions.
New content is constantly being uploaded. You get access to new lessons on a regular basis, and there is also a decent learning community of other Spanishpod students and instructors to communicate with on the site.
You can visit their home-page to find out more about the online program at Spanishpod.com
The Podcast Lessons (4 out of 5)
Podcast lessons are available for all skill levels (Newbie, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced). You can find topics appropriate to your skill level and listen to as many lessons as you like after you sign up. Unfortunately, there are no tools that let you evaluate your level upon entry to the program. You will have to use your own judgment after listening to a lesson from each level to decide what skill category you fall under.
It is easy to stream the audio or download it to your computer or mp3. The dialogs are always useful since they let you listen to native Spanish speakers in real-life situations. You also get to hear the dialog with English translations after each sentence. Vocabulary and grammar topics from the dialog are introduced afterward. This is cool because it puts what you just heard in the dialog into context. The hosts (professors) who carry out the lessons are energetic and upbeat. Overall, the podcasts are quick and entertaining.
Review Tools (5 out of 5)
After listening to a lesson, there are a number of ways to review the material. You can review the individual audio from the dialogs and all vocabulary. You can also open/print out a PDF transcript which contains the dialogs and key vocabulary. Another helpful Spanish vocabulary feature is the expansion sentence tool. It is possible to hear the vocabulary words from each dialog used in other contexts. This gives you a better grasp of the usage for each word or phrase. As if this is not enough, there are also a bunch of helpful Spanish language exercises for each lesson. You practice what you have learned in each lesson with multiple choice, matching, recall, exercises as well as flash cards. Little by little, you can really build a solid foundation.
Additional Features (5 out of 5)
Additional features include the ability to rate lessons and provide feedback to the instructors designing new curriculum. You also get access to a discussion tab which lets you interact with other Spanishpod users and the teachers who make the lessons. It is easy to ask and answer any question you and the rest of the learning community may have. This is one of the nice features of an online Spanish language program. Community and forums are great ways to bounce questions off of other people going through the same learning process as you.
Pricing (3 out of 5)
Prices are average in terms of Podcast language courses. However, the cost is relatively low compared to what you would pay to hire a private tutor or attend a formal language class. You can try out Spanishpod for free for seven days. Their website has more information about the free trial. If you like the course, then you can subscribe from one month up to two years. Visit Spanishpod.com for more information.
Here is an overview of the subscription levels:
The Basic Subscription
An introductory step to learning Spanish, the Basic Subscription is for the learner who wants to follow the audio conversation and select only those lessons of interest to them. This includes:
* Starts from $5 a month.
* A personal podcast RSS feed to make it easier to get your lessons, be they bookmarked from the archive or from subscriptions to future podcasts
* High quality audio file with the dialog transcript available on your iPod
The Premium Subscription
The Spanishpod Premium Subscription offers full access to all learning materials & study tool making it ideal for full-time study. This subscription includes:
* Starts from $17 a month.
* Full suite of online lessons and review resources
* Vocabulary study tools
* Extensive reference resources
* iPhone access
The Praxis Subscription
For the true linguaphile who is not content with learning just one language. The Praxis Pass gives you access to all Praxis Language products so you can learn Spanish, German, French, and many other languages at the same time with podcast lessons. This subscription includes:
* Starts from $23 a month
* Full premium access to all Praxis Language products
Final Critique (4 out of 5)
Spanishpod is great if you are looking to learn Spanish in an informal setting. It is language learning on your own terms, so you do not get the same structure and motivation that you would in a classroom or with a private tutor. Nobody is going to check up on your progress, and you will need to take the initiative to learn from your mistakes and ask questions (which you can do in online forums that allow you to communicate with teachers and other students).
However, you can still learn a lot on your own if you are diligent in your studies. Listening to a lesson or two each day and doing the corresponding exercises will definitely help you improve your Spanish. A beginner would definitely be ready to take their studies to the next level over the course of their first year studying.
Unlike college courses, which tend to give heavy doses of grammar, the focus at Spanishpod is more on conversation and situational Spanish. This is good for those people who just want to be able to converse and get around in a Spanish-speaking setting. The lack of in-depth grammar analysis may be a bit of a negative point for those who really want master the intricacies of the language. Still, regular use of this program can really prepare you for many basic types of interactions. Ultimately, it is up to you as to how much you learn. The more you put in, the more you will get out of this program and its learning resources.