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Overview of the Program
Language teachers and learners will surely not be able to stop raving about Tell Me More Spanish. It delivers on all its claims, in every category. For people who are a bit nervous about downloading programs: relax. For those who are skeptical about whether using a computer is an effective way to begin learning a foreign language: this program will change and blow your mind. Auralog's Tell Me More Spanish lets learners either roam free or be guided through lessons and activities as the program assesses their progress.
Its 15 lessons as well as cultural, grammar, vocabulary, and written workshops have 37 different learning activities, totalling 900 hours' running time of material. The environments are amazingly rich and well assembled. There are two beginner DVDs, one for Peninsular (Spain) Spanish and another for Latin American Spanish; someone was really thinking.
The Auralog technical designers and language experts who developed this program deserve high praise for creating this computer-assisted language curriculum. It is visually engaging, intellectually stimulating, and ultimately effective. This is an easy program to navigate through, whether you select the free-to-roam or guided mode of instruction. The voice recognition is sensitive enough to capture subtleties and, what ultimately judges such a feature's worth, it renders a waveform graph that is easy to read and assess.
The voice recognition also scores your pronunciation for each attempt in an easy-to-read bar graph. It's a hands-off feature--no distracting clicking is necessary in order to record your voice. This feature, along with the 3D animation of a translucent head that pronounces the various sounds of the language (with a real human voice) will be encouraging to those who have despaired of ever learning to better pronounce Spanish.
The silent, online tutorials are brief and unobtrusive. They show users exactly where to click and in what order, for each activity, thus eliminating the frustration or anxiety many people experience when confronting a new program. Each grammar explanation is also concise and the use of "Ud." and "Uds." (formal "you," singular and plural, respectively) is noted each time a verb is shown in conjugated form. Tell Me More Spanish has no downside, except that it is hard to stop using!
Auralog also produced a previous iteration of this instructional software (now licensed by Topics Entertainment), and although this new product looks like the old one at the screen level, Auralog has added a vast amount of material and would seem to have improved the navigation as well. Now, users may also select the interface language of their choice when setting up the program: German, French, English, Spanish, Italian, or Netherlands. Clearly, though, most of the improvements were done "under the hood" --this was not just a paint job.
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Installation & Setup
Tell Me More Spanish was very easy to install. The headset with microphone, included along with the DVDs and audio CD, is comfortable, lightweight, and of high quality. How thoughtful of Aurolog to include what other programs merely recommend!
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The range and quality of tools in the voice recognition feature is stunning. The volume and organization of the other material is staggering--900 hours of running time. The depth of the instruction is sufficient to give every hope to a diligent learner that he or she can acheive an ACTFL proficiency level of intermediate to advanced by using this system, in conjunction with some real-time socializing in the language. The cultural workshop covers all regions of the Spanish-speaking world. The other traditional areas covered in language classrooms--listening, speaking, reading, and writing--are addressed in engaging ways throughout the 15 lessons and workshops (with 37 different types of activities). Progress is assessed. The two modes of instruction, free-to-roam and guided, give learners latitude and allow a beginner to test the waters a bit before being guided though what will be a long process. Yes, let's not be so enthusiastic about the program that we forget that even though the program downloads smoothly, it still will not download into the purchaser's brain.
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Tooltips appear quickly when you hover over the navigation buttons, and there aren't many on any given screen, so you won't be confused or overwhelmed by cryptic options, as often happens with other programs. The tutorials are superb (more on that below).
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The short tutorials that silently tell users when and where to click provide only what you need to know, when you need to know it--no more, no less. This program is seamless, by which I mean that the technology is so good, so unintrusive, it is almost invisible, as truly great technology always is. Users will almost be able to ignore the computer and concentrate on the object of their study. This represents a quantum leap in computer-assisted language instruction and learning.
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Security & Privacy
Tell Me More Spanish allows for multiple users. It, of course, keeps everyone's progress and assessment logs separate, a feature that certainly would have application in an institutional setting where students' records must be kept private--and where this Aurolog product would be the wisest institutional purchase.
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Help & Support
Aurolog does have a responsive help line. I called only to inquire about why there are two disks labeled "1. Principiantes Sin Nociones." My first, and too hasty, impression was that perhaps they had mistakenly packed a duplicate. It turned out that one of them is further labeled as Latin American Spanish. Their help person immediately knew what I had failed to read and cleared it up in seconds. This program is so good that users will not likely need to call tech support or go to their online tech support if they have a computer than meets the configuration requirements (printed on the box).
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The Workshops: Culture, Grammar, Reading, and More
The workshops augment the lessons and the cultural material is beautifully presented. The voice recognition and the pronunciation practice feature are constantly available too. While I did not run all 900 hours of the program, I also was impressed to find not one error of any kind, anywhere. A monumental task, indeed, to edit across so many media, print and digital.
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Maybe create a Spanish-speaking android that can walk around with you, like C3PO of Star Wars fame? Just make him (or her) nicer-looking.
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As we say in Spanish, Me ha dejado con la boca abierta (It's left me with my mouth hanging open)! This is a great program. If you're serious about learning Spanish and determined to do so, buy it right away! Be warned, though: you might have to order out, because you'll be too hooked to cook.