Learning Spanish - Instant Recall Spanish

5th February 2010


This is the Instant Spanish recall course on MP3. As I had a good experience with the vocab-only version of this course, I thought I'd order this one, which includes vocabulary and grammar.

This is provided as a set of MP3s on a CD - which was a bit inconvenient as I discovered that my car CD player doesn't work with MP3s, but that's my silly fault for not checking that beforehand. I transferred the MP3s to my iPod then used my iPod / radio Belkin broadcast thingie to play the files in my car - I could have simply played it on the iPod but I like listening to it externally.

(And yes, that's probably far more information than you ever needed to know about my travails with technology.)

There's "American" and "European" versions of the material available, which is a nice touch.

The Course

This course provides alternate vocabulary and grammar sessions. The vocabulary is done by the standard mnemonic association as in the previous course; for example, the Spanish for Rice is "arros", so the association is to imagine arrows shooting into a bowl of rice.

The grammar is done as a construction of sentences based on the vocab provided. The sentences don't make much sense (for example, "The old fly wants the blue cupboard"), but they're intended to demonstrate the principles of how to construct sentences.

The Good bits

  • It works. I've retained (after admittedly only 2 weeks) almost all the grammar I learnt in the "vocab-only" version of this, and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be able to retain the new stuff from this course.
  • It's hard work. I found the earlier vocab-only course plain sailing. This one, I had to regularly stop the recording and try to construct sentences as I went along. I definitely will need to re-visit the sentence construction sections of this course.
  • The narrator guy seems enthusiastic.

The Bad bits

  • The sentences constructed don't make sense. OK, I know they're not designed to make sense, but it feels like they're nonsensical on purpose. It might have been better to have more "normal" sentences, which would have felt more like I was learning something which I could use in conversation. It's like learning deliberately-non-flowing sequences of steps in Tango...
  • Non-native English speaker. Whilst the narrator guy is friendly, he's also a native Spanish speaker - on rare occasions he mispronounces words slightly (for example "Is" is pronounced "Es", which doesn't help much when trying to say "Is is pronounced 'es'"...). Similarly, the prononciation of "In" is more like "En", which doesn't help when describing "In".. :) I prefer to listen to a native English speaker, even if that means the Spanish is less than 100% authentic. Let's face it, I'm not aiming to impersonate a Spaniard's command of the language; as long as I'm understood I'll be happy. Again using a Tango analogy, I'm not looking for an exotic accent, I'm looking for total clarity of communications.
  • No navigation. It'd be nice to have more of an audio "navigation" system, announcing the track and unit number, and the content, at the start of each section. That helps orientation, especially during revision. The Harper Collins course does this, and I find it very useful.

The ugly bits

It's becoming more difficult to evaluate these courses independently - I'm encountering some overlap already, as I've encountered some of the content in other courses. Fortunately my level of ignorance is still more than high enough to "pretend" I'm a complete beginner, and I imagine this will still be the case for quite some time yet.

I lost a bit of puff about a quarter of the way through this course, but I persevered, and it's definitely stretching me to think. (A side observation - I've noticed that I retain more on the drive back home, than I do on the way to work. Obviously my brain doesn't really get in gear in the mornings, which may be bad news for my fellow drivers...)

If you stick at it, however, like learning all things, it slowly starts to come together (I sometimes think learning any topic is 90% stubbornness). I personally found that the sentence construction began to be a little easier about half-way through - I didn't have to stop the recording all the time, I could occasionally translate on-the-fly.

The vocabulary extends on the vocab set I learnt with the earlier vocab-only version of this course, and considering that this method does actually focus on helping you remember the words, this works well.

One minor niggle: I'd have liked a phrasebook, as provided with the vocab-only course. There's a printable version on the CD-ROM provided, but it's nicer to have it printed out for you.

That aside, I liked it. It worked for me.

~ David Bailey, 5th February 2010

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