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Visual Link Spanish, Personal Edition Review by Marie Duval-Igarta

U.S. Institute Of Languages
1893 E Skyline Dr. Suite 105
South Ogden, UT 84403

Would you like to speak conversational Spanish? The U.S. Institute of Languages Visual Link Spanish Program implements a variety of learning techniques to help learn practical conversational Spanish. They guarantee you will "Converse in Spanish in 30 days or less - Guaranteed!" (*See footnote for systems requirements.)

As David S. Clark, the Director of U.S. Institute of Languages says, "Most Spanish courses teach a lot of vocabulary and grammar rules, but when you're done, you can't actually speak Spanish...Visual Link Spanish teaches you to build sentences, ask and answer questions, and truly communicate in Spanish." This Spanish course includes: 2 Interactive Computer CD-ROMs, Pocketsize conversation manual and 10 audio CDs teaching Spanish for: complete pronunciation skills, basic needs, greetings and survival, grammar and comprehending native speakers, communication, locations/directions, becoming acquainted, describing characteristics, restaurant, telephone and travel, and a bonus section. A quality carrying case for all the CDs is included.

I reviewed this program with our 9 and 12 year old and could see the children catching on to the phrases as we delved into the CD-ROM. We began by using the CD-ROMs on our home computer. The Conversation CD-ROM includes 173 interactive computer lessons which include games, vocabulary lessons, verbal quizzes with instant feedback, and computer corrected writing/typing quizzes. Visual Link Spanish has gone to great lengths to indeed use visual learning in this curriculum by creatively including graphics with the Spanish text and proper pronunciation.

The inclusion of the visual graphics with the Spanish word text helps link the word to a picture and improves retention of the learned words. It is essential that the student complete all learning activities successfully before taking the on-line quizzes. As Jason Poole with U.S. Institute of Languages told me, most students learn after the first quiz what they need to pay more attention to in the learning sections of the CD-ROMs. The on-line test is very specific for spelling, Spanish letter punctuation, which varies from English, etc. So be warned and be careful to review the materials carefully before testing on-line to pass the course. A student's test records are kept on-line with U.S. Institute of Languages for review and for transcript use. I was able to easily surf to and take the on-line tests, get instant scores and review my records with this program.

The Pronunciation CD-ROM includes 28 interactive lessons that teach native Spanish pronunciation and contain over 1,200 interactive buttons to simulate native speech. An excellent pronunciation teaching tool is the cut away diagram of the human face, tongue and mouth for clearly and visually explaining the Spanish letters difficult for native English speakers to replicate. This is a valuable asset to the program. Two Spanish speakers with different Spanish dialects lead the audio pronunciation sections and specific dialect explanations are clearly pointed out between the two speakers.

Interactive buttons allow listening to the Spanish pronunciation in either dialect and in a normal or slow speed of pronunciation for more audio clarity when needed. A student may back track at any point for additional review with the CD-ROM or the audio CDs.

Our children had a fun time reviewing the material and especially liked trying to keep the ship in the Spanish learning game, Stay - Afloat Spanish, from sinking while spelling Spanish words or phrases they had just learned. The shark ate quite a few of their ships but they were getting better at their Spanish in the process. I would suggest if you are not able to keep the shark from sinking your ships, do not take the on-line tests until you can! This is a program that can be used by adults or children and is not written specifically for any age group.

The CD-ROMs also include the Spanish words phonetically spelled out in English, which I found our 9-year-old, tuned into using. Explanations regarding Spanish culture's slang and manners of expression are very helpful additions to this course. You will find that throughout the CD-ROM and audio CDs, the English-speaking narrator provides travel/cultural tips for traveling and speaking with Spanish speakers. For example, explaining to us what might happen when asking for directions and how a native speaker might respond if they do not know the specific directions were extremely useful cultural footnotes. Differences in the way numbers and dates are communicated in Spanish were all helpful additions to the course.

Audio disks are a wonderful asset to a family like ours that are frequently in our van. We could take the course on the road with us and practice while doing errands or on our way to activities. The pocket-size conversational manual corresponds to the lessons and can be followed by a non-driving member of the family for further learning. The audio English narrator cues the listener to when it would be a good time, due to research in learning languages, to take a break and review what has been learned and other ways to help 'cement' the learning into one's memory.

U.S. Institute of Languages has put together an easy to use and effective conversational Spanish program taught in style similar to how we all learn our native languages.

-- Product Review by: Marie Duval-Igarta, Account Representative and Family, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

System Requirements: Using Visual Link Spanish requires the following: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT 4.0 or later/XP; 230 MB of available disk space: Pentium 11 Processor or equivalent, 200 MHz or faster. 64 MB of RAM; more memory improves performance (128 MB recommended). CD-ROM drive and speakers. Or for a Macintosh OS 8.6 or higher/MAC OSX 10.1 or higher: 230 MB of available disk space. PowerPC-based Macintosh system, 200 MHZ or faster. 64 MB of RAM; more memory improves performance (128 MB recommended). CD-ROM drive and speakers. (Compatible with Windows or Macintosh programs.)