Have you tried learning Spanish? What method did you use?

One of these perhaps:

Language classes


Private tuition


CD rom

A study course abroad

The chances are that you haven’t yet tried learning a language by using a DVD.

Well, now’s the time!

First, let’s have a look at how these other ways to learn measure up:

Language classes work best if the teacher is top quality and if the group (the smaller the better) can progress at the same rate. One of the difficulties with beginners’ language lessons is that they go too fast too quickly. Not many teachers are able to find the happy medium which keeps their class progressing

together at a steady rate. CDs have one obvious drawback. You can hear but you cannot see. That means you have to imagine the association between word and image. Tricky.

Private tuition is a top way to learn a language, but it also works out to be expensive over time. The main advantage with learning this way is that what you get is tailor made for you, so your teacher (if yours is a good one!) can combine materials of different types in order optimise your learning. The best proponents of this method are the experienced teachers who have maintained their enthusiasm over the years.

Using books to learn a language will always suit those of us with an academic bent. This is a self-help method of language learning, not best known for producing great language speakers.

CD-ROMs have become vogue in this computer age, but I have yet to see one that has held my interest for long periods. Yes, they are interactive. However, their technological flaws tend to let them down and there’s something impersonal about them which can also limit their impact. That said, as technology improves, so will the lure of learning a language on CD rom.

Anyone who has followed a study course abroad will tell you the experience is a valuable one. After all, what better way to learn a language than in the country where it is spoken? This is one method of learning that works well for just about anyone. Recommended: dive in ‘at the deep end’ by staying with a host family – you’ll be forced to communicate in the target language and will probably learn more this way than on the intensive language course itself. And the drawback? The experience is all too short.

Look in the market of language learning products and you’ll struggle to find a course of any sort that uses the DVD medium.

That may strike you as odd if you consider how simple learning a language on DVD is: you only have to sit and watch to learn. It’s as easy as shelling peas.

No grammar rules. No monotonous verb tables. No note taking. Not even a mouse click. And you learn at your own pace. That’s how children learn languages, and it’s how adults should learn languages too.

So why aren’t there plenty of options for learning a language on DVD?

Perhaps the build up and flow of language, which is obvious in a good language course, has been considered too difficult to replicate with association of words and images on DVD. It can be done on a CD-ROM, where flow is less

important. Creating a series of programmes on DVD is a different ball game. First, you need to choose the right language to include, then you need structure, you need colour, you need music, you need a fun element, you need popular characters. And it must all flow naturally.

Author Jim Porter is one of the founders of Speekee, a groundbreaking Spanish course on DVD. Speekee was designed for young children – but it works for adults too!

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