This page contains reviews of all the computer-based Spanish language learning programs for Windows that I could find in spring of 2000 (I bought everything that was under $100, which was almost everything available). Many of these programs are bundled together in various packages (often, low-cost, medium-cost, and most-expensive bundles, some even feature high end versions with teach & classroom specific features), so be sure to check the contents of a package if you are looking for a specific program I review below.

These programs are usually available in many languages, such as Spanish, German, French and Italian. The programs, when in other languages, are usually identical, so you can use the reviews below to help you choose your German, French or Italian computer-based learning software. I have bought several of these titles in German myself.

I have linked many titles to their Amazon.com page, so you can easily compare prices and Amazon's read user reviews. However, I highly recommend you shop at http://www.multilingualbooks.com/ (which is run by http://www.internet-language.com/) since their selection is excellent, they offer useful reviews (and they're an independent store). Also check out http://www.101language.com/, which has other language-learning tools (and gadgets!)

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Webster's Five Language Dictionary


Webster's Five Language Dictionary is a windows-based dictionary that can translate between any of five languages. It features a useful in-your-application pop-up feature: if you leave your cursor over a word, the translated version of it pops up in your application. This program is included in the Instant Immersion series.

Here is the lookup screen:

Here is an example of Webster's pop-up feature (which I use much more than the lookup screen):

I find this especially useful when writing email messages to people in a language I am not very strong in. One word of warning: the dictionary tended to crash frequently for me on my Windows 2000 system.

Amazon URL

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LinguaMatch Correspondent (from Transparent Language)


LinguaMatch Correspondent is a program intended to help you correspond with people in a language you are not fluent in. It has a dictionary and phrase-book. However, neither works inside your application (which Webster's dictionary does), but floats as a separate application. The phrase book is fairly useful, since it searches inside the phrases for the word you specify (finding phrases in a paper book is usually futile).

Here is what the phrasebook looks like:

and the main LinguaMatch screen:

Amazon URL

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LanguageNow! Video Tours by Transparent Language


The LanguageNow! Video Tours are from the Transparent Language company, and are more like slide shows than videos. A slide is displayed of a particular location, a paragraph of spanish language text is displayed and the current sentence is highlighted. Press the play button, and a native speaker speaks the sentence in a clearer and slower than normal voice.


There are panels for grammar and an english translation. The interface is fairly old fashioned (it looks like Windows 3.1) and the files are dates as far back as 1997. However, even though the interface is older and not graphically-current, it is a very functional interface, and so I like it.

Additional features include extercises for word & sentence pronunciation, word & sentence dictation, sound analysis (which shows you a useless sound wave graphic, but does let you hear your voice, which is the more important feature), and several text games (such as a crossword puzzle, and a fill-in-the-blank game)

All in all, a very useful and helpful (if not exciting) language learning program, useful for beginner and intermediate level Spanish students.

Amazon URL

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Microsoft's Encarta Language Learning: Spanish Deluxe


Microsoft's Encarta Language Learning: Spanish Deluxe is very, very slick. Totally current graphics, lots of multimedia, beautiful design everywhere. There is a heavy focus on videos, which are all original and well produced, with actors in current fashions (a rarety among language videos, which usually have 1970's era fashions). However, if your language skills are not good enough to hear words spoken in sentences by native speakers, you won't be able to make any use of this program. All the lessons rotate around a central video scenario, and so you must be able to somewhat understand what they're saying.

The main "unit" screen, which presents several videos, and tasks wrapped around each video:

A sample video page, with questions on the right hand side. A separate CDROM includes higher quality versions of the same videos (that you can watch full screen, if you prefer)

Finally, the Microsoft package includes 2 CDROM of traditional self-guided audio lessons, which you can use in Car or CD-Walkman. The tracks refer to the lessons on the CDROM, so they do support each other. The lesson quality is quite good, but there's nothing so different on the audio CDROMs that you wouldn't find on a traditional language learning tape.

Microsoft Encarta Language Learning is only available in Spanish and French.

Reviewed and available for purchase at:
http://www.multilingualbooks.com/msspan.html

Amazon URL

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Transparent Language's Vocabulary Master


Transparent Language's Vocabulary Master is a simple application which emulates 3x5 index cards. A traditional way of memorizing vocabulary words is to write the English word on one side of a 3x5 card, and the foreign language version on the other side. This Vocabulary Master program is nothing but a computer program emulation of this. You can use either the english or spanish side. The program can keep track of which ones you've gotten right, and which wrong, and then repeat the cards you have gotten wrong.

Here is the main screen:


There probably are shareware programs to do this same thing, but I found Vocabulary Master to be just what I needed: a no frills computerized 3x5 card. You can import your own word lists if you like.


Amazon URL

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WordAce Talking Translation Dictionary


Transparent Language's WordAce is a 100,000 word dictionary with 40,000 spoken words. All the spoken words are pronounced by people, rather than read by a computer voice (many other programs use computer voices). The dictionary is the heart of the program, but there is also a basic verb conjugator, and two simple games.

The main WordAce screen:

Amazon URL

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Transparent Language's Grammar Pro


Grammar Pro is a comprehensive windows help file of spanish grammar. The amount of information is fairly extensive, even if the presentation is underwhelming. However, I couldn't help feeling that this material would be better presented in a paper book.

A typical screen in Grammar Pro:

Amazon URL

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Who is Oscar Lake?


Who is Oscar Lake? is a very well done "whodunit?" mystery game. The graphics are well done, as are the sounds. The game is fairly easy to play, which makes it workable for a beginner, and the spoken language is slow and clear. The game is quite engaging, but admitedly, is not the most efficient use of your language-learning time. This game is included in the "Talk Now!" series, but may be available for purchase separately or in other learning packages.

A typical view inside the game:


Amazon URL

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Talk Now! Spanish


Talk Now! Spanish by "Instant Immersion!" is my favorite program for absolute beginners. When I started learning spanish, I couldn't not speak a word, and this was one of the few engaging programs for the complete spanish newbie. The graphics are engaging, the two games are fun (and teach you well). The only problem: only vocabulary is taught with this program, no grammar is given, so you'll have to turn elsewhere to learn to put sentences together. This program is not appropriate for advanced level spanish speakers, as it is mainly about teaching basic vocabulary. However, the interface is quick to use, so intermediate level speakers may like to use it as a vocabulary refresher.

Here is a picture of the main vocabulary demonstration screen. Each vocubulary group is presented like this: a list of words, an iconic graphic, and both male and female spoken examples of each word. After going through this page, you are presented with a hard and easy game, as well as prononciation practice.

Separate from the language learning in the card game, where you are shown cards with pictures of items, the items are spoken, and then from each spoken word, you need to remember what card has the right object. This is a test of both language and memory, which makes it more interesting than a pure language game. This dual skill requirement also increases your attention to the game, which helps you focus and learn.

Reviewed and available for purchase at:
http://www.multilingualbooks.com/talknow.html

Amazon URL

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World Talk Spanish


World Talk Spanish is the next CD in the series after "Talk Now! Spanish" by "Instant Immersion!" As with that other title, the graphics are first rate, the lessons engaging and fun. This is not for the absolute beginner, but is appropriate for people who have finished the Talk Now! lessons, or have had a basic grounding in Spanish.

The main menu presents your options. The lessons are in the center, with a game on your left, and a "recording studio" to hear yourself on the right.

Here is a typical lesson screen. Several sentences are spoken describing a certain animal (for example, "we drink its milk") and you are supposed to pick the right animal.

Here is the game screen. The "host" makes all sorts of whimsical facial and body movements coordinated with what is being said, and what you've done. The interactivity makes it fun, though the game is mostly one of match-the-picture-with-the-word.


Amazon URL

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The Learning Company - Learn to Speak Spanish


The Learning Company's Learn to Speak Spanish is one of the only computer-based language teaching programs that enough topics to speak the language. Most other programs focus on vocabulary learning or understanding of sound or video clips.

The Learning Company's Learn to Speak Spanish covers grammar, as well as requiring you to put your own sentences together. There is a difficult, but innovative section where you have to maintain a conversation with a native speaker in a typical context. The program's voice recognition is fairly good, so the conversation is done entirely by voice: the computer video speaks to you, and you have a multiple choice answer which you must speak.

Later, you need to carry the conversation without the multiple choices. Often there are several possible answers (such as stating your occupation) and the answer you give steers computer character down a different conversation.

This program does not run on Windows 2000, but with some tweaking, I was able to make it work (it thinks Windows 2000 is Windows NT). However, when I came back to it a few months later, the Windows 2000 PC that had previously run it no longer did, so you should definitely have a Windows 95/98/ME computer if you plan on using this software.

This software does start at the absolute beginner level, but quickly moves to intermediate and even advanced level spanish, so it's good for all level of student. It moves very quickly, and requires good concentration and repeated use of the exercises in order to move forward. It's also fairly dry, and not nearly as entertaining as the Microsoft or "Instant Immersion!" programs. However, I recommend alternating between a "more boring" program such as this, which covers difficult but essential topics, with a more fun approach, such as those which teach the ear to understand native speakers, and graphical vocabulary memorization programs.


Amazon URL

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Complete Spanish - by Transparent Language


Complete Spanish by Transparent Language uses the same program as the "Language Now!" program (see review above). Though the interface is old-fashioned (windows 3.1 era) there are plenty of features and the idea is straightforward (follow the video with text and exercises) is well designed. The video is low-color and playback is choppy. A decent program, but there are better implementations of this idea out there, and at a lower price as well.

Amazon URL

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Learn Spanish with Asterix

Learn Spanish with Asterix


A typical page in the Asterix CDROM. The Spanish text defaults to being erased (the words are read in spanish), but you can make it appear with the "espanol" button. An english text translation can pop up, and the "professor" button displays a dictionary translation of some of the difficult words used on that page.

Not available from Amazon.Com.

Reviewed and available for purchase at: http://www.multilingualbooks.com/asterix.html

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Rosetta Stone


The Rosetta Stone method consists of associating visual images with sounds and text. The lessons are all multiple choice and straightforward: a concept is spoken, the text is there, there are four pictures, and you must choose the right answer. The program is very simple, but that's probably it's strength: a simple concept, applied consistently and in a quality way. The graphics and interface are first-rate.


Reviewed and available for purchase at: PopUp http://www.multilingualbooks.com/rosetta.html

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Tell Me More Language Software

To be reviewed.


Reviewed and available for purchase at: http://www.multilingualbooks.com/aura-tell.html (not available at Amazon.com)

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The Spanish Teacher


Only available in Spanish.

Not reviewed at this site.

Screen pictures:

Reviewed and available for purchase at: http://www.multilingualbooks.com/spteach.html (not available at Amazon.com)

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Quick Study Spanish by the Learning Company


Quick Study Spanish crashes when I try to run it, after being installed on my Windows 2000 CD. Therefore, I am not able to review it. It appears to be discontinued, as I was only able to find it on auction sites, not on new software sales sites.

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