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Sunday, October 17th
Living Language offers a free trial for their Spanish lessons. When you click on the offer, you get access to the first beginning lesson to get a feel for how they teach. You can also download one of three online CDs to have access to a few lessons, and experience the different levels of learning if you have had previous experience with the language.
What to expect
There are courses from beginner to advanced, called essential, intermediate, and advanced. First, vocabulary is presented via flashcards with optional native speaker audio to hear good pronunciation. Then, there's a grammar lesson with detailed English explanations and sample sentences using the grammar. Following that, there's a second vocabulary and grammar presentation. Conversation dialogs follow so you can practice the vocabulary and grammar in context. There are also games to reinforce what's taught. To supplement the vocabulary and grammar lesson, there are readings and culture notes to add depth and breadth to the lessons.
Looking for niche lessons?
Living Language offers a variety of tailored Spanish lesson programs:
Talk about old school
If you're into nostalgia of your high school days, or would like to time travel back to the early 90s or before, this method will bring you right back to your old-school Spanish class. The lesson presentation is just like the old textbooks and audio tapes, but you don't have your friends or Spanish teacher to make the class fun. Flashcards are Spanish-English translation, like you might have created yourself on an index card, but Living Language lets you hear pronunciation with a click. The grammar presentation is quite dry and boring and looks like a page from a wordy textbook. In practice, the most common word is "translate:" "Translate this sentence." "Translate this phrase." If you want to think in Spanish, you don't translate. Using only translation is boring and can be ineffective, especially if you want to build conversational skills.
Flashcards like you used to make with index cards
The flashcards have Spanish on one side and English on the other. You can mark "mastered" on the cards you learned, like back in the day, you might have removed the cards you mastered. The difference here is that Living Languages lets you hear the audio of the spoken word, which of course, you couldn't do on your index card.
When you practice the vocabulary flashcards, you can hear the audio read by a native speaker. For speaking practice, you can have a conversation with the native speaker. Don't get too excited, though. The speaker gives you a sentence. You are asked to reply in Spanish, and they tell you in English, the exact reply for you to say in Spanish. They then tell you the correct sentence in Spanish. If you're trying to think in Spanish, the English sentence guiding you is a distraction. In addition, there's no way to record your audio and listen back so you can compare your Spanish against that of a native speaker. Most other online Spanish lessons we've tried have had a feature where you can record your voice. This program is quite antiquated and only lets you hear them, and not record yourself.
Grammar explanations are thorough
The teaching of grammar is thorough and there are good examples throughout. It explains the concept well and includes English-language comparisons so you can understand the nuances. We found the grammar lessons quite dry, just like a page from the old black-and-white textbook from years ago. They may be dry, but contain full explanations.
Reading is fundamental--or is it?
There are readings as bonus material. It would be beneficial if the readings were better integrated into the content of the lesson by containing many of the vocabulary words and grammar points. Reading shouldn't be considered a bonus, it should be an integrated part of the lesson.
You can practice creating a sentence. Living Languages gives you an English sentence to translate. You drag each word from the word bank to its corresponding blank within the sentence. You're either correct and your word stays put or the word goes back to the bank. This technology is a throw-back from the early 2000s or so. This is only one activity, but playing the matching Memory game or clicking on matching floating bubbles uses similar aged technology and doesn't excite the learner.
No mobile apps
Many Spanish lesson online programs offer apps so you can learn and practice anywhere on your device. Living Language doesn't offer apps. You download the online CDs. It may be an out-of-date method, but at least you don't need Wi-Fi to practice your Spanish.
No more e-tutoring
Living Language used to have live e-tutoring available, with a live instructor teaching webinar-type classes, but their website says that's been cancelled since 2018. Bummer.
We didn't have fun
We were bored with Living Languages' vocabulary flashcards. The grammar lessons were dry and it was hard to stay focused. There's just no imagination or creativity, no bells, and no whistles. We didn't have fun with the "games" , and it was hard to be self-motivated to continue to the next activity, or to want to learn more. Heck, it was challenging to finish any part of the lesson, and it wasn't just us. Many other reviewers found themselves bored by Living Languages' teaching and translation methods, as well as the antiquated technology.
The feature we really appreciate is the On-the-Job program. Spanish lessons for essential careers are pretty valuable and frankly quite rare. There are healthcare workers, law enforcement professionals, and librarians who are desperate to learn Spanish so they can interact with the Spanish speakers they encounter. There aren't many community colleges or universities that offer career-specific language courses, and even if they do, they aren't as convenient as online programs. Living Languages offers this rare opportunity to our essential workers, and we are grateful.
Have you always wanted to learn Spanish? Or have you learned some, but really want to improve your skills in order to be able to read Spanish newspapers or talk with native speakers? Do you have business associates or neighbors who speak Spanish, or have you wanted to talk in Spanish with the locals on your next trip? There are 460,000 people who are native Spanish speakers right here in the US, and 20 countries that have Spanish as their official language. No matter why you want to learn it, the question is which Spanish lessons are right for you.
With so much of our life going digital, from many of us doing our job remotely, to video chatting with our family or internet shopping, it's natural to want to explore online options for learning Spanish. There are many programs available online and through apps, and we can help you sift through them.
The first thing to consider is how much Spanish you already know. If you're just getting started, there are many programs whose focus is on the beginner, with lessons chock full of grammar, vocabulary, and practice. At the same time, the concentration is so heavy on brand-new students that many programs offer little to nothing for the intermediate or advanced learner.
Another important factor is your learning style and preference. Some learners like to go in the order that the experts have the lessons set up so that they can meet their language acquisition goals. Other students know that they want to pick and choose their lesson order based on their needs. For example, if the learner is going to travel in the near future, they want their first lessons focused on related vocabulary, like asking for directions and checking in at a hotel. Others are in the medical or business field, so they want to follow the language learning path best suited to their careers.
A major consideration is if repetition is okay with you, or if you will lose focus if the lessons aren't entertaining. Some learners are motivated to continue the day's lesson or look forward to the next lesson because of the fun and exciting apps that include gaming-like activities, points, badges, competitive leaderboards, and animation. Let's face it, if you're not motivated to learn, will you really stick with the program? Other students want to push forward with the traditional, square-shooting approach that feels comfortable as tried and true. Start with vocabulary and practice, add on grammar, preferably with detailed explanations in English, more practice, along with repetition and recycling of older material to solidify the knowledge base.
Once you know what level of Spanish learner you are, from beginner to advanced, your purpose of learning it, from travel to profession or just because, and if you like to be entertained or want "just the facts, Ma'am" , there are a few more aspects of Spanish lessons you may want to consider:
TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated, rated, and ranked the best choices for online Spanish lessons. We're sure that with this information, you'll have what you need to make the right choice for your goals in learning, acquiring, and becoming fluent in Spanish. ¡Ya vamos!
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