Fluenz: Spanish Lesson 1

YAY! Craig and I finally got the chance to start our Fluenz Spanish Language Course.

We’re going all the way through the five discs so tonight we started with disc one. They say that each lesson lasts about 2 hours but for us, because we’re refreshing stuff we already know, it didn’t take but an hour. We’ve decided to devote Wednesday evenings to our lessons so I hope to have posts up on a regular basis. I don’t anticipate going through each and every lesson with you, but rather, I think I’ll focus on discussing the overall design and what works and what doesn’t. Shall we begin?

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.01.02 PMMeet Sonia Gil. She is your guide for the program (at least for lesson 1). Sonia does a lot of talking. Her introduction video gives you an overview of the lesson plan and what to expect with this program. This screen shot above is from her video at the beginning of Session 1. Sonia introduces you to some common words in the Spanish language and some common usage. Next we move on to a little dialogue.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.02.29 PMYou have the option to listen with Spanish subtitles, English subtitles, or no subtitles. The reviews online mentioned that you should do all three options. I started out with no subtitles to see if I could figure out what they were saying. I remembered quite a bit. Next I moved on to the Spanish subtitles and tried to see if I could remember what the words meant in English. Finally, I listened with the English subtitles to see if I was correct.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.06.54 PMOnce you have completed the listening portion (with or without subtitles) Sonia does a little breakdown for you of what was said, why it was said, the order it was said, and why that order is used. Spanish is a romantic language so it’s root is Latin. This language has masculine and feminine words and therefore it is common to drop pronouns since you’re able to determine the subject through the language itself.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.12.55 PMSee how in the video they placed the word “She” in parenthesis? This is because that word doesn’t actually appear in that sentence. I appreciate that Sonia takes the time to show you how (mostly) normal conversation takes place. We still learn the correct writing: Yo estoy muy bien, but she shows us that it is very common to say, Estoy muy bien. Sonia goes over common phrases and introductions and departures in this first lesson and I’m sure that, like us, you’ve heard most of it before.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.17.23 PMNext, you’re tasked with matching the words you’ve heard with the English equivalent. Of course, this is a beginning lesson so it was incredibly easy for us. However, it is good to reinforce what you’re learning. After matching up the words you’ve just been practicing, you move on to one of the parts of the lesson that I considered the most difficult part of the lesson… writing what you’re hearing.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.28.53 PMHere you can see a screen shot of my written words. I turned off the “Challenge Mode” because I wasn’t able to get the accents down on the mac and for this first lesson I just wanted to write what I was reading without worrying about all of that. You can turn on the option if you really want a challenge. They give you the English on this round but there are absolutely no hints which makes it quite difficult. You literally have to keep trying until you get it right or you click the button for them to go ahead and show you the answer. It definitely tests your knowledge.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.29.05 PMNext up is the listen and write portion with short words/phrases and no English to guide you. This was most definitely a challenge for me. The above screen shot is from the short words and phrases and the screen shot below is from the whole sentences portion. I had to replay the phrases and sentences sometimes because they, for sure, did not talk slowly. This is good though. They don’t baby you. They definitely talk like you would in normal conversation and I found it quite challenging in a very good way.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.30.59 PMNext, we get to the portion of the lesson where they have you read aloud and it records you. Not really my favorite because I feel like I sound like a valley girl speaking Spanish. However, I guess it’s good for you to practice and I’m sure once the lessons become more difficult I will appreciate the ability to be sure I’m sounding like the folks in the program.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.35.46 PMSo as you can see in the screen shot above they provide the dialogue for you and as you go through it you read your part and they speak theirs. Then you get back into the listening and writing what you hear but they don’t provide you with the English. This was by far the most challenging and you can see that I didn’t worry much about punctuation as I was trying to type while they were speaking so I didn’t miss anything.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.37.00 PMI really felt like I enjoyed this portion of the lesson. It really helped reinforce what I was learning. Afterwards we get back into the matching game again which I thought was probably the easiest portion since once you know what some of the key words are you can piece together the puzzle even if you’re not positive.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.38.07 PMThen finally, YAY, you’re at the end of the lesson. Sonia recaps what you’ve learned.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.41.34 PMNext week I’m sure it will be more of the same so the next time I post about this program I’ll probably only talk about the differences in lessons, what didn’t work, or what I find that really works. I hope you’ll join me! Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll do my best to answer. Overall I feel like this is going to be a good challenge and I’m looking forward to our weekly lessons. I hope to eventually write a post or two (maybe more) in Spanish to help reinforce my learning. I think this is going to be a good program for us! 🙂

Fluenz: An Introduction

You may remember that I mentioned in my new years post that Craig and I are going to freshen up our Spanish language skills and we’ve decided to utilize a relatively new computer software program. So, what exactly is Fluenz? I’ll let their explanation speak for itself: “A simple fact guides our programs: we learn better when we understand how something works. We are not children and don’t learn like them; we thrive on explanations that show us how the parts fit together to form a larger whole. A language is not just an endless set of words and images, but rather the experience of a culture. The Fluenz tutor is front and center providing context, leading learners step-by-step as they advance, acknowledging the difficulties of the journey, and providing the motivation necessary to reach the final goal.”

Fluenz seeks to empower your language ability by expanding upon the knowledge base you currently utilize each day. The number one complaint/praise that I have heard in regards to Rosetta Stone is that they use complete language immersion with no English what-so-ever. This is obviously both a good and a bad thing. When people used this as a complaint it was because they needed better guidance and wanted an English speaker to come in once an a while to explain the context or to describe the picture so they could really understand what it is they were learning. They cited an example of a picture of a child and an older adult with the word “abuelo” being said over an over. Was “abuelo” to mean grandchild or grandfather? What exactly was the picture trying to convey. In addition, they felt that Rosetta Stone was teaching them things like “the boy is under the tree” where they were really wanting to learn better relevant conversation skills such as “where can I charge my cell phone?” I read several reviews of Rosetta Stone where they were excited about the whole language learning and the focus on vocabulary, however, that was not what Craig and I desired so we decided to do so more research into the alternative, Fluenz.

We’ve purchased Fluenz Spanish (Latin America) 1+2+3+4+5 which is “ideal for those who are dedicated to the long haul” and the Latin American version most suits our geographic region. This comprehensive package takes learners from the “basics of the language to a high level of sophistication.” They claim that by the end of this series you are able to “make plans with friends and colleagues, discuss needs, desires and opinions, arrange travel and outdoor activities, share stories, and handle business, financial, and legal matters.” I think that another benefit to Fluenz is that they treat their resource as you would a book. This means that we can sell the program when we are finished. The future owners will be able to utilize the program much like if they had purchased a used study book. So here we are. Proud owners of a complete language learning system. I think that Craig and I working together should be fine motivation for us to complete the entire series. I plan on updating y’all on our progress each week so please follow along. Have y’all used software to help you learn a new language or polish one previously learned? Did you learn the traditional way in a classroom setting? How often do you utilize your skills? What do you find that helps to sharpen your abilities? A good friend of mine is a part of a German Meet-Up group and they all speak the language together which really helps to keep up their fluency. I hope that Craig and I are able to fully utilize our new language skills. I believe that Florida is a good setting and hopefully we’ll be traveling more which will only serve to reinforce our skills. It’s make it or break it time folks. Wish us luck!

MissCaron