Spanish Audio Programs
Pimsleur Spanish I: "Pimsleur Spanish is considered by many to be the holy grail of spanish learning programs...I am always hesitant to use phrases like "the best spanish learning product" or "the ideal spanish solution" since I haven't tried every Spanish language program on the planet. I can tell you, however, that it would be difficult to imagine a better program. So far, I haven't seen it..."
Read my full Pimsleur Spanish Review here.
Rosetta Stone Spanish:"The Rosetta Stone Spanish program is a relative new-comer on the scene. I had heard nothing but rave reviews for the Rosetta Stone series but didn't get around to trying it out until recently. Boy was I missing out. Every bit as effective as Spanish Pimsleur and far more user friendly than Spanish FSI, Rosetta Stone Spanish just may be the ideal Spanish language learning program..."
Read my full Rosetta Stone Spanish Review here.
Barron's Mastering Spanish Level I: "This is Barron's packaging of the old Spanish FSI program...Barron's FSI Mastering Spanish program, at barely one tenth the price of Pimsleur, definitely carries the best bang for the buck and so will probably be the best choice for most people on a budget..."
Read my full FSI Spanish Review here.
FSI Platiquemos Levels 1-8: Platiquemos is
actually just an update of the original FSI course found in Barron's
version (read my FSI Spanish Review here).
Most of these updates revolve around updating the vocabulary somewhat and providing clearer recordings.
While nice, I personally don't think these updates are worth five times the price (the word for "mother" hasn't changed!); however,
there seems to be a bit of a feud going on in the Amazon user reviews
section about which FSI program is better, Platiquemos or
Barron's Mastering Spanish. Decide for
yourself. My choice is Barron's.
Living Language Ultimate Spanish Basic-Intermediate: This program is the equivalent of about 2 years of college study, or so they claim. Each lesson is arranged around a dialog illustrating some particular aspect of Spanish grammar and highlighting relevant vocabulary. It's true the dialogs are excellently done and the vocabulary extremely relevant and useful, but there are relatively few drills; just a few short end-of-the-chapter questions. Also included are four all-audio practice-on-the-go CD's with lessons meant to reinforce key points in each of the regular book lessons. Unfortunately, they share the same disadvantages of their book-based counterparts: they are simply too short and there aren't enough drills to get the job done. In my opinion, there is simply no way you will even approach fluency in the Spanish language with this product alone.
That said, it is a perfectly decent product and I would have no trouble recommending it except for the fact that it costs the same as Barron's Mastering Spanish. Since Barron's is a clearly superior product at the same price, I see no reason to purchase Living Language Ultimate Spanish Basic-Intermediate. One possible exception to this is if you used to speak Spanish quite well and just need to brush up a bit. In that case, FSI is probably overkill and this will provide you with a solid review at a reasonable price.
Living Language Ultimate Spanish Advanced: This program shares the same downfalls as the Basic-Intermediate level of this program I reviewed above. This would be perfect if there were just more drills. Combining these two products with Dorothy Richmond's stellar Practice Makes Perfect workbooks (Spanish Verb Tenses and Spanish Pronouns And Prepositions) would probably yield excellent results; however, I see little reason to use the Living Lanuguage products when the FSI courses are more or less the same price and far, far more efficient.
Living Language All-Audio Spanish: After a somewhat disappointing experience with Living Language's Ultimate Spanish products, I wasn't expecting much here. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Living Language's All-Audio Spanish is a gem for the price, containing over six hours of all-audio Spanish instruction you can use anywhere. While six hours of instruction obviously won't get you to fluency, it's plenty to fill one specific task: learning on the go. Each lesson is arranged around a lively dialog followed by a smattering of vocabulary-building and grammar exercises.
This product would make an ideal learn-on-the-go compliment for the full FSI program, since you can't really use that program without the accompanying book. You'd be surprised how far that extra 15 minutes of instruction in the car on the way to work will help your Spanish over the long haul.
Living Language Spanish Complete Course Basic-Intermediate: This is a stripped-down version of Ultimate Spanish Basic-Intermediate above. It basically boils down to a listen and repeat program. If you're a tourist and just want enough to get by this is brilliant. Those aspiring for eventual fluency should look elsewhere. However, if you're thinking about learning Spanish but not yet sure it's for you, this would be an excellent program to test the waters due to its very high quality for such a low price. This was actually the first Spanish program I ever used and as soon as I got it open, I was hooked. There's something to be said for that.
Spanish with Michel Thomas: Michel Thomas is a language-teaching superstar, having taught Spanish, Italian, German, and French to movie stars, professional athletes, corporate leaders, and everyone in between. Here he presents his no-memorization, no grammar teaching approach that emphasizes building basic words and phrases on top of each other to form to complex sentences. Overall, Spanish with Michel Thomas is an excellent course I would highly recommend for beginners or tourists who need to acquire the basics as painlessly as possible before their big trip. While Michel Thomas won't get you nearly as far with the language as Pimsleur or FSI, it will get you to a solid intermediate level with no fuss and a minimum of effort. Those aspiring to eventual fluency should look elsewhere, but this one is pure gold for the casual learner.