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Review CornerSoftware
Instant Immersion Language Lab
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This economical package contains both a beginner and intermediate foreign language CD-ROM for each of four foreign languages. Both programs contain strong educational content, but there is a significant learning gap between them. The set is effective at improving a student's ability to understand key words and phrases, but should not be considered a comprehensive system for learning foreign languages.
Ages: 8 and up   Subject: Foreign Language   Brand: Topics Entertainment
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
This eight–CD-ROM set is designed to teach users any of four foreign languages — Spanish, French, Italian, and German. Each language is taught on two CDs — Talk Now! is for beginners, and World Talk is designed for intermediate students.

Talk Now! teaches kids and adults basic vocabulary of the featured language through multimedia flashcards and simple but engaging games. Users select a category from subjects like First Words, Countries, Phrases, and Food, and then learn key words and phrases through a variety of exercises and games. As they go through each lesson or game in a category, they collect points.

First, users click on the English text of the featured words and phrases to see an image and hear pronunciations by both female and male speakers. They can then practice speaking the new vocabulary into a microphone (not included), play back their own voice, and compare it to that of native speakers. An "easy" game involves listening and watching as four words and phrases culled from the category's word lists are quickly presented in both the base and foreign languages. Players must listen to one of these words spoken in the foreign language, and then select the correct base-language translation. Children are given a set of 10 pictures in the "hard" game and need to find a picture that matches the spoken word. For away from the computer learning, a picture dictionary featuring the categories' key words is available.

Still another game is available at the Main Menu. This one helps players practice words and phrases drawn from all vocabulary categories in a game of cards set at one of two difficulty levels. These games help reinforce new vocabulary in an effective way.

The intermediate World Talk CD immerses users in full sentences and conversations in the featured foreign language. Given a number of images to choose from, players listen to a description and then choose the image that best matches this description. Games and activities include answering questions by selecting days on a calendar, true/false quizzes, and multiple-choice questions. A quiz-style game plays like a game show and can be played against the computer or in competition with a real-life opponent. The questions posed in this game are drawn from all categories in the program. A Recording Studio allows users to practice speaking sentences into a microphone. Although feedback on pronunciation is not given, students can compare their pronunciation with that of native speakers. In another section of the program, six stories are presented. Worksheets for each story can be printed, and advanced learners can use this section for dictation.

When the Talk Now! and World Talk programs are considered as stand-alone titles, there are many strengths to be found. The interface is easy, the graphics are bright and appealing, and the content is strong. Each program's games and activities keep players actively involved in the learning process. Players can choose the base language, so that they can read the translations in their own mother tongue, be it English, French, or any of the numerous other languages on the list. Talk Now! is especially appropriate for children ages eight and up. It presents an informal and easy system for learning vocabulary in any of the four foreign languages.

However, families expecting a program featuring practice with grammar rules and other ways to fine-tune their skills in a foreign language will be disappointed. This program will definitely help boost vocabulary, but won't teach players the intricacies of the language. Also, players should not expect to move from the beginner CD to the intermediate one painlessly. A stronger knowledge of the language is necessary to work through the intermediate CD than can be acquired from the first program.

Kids as young as 8 years old can benefit from this CD-ROM set, and their parents can too! For a more thorough approach, turn to a system like the Learn to Speak series published by The Learning Company.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me, a 486 processor, 8 MB RAM, and a CD-ROM drive. Mac users require a 68030 processor, 8 MB RAM, and a CD-ROM drive. A microphone is optional.

Skills Covered
Children learn vocabulary words and phrases in any of four foreign languages. The first program covers key words in several categories, including first words, countries, phrases, and food.

Educational Value
Using the beginner CD, children boost their vocabulary in a selected foreign language by looking, listening, and speaking. Games help to reinforce vocabulary learned. The intermediate CD is more aptly considered an immersion program — players mostly listen to conversations and test their understanding in quizzes and games. Each program is well done, but there is a significant gap between learning exercises in the two CDs.

Entertainment Value
The exercises in both the Talk Now! and World Talk programs are made fun through simple games and a point systems. Visual learners will find the format especially attractive — the graphics are plentiful and appealing.

All screens feature a help button and clear instructions. The programs are straightforward and easy to use. In the Talk Now! CD, the human models' speech is not synchronized with their mouth movements, but this flaw does not significantly detract from the program's appeal.

The number and variety of activities in each program is adequate, and the point system can serve as motivation to repeat learning games in order to improve one's total score.

Dollar Value
This program carries a suggested retail price of $29.99 US.

Released: 2001
Reviewed: October 2001