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Review CornerSoftware
Instant Immersion Language Starter for Kids
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
Valuable as a vocabulary booster rather than a formal course, this software program features a sampling of four foreign languages. Kids point and click their way through multimedia flashcards, exercise their new vocabulary in simple games, and record their pronunciation in order to compare it to those of native speakers.
Ages: 3 to 10   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 bundle of programs is a system of multimedia flashcards and games designed to reinforce vocabulary. Four CD-ROMs feature similar content, but each is devoted to a different foreign language — Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

"Learn" mode consists of "flashcards" that are divided into logical categories, including colors, plurals, places, professions, actions, and more. Most identify common objects, and some include phrases. Each image is identified in a very clear voice, and clicking on an object more than once will prompt the word to be pronounced by a different voice. The program toggles between a male and female voice, helping to ensure clarity, and maximizing the chances that each vocabulary word is heard correctly. The words and phrases are printed on the screen, as well.

The program's three games are rather simple but very amusing. Each game has three difficulty levels, and points are awarded for playing each of the nine levels. At the end, kids will have achieved enough points to earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal and a printable certificate saying as much.

Though the games are nothing new, they are effective and enjoyable in a simple way. One game is an old favorite — a memory game that features the program's vocabulary words. Children need to match images with words, which helps reinforce spelling and reading skills. Another game is a simple look-and-find activity wherein children search for an image of a spoken word in a set of cards. Finally, a "Beat the Clock" game also requires children to listen to an audio clue and find a matching picture, except this time there is a race against a timer.

A "record" mode allows kids to speak the words they've learned into a microphone, and compare their voices to those of native speakers, both male and female. In a nice touch, slideshows of their efforts appear at the program's "cinema."

As a sampling of foreign languages, this set is affordable and valuable. Families looking for grammar lessons should turn to other software. However, this set works well for young children who want to learn basic vocabulary words in a foreign language.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/Me, Pentium or faster, 24 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, 16-bit sound card, and 70 MB hard drive space. A microphone is recommended.

Skills Covered
Children learn vocabulary words in any of four foreign languages.

Educational Value
As long as parents understand that the program is a vocabulary booster, and not a course that will teach their kids verb conjugation, they should be rather pleased with the educational content. Interested children will learn many new vocabulary words, record and play back their pronunciations of these words, and test their knowledge with a few games.

Entertainment Value
The CD-ROMs are quite simple — the multimedia component of the program is not fancy or particularly impressive. However, its simplicity will appeal to many kids. The chance to record their own voices and watch a slide show that they have narrated is hugely entertaining. In addition, the games are simple but addictive. Children enjoyed the point system and were motivated to work towards earning a gold medal.

Design
The programs feature rather straightforward interfaces, though exiting them is a bit of a chore. The base language (the one used for delivering instructions) is English as a default, but can be set to any of a long list of languages.

Replayability
Replay value is expected to be fair. There is not enough content in any one CD- ROM to last for very long. Families with more than one child studying a foreign language, and those looking to sample more than one language, will benefit the most.

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

Released: 2001
Reviewed: October 2001