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Review CornerSoftware
Smart Start Spanish Deluxe
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This program provides a multimedia approach to learning Spanish with its grammar lessons, self-correcting quizzes, and games that reinforce concepts. Away from the computer supplements include a decent guidebook with 48 lessons and an audio CD. The step-by-step approach is quite straightforward, and there is plenty of opportunity to practice pronunciation with the CD-ROM's speech recognition technology as well as listening and reading the language. Best for kids who are solid readers and who require step-by-step practice in Spanish.
 
Ages: 9-up   Subject: Foreign Language  Brand: Syracuse Language/Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
Smart Start Spanish Deluxe Product Overview
This foreign language package includes 2 CD-ROMs, an audio CD, a 48-lesson guidebook, and links to online enrichment and quizzes.

The first CD-ROM, Video Grammar Lessons Disc (see screenshot at right), contains 16 lessons, each with a short video introduction, grammar explanations, a conversation which incorporates some of the lessons learned (allows users to see, hear, and read the dialogue in context), all followed by questions and answers on the topic at hand. The questions are self-correcting multiple choice -- kids will get immediate feedback once they choose an answer.

Choosing SoundStart will help users familiarize themselves with the Automatic Speech Recognition used in the program. Players can practice the pronunciation of 50 common words using the record/playback feature, saying the words until the program considers the accent is acceptable.

A multimedia Glossary is included and allows children to search for words in Spanish and English, see them pictured and hear the words pronounced, then practice saying them into the microphone.

smartstspandlxsm2.jpg (18768 bytes)Simple games help to teach and reinforce foreign language lessons. The Games Disc contains a decent range of activities to help users do just that. Players choose a game by first selecting the mode of play (listening, reading, or speaking), the topic (for example, food, people, etc.), then a game from the 3 different levels.

Level 1 games focus on nouns, verbs, and simple phrases. Users can build on the vocabulary of the first level by playing Level 2 games that include complete phrases and sentences. Level 3 games provide an extension of the skills learned in the previous two levels. They focus on dialogues and conversations and use a comic strip format for visual context.

Games include Concentration, Bingo, a multiplayer Square Off! (play against the computer or a friend), Match Up, Family Tree, What Is It? (identify common household items from descriptive clues), and many more -- 32 games in all.

smartstspandlxsm3.jpg (14782 bytes)This package contains some extras that help extend learning beyond the computer. The Audio Disc provides on-the-go or simply leisure time learning, and is correlated to the guidebook exercises. The 48-lesson guidebook is quite adequate as a supplement to the program. Direct access to SmartStartonline.com provides additional web resources including quizzes, links, and a Cultural Cafe where kids can learn about Spanish films and food.

For pre-and early readers, you might want to try KidSpeak Spanish or KidSpeak 10-in-1 Language Learning (Smart Start Spanish Deluxe is better for solid readers). Smart Start Spanish Deluxe is better for children/adults who will benefit most from a straightforward, step-by-step method of learning Spanish. Children who are more confident in their knowledge of Spanish and who enjoy faster-paced games might try Spanish for the Real World by Knowledge Adventure.

This program seems to cover most basic angles and does a good job of emulating the natural way a language is learned, incorporating listening, reading, and speaking. Note that Automatic Speech Recognition is imperfect and might frustrate users at times.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a 486DX2/66, 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. Optional internet connection for links to web resources; optional microphone (for speech recognition). Note that a microphone is not included, just a microphone offer.

Skills Covered
Foreign language vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, comprehension, culture.

Educational Value
Grammar lessons are clear and simple, though a little dull. Note that kids will have to do a fair amount of reading in order to take full advantage of the lessons. The quizzes are self-correcting and straightforward. The guidebook is nicely correlated with the CD-ROM lessons and serves as an adequate supplement to the program, and the audio CD is perfect for passive learning on the go. There is a multimedia approach to learning which helps make learning natural.

Entertainment Value
The games are simple but engaging. Kids will need to be rather self-motivated to work through the somewhat dry lessons on the grammar disc, however they are well-presented.

Design
The interface is straightforward. Disc-swapping is required. We found the Automatic Speech Recognition feature imperfect but reasonably effective.

Replayability
Given all of the extras in addition to the adequate amount of content in the CD-ROMs, this package will certainly keep motivated kids busy learning Spanish for some time.

Dollar Value
It sells for approximately $40 US.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: May 2000