I often get questions about Spanish programs for adults from parents who want to learn Spanish with their children. I recently had the chance to try Visual Link Spanish, and I thought it might be something Spanish Playground readers would be interested in. I tried Level 1: Sentence Building and Conversation. This program is intended for adults, but it could certainly be used by motivated high school students.
The Basics of Visual Link Spanish
This Level 1 course has lots of material and is very well organized. The material is presented in themes, like “basic needs” and “locations.” Then, within each theme the language is organized into groups of words, and words are chosen from each group to form sentences.
For example, you learn the verbs quiero (I want) and necesito (I need) in one group, caminar (to walk) and manejar (to drive) in a second group and al banco (to the bank) and al trabajo (to work) in the last group. You can then make sentences by combining elements of all the groups: Quiero caminar al trabajo (I want to walk to work.) or Necesito manejar al banco (I need to drive to the bank.).
This is a very efficient way for adults to begin to communicate in Spanish. l do something similar with children who are just beginning, giving them verbs like I want, I have, I see and I like that they can combine with any number of objects.
One of the biggest advantages to learning chunks of language this way is that a lot of the details of grammar are included in the phrases you learn. For example, you learn “to the bank” (al banco) instead of spending time on a list of prepositions (a, en, de, por, etc). Learning the whole phrase is efficient because you learn what you need to communicate and the most common grammar elements are included.
The Concept Behind Visual Link Spanish
The name of the Visual Link program comes from the idea of associating images with the language you are learning. The concept behind this teaching technique is well established. The association of images with language mimics what happens when we learn a language in a natural setting where language is associated with objects and contexts. This is something good teachers try to do in classrooms, too.
Take, for example, the word caminar. the Visual Link Spanish image is of a man walking. The image gives you something to hold on to, something tangible to think about that conveys meaning you can associate with the sound of the word, rather than translating. There are limitations of course, but adult learners can compensate for the limitations with reading skills, repetition and memorization.
Using Visual Link you need to really try to associate the graphics with words to get the most out of the program. You also have to move through the program in order to learn the images that are associated with vocabulary. Lots of them are obvious (puerco – a picture of a pig), but other words are similar enough in meaning, like to walk and to go, that you have to learn which images represent which terms.
My Favorite Component
Pronunciation is a big component of this program and in my opinion, an excellent one. I consider this a huge advantage of Visual Link Spanish over other programs I have seen. If you read much on Spanish Playground, you know that I think instruction in pronunciation is essential, and that it is often neglected in traditional classrooms.
I consider good pronunciation so important because your accent will make your Spanish comprehensible, or incomprehensible, to a native speaker. Think about the people you have talked to who are learning English. Does the fact that they do not put a final “s” on the third person singular verb forms in English really inhibit communication? Or is their pronunciation more important? Clearly, we all overlook grammar errors if we can understand what someone is saying. And if we cannot understand what someone is saying, it really does not matter how perfect the grammar is. With Visual Link Spanish you will have the opportunity to master the basics of Spanish pronunciation. How good your pronunciation becomes will depend on time and commitment, but the program provides clear instruction, excellent opportunities for practice and improvement and lots of feedback.
This program gives you basic instruction in Spanish pronunciation and then the opportunity to practice as much as you want, in different situations, with excellent feedback. You are recorded and your pronunciation is matched to the pronunciation of native speakers. You immediately see a bar that measures the accuracy of your pronunciation and you can repeat as much as you like in order to improve. I think this is especially important with adults who are working individually. Visual Link Spanish gives you feedback so that your pronunciation gets better, and not just in pronunciation exercises. You can do the Memory Game, a vocabulary game, by speaking instead of clicking on the words. There are also games like the bowling game that focus strictly on pronunciation.
The bottom line
Visual Link Spanish is a Spanish software program that provides an excellent language learning experience for a motivated learner. The virtual instructor gives clear, concise explanations of important grammar points. There are a wide variety of activities including vocabulary exercises, dialogs, and games. The pronunciation component that runs through the program is particularly effective.
Learning a language takes time and work. There is no quick and easy way to become a competent Spanish speaker, but Visual Link Spanish gives adults learning the language on their own the opportunity to acquire Spanish that will actually let them communicate.
Disclosure: The company sent me a copy of the software program to write this article. All the ideas and opinions are my own.