I have a college-bound high school student, so foreign language is high on our list of priorities. Since I can’t teach him enough on my own, I really wanted to find a computer-based program and Middlebury Interactive Languages has filled that need for us! I had the opportunity to review High School Spanish I, which can be purchased either by the year or by the semester.
Living in central Texas, Spanish is a real necessity in many situations and it’s an invaluable resume skill. Colleges require foreign language from high school students and generally also as part of any degree program, and Spanish is our choice simply because it’s frequently used in our culture here. My son has a slight background in some Latin, so that helps, and he’s also very language-minded and we are finding that he is able to get through the online material quite quickly and easily.
The way the program works, there are units which are separated into 5 lessons each. Each lesson has a set of slides; the student clicks through to the next slide to receive the information presented. Some slides have only visual, some include audio, some have videos embedded, and some even have click-and-drag interactive features. These slides ARE the instructional portion, similar to a video program or a textbook, but it’s a format we don’t see utilized as often and my student really enjoys this format. It allows him to go at his own pace, easily go back a slide, repeat a slide, etc.
Each unit presents 5 sets of Spanish vocabulary words to be taught throughout the unit. In addition, grammar usage is included, such as subject and verb conjugation. The first few lessons were mostly review for my student; he had only very limited exposure, but enough that he was familiar with a couple of sets of vocabulary and moved through those units quickly. He’s still moving quickly, at a pace of about 2 lessons each day. With 90 lessons in a semester, a typical pace would be one lesson per day (for a 180 day school year) and it was recommended that we start at a pace of three lessons per week.
The lessons vary in length; Christian is spending about an hour or just under an hour each day. The website offers a calendar, but since we go to co-ops on Mondays, were a few days late getting started after registering, and don’t always get around to doing foreign language every single day, the calendar and assignments aren’t useful to us. We also haven’t figured out a way to modify that calendar, so this is an option I hope to see in the future. Instead, he just uses the “Continue My Course” in the upper right corner and ignores the suggested assignments. It won’t be long until he’s caught up with those, though! It will be interesting to see if he’s able to pass the assignments and continue at his own pace.
Some lessons have only 4 or 5 slides, and some lessons have upwards of 20ish slides. Toward the end of a unit are various reinforcement and comprehension activities such as journal entries, writing to a (fake) pen pal, quizzes, etc. There are occasionally pronunciation slides in the lessons, as well as speaking labs; we still intend to obtain a microphone but haven’t had one for the course review, so my son does these but isn’t graded on them. It does appear that we will need to go back to the units he has already completed so that he can finish those specific labs in order to receive a grade on them for completion of the program. For us, I just listened to him, but really you WILL need a microphone into the computer in order to do this program.
My son feels like this is a moderately rigorous program; we aren’t really sure if that’s because of his basic familiarity with the material beforehand, more because he’s simply naturally language-minded, or if the course just makes it seem easier and simpler to grasp by the format it uses. It might be just up his alley, might be more of a fantastic program than we actually realize, or possibly he just hasn’t made it to the more difficult material yet. He is a senior this year, and we are really needing him to get through TWO years of foreign language before next fall, so I’m hoping that he continues to do well with this program! We will definitely be looking into obtaining Year 2 once he finishes his current course.
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