Q: Who is the Spanish Voices™ program for?
A: The Spanish Voices™ program is designed for English speaking adults or teenagers who have already started to learn Spanish (and reached at least a basic level) and want to improve their ability to understand and speak Spanish. If you are already at an intermediate or advanced Spanish level, you will find that Spanish Voices™ helps you progress rapidly with minimal effort.
Q: What does Spanish Voices™ cost?
A: Spanish Voices™ is a free application tool. You pay only for content. When you download Spanish Voices™, it comes with a free Trial License which includes a few short conversations. After you have tried out the program and decided you like it, you can purchase a Language Fluency Pack and download more Conversations from the Main Library.
A Language Fluency Pack, when it is added to your account, allows you to select and download Conversations from the Spanish Voices Main Library. Conversations that you download become a permanent part of your own Spanish Voices™ Library.
For example, a 25,000 Word Language Fluency Pack, costing $79, allows you to download Conversations whose word-counts add up to 25,000 words. Most Conversations in the Library contain between 300 words and 1200 words. A 25,000 Word Language Pack allows you to download approximately 30 to 50 Conversations.
Q: I use Rosetta Stone® (or a Berlitz® Audio, or a local Spanish class, etc.) Should I stop using those programs when I begin using Spanish Voices™?
A: No. Most other language CDs, programs and classes teach Spanish are based on ‘conscious learning’ while Spanish Voices strongly emphasizes ‘language acquisition’. These two approaches complement each other. We do recommend that you use Spanish Voices™ at different times (even on different days) from when you use any other program, otherwise you risk reducing the effectiveness of Spanish Voices™.
Q: Some of the speakers in the Conversations may use incorrect Spanish or slang, since they are not all ‘well educated’. How can I be sure I’m learning the correct form of Spanish and not inadvertently learning ‘bad’ forms?
A: It is not uncommon for all of us to make verbal slips as we speak. These don’t interfere with normal communication or understanding and, for the most part, go unnoticed by both speaker and listener. However, we don’t want you, as a not-yet completely fluent Spanish speaker, to inadvertently learn an incorrect form, or, unknowingly start using a slang phrase in inappropriate situations.
Therefore, we have marked, in orange, some words or phrases as examples of what we call ‘non-standard usage’:
When you click the mouse on the orange ‘drop’ you will see an explanation of the usage (i.e. whether it’s a verbal slip, a colloguialism, etc.).
Q: How much do I need to know about Spanish grammar to use the program?
A: You don’t need to know anything about Spanish grammar to use Spanish Voices™. The focus of the program is on listening and understanding, using as little analytical effort as possible – and understanding grammar requires analysis.
However, if you have used a commercial language program or taken a language class, you probably know something about Spanish grammar already. And you may want to know about some of the grammar features, as they can enhance the basic functionality of the program.
One of the features of Spanish Voices™ is that it supports searching for Conversations by grammatical elements.
For example, you could search for all Conversations containing use of the imperfect tense. The list returned from the search will be sorted so that the Conversations that use the imperfect tense the most will be listed first. And when you open a Conversation from the list you’ll see that each use of the imperfect tense is highlighted. When you click the mouse on such a highlighted word, the ‘Translation Pop-up’ will provide you details about the grammar.
Finally, when you have any Conversation open, you can ‘right-mouse click’ to see a context menu; it looks like this:
If you select the ‘Show grammar information” menu item, you will see some grammar information about the word you clicked, like this for the word ‘estaban’:
Also, the built in Dictionary in Spanish Voices™ allows you to look up the various verb conjugations for any verb.
Q: Can Spanish Voices™ help me improve my ability to speak, read and write Spanish?
A: Yes. Your ability to speak Spanish is based on, and limited by, your passive knowledge.
Passive knowledge refers to language that you can understand when you hear it in context. This is a weak form of knowldege: if we are asked the meaning of a particular word, out of context, we may not be able to define it. But if we hear that word in the context of a conversation, we may be able to guess or infer its meaning. So we could say that the word is part of our passive knowldege, but not yet part of our active knowledge.
Everything we speak is part of our active knowldege, of course; we can actively use it. Our passive knowledge is always larger than our active knowledge.
To increase active knowledge (i.e. speaking vocabulary), it’s best to build passive knowledge first. Trying to directly increase active knowledge by memorization is difficult and usually boring, unless the vocabulary we’re learning is already part of our passive knowledge – already at least vaguely familiar.
Spanish Voices™ is designed to rapidly build your passive knowledge.
Spanish Voices™ will give you practice in reading Spanish, but does not directly help you in writing Spanish.
Q: What version of Spanish does Spanish Voices™ use?
A: Conversations currently available for Spanish Voices™ are conversations of Latin American, primarily Mexican, Spanish speakers. We will be offering conversations from a variety of places in the future, including Spain and several South American countries.
Unless you are already at an advanced level and want to learn the unique aspects of Spanish from a particular country outside of Mexico, you will still find the available conversations very useful in improving your Spanish in general.
The Spanish used in all of our conversations can be understood by native Spanish speakers anywhere in the world. If you are particularly interested in improving your ability to use a regional pronoun like vos, vosotros, etc. you should consult an audio program or class that has that focus.
Q: If I want to know the meaning of a Spanish word, what are my options?
A: Spanish Voices™ provides you with several easy and quick ways to find the meaning of any word. We emphasize ‘quick’ because we want you to return your attention to the story as soon as possible.
When you have a conversation open, you can view the meaning of any word in several ways, depending on the format you are using. Here are some of the possibilities:
Clicking on the word shows the translation.
The translation is visible in a column to the right.
The translation is visible as the audio is playing.
Pausing the mouse over a word shows the translation.
All of the options above show a contextual translation; that is, a short definition of the word in English as it is used in the conversation. If you want to see a more complete dictionary definition of the word you can invoke the built in Spanish-English dictionary, (powered by Ultralingua, inc ) in a few ways:
Clicking on the word looks up the word and shows the definition in the Dictionary column to the right.
Clicking on the ‘magnifying glass’ icon on the informational popup shows the definition in the Dictionary, too.
Clicking on the More… link at the bottom of the Dictionary, opens a dialog with an even more detailed definition, with examples.
Clicking on the More… link at the bottom of the Dictionary dialog looks up the word in an online dictionary and shows the result in your internet browser.
Q: Can I listen to the conversations from Spanish Voices™ in my car?
Yes. You can burn any of your conversations to audio CDs. We recommend listening to the conversations – without reading the text – as a beneficial practice. Depending on your level, you may want to do this as a first step, or you may want to listen after you have used Spanish Voices™ to understand a conversation more thoroughly.
Q: How many times should I listen to a particular conversation?
A: This depends on you. In general, we recommend that you listen to a conversation several times – sometimes using the text, translations and dictionary, and sometimes using just the audio.
It’s a good idea to spread out your listenings over several weeks or months. You’re not trying to memorize vocabulary to pass a test – rather you are listening to stories and gradually building up your passive knowledge of Spanish. As you do this you should notice that you understand more and more.
Q: How do I get the most out of Spanish Voices™?
To get the most out of Spanish Voices™ view the tutorial that is available to you when you start Spanish Voices™. This tutorial will orient you to best practices and will show you most of the tools of the program.
Q: What does Spanish Voices™ do for me that I can’t get from other programs?
A: It gives you an enjoyable and easy way to acquire more Spanish that complements the study of the Spanish language that other programs emphasize. Also, it exposes you to the natural, spontaneous speech of native speakers as opposed to the scripted language of other programs. Spanish Voices™ allows you to acquire Spanish vocabulary and skill at understanding native speakers, all at a much faster rate than conventional programs.
Q: Why do you say ‘Spanish Voices™ is not for beginners’?
A: Theoretically, a beginning student could learn from Spanish Voices™. But if you know something about the grammatical differences between English and Spanish (especially verb forms, pronouns and word order), you will be able to learn much more quickly from Spanish Voices™ – or from living in a Spanish speaking country, for that matter.
Q: I know a little Spanish. How do I know whether I Spanish Voices™ is right for me?
A: Download the Free Trial version of Spanish Voices™, view the tutorial and try it out. If you find that you feel frustrated or confused after each session then either:
you are too much of a beginner and should study Spanish elsewhere before using Spanish Voices™
or, you may be may be approaching this using the conventional approach – that is, expecting immediate memorization. Remember that Spanish Voices™ works best if you relax and enjoy listening to the stories. Trust that you are learning and that learning a language is a gradual process.
Q: Is Spanish Voices™ available for my Mac or IPad (IPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc.)?
A: Not yet. If you are interested in one of these platforms, please let us now. We plan to offer Spanish Voices™ on other platforms in the future, based on demand.
Q: How do I know if I’m learning?
A: You can know that you are learning by:
Recognizing that you can more easily understand conversations that you have been listening to over time
Using the History tool to test yourself on vocabulary that you had previously looked up.
Recognizing that, over time, your ability to understand Spanish speakers you engage with is improving.
Q: How will my mistakes be corrected?
A: Spanish Voices™ does not correct your mistakes. You have the capacity to correct yourself as you learn more. As you listen to native speakers, you learn correct Spanish from them, and you can apply that understanding to yourself. You will probably always make some mistakes when you speak Spanish, no matter how advanced you become. But the frequency of mistakes can vary quite a bit and depends mainly on your desire to speak Spanish well.
Keep in mind that at intermediate and advanced levels, your mistakes will rarely get in the way of good communication. Those mistakes will affect, however, others’ opinons of you as a Spanish speaker.
Q: The amount of new vocabulary seems overwhelming…Is this program right for me?
A: The amount of new vocabulary may be overwhelming to some – especially if they have the notion that they must learn and memorize all the new vocabulary now. Remember that the focus in Spanish Voices™ is on ‘listening to – and enjoying – people’s stories’. You need look up only the words you want to look up. You don’t need to look up every new word that you come across, at least the first time you are exposed to a conversation.
Q: How does Spanish Voices™ teach me the grammar I need to know?
A: Spanish Voices™ is not designed to provide you with grammar instruction. If you want this, it’s best to get it from another program or course.
If you are already pretty familiar with Spanish grammar, you can use Spanish Voices™ to deepen your understanding. For example, if you want to better hear and use the subjunctive mood in Spanish, you can search for conversations that contain instances of subjunctive use. Then, when you open these conversations, you will see all those uses of the subjunctive highlighted in the text.
Also, the built in Dictionary in Spanish Voices™ allows you to look up the various verb conjugations for any verb.
Q: Do you offer academic discounts or other programs for university and high school students?
A: We do not offer the kind of academic discounts offered by Microsoft®, Apple® and others. However:
If you are a student, please contact us and explain your situation and what you would like. We are considering a program to support high school and university students and we need your input.
If you are a Spanish instructor and would like to use Spanish Voices™ for your course, please contact us. We can provide you information on a ‘group license’ and we can even adapt your own recorded Spanish audio conversations to work with Spanish Voices™.