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Monday, December 5, 2011

El Espanol Facil Review


El Espanol Facil (The Easy Spanish) and Le Francais Facile are curriculums published by Great Commission Languages- a company owned by the Sherwood family who are homeschoolers with a passion for equipping Christians to be able to carry out the Great Commission (going out to the world and proclaiming the gospel). 

The TOS Crew was offered our choice of which language we wanted to review, and I have to admit my gut was French.  I studied French for 5 years, and I know the grammar, pronunciations, and sentence structure.  But we live in Florida, and there is a large Hispanic population.  So if ever a language was going to serve us-whether for the mission field or just for understanding the people at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Spanish was the way to go!

Great Commission Languages - Spanish Level 1

 El Espanol Facil is written from a Christian perspective and includes scripture memorization in Spanish, although that is an optional component.  Here are the specifics of the program taken from the Great Commission Languages website:

•Phonetic, incremental, conversational Spanish & high frequency words

•Spanish Scripture, songs, games and coloring pages

•Great for homeschool co-op groups

•Digitally mastered enhanced CD for audio and computer

•Printable activity sheets: no purchasing consumable activity books or photocopying.

•Teaches language and grammar through literature based entertaining storylines

•Does not require prior knowledge of Spanish

•Set outline of skills per quarter

•3 year program for younger students

•1 to 2 year program for older students and 1 year Fast track option for teens

•Cultural flavor of Mexico and South America with optional projects

•Use of Tomatis and SAMONAS sound theories to facilitate learning

•Follows Charlotte Mason Method, Bloom's Taxonomy and high order theories by Dr. Jeanne Chall

•Edited by and featuring the recorded voices of Native Spanish Speakers from Nicaragua and Venezuela

El Espanol Facil can be used by students as young as 3rd grade and all the way up through adults.  It can even count as high school foreign language credit.  For young learners, it is designed to be a 3 year course, and older students can do it in one year.  Independent learners fall somewhere between the two timelines.  Each lesson features a story told in a "Spanish weave"- a blend of Spanish and English.  After the story is a vocabulary section that lists each vocabulary word introduced in the story and gives its masculine and feminine forms (if applicable).  The stories and vocabulary, as well as songs, Bible verses, and other lesson components are all recorded by native speakers on CDs that are included in the curriculum.  These CDs also contain printable materials for the course.  Once your student listens to the CD lesson and vocabulary, there are activities that go along with that lesson for them to do depending on their age.  These activities are presented in a Charlotte Mason style.  For younger students they include easy pages based on the lesson as well as some additional materials about Spanish culture and idioms for the teacher to present.  For independent learners, they are guided through their activities in a special section of each lesson.

The pros:  The program is adaptable to many ages, and the materials are not consumable.  Once purchased, the license is owned by the family, and can be used by all the students in it.  The native speakers speak slowly and clearly, and the lessons are short but focused. 

The cons:  I want to love this program, but so far, I'm just not.  I am all about Charlotte Mason, but this may be too Charlotte Mason-y for me...or at least for my child.  The stories are told in a Spanish/English blend (with both being used even in the same sentence) so the child can derive meaning, and vocabulary given after the story does give definition, but very little of the "traditional" foreign language learning methods such as verb conjugations or practice exercises are given.  Worksheets have asked for answers to vocabulary the student hasn't been introduced to yet-they are supposed to figure it out in context.  Worse still, worksheets have been wrong-asking for the names of one hermano (brother) and two hermanas (sisters) for a character that actually has one sister and two hermanos.  I caught that, but not knowing a word of Spanish besides what Dora the Explorer has taught me, I am wary of having to proofread a foreign language activity when I don't speak the language.  (I do want to say that their customer service and the owners themselves have been GREAT about getting back to me with my questions.)  I also found a mistake in the appendix.  At least I assume it's a mistake, since I don't speak Spanish, but in Appendix B #4 says, "'J' is pronounced h [jaca (pony)], but h in Mexico."  I THINK it should read,  "'J' is pronounced k [jaca (pony)], but h in Mexico."  Again, that sentence just seemed wrong to me, so I checked the pronunciation guide, but as a non-speaker of the language, I'm trusting the book to get it right!  The biggest con to me is that so far, I haven't really seen my son (who I want to note is enjoying the program and doing all the work willingly) pick up anything.  He seems unable to help me with pronunciations of his vocabulary words even after listening to them all week long.  That means I have to learn it all first, and I wasn't planning on taking Spanish this year, which is why this program and its CDs appealed so much to me!  
The bottom line:  In four years on the Crew, very seldom have I ever said, "the jury is still out" on a product, but that's how I feel about El Espanol Facil.  So far, it is Spanish, and it seems easy enough...but I don't think my child is actually learning anything, so it may just not be right for HIM.  He is happy to do it though, and I am happy to let him continue, so we will see what the future holds.  I have to say the wonderful customer service and the company's commitment toward the mission field went a LONG way toward influencing me to have my son continue on.  That and the fact that he likes it.  I just want to actually see the fruit! 

El Espanol Facil is available from Great Commission language for $139.95.  You can check out some sample lessons HERE.  To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about El Espanol Facil or El Espanol Facil Junior, or Le Francais Facile or Le Francais Facile Junior, go HERE.
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