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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Talk Spanish Online

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.3 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.6 stars
Reviewed: Nov 22, 2004 by World Languages Editorial Board
Overview: The BBC?s Talk Spanish is an introduction to 15 basic topics (greetings,
talking about yourself, introducing others, traveling, shopping, and going to
places,e.g., cafes, restaurants, hotels) designed to help beginners of Spanish expand their Spanish vocabulary and cultural awareness about Spain. The site supports the BBC?s TV programming, their regular BBC Learning Zone, and a book and audio CD series, although it is not necessary to have seen or listened to any of them to use the Talk Spanish site.
Learning Goals: The major goals of the site are to introduce beginning learners to basic spoken Spanish, develop listening comprehension, practice through repetitition, and enhance cultural understanding through the explanation of certain expressions, cultural practices and social situations.
Target Student Population: The site is designed for developing beginning proficiency levels in secondary and university settings, or for introducing basic travel survival situations.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some prior knowledge of the topics, e.g., vocabulary, would enhance student learning.
Type of Material: The site is a tutorial.
Recommended Uses: The site offers very basic topics for a beginning Spanish class, especially a class for travelling abroad. Students can practice through repetition and also improve listening comprehension. Modules can be completed in face-to-face instruction, or independently in a lab or home setting.
Technical Requirements: Real Audio is required to download, listen and view audio/video clips. A broadband Internet connection with a fairly fast connection is recommended.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The topics in Talk Spanish include: ?hello,? ?your name,? ?what you do,? ?where you?re from,? ?where you live,? ?more about yourself,? ?what you like,? ?your family,? ?your friends,? ?to a hotel,? ?to a cafe,? ?to a restaurant,? ?shopping,? ?travelling,? and ?to places.? Each of these topics contains the following sub-sections, links which are always found along the right-hand margin in easy-to-remember and colorful icons: a short video segment (usually 1-2 minutes) which also gives the option of listening only to the audio portion (without the video; a transcript in both Spanish and English of the conversations that you hear in the clips; a multiple choice quiz that features up to five photos of the people who appeared in the video each asking a question about the person.

Transcripts generally include links to ?Language Notes,? an additional page in English that briefly outlines basic grammar points such as word endings, masculine vs. feminine usage, informal vs. formal usage, ser vs. estar, tener and querer, among a few others. With a few exceptions, these notes are clear and helpful for understanding why particular usage is required. Cultural explanations are excellent and provide a good introduction to concepts about Spanish society that often go untreated.

The aural texts provide for "real-life" language as spoken by native speakers. The vocabulary in the video and audio clips is presented in written form to reinforce the spoken Spanish.
Concerns: The clips are pre-European Union and feature ?pesetas? rather than ?euros;? most clips seem to center more on the Valencian region than other areas of Spain. Nonetheless, these are truly minor concerns and will not distract from the overall quality of the site.

Students might get additional practice if the written vocabulary sections, words and phrases can be clicked on to hear them spoken again.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The modules present topics that are general and simple, directed more toward situations for travelling abroad. The modules can introduce and complement particular classroom topics, and supplement any text program. Learning is geared toward repetition of key phrases or vocabulary. The materials are very supportive of authentic texts, showing real speakers using real language.
Each clip focuses on a structure being presented. The clips and supporting materials can be used in a classroom effectively in order to point to correct usage and proper pronunciation in addition to reinforcing key greetings, vocabulary, phrases, etc.

An instructor can use the modules in a variety of ways to introduce or reiterate materials during a class to reinforce learning (synchronous learning), or outside of class as supplemental assignments (asynchrounous learning).

Students may find the materials to be entertaining, helpful, and enriching.
Concerns: Interaction is limited to listening, repeating and reading the key phrases. While the repetition is very useful for beginning students, it may be less so for students with more experience with the language.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.6 stars
Strengths: Correct practice is clearly portrayed by using various font colors. The site is very user-friendly, easy to navigate provided the faculty member and student have the appropriate computer requirements, software, and connectivity.

Audio quality is excellent. Users should not encounter any video and audio problems using Real Audio. All links work and pages and clips load quickly with the exception of a a couple of links to games, and the the first quiz link to the "Say hello" module.
Concerns: Since there is maximum use of audio and video clips, the quality of the site will depend on the appropriate computer requirements, software, and connectivity.

The video clips are rather small and the quality is not very good. The video stream for the video clips must remain minimized (small). If maximized, the video stream becomes very distorted. If one re-sizes the video, visual quality is further reduced. Video quality may detract from overall appearance if projected in front of an entire class.

Instructors may need to guide their students initially to point out that the quizzes precede the presentation sections in the menu choice, and that there may be a need to locate and download the Real Player software.