By Nate Adcock on Wed, 08/04/2010
As a dabbler of a few languages, I admit that I am not a natural learner. My English is not that good, and it's my native tongue! Anyhoo, I took Spanish in high school, but never could quite get the hang of the tricky rolling r sounds, the masculine and feminine forms, etc. With iStart Spanish on my iPod, I may finally be able to make some progress, and understand some of my wife's favorite TV shows.
I installed iStart Spanish on my 2G iPod (running iOS 4.0) directly from the app store. The app is a hefty 128MB, so I would probably not try to grab it over your cell connection. My download speeds on my touch are about the same as my desktop computer, so WiFi worked fine for me. I had a minor issue when running it, which I will detail below. There is a lite version of the app you can check out, and it is currently celebrating a whopping 4 1/2 stars.
iStart Spanish is a real language course--starting with very basic subjects like alphabet, pronunciation and grammar, working up to complete dialog (beginner level). The course sections appear like a chat or IM session. You can play or pause the course or simply swipe up or down to go to a particular part of the lesson. The chat conversation includes audio and text explanations from an english-speaking instructor and 2 native Latin speakers provide spoken examples: 1 is from Spain, and the other from Latin America; one male, and the other female. When I navigated manually to certain sections of the lesson manually, the audio would sometimes not play. A minor issue that might be something the developer should look into (though it could have been a problem with my 2G). Each course can be played from the beginning serially, and controls at the top allow you to start or stop at any portion. Great for playing in the car on the drive to work.
The main screen keeps track of your overall progress, and can be used to navigate to the different lessons. If you want to increase font size or tweak the opening music, basic settings are provided. There is also some type of Facebook integration (what app doesn't have this these days).
As you progress through the lessons, you also earn badges. Not sure what each badge is worth in pesos (probably not much), but it is kinda fun to get a badge from a fat penguin wearing bifocals. Sadly, I have not advanced to even a jalapeño yet... :( ...I am hopeful I will, uh, graduate to this lofty title soon...
The lesson screen includes several study tools to help reinforce what you have learned. At any time during your study, you can switch to either a summary of the material or even take a short quiz. You can also review a selection of Spanish words that will aid in understanding and applying what you have learned in the lesson.
It is definitely too soon to tell if iStart Spanish will help me, but hopefully someday I can watch El Clon on Telemundo (my wife's favorite show) and understand what is going on. Now i can only pick out a few words here and there. I recommend iStart Spanish if you are looking for a good introductory Spanish course that you can carry around with you. It has features that make it easy to use not only for reference, but also for course study as well. You can grab it at the iTunes link below...