Transparent Language Online Learning Software – Review

A little more than a month ago, I was contacted by Transparent Language with an offer I couldn’t refuse.  They offered to give me a month of free access to the new Transparent Language Online program in return for writing a review.

Bounty Hunter Language Course ccImage Courtesy of Stefan on FlickrAs someone who travels a lot and always tries to learn the language where I go, this was an instant yes. As always with reviews, I set some guidelines. I’m willing to review any product or service that deals with travel if I think it might be of benefit to Vagobond readers.  The first rule is that my review is going to be honest and unbiased. Second is that I will not provide additional advertising space on Vagobond unless it is paid for in advance. Third, I won’t let the client guide me in what to say or how to say it.  That’s it.

I was excited to try this software out as I’ve been struggling with Turkish and I had a trip to Greece coming up soon and wanted to brush up on the basics. One thing I was worried about was having to choose one or the other – ultimately, I chose Turkish because it is a language that I really want to master – but guess what? Once you get into the interface, you have access to all of the languages anyway. So, I had the chance to start as an intermediate language user with Turkish and a beginner with Greek.  To be honest, there were a dozen other languages I wanted to dive into, but I restrained myself from it – though I did explore a bit in French, Arabic, and Indonesian too.

As a beginner, Greek is pretty daunting since it has a different alphabet and such a long history behind it. We even have that phrase “It’s all Greek to me” which means we don’t understand something at all.  Yikes. I chose to go with Greek transliterated. Since I only want to get some basics under my belt, I don’t want to dive in too deeply. When you login to the transparent language dashboard you have two tabs – these are worth noting. The first is marked “Learn” – this takes you to learning the language on the site. The second is marked Explore. The Explore tab is cool because it leads you to language and culture blogs, YouTube videos, Word of the Day emails, and even Twitter communities that will help you to dive in to. While I didn’t use the iPhone or Android Apps since my phone isn’t that smart – those were offered as well.  All of these are additional ‘extras’ that come with your program and I found them to be interesting, informative, and most importantly to remind me to study and keep me into it.

For more mainstream languages like French, Spanish, German, Japanese and others there is a third tab – “Connect” this allows you to watch videos of classroom lessons, participate in online tutoring sessions with real instructors or use an e-syllabus, or download a workbook or other coursework.  The resources vary from language to language – for example French offered Facebook where Greek and Turkish didn’t. All of this is probably changing in time, but count on the fact that more popular languages will have more resources so if you are learning Romanian or Urdu – you will have less resources than if you are learning Mandarin or Russian.

Now, let’s move on to the learn button.  The learn button opens to a menu in the sidebar that offers you the course essentials, quick vocabulary lists, reference materials on alphabet and pronunciation and more.

The learning section is the meat and bones. A series of activities and games introduce you to lesson vocabulary and then continue to force you to use that vocabulary in different contexts from filling in the blank to flashcards, to testing your pronunciation against that of a native speaker to finally giving you an evaluation that tells you if you are ready to move on to the next level. Rather than learning things by rote or in lists, the vocabulary is introduced in phrases and bits so the numbers 1-10 are scattered through the lessons and presented in context rather than as a list.  I liked this and found myself learning things far easier than I have in a traditional context.

The first unit of every lesson is a floating word/phrase cloud that when you click on the word/phrase you hear it and see the translation. Once you’ve clicked on all the words, you move on to the next activity. I won’t go into the details, but I found the activities to be fun and entertaining and by the end of the month, I found myself with a far better command of Turkish than I’d had before.  Each unit had three lessons with 8-10 activities which took about 15-20 minutes each.  There were 11 units. I made it through the first lesson in Greek and through five units in Turkish.  My biggest complaint is that I wish I had more time to sit and study as I found the activities to be enjoyable and worthwhile – but time to sit and concentrate – that’s one of the precious things these days.

So – on the positive side.  1) Fun 2) Entertaining 3) Effective  – I should point out that as a beginning and intermediate language learner, this program was awesome but I didn’t focus on any advanced learning. So, if you are an advanced learner – I recommend you learn more.

On the negative side 1) You need to have a good connection to the internet. Our DSL was spotty and it caused me to lose progress and become frustrated several times.  You can’t do the work without having a connection.  2) You really need to have the time to focus on this in order to get the most from it. My life is a bit hectic at the moment – so make sure when you get this program, that you have time scheduled to dig into it. If you do, you’ll never regret it.

At the moment, I see that they are offering this for $149 for a six month period. That’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned. I totally recommend Transparent Online. Still, the best thing you can do is go try it yourself.  I’m sure you’ll see what I’m talking about. This program is great.

By the way – if you sign up for six months and after you are done, you aren’t satisfied – they offer a full refund! That’s some confidence, but I can tell you – it’s well placed.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure – Transparent Language provided me with one month of unrestricted access to their new product free of charge. In addition, any links you find to Transparent Language on this site are affiliate links which means that I get paid a commission if you purchase the online language program. Here’s the deal with that – you can rest assured that I will never provide affiliate links to anything I don’t recommend, so when you see an affiliate link on Vagobond – it’s worth checking out.

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook