PROS / Lessons only take an hour to complete, making it easy to brush up on Spanish daily.
CONS / For such an audio-heavy program, the software had difficulty reading audio input and producing clear sound clips during our tests.
VERDICT / While’s it’s missing some key content like conversation practice, Transparent covers enough ground to have you speaking basic Spanish in a few lessons.
Transparent Language Essentials covers most of what you’d learn in a classroom setting or with a private tutor. This learn Spanish software covers grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary and builds upon previous lessons. This keeps you fresh with new material and refreshed on lessons you’ve already covered. It's mostly geared toward auditory learners, which makes the flaws in some of its audio tools surprising.
Transparent covers most of the lesson content we looked for in the best learning Spanish software. It teaches pronunciation, grammar, writing, vocabulary and some cultural information throughout the lessons. This software doesn’t have any dedicated reading or conversation practice lessons, but you encounter enough written Spanish paired with audio clips to learn the basics of Spanish pronunciation. The grammar and culture lessons aren’t part of the main course but rather serve as appetizers, found under an additional learning section.
Most of the activities in Transparent focus on pronunciation and vocabulary. Pronunciation exercises are scattered throughout each lesson and grow in difficulty through the course. These exercises begin each unit with simple words and build to full Spanish sentences. You also play several vocabulary memory games to keep your skills sharp.
The program has a slick and modern interface, but we did have problems with the audio during the recording and pronunciation sections. We used the same microphone headset to test each of the learn Spanish programs we reviewed. While the headset was compatible with every program we tested, Transparent was unable to pick up our voices, even when we spoke clearly and loudly. Additionally, some of the prerecorded sound clips sounded garbled when we slowed them down to clarify pronunciation.
Transparent’s course is made up of five units with several smaller lessons in each. Each unit takes about an hour to complete, so you may need to set time aside to learn. If you’ve previously taken Spanish lessons, you probably don’t want to start at the beginning.
All Spanish programs save and report your progress, but Transparent Essentials does this to a lesser degree. We found the progress tracking to be weak compared to similar programs. Rather than providing reports on the quality of your work, this program only has a progress bar.
Transparent Language Essentials heavily favors auditory learners. You can download MP3s of vocabulary words to review what you’ve learned. A large chunk of the exercises is speech and recording activities; these lessons present a Spanish word along with a clip of a native Spanish speaker saying it for you to imitate. You can slow down the clip to hear the word better or record right after hearing the word.
The pronunciation section is similar those in other learn Spanish software programs. It has an accuracy meter that gauges how close your attempt is to the native speaker's speech. The gauge is stricter than those in other programs. During our tests, the gauge never gave us credit for being perfectly accurate; this motivated us to spend extra time trying to improve our score.
In addition to the main course, the program has an additional learning section with 24 video lessons. These short videos look more like PowerPoint presentations with slides of text and images than actual videos, but they still contain useful information, covering basic grammar and cultural topics surrounding the Spanish language. Visual learners will respond well to the flashcards sections and the bright written Spanish words that repeat throughout the lesson.
Kinesthetic learners may still find themselves engaged with the program’s matching and memory activities, although they are probably more useful for visual learners. The pronunciation and recording sections are somewhat interactive, but kinesthetic learners may find themselves coasting through the lessons without retaining much.
Transparent Language Essentials is a brief course that teaches must-know Spanish words and phrases. When you complete the lessons and practice your pronunciation and vocabulary, you’ll know enough to navigate a supermarket, hail a taxi or book a hotel room in Spanish. This program does favor auditory learning, but there are still tools for learners of all types. However, the audio tools are somewhat buggy.