On my list of languages to learn, Spanish has always been next. Having studied a number of languages in an academic setting including German, Japanese, Hebrew and Greek, I have always wanted to learn Spanish for practical reasons. California has a large Spanish speaking population and borders Mexico. Since I live in California, it would be beneficial to know Spanish.
Recently, I picked up some French as my wife Jill and I took a trip to Paris. I loved learning French. It’s a fun language with lots of interesting features. I really enjoyed learning French through various podcasts and wondering around the streets of Paris. However, French is not imminently practical. Merde.
After all France lies some 3000 or so miles east. Mexico, on the other hand, is only about a ten hour drive away. When I came back from Paris, I felt torn. I’d love to dig into French but Spanish has been next for a long time. Luckily, both Spanish and French live next to each other in the Romance family of languages. So I can learn Spanish and give myself some exposure to the roots of French.
When I need to learn something I don’t know, I find the smartest people I know and ask them how I can learn it. This often entails inviting Paul MacFarlane over for dinner. Politics. Paul MacFarlane. Plant biology. Paul MacFarlane. Commerical jet design. Paul MacFarlane. Legal advice. Wait, that’s Larissa and Janice. Spanish…do you see the pattern? Paul MacFarlane! So I had dinner one day with Paul a while back and he told me he had just the thing. Destinos.
Having learned most of the languages I know in academic setting, I’m all too aware of the short comings of learning a language in a classroom. Human beings learn to speak their native language through a method of watching, listening and responding to their environment. Parents don’t sit their infant down in a classroom and lecture them on parts of speech. Parents talk to them as they chase them around the building. Children absorb language through their senses. A classroom may have certain benefits, but learning the language in as natural an environment as possible cooperates with way human beings actually learn language at the most primitive level.
Destinos provides a course of study through a combination of video, workbook and textbook. The video allows the learner to see the language used in its natural context through an unfolding story about a family. The video introduces and repeats the content clearly so that the learner can have an opportunity to grasp the key words and main concepts. The story line engages the imagination and demonstrates the use of language. The workbook contains as much Spanish as possible from the episode. Glancing ahead in the workbook, I can see that Desinos starts off slowly and scales the difficulty over time.
After only a few episodes of Destinos, I’m convinced that this tool will give me the introduction to Spanish that I’ve always wanted. Now if they only had a French version. Oh, wait look. Debuts: Le Chemin du retour.