French Pronunciation Tutor and Spanish Pronunciation Tutor are nearly identical applications for two separate languages. Each application comes on a CD-ROM for both Windows and Macintosh. They are only, as the titles say, pronunciation tutors. The primary audience includes those with some knowledge of the language who want to brush up on pronunciation. However, since everything appears in both the tutor language and English, the beginner can pick up some vocabulary and phrases, but no grammer.
The applications are extremely easy to use. I plunged into the French unit, loaded the CD-ROM, skipped the installation, and started right in going through the various button options, without cracking the manual!
The program worked without installation because my Macintosh Quadra 660AV already had QuickTime and Sound Manager installed. The manual showed that installation included QuickTime, Sound Manager, and Recording Resource. Since the installation wanted to give me QuickTime version 1.6.1 and I had version 2.0, I saved QuickTime 2.0 on the side, just in case. When I called for the installation, I was happy to see that the software was smart enough to know not to install QuickTime or Sound Manager. I then tried to install the Recording Resource, and it would not accept it. Apparently, it is not required on my 660AV. In any event, it worked without it.
I had only one problem, but it was not with the program. Highlighting some words resulted in very poor contrast, making reading very difficult. A call to HyperGlot Technical Help solved the problem. See details below.
The French program opens with a Paris scene and a French folk melody, dissolving into the main Topics screen. The Spanish program opens with a large courtyard scene and a Spanish guitar melody, dissolving into the main Topics screen.
The two programs have almost identical main Topics screens. The first topic is rather like a pop quiz, called Pronunciation Check. The user is instructed to click on the phrases to highlight them, pronounce them, record the attempts, and compare them with an expert's. However, the black "highlighter" against the dark red letters makes the words almost completely invisible. The user is expected to read and pronounce this! A discouraging way to start.
About half of the practice words in the program had this highlighting problem. The rest are printed in green and when highlighted were easy to read. When I spoke to HyperGlot Technical Help, I was told that the highlighting shows up on his Macintosh as a very light gray, not black. The problem turned out to be the Highlight Color in the Color Control Panel. The default is Black and White. Changing it to Gray and restarting the machine cured the problem for the Pronunciation Tutors. However, for highlighting text in a word processor, I prefer black, which reverses the letters to white against the black "highlight."
The rest of the topics on the main Topics screen include: alphabet, vowels, consonents, stress and accents, word linking, numbers, telling time, and phrase practice with pictures. Most of the topics are almost identical in the two programs, however, the emphasis on vowels, stress, and linkage is quite different. A volume control is provided. One interesting sidelight: The volume set during the session is maintained after quitting the program.
Foreign language pronunciation has fascinated me for a long time. I get a big kick out of trying to imitate the natives. My formal training consists of one year of high school French (a LONG time ago!) and one semester of adult ed. Spanish. For a tour of French Canada a number of years ago, I boned up on French pronunciation with some language records from the library. At a restaurant in Montreal I ordered in my best French voice. The waitress rattled back a response completely beyond my meager vocabulary. My wife, with many years of French classes, translated, and I completed the orders in English! The waitress really thought I was a native. I was flattered!
Back to the software! Every Topic section provides opportunities to practice pronunciation. The computer, of course, has infinite patience, allowing you to repeat excercises ad infinitum. The experts' examples are divided between male and female voices. However, comparing your own pronunciation with one from an opposite gender is no problem. The ability to record your voice and compare it with the expert's over and over is infinitely easier here than doing it on tape, considering rewinding and re queing the tape.
One of the neat features, the closest these programs come to multimedia, is in the Vowels Topic. As seen in the Screen Shot, there are pictures of a speaker's mouth and a cross section of the vocal apparatus. Clicking one of the vowel sound buttons at the bottom and one of the play buttons animates the picture clicked speaking the vowel in sync with the vowel sound. This gives the user an insight into pronunciation that is not available from language records or, in the case of the cross section, from a live teacher.
Pronunciation of the names of the letters of the alphabet is different in both French and Spanish from that in English. Drilling to perfect this skill includes straight practice with saying the letters and understanding spoken letter names. For the latter, countries on a world map are randomly selected and the name is vocally spelled out. The user must then type what was spoken. The program tells the user which letters were wrong or gives a "Correct" response. Both programs allow the user to type in letters with accents and diacritical marks such as accent aigu (acute "´") and accent circonflex (circumflex "^") in French and tilde (tilde "~") in Spanish. There are no on-screen instructions to make these marks. One must read the manual!
The manual is straight-forward, but virtually unnecessary (except for the diactrical marks). Installation is explained for both the PC and Mac. All the screen buttons are explained, but their use is obvious once they are clicked. There is a trouble shooting guide and a questionaire to fill out to prepare you for a call to HyperGlot's technical help.
For the person with some experience with either French or Spanish, these packages offer an excellent way to brush up and improve his or her pronunciation. For the beginner this is an interesting introduction to the languages, but it is not a substitute for a language program that teaches grammer and vocabulary. One must also consider the difference in price between these programs and programs that come on tape or records. Are the extra features such as very easy interaction and the animated displays worth the price difference?
Hardware requirements for the Mac are:
French Pronunciation Tutor 3.0 and Spanish Pronunciation Tutor 3.0 are products of:HyperGlot Software Co.
HyperGlot makes many other language learning products.
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Revised January 3, 1998 lic
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