Tell Me More

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Catch Phrase
“A communicative approach based on speaking."

The Background
Founded in 1987, Tell Me More claims to be the first language learning product to use speech recognition. The product, which touts its heavily multimedia approach, is at of this writing the most expensive one on the market.

The Approach
Their slogan might as well be "We don't baby you" because when you first fire this up, you will surely think you've started in the wrong (and way too advanced) level. Here's the very first lesson for the rank beginner, who has to choose the correct response:

Don't sweat it too much, though, because both responses are correct, although you may not know it if you're just starting out. And it doesn't get any better from here. After you've run through the alphabet in this fashion, the next activity is a word-to-picture match, featuring words you may (or may not have) encountered (once) somewhere on the previous 26 screens. You could say, "well, that's immersion instruction," except for two things: 1) guesswork isn't instruction; and 2) there's plenty of English around, if you can call an explanation like this "English":

"Il se peut que is an expression of probability which introduces a clause with a verb in the subjunctive mood, even if the verb pouvoir is conjugated in a tense other than the present indicative."

Mon dieu! Yet this odd product has scores of proponents and admirers. Why? Because of its rich multimedia approach and the variety of activities available in each lesson: video clips, crossword puzzles, missing-word games and so on. Each one-to-two-hour lesson starts off with an interactive video clip (they include a USB headset) in which your responses direct the action. Clever, but this is actually less useful than it sounds, for in order to take full advantage of this, you'd have to watch the video multiple times, and I doubt many students are going to do that, especially when you see the daunting and taunting "1:45 remaining in lesson" counter on the screen.

Other media include short French film clips that you can watch with or without the dialog displayed; you advanced students can even create your own dialog. And it's the only product I've seen that has phonetic instruction and exercises with anatomical pictures (moving).

Among the products I've reviewed, only TMM and Rosetta Stone offer speech recognition, and it seems to work decently here. As with Rosetta, you can practice matching the waveform of your pronunciation to that of a native speaker, but I've always found these types of exercises a poor substitute for someone sitting across from you and correcting your pronunciation.

Some other nice features include the ability to click on any word and see its translation. (Speaking of clicking, they require way too much of that. A correct "click" on an answer should take you to the next screen, without have having to click again on "next.") There is a wealth of material here; the 10-level set will keep you busy for some time, yet the impression I have as an "advanced beginner" student is that this product is a holy mess. If the material were organized into something coherent, it might be a decent self-learning tool, but giving you quizzes and games is not a substitute for instruction. More advanced students wanting to sharpen their listening skills might find it useful, however, for it exposes you to far more spoken French than anything else I've reviewed.

Extensive, but not actually taught anywhere.

Hot New Feature
Web version with live instructor option. I could not get the web version to operate, however, and their Technical Support did not respond to my e-mail.

The Skinny

  • Pros
    1. Lots of different activities and media
    2. Voice recognition
    3. Cultural lessons (in French)
    4. Right-click on any word in almost any activity to see its meaning
    5. Free 7-day trial of web version (if you can get it to work)
  • Cons
    1. Little in the way of actual instruction, as they apparently abide by the "learn by osmosis" philosophy
    2. Expensive (see costs below)
    3. Not sure just how one is to learn a foreign language from scratch with this
  • Available languages: Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic
  • Version reviewed: 10-level version 10.3
  • Cost: $529 for the full, 10-level set. $399 for the 5-level, $1699 for a 12-month subscription to the web version, including 30 private half-hour lessons via Skype.
  • Verdict: Strictly NOT for beginners. Students who already speak some French and who want to brush up may find it useful.
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1 comment:

  1. I think the pros still outweighs the cons.. I also learn learn french through skype but in a different platform. My teacher is from so it's a but different but I guess with hardwork, everyone can learn French if they really want to.


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