I’ve been wanting to do a review of Transparent Language for a while, but only have the chance now. For this review, I chose to learn Thai with the transliteration, so all my opinion is based on that. My main aim is to speak and gain as much vocabulary possible in 14 days (I’ll tell you why 2 weeks below, so keep on reading).
Transparent Language is a language learning web software started in 1991 by the same name Transparent Language, Inc and is based in Nashua, New Hampshire, United States. There are over 100 languages available. This software is not only for individual learners, but it also focuses on organizations such as military and federal government, school and universities, public and academic libraries, corporate and other organizations.
When I chose Thai as a language I want to learn, the system gave me options whether I want to have the transliterated translation with it or no. I chose yes. I know some people may think it’s not a wise choice, but that’s how I learned all the languages (Korean, Arabic, and Mandarin).
The interface is quite easy to understand as there is an instruction as soon as you started (the same with other language courses). Before I begin with the first lesson, I was introduced with a welcome lesson where they presented me with 5 very basic words like hello, thank you, yes, no and Thai.
There is a total of 11 units. Each unit has 3 lessons and a test (an assessment). There are 7 – 8 types of exercises for each of the lessons. They consist of:
It introduces the transliterated words and phrases along with the translation side by side. You can either play all of them at once and/or listen to each one by one. They show them in the normal pronunciation speed just like how the natives would speak it.
Still using the same words, but now they add the Thai words, pictures (not all have pictures) and the slow speed version.
Practice saying both the words and phrases in Thai. After you finished, they will put the recording done by the native speaker together with yours, so you can compare them and fix where it needs to be fixed.
Recognize & Write It
Type the English translation of the words/phrases shown to you.
There are 2 ways to do this exercise.
– You’ll be given choices for each word/ phrase. Choose the right one and say it by clicking the record button.
– Turn off the microphone by clicking the l green button. It’s the same like the first one, just without a microphone.
You’ll be listening to a recording and all you have to do is match the word/phrases that are being said to the one shown in the boxes.
Produce & Say it
They will show you the translation and you have to think of the right transliterated words/ phrases for it and then just say it out loud to yourself. This is not a recording exercise. After that, click the Show Thai button to see it it’s correct. If it’s wrong, try again.
It’s pretty straight forward like the name says. The words will be scrambled and you just have to unscramble it by rearranging them to the correct position.
There are 2 ways to do this exercise.
– Type in the transliterated words/ phrases to the one you’ll be listening to. There is an easy typing keyboard provided (you can use your own keyboard if you want to). Make sure you get the marker or in Spanish it’s called the Tilde right. Don’t worry, that will be provided as well as soon as you type any vowels they will appear.
– Turn on the easy typing by clicking the O button. You’ll be provided with a few alphabets at the bottom. Just click on any of them to spell it. This one is a bit easier because you don’t have to worry much about the marker, but there will be times where you have to think whether the vowels have it or not when they provide you with both.
As you complete the lesson one by one, it will be removed automatically from your Learning Path dashboard, but you can still access them by going to the browse section at the top.
Also, if you look on the right side you’ll see that you have an X amount of stale vocab you would want to refresh. They even give options whether you want to refresh all, 10 most stale, 10 random or selected vocab.
One of the best features of this program is their practice section. You can practice and test the 4 language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) with any of your favorite exercises.
They have a 14-day trial, which is awesome. Usually, it’s just 7-day trial with other courses.
They show us the objective for each lesson. That way we’ll able to know what we can do upon completing them.
The next time you log in again, it will show you the last lesson you were learning, so you can jump straight to it.
I like the way they structure the content. They make me learn everything in context. They choose a topic, for example, go shopping, booking a hotel, etc and prepare the most common words/ phrases/ questions based on that. So, rather than learning numbers, colors, sizes, etc in one go, they put each of them in a different context. I must say it’s a really good strategy because it makes me curious which numbers or colors will come next.
You can add a new lesson(s) to your Learning Path dashboard by clicking the browse button at the top menu and choose any new content you want to learn. This way, you don’t just stick with what’s already been chosen.
Transparent Language also provides a reference section where we can find out more about the Thai language, so we are not just learning the language, but also the history of it. Apart from that, there are grammar reference, grammar tips, and language learning tips as well.
You can download all of the General Vocabulary Audio including all the 11 unit’s lessons which are super awesome because I can listen to it offline. Not to mention their Online e-Resources as well.
At the very beginning of this review, I said the interface is quite easy to understand. Well, it’s half true. Mainly because they only give instruction on what we will frequently use, which is the dashboard. Other than that, we have to figure out ourselves.
When I clicked the browse section at the top, there is a category called General Vocabulary. To my surprise, there are tons of vocabulary that the 11 unit lesson doesn’t cover. It’s like a lesson within a lesson. Initially, I found out about this when I click on one of the practice activities. I know they can’t spoon-feed us all, but it’d be great if they tell us earlier about this.
The lesson takes the time to load. I’m sure it has nothing to do with my internet connection because when I go to other websites they load pretty fast.
Even though I choose transliterated, they should include an introduction to the Thai alphabet at the very beginning of the lesson, just so we can recognize when we see it. They do include them in all of the lessons so why not create one about that.
Another reason why they should include is, in each lesson, there is a section called grammar tips and language learning tips (all about pronunciation). There are 20 videos in there explaining about the grammar aspect and 5 videos about pronunciation.
It is good resources, however, in the pronunciation section, they give examples using the Thai alphabets. How am I suppose to know which letter to emphasize if I know nothing about them? The original spelling is all foreign to me thus all of them look the same.
The first time I did the pronunciation practice and multiple choice, it works quite smooth with a few problems where it keeps saying the ‘microphone not found’ when it works just fine (I’m using an earpiece). The next time I do it, it’s still giving me the same reason. I have to redo that specific lesson repeatedly. The only difference this time is it only works for a while and then it got cut. I can’t do the lesson at all. It’s so annoying. I try taking off the earpiece and surprisingly, it works.
The assessment only covers very little vocab, which to me isn’t enough. If I add all vocabulary I learn in those 3 lessons that would be roughly around 33 words, yet the assessment only assesses 12 words. That’s not even half of it.
I don’t know how the stale algorithm/ system works, but some of the vocab shown are from the recent lessons so they are still fresh in my head. They should show most of those I learned from day 1.
Based on the provided lessons it looks to me, it’s made for people who are prepared to travel in a foreign country (in my case, it’s Thailand). It’d be great if they can include a profession lesson. Simply put, if you’re doing a self-introduction you’re more likely to state your profession.
If I have to say one thing I’m thankful about learning the Thai language is that it doesn’t have gender-specific nouns, unlike Spanish 😀 My journey using this software has been fun and I have to say the method works.
Some people may complain the exercises given might be quite a lot, but to me it’s necessary because the purpose is to strengthen our understanding of what we’ve just learned. Just like its Founder and CEO, Michael Quinlan said
“Instead of just making it fun and just making it easy, we also make it work”
I’d definitely recommend this program. If your current course doesn’t have the language you want to learn, give this a try. I have learned 461 vocabulary by using this course and frankly speaking, I’d love to come back and refresh it all someday though I don’t have a definite plan for it yet. For now, I’m just going to jot down the basic phrases that I’d most likely be used in a conversation.