The 10 Minutes a Day series was designed as a quick course for travelers to learn basic conversational vocabulary they are likely to need. The course is available in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. I reviewed the Spanish course and references are to that course. Other courses are similar but might have slight variations.
Each “Audio CD Kit” consists of a set of 6 audio CDs, one interactive software program disc (that will run on either Macs or PCs), and a colorful workbook. You can also purchase components in other combinations or individually. (As of October 2011, only the Spanish course is available with the inclusion of the CD-ROM. Courses for the other three language will soon be adding it.)
The audio CDs are presented in “steps” that correlate with lessons in the book. They feature numerous speakers with different accents, but all are easy to understand compared to what I have heard on some other audio CDs. Instructions are in English and include mention of when students should work on pages in the book. CDs use the typical listen-and-repeat approach but with more explanation such as that about the forms of plural nouns. The CDs cover the material differently than does the book. They could be used on their own for a strong auditory learner, but I would recommend the book, too, for almost all learners. CD set offers about eight hours of instruction.
The full-color,130-page workbook is illustrated and has a very attractive layout that should appeal to all students. Throughout the workbook, it shows the pronunciation of each word in small print above the Spanish word. At the bottom of most pages are five cognates (words that are very similar in both Spanish and English such as “clase” and “class”) and their translations. Explanations and instructions in the book and on the CDs often incorporate words from the new language into English sentences: “Now open your libro to the sticky labels on page 17….” Over 150 peel-and-stick labels come with the book. Students are directed to attach the labels to items around the house that will help them continually practice the new vocabulary; they do this with groups of labels at a time as they relate to current lessons rather than all at once. The book has a few crossword puzzles, matching games, and a variety of other activities that make it interesting to complete the exercises.
At the end are a glossary, Beverage and Menu Guides, and flash cards. A menu translation guide is printed on cardstock and can be removed, folded in thirds, and taken on a trip as a handy reference tool. Flash cards, also printed on card stock, should be cut apart and used for drill on verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and pronouns—words not covered with the stick-on labels.
The CD-ROM is a more recent addition to the courses. It has four different menu items: numbers, colors, vocabulary matching, and label matching. The latter two menus cover broader ranges of vocabulary. These are fun to use. Learners of all ages should enjoy using them and children are likely to love them. However, the coverage is fairly limited, making the CD-ROM the only dispensable item in the set in my opinion.
Even though targeted at travelers, the vocabulary is practical for the most part. Beer, wine, and alcoholic beverages are mentioned on the menu but not in text that I could find. Basic words for religion and church are included. It seems like the course is well suited for family travelers more than for those who want to check out the night life and parties.
The course stresses that students should spend no more than ten minutes a day. Clearly, this is not intended to be a comprehensive high school level course, especially since the coverage of grammar is very limited. Students write directly in the workbook, and the amount of writing should be manageable for students about fourth grade and up. In my opinion, this course should serve well as an introductory course for learners from about fourth grade up through adults. High school students might use only the set of audio CDs to supplement another course, especially one that has only a text.
Note: While I liked the Spanish course, one of my readers alerted me to a review for the French course that identifies a number of issues. Some of these "shortcomings" apply also tot he Spanish course since it is merely an introduction, but I didn't find them as big of a concern.