CD/DVD, No pronunciation scores, Cheap, ★
They have courses which you can buy and use offline ($40). They show text written in the target language, and you can choose to hear individual words or sentences in the target language or in English. The audio and video are fairly deadpan. The courses include brief notes on grammar and word use.
They offer no slowing down of the audio to learn it, no breakdown into syllables, no explanation of intonation nor how to pronounce individual sounds. Reviewers of the Portuguese course note that speakers drop syllables,
- "characters make some of the typical reductions used by natives. Regrettably, their inconsistency throughout the 20 lessons confused students." (Calico 2003, 20:371-9)
Their websites show samples of some of the DVD courses. The tables of contents show they cover travel and classrooms. They do not seem to cover business needs, such as telephone contacts. They say they have, "Up to 12,000 pronunciations and translations" without saying how many of each per language.
The courses are too hard for complete beginners. They may help intermediate students, especially since the website helpfully shows all the reviews they know of for their courses, up through June 2011. Most reviewers are skilled speakers of the languages, so they point out issues in pronunciation or word usage which are important for intermediate learners. These reviews are worth reading before an intermediate student buys a course; a corollary of expertise is that reviewers usually do not see how hard the courses are for beginners.
They offer Cantonese, Mandarin, Kazakh, Korean, Kurdish, Portuguese (Brazil), Turkish, and Ukrainian. Their choice of languages results from their funding by the US National Security Education Program, "NSEP was created to develop a much-needed strategic partnership between the national security community and higher education, addressing the national need for experts in critical languages and regions."