Web+MP3 or CD/DVD, No pronunciation scores, Cheap, ★
They have courses which you can subscribe to online ($80 for 6 months) or buy and use offline ($80), with slightly different features. 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 each online course, and some of the DVD courses. They do not show a table of contents to indicate the topics they cover. In particular there is no way to know if they cover business needs, such as telephone contacts, or just social interactions. 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 (CD only), Kazakh, Korean, Kurdish, Portuguese (Brazil), Turkish, and Ukrainian. Their choice of languages results from their funding by the US National Security Education Program, "Born out of post-mortem analysis from Desert Storm, NSEP was designed to represent a post-Cold War investment in vital expertise in languages and cultures critical to U.S. national security."