Wrapping up my third year of formally studying Spanish, I wanted to share my thoughts on the various courses of study I’ve tried throughout the years and what curriculum was the best. I have used Spanish for Children, LIFEPAC Spanish, which I’ve previously reviewed, and most recently Breaking the Barrier Spanish, which is undoubtedly the best language course I’ve taken.
While searching for a language course, there a three things I was specifically looking for: concise grammatical explanations, the right type and amount of exercises, and readability in physical book itself.
Breaking the Barrier definitely satisfies the first criterion. I found my solid foundation of English grammar to be incredibly useful in understanding Spanish grammar, but the book is very good at explaining Spanish grammar in relation to English that it shouldn’t be a problem if you aren’t that familiar with English grammar. The authors did a very good job of avoiding the assumption that the student has knowledge outside of what Breaking the Barrier itself contains. Furthermore, they took pains to always carefully connect related concepts so that you don’t even have to look in another chapter of the book for clarity.Especially this last year struggling with the subjunctive tense, which has an infinite amount of applications and rule exceptions, I didn’t feel the need to do any research outside the information Breaking the Barrier provides.
As a side note, I really like how they explain irregular verbs forms because their explanations make it infinitely easier to memorize them.
When it comes to exercises, Breaking the Barrier excels again. There aren’t any redundant, “write the same phrase ten times” types of exercises. Each book contains twelve chapters, and each chapter has several lessons. Each lesson has corresponding exercises, and at the end of the chapter there is a review section that has exercises related to each lesson and also the vocabulary in each chapter. Finally each chapter has a test covering the concepts learned. There is also a short essay section at the end of each test.
Finally when it comes to readability, I haven’t come across a more aesthetically pleasing, at least to me, Spanish textbook. Everything is laid out neatly and in an easily accessible way. There’s no eye clutter; everything is straight to the point. I the book’s use of tables to lay out verb conjugations and quick overviews of grammar constructs with multiple variables.
Breaking the Barrier definitely gets five stars from me. Thanks to Breaking the Barrier I was able to read The Little Prince (El principito) in Spanish this year, which I’m really proud of.
I’m considering doing their French course in the future, but I’m not sure yet.
P.S. I’ve noticed there are also ebook versions of the textbook, but I’ve never used them so I can’t vouch for them. The print books though are completely worth it.