In the summer, I got an email that I could "test flight" the iPhone app for Spanish and started testing it through its updates. Mid-October 2016, "SuperCoco - Learn Spanish by talking" went live. It's pretty neat.
For many people, myself included, learning to converse with some fluency in a new language is highly challenging. SuperCoco seeks to addresses that issue in interesting ways.
Except for audio programs such as the Pimsleur Language Programs, and more than any other language apps or programs that I've tried, SuperCoco encourages you to SPEAK. The instructions are simple: "When you hear Spanish, you repeat it. When you hear English, you say the Spanish."
Phil Mitchell, who is the founder of Larkwire, the maker of the SuperCoco app, told us:
"SuperCoco was built by people who love language learning. It's the app we wanted for ourselves. Version 1.0 is incomplete, of course, there's lots more coming ... but we'd really love to hear from users about what they like and don't like in the app so far. It's an opportunity for people to get the app that they want."
WHAT YOU LEARN
To date, SuperCoco has four (4) Levels: Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Early Intermediate, Intermediate.
Five (5) more Levels are to come: Advanced Intermediate, Proficient, Advanced Proficient, Near Fluent, Fluent.
Each of the current Levels has 60 or more conversations organized into 4 Chapters. In a Level you'll learn over 1000 sentences, and around 1000 new vocabulary items. (see screen shot: Intermediate Chapter 3)
The conversations are in the form of brief stories, sometimes ending with a humorous or surprising twist. These anecdotes contain cultural information and give context to the language.
You don't learn lists, you always learn words in the context of conversational sentences. That also means you learn grammatical forms as they are used.
Only new words are practiced separately in the Spanish First + words option, which is the initial and default "learning stage." Any words you've had before, are not isolated for practice.
There's a wide variety of topics. They include: Essentials, Food, Shopping, Communications, Transportation, Housing, Health, Social, Entertainment, Sights, Language, Dating, Wayfinding, Family, Work, Culture, School, and others.
SuperCoco automatically moves you through Learning Stages that are increasingly challenging.
(You could, but don't need to ever touch the Practice Mode button.)
- Spanish first + words (Sp. audio - pause - words Sp./Engl. - Sp. audio - pause - Eng. - Sp. written)
- Spanish first (Sp. audio - pause - Eng. audio - Sp. audio - pause - Sp. written)
- English first (Engl. audio - pause - Sp. audio - Sp. written)
- Partner: You take the role of one of the conversation partners (tap to hear Spanish)
Phil Mitchell also explained the following:
"Tracking every word allows the program to do something really neat: if SuperCoco predicts that you can already produce a given sentence, it jumps right into English First mode the first time you see that line. This is very powerful. First, it gives you the chance to produce Spanish that you've never heard before; and second, when you're in the flow of the conversation, you often speak the Spanish without even realizing that it's brand new. You're just speaking Spanish."
HOW YOU LEARN: FIRST LISTENING and SPEAKING
With SuperCoco you learn first and foremost through sound. When you start a lesson, you can go hands free, and just listen and repeat. The lesson continues automatically.
Or if you wish, you can control SuperCoco by voice commands, such as Coco WHAT? (alias: Coco REPEAT?) - to hear a line again; Coco SLOW - to hear the line at slower speed; Coco STOP (alias: Coco PAUSE) - to pause the conversation, etc. Go to the Library (Menu icon) for other voice commands. Note that you can only give commands when SuperCoco is not speaking.
You learn and practice each of the conversations sentence by sentence. You never hear the full conversation just in Spanish. (It is always broken up by English translation.)
After the Spanish audio or the English cue, there's a pause to let you say the Spanish word or sentence.
In the early lessons, coach SuperCoco pops up to give you tips, reminders, and encouragement.
At the end of a conversation, you can rate it: Too hard, Just right, Too easy. This information will go into the algorithm of the program, and determine how soon and how often you'll review that particular conversation.
DO YOU NEED TO SEE THE WORDS?
As an adult who's been schooled in reading and writing, you may automatically imagine how words in a foreign language are spelled - when you hear them.
Most likely, you'll apply the sound-spelling correlation that you're familiar with, i.e. the spelling of English if that's your native language.
Learning a new language means that you have to learn a new sound-spelling system. You can only do that by seeing how a word is spelled when you hear it, or right after.
SuperCoco gives you that option. You can see the Spanish text after you hear the audio, following a short delay. The brief pause not only lets you repeat what you hear, you can also anticipate the spelling in your mind.
(By the way, that's quite similar to Gamesforlanguage's “Say It” module, which we use in all of our language story-based courses.)
GRAMMAR at YOUR FINGERTIPS (if you want)
By tapping on a specific word in the conversation, you'll first see a brief grammar point.
Then, if you tap the capsule, it loads a full explanation. For a verb, it explains the tense or mood and shows shows the conjugation. You'll also see links to related topics.
For example (see screenshot above), you'll see the sentence "¿Por qué ne estás tirando fresas?" (Why are you throwing strawberries at me?)
When you tap on "tirando" and then "fresas" you'll see: tirando (tirar): to throw (verb: gerund); and, fresas (fresa): strawberry (noun: pl f ).
By tapping further, you'll load an explanations of the gerund form, and other related links.
Or, tapping on the imperative form "espere," (see screen shot) you'll load an explanation of the form, as well as the (positive and negative) conjugation of the imperative.
Very different from picture-heavy Rosetta Stone (and many other popular programs), SuperCoco uses no pictures at all. Interesting!
While pictures can certainly link to the foreign words (or labels) of objects, they can also be a distraction from learning their sounds.
With a picture-driven program you have to constantly figure out what the picture is supposed to represent. Besides, how can one show anything complicated or abstract with a still picture?
THE SKILLS TAB and PRONUNCIATION LESSONS
There are eight (8) Core Skills Lessons which give you one Key Tip in each lesson. Each is about 2-3 minutes long and includes the topics 'How to absorb Spanish faster,' 'What to do when you can't remember,' 'How to find time to practice,' and 'How and when to learn grammar.'
In the Skills Tab, you'll also find 23 excellent short Pronunciation Lessons that cover all the sounds of Spanish, with step-by-step instructions on how to produce the sounds. In each lesson, you can then Listen, Record, and Check your pronunciation. It's a fast track to getting a great accent.
Without a subscription, you are limited to one chapter of conversations -- it can be any chapter.
A subscription to the SuperCoco app Spanish is $4.99 a month in the app store. With a subscription, you have access to all the chapters.
Having a monthly subscription may quite motivating: The serious learner will want to pack in as much as possible into a limited time.
WHAT WE LIKE
- The focus on listening and speaking is very effective.
- Seeing the spelling right after the audio is a great option.
- The stories, which are in conversational format, are humorous and use real language.
- Understanding the meaning is always part of how you learn.
- The many different topics cover a wide range of vocabulary.
- You can find a level that challenges you and you can pick and choose topics.
- The voice recordings are high quality and easy to understand.
- You're pushed to translate automatically when you hear an English sentence.
- You get lots of encouragement.
- We really like the hands-free part. You can listen while cooking, walking, commuting, etc.
- SuperCoco is currently available only for Apple devices with iOS 8.2 or later.
- There's no setting for listening to a Spanish conversation in its entirety.
- You cannot record and play back your own voice to check your pronunciation.
- At this time, there's no reading and writing practice.
- You don't get alternative translations.
CAN YOU LEARN WITH the APP FROM ZERO SPANISH?
I believe so, but since my Spanish was at an intermediate level before I started testing the app, I don't have an objective answer for that.
In my experience, the combination of hearing, repeating, and understanding the meaning of the foreign words and sentences is essential for learning a new language.
In any case, I can recommend SuperCoco as an excellent resource for learning and practicing Spanish.
In combination with other language courses and sites, including Gamesforlanguage, our affiliates, (Lingualia, LanguageZen, Lingohut, Benny Lewis, Mosalingua), Duolingo or other free or fee-based online courses and apps, you'll progress for sure.
Using more than one resource will help you stay interested and motivated. Once you have progressed beyond the basics, choose articles or books with topics that interest you for reading, podcasts for listening comprehension, language-exchange partners for conversations, etc.
In all, SuperCoco is a powerful learning tool that's fun, versatile, and easy to use. Whether using it alone, or adding it to whatever else you're learning with, you're bound to level up your Spanish.
That's true especially for your pronunciation, your listening comprehension, and fluency in speaking. To be contacted about new levels that are added, write to Larkwire: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.
Disclosure: GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with SuperCoco, except for having participated in some beta testing and receiving the app for free. Certain links above are to affiliates' programs with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase or subscribe.