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Student and tutor module reviews

Portales: beginners' Spanish

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: L194
  • Level: 1

Student reviews

L194 is a well designed course and the tutor support was very good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Speaking opportunity can be limited if you only attend tutorials; I benefited from attendance at an additional local class to bolster my spoken work.
Although it is a 30 credit course (10 hrs per week) you can easily spend more time when learning a language, so think hard if adding a second language course at L1 - especially if you have no previous language experience.

Mark Mills

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: January 2015

An excellent course, but if you are using it as preparation for the following year's course, you should achieve a mark of not less than 70%, and preferably nearer the 100%. Any less ability, and you will be struggling the next year.
I would have liked a longer oral examination, say half an hour, at the end of the course.

Peter Jackson

Course starting: November 2010

Review posted: April 2012

I had very little knowledge of Spanish before this course. I really enjoyed the course and learnt a lot. The materials are excellent and the course is very well paced. I had a good basic knowledge of the language by the end. I think comments about the lack of speaking opportunity is fair, but I also think it is unrealistic to expect more from a distance learning course. I am currently doing the next course En Rumbo which is a noticeable leap in level. If you are thinking about Portales I would definitely recommend doing it.


Course starting: November 2010

Review posted: March 2012

This might sound like a contradiction but I have mixed views about this course alongside generally enjoying it.

I thought the materials were good however sometimes they did not explain enough and I had to dive into other Spanish materials I had bought myself. However there were a lot of activities in the course books to keep me occupied. There were 6 books in total, and they kind of take you through a journey.

There are not enough tutorials which is a shame because speaking is a huge part of language learning. I admit sometimes I couldn't make them but a lot of the time I just practised with a couple of very good Spanish speaking friends.

The TMAs really tested my knowledge, with a range of speaking, reading, listening and writing tasks. I thoroughly enjoyed completing the TMAs.

I did learn quite a lot through Portales, however I also studied Spanish outside of this course. I recommend anyone who wants to study Portales to also find materials which compliment the course books you are sent.

Overall, I would rate Portales as 7 out of 10.

Course starting: November 2010

Review posted: January 2012

I had never studied Spanish before beginning this course, but I found the course was very well structured. As with Rundblick (beginners' German), the course starts out at a comfortable, slow pace, but it is not long before you feel that you are making real progress.

I would recommend studying 'little and often' and ensuring you test yourself often. If you have a 'study buddy' or a Spanish-speaking friend, take advantage! Pronunciation was the trickiest part for me, but the more you practice, the more natural it becomes.

I also do not recommend trying to study L140 En Rumbo alongside this course, unless you have previous experience of Spanish and you are taking this course as a formality. I attempted to rush through Portales in order to study En Rumbo, but I quickly realised my mistake and cancelled my registration.

Make sure you go to as many tutorials as possible. Elluminate takes a bit of getting used to, but it is not too bad. My only wish is that the ECAs were face-to-face or at least over the phone. My group had problems with Elluminate during the ECA, which was rather off-putting.

I also wholeheartedly recommend the Spanish Intensives residential schools, which run one week revision courses in Alicante, especially for OU students of Spanish at various levels. I went to the beginners' course this year, and it was a fantastic experience.

I achieved a Distinction overall, and am about to start En Rumbo.

Laura Christine Chenery

Course starting: November 2009

Review posted: January 2011

I had already done GCSE Spanish a few years ago and did this course mostly as I needed the points, but it revived the Spanish I'd started to forget and was quite enjoyable. The materials are a little dry as only books and CDs are used. The intermediate level courses introduce DVD-ROMs which are much more engaging. However, the books are well-laid out with a variety of activites including revision summary quizzes and the CD's are good for pronunciation, using both Spanish and South American accents. The language level goes up steadily, although for some it was too steep and an understanding of grammatical terms would be helpful.

Many people thought the audio extracts in the TMAs were much harder than the ones on the CDs and I slowed some of them down to pick out certain answers. It was good that the TMAs included tasks that didn't affect your mark but let you get extra feedback from your tutor.

The tutorials were less satisfactory. Few people turned up to most of mine and none of the real beginners said much while more advanced speakers found this frustrating. In the online tutorials lots of time was spent resolving technical issues and on one occasion, I was the only one to turn up. Do test out Elluminate in advance and learn how to set your audio levels when you log in, via the wizard. It's a shame that many of the tutors on this course are not natives, as this would really help with accent and pronunciation.

On the whole, I would really recommend this course. You'll need plenty of enthusiasm and should perhaps try to find conversation practice elsewhere, but it's a good value course with decent materials that go beyond the usual holiday situations. You will have a broad basic vocabulary afterwards for a range of situations and will be able to use several tenses.

The final assessments are not nearly as bad as I expected and by preparing my answers for the speaking in advance, I was able to get it over with really quickly. If you want to learn Spanish, you won't be disappointed.

Just be warned, it's not perfect preparation for the intermediate course. There's a substantial jump between the levels. And the Spanish are very fond of using their verbs in a nasty tense called the subjunctive, which they don't spring on you until later in the intermediate course, when you think you've got it all figured out.

Course starting: November 2009

Review posted: December 2010

I found this course well run and easy to work through and my tutor to be very approachable. I was however unable to attend any of the face to face tutorials (4 x 2hr sessions) but managed to attend most of the online tutorials(12 x 1hr on the Elluminate system which is at best unpredictable).

I have continued to attend my weekly adult education classes (which I have been doing for some time), and it is my personal opinion that if anyone intends to do this course, they will need to organise some additional regular speaking practice as being a language, the final exam does include an oral part.

How you can possibly get to what is equivalent to an O level pass/GCSE A - C grade with 20 hrs at most speaking practice in a time span of less than one year is beyond me. Am now awaiting the start of the next course in February.

Susan Rowe

Course starting: November 2009

Review posted: December 2010

This was a very gentle way for me to start with the OU and to revive my rusty GCSE Spanish and take the language further. However, if I had been a complete beginner in Spanish I might have found it more difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed this course, because I'm a keen linguist and love all languages.

Course starting: November 2008

Review posted: March 2010

I thoroughly enjoyed this course, although as a false beginner, I did find it rather easy. Not having done any Spanish for 15 years, although with a degree already in languages, I found that my previous learning came back quickly. The books were easy to use with everything clearly set out and the CDs were OK. Myself, I would have preferred DVDs as it suits my style of learning better (and keeps me awake!)

The tutorials were face to face which I did enjoy although again, I found that my level of Spanish was greater than some of the other students. What helped me most was finding a study buddy with a similar level of Spanish and speaking weekly on Lyceum. We could chat in Spanish and also moan about stuff we were finding difficult/boring etc. And it was very useful to practise in the run-up to the oral exam. A course to be recommended but I now wish I had done En Rumbo at the same time.

Course starting: November 2008

Review posted: March 2010

Fantastic way to learn a language if you can't commit to an evening class. I'd started learning Spanish from books and on holiday and wanted to 'formalise' and deepen my ability. The six books and CDs are simple with interesting activities, not all based around holiday situations which you often find with off-the-shelf courses. I advise anyone on this course to go to the tutorials - they were vital for speaking practice. I felt held back by the level of some of the rest of the tutor group. I would have prefered a native Spanish speaking tutor - our English tutor often made grammar errors and wasn't good for accent development. It would be great if the OU could incorporate more video materials into these basic courses.

Course starting: November 2006

Review posted: October 2008

I loved this course from start to finish! I had previously a little experience of learning Spanish at night school and found this to be very worthwhile, although to be fair the level of Spanish in Portales is basic. I would recommend the 'little and often' approach to studying this course and once confidence is built up, read anything and everything from street signs to horoscopes on the internet! The benefit of having face-to-face tutorials in Portales is by far the best resource available.
I would recommend Portales to anyone wanting to dip their toe into the Spanish language.

Morag Russell Hoolachan

Course starting: November 2006

Review posted: September 2008

I had not studied for quite some time before I embarked on this course. I really enjoyed it but found it hard work because I probably didn't devote enough time to proper study.

I had a great tutor and it would have been helpful if I could have attended more of the tutorials. The course has given me a good start with Spanish and I'm now not afraid to try speaking in Spain.

I would recommend this course to a beginner but putting aside plenty of time to study is crucial.

Fiona McTaggart

Course starting: November 2006

Review posted: April 2008

I had never studied with the OU before starting this course or studied a language, I was a bit apprehensive & nervous about what lay ahead. I found some of the concepts difficult to grasp, particulary around grammatical terms. However I successfully completed the course, I did the course purely for personal interest, the books I thought were both well laid out, informative & the CD's provided a wide range of spoken language.

I would advise future students to attend face-to-face tutorials if possible, I thought I would have found them a bit intimidating but they were invaluable. The most important thing is to enjoy the course, and have a reason at the back of ones mind as to why you want to study Spanish. I would recommend this course to a complete beginner.

Peter Lawless

Course starting: November 2006

Review posted: February 2008


Tutor reviews

As a student,I have thoroughly enjoyed the course, and am amazed how much Spanish I can now speak, write and understand. The course has exceeded my expectations. This is in no small part due to the excellent course materials and my fantastic tutor. It does take commitment to put in the hours and some of the materials (for me) was more difficult to learn. All-in-all I would encourage anyone who wants to learn Spanish to do the course.

Buena suerte - good luck!

Review posted: October 2004

This course is excellent, it's well put together, interesting and enjoyable, the materials and examples are extremely varied. It's hard work and does require the study hours indicated but I would say well worth it for educational or recreational purposes.

Review posted: September 2004

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.


Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the October 2012 presentation of L194. The survey was carried out in 2013. 37.5% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 93.3 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 91.9 %
The module provided good value for money 75.4 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 91.3 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 90 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 92.8 %
I would recommend this module to other students 87.5 %
The module met my expectations 88.4 %
I enjoyed studying this module 90 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 88.5 %
Faculty comment: "We are very pleased that most of the students were very satisfied with the module, in particular with its quality, the support they received and their learning experience. The majority of students indicated that the module met their expectations and the stated learning outcomes; that they had enjoyed studying it and would recommend it to others. We very much value their views and make every effort to take their suggestions for enhancements on board. "
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