"TeachMe!Language Learning": Caveat Emptor: Buyer ,Beware!
by Joe Rodgers
I bought two copies of this new software series, based in Europe and advertised online, to improve my Albanian and Basque ( I am a retired UN interpreter and language teacher and a real "language freak" : I've bought and used most language products that are "out there.") I was attracted by the fact that this series offers relatively inexpensive courses in rare languages. Also , at about 38$ per course ( featuring a cd-rom, a cd and online written material, including stories ) , what could go wrong, I figured ? --- The answer to that question is (major case is needed here for strong emphasis) : A LOT !!!!!
My first hint of trouble came with the online ordering process: The ordering mechanism was out of whack--It kept adding and dropping products from my basket unpredictably while I was atempting to order, and then, for good measure added, changed and dropped prices erratically, as well. When my order finally "went through", the company emailed me that since ( "for the first time in their experience"--How often I was to hear that claim)something had gone wrong with their pricing mechanism , they couldn't total the prices--so they asked to do it on my end. After a lengthy hassle, somehow an order went through--but when it arrived, it contained only one part of my order. When I contacted them, they "re-sent" the rest: They repeatedly promised that it would arrive quickly , but I had to contact them repeatedly for the next 1 1/2 months : They finally admitted that they'd never sent it because some of the items ( NB : on sale online) weren't ready yet , and they had to copy them separately, etc. , and hadn't gotten around to it yet. They asked for patience.
Eventually the products came--and this was the biggest shock of all : Very little on the CD-Roms "worked" : In the Basque copy, the promised "English translation link" for the stories, when "clicked" , only showed a couple of words and refused to expand despite all efforts --- so it was useless. Various entries were illegible due to the fact that lines of print are (weirdly)printed on top of other , different lines. To help with the english translation problem, I requested that the company send me a copy of the text , which they did ---but soon things got much worse--and from this point on the company was of no help at all.
"Teach Me Albanian" had the same problems as the Basque version( "English" link not working, etc. ) , plus many more: Almost all of the texts were illegible due to "overprinting" ( whereas some of the Basque ones were ok) , the audio accompaniment was out of synch with the printed texts ( which , in this version , were usually just random words , which made no sense and did not jibe with the audio) ---and, for good measure , were written in a bizarre, pseudo Gothic scrawl. When I requested help for this problem, I was told "Oh , sorry, we probably didn't send you the updated version"--They gave me another link---I had to reinstall the program repeatedly---and advised me , when that was installed, to click on "Set-Up" and "Language to Learn" and that Albanian would appear on the list, to select it , and then all would be well. Albanian did not appear on the list , nor on others they sent, which did, as I pointed out to them , include some other "newly added" languages.
"No problem" they replied : "You don't need the list --Just click "Set-Up" with this ( another) new link and you'll get the updated course. When I did that, the Albanian course disappeared completely (!!??--Even with the "Teach Me Albanian CD-rom, there's no way I can bring it back), and, in its place , TEACH ME TURKISH ( which I never ordered) appeared -- I considered using it, as a consolation prize, but it has exactly the same dysfunctional flaws ( is totally garbled, out of synch, illegible,"English" link not working, etc.) as the Albanian "program."
At about this point, the company rep, David ( the only contact person ever to respond : He mentioned that the company is a very small operation -- I wonder if there are other employees ) sent me another "key" to use to get things going right. The only instruction that he and "firstname.lastname@example.org" offer for the key is "Use it in Teach Me as soon as possible." I can find nowhere to "insert it" "( before this stage one inserts a product id number, but I already did that several times) . Despite repeated requests he/they(?) never explained what to do with the key.
When I complained that none of this was working , and that "Albanian" had disappeared completely and been replaced by Turkish (!?!),and listed the numerous defects ( so they might use the info to troubleshoot the program : My email with these details was a page or so in length) , the company's response was: " Sorry, we don't read lengthy emails." After their several links failed to work, and I requested either a functioning Albanian cd-rom ( because maybe, just maybe , the cd-rom might be defective , but the problem seems more system-wide than that , since the other Teach Me programs and links were riddled with defects, too) or a refund, they ignored my request and just wrote : " We need a screen shot to examine the problem." ---I replied that I tried hard but couldn't make a screen shot ( I read on Wikipedia that Windows XP, my system, doesn't do screen shots, and that these would require buying additional equipment---and Teach Me's system will not enable any other copying of the pages ) ; and that, in any event, no one "shot" could reveal the numerous problems , which were on every page of every program I'd seen ---and that, after all, their entire program had been fraught with errors since the begininng, they just replied once again :" We don't read these lengthy emails--Do yourself a favor--Get a friend to show you how to do a screen shot." ---Nothing more.
In a a long career of language learning and training, I have worked with close to every product on the market---and never in my life have I encountered one which is so dysfunctional,unreadable incompetently produced , and filled with every major error imaginable--and then some. Likewise I have never experienced such unhelpful, dissembling, sarcastic , cynical "customer service". I reason that there is one good side to this experience ( Every cloud has a silver lining) , and that is that I can use helpful sites like this one to spare countless others the grief that I encountered with this truly horrible product. Other programs may have their occasional flaws---Nothing is perfect in this world---but this one is truly "from hell" --- To paraphrase "Teach Me's" last response to me: "Do yourself a favor"--Don't go there.
Sincerely, Joe Rodgers ( UN, ret. /language teacher, Ct., USA