A Horse with No Name

After submitting all of the final details on my M.A. degree two weeks ago, and then a wild backpacking adventure (I actually helped put out a small forest fire too!) last week, the e-learning alpha version for the first Spanish lesson is finally complete! All of my alpha testing heroes (you know who you are) now have the link to get started.

While backpacking, one of the guys started singing an old America pop tune from the 70’s: “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to get out of the rain”. It cracked me up, but I started singing along (well, that quote is really all I can remember of the song). It comes to mind because my Spanish e-learning product is kind of like that mystical horse.

Yes, the program still needs a name. It probably will even when the Beta version comes out. At that point, I’ll encourage all site visitors to try it and leave feedback. Actually, the alpha is available right now (at the “alpha test” link at the top of the page), but the beta will undoubtedly be more refined and friendly for visitors. Maybe taking suggestions would be good? The big box language products have names referring to language-related things like the Egyptian rosetta stone, fluency, or the name of the instructor who developed his own system. I don’t intend to be a big corporation. Keeping things small and agile feels like a good way to be right now.

Branding Expert Susan Gunelius says “Your product name needs to fit within your broader brand name umbrella (Learn Spanish Naturally) while telling its own unique story to consumers. It needs to be memorable, findable (particularly on search engines), unique, understandable, and relevant.” Hmm, okay, this is going to take some brainstorming.

What is this product’s unique story? The method I use is unique in several relevant ways. It focuses on three verb forms in each lesson, and goes deep into comprehensible input. Those forms are then understood. They are there to use when needed. The next lesson reviews those three target forms and goes deeply into only three new ones. This narrow/deep strategy helps the learner to internalize the verb forms fast, rather than going over lots of “vocabulary” words in such a shallow way that they are forgotten by the time the next lesson begins. Of course, many other words are used in each lesson, but they are picked up naturally by exposure.

Also, the verb forms are presented in the form of a story. This gives context for the learner to remember what s/he is hearing. This lodges it in the brain where it needs to be, in order to be retrieved when a person is speaking Spanish.

One more unique thing, and then I’ll stop. You know how in Spanish class, you don’t even start learning past tense until towards the end of the first year? In these lessons, you start learning it in the second lesson, which is supported by current language research.

So, lots of things to consider when coming up with a one or two word product name. I know one thing, for sure. I’m not going to come up with a name alone. I would like this to be a collective effort. Granted, there aren’t many people visiting the blog yet, because it’s so new. I expect that in the next few months traffic will increase gradually in jumps and spurts. But, if you are visiting and have read this far, even a few months from now, please leave a name idea. There are no bad ideas. Your idea(s) could be the seed for the ultimate product name. It’s okay to horse around with ideas. That way, it won’t be the product with no name for much longer.

Follow up note:  It now has a name! And the beta testing is complete. You can sign up for free by clicking on the tab at the top of the page called “Register for Lesson One here!”

Mark Mayo has an M.A. in Instructional Design for Second Language Education. He has lived in South America in the past, but currently resides in Northern California with his family (and dachshunds).

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