Breaking The Barrier Review

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With its solid language instruction, ample practice, interesting culture inserts and time/effort-saving online options, Breaking the Barrier’s courses can be an effective, user-friendly and welcome way of learning high school French or Spanish.

What We Like

Effective, user-friendly full credit courses in
Spanish and French
Offers clear instruction and plenty of solid
practice opportunities
Lots of different practice options keeps
students from getting too bored
Available in print and digital/online learning
Audio and video files are clear, high quality
Offers interesting and engaging cultural content
that goes beyond simple language learning
Automated tools make learning very easy for
all involved

But watch out for

Not the cheapest language program out there
Online version will increase screen time

What Is Breaking The Barrier?

Breaking The Barrier is a series of language courses in Spanish and French aimed at high school students and above. 

Offering beginners through advanced/AP level studies, the courses are intended to provide about 1 full language credit and are offered in both digital and paper-based formats. 

Breaking The Barrier teaches using a combination of traditional grammar instruction and workbook exercises, as well as audio, video, flashcards, dedicated readings and more (in its online version, at least).

What Ages Or Grades Is Breaking The Barrier Intended For?

Breaking The Barrier Spanish and French courses are designed to be full, high school-level  language curricula in their respective languages and are offered in beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.

In general, the level of instruction, suggested pacing, vocabulary, cultural topics, writing exercises and overall rigor and length of their exercises make them most suitable for students in grades 9-12+, in our opinion. 

That said, due to the self-paced nature of the program, homeschooling families can certainly make use of the program for students in slightly lower grade levels, such as for those in middle school, especially if they are willing to take things a bit slower. 

Unfortunately, at time of writing there was no real placement test that we could find to help families figure out the most appropriate level of language instruction for their student, although to their credit the company does offer ample suggestions and sample chapters that parents and students can look at and that can be quite helpful. 

What’s Included In Each Level

Unusually for most modern day language programs, Breaking The Barrier is available in both print and digital formats.

It also offers versions suitable to both traditional schools and homeschooling families, with homeschool editions providing access to both print and digital versions of the program and offering specific calendar and lesson pacing suggestions.

Print Materials

The print format of Breaking the Barrier takes the form of a traditional language studies workbook and should be familiar to anyone who has studied another language before.

They are consumable softcovers that are about 300-350 or so pages long, so they are pretty substantial (as perhaps might be expected of a high school level course) and can be a pretty thorough way of learning a language, particularly for those who are more about offline/non-screen learning.

The language instruction in each book is written in English, making the series fairly easy to work through (although perhaps not as immersive as some would like) and each book contains a wide variety of language exercises to help students absorb and retain what they’ve learned. 

screenshot of spanish language exercises found in breaking the barrier print workbook

For example, the books contain exercises such as:

  • Texts
  • Writing exercises
  • Fill in the blank questions
  • Matching questions
  • Grammar and conjugation practice
  • Editing work
  • Quizzes
  • And more

Although perhaps not the most interesting to look at, being mostly black and white and without a lot of eye-catching illustrations, they do contain maps and detailed pages about the cultures, peoples and places where each language is spoken. 

In French, for example, there are dedicated pages about places like France, Quebec, Belgium and Haiti that can break up the monotony of learning quite well, being quite interesting to read and learn from. 

screenshot showing cultural learning found in print edition of breaking the barrier french

These extra pages can also allow homeschooling families to work the series into a larger global cultural study, which is kind of cool, especially as the company tries to keep things up to date and relevant with each new edition. 

Finally, the end of each book contains various notes for grammar and conjugation, vocabulary lists and more, which can be quite helpful for review and study before tests. 

Parents should note that the workbook is available in both teacher and student editions, with the main difference being that the teacher’s edition has the answers for its exercises printed in the appropriate area, something that is always handy for less-than-fluent parents. 

Online Study

In addition to its traditional, pen and paper materials, Breaking the Barrier also offers access to a digital, online learning environment, something that is actually included as part of their homeschool package.

This online learning platform essentially adds a welcome multimedia component to the series, making learning considerably more multisensory and able to better help students develop their pronunciation and listening skills, in our opinion. 

Aside from including much of the content from its print editions, the digital version of Breaking the Barrier also includes things like ebook-style lessons, digital answers, interactive and autocorrecting testing and practice, videos, various stories and texts, digital vocabulary/flashcards, written work, conversational questions and more. 

Interactive Lesson Instruction 

Instruction in the digital platform is broadly similar to that of the physical workbooks. 

That is, grammar and language instruction is presented on screen one concept at a time, each of which is followed by a variety of practice problems that students can input directly into their browser.

Unlike the pen and paper version of Breaking the Barrier, the digital version’s instruction is a bit more pleasing to the eye, making use of bright colors, the occasional illustration or picture and is a bit more user-friendly, being largely scrollable. 

screenshot of breaking the barrier online french language instruction

The use of color also helps the lesson tips and guidance stand out a bit more from the on-screen information, which is always helpful. 

The practice exercises and quizzes are correct in real time (turning red or green depending on if a student answered incorrectly/correctly), which can not only save parents time and effort but also gives students more immediate and useful feedback. 

There are also on screen elements that act as real time progress tracking, giving students an idea of how they are doing and how much of their work they have completed as they go along, which is a nice touch and something we feel can make the experience a bit less intimidating. 

screenshot of real time progress tracking in breaking the barrier online edition

One thing that parents should be aware of is that there is the ability for students to click on the screen and receive an answer to a question, a feature that can perhaps be helpful in preventing them from getting stuck but one that may require a bit of honesty and trust (or supervision) on the part of home learners to prevent cheating.


From time to time, the Breaking the Barrier Spanish and French online programs will embed video files that are intended to provide a bit more of an engaging learning experience for students. 

These videos can either be instructional, providing a bit more detail on the topics touched upon in a lesson, or they may be hosted by native speakers and discuss a variety of different topics, from cooking to dancing, to music, culture, geography and art, as something of an immersive listening/cultural learning segment, such as in the video below. 

Generally speaking these videos are pretty short, generally being only a couple minutes long, and are often recorded in clear, HD video. 

They are also (particularly with those that touch on cultural items) are pretty interesting to watch and can make for a fun break from traditional workbook learning and practice.

Audio Files

As perhaps might be expected from a language learning program, listening to spoken Spanish or French is a key component of the Breaking the Barrier’s learning process. 

The program’s online learning environment has numerous audio files embedded into the pages at various points, typically being used as a way to demonstrate a particular concept or as a way to provide proper pronunciation, such as in the case of vocabulary work.

screenshot of spanish audio samples embedded into breaking the barrier's digital platform

The audio files are recorded by native speakers of the language in question, which helps give students a more authentic learning experience, and are generally clear and well made.

Although they obviously become more complex and quicker as the series progresses, we never felt like they became too hard to understand or too challenging for the level and, importantly, they can always be replayed if necessary, which can be helpful. 

Interestingly, in many instances longer audio files may be accompanied by text copy, allowing students to read along.

This can not only help with most students’ comprehension, but also serves to increase the program’s overall accessibility, particularly to students with processing difficulties, which we appreciate. 

Digital Flashcards

Finally, the online version of Breaking the Barrier also offers access to a series of digital flashcards both embedded into the program as part of its vocabulary learning.

As with other online flashcards, these include pictures of various objects and concepts for students to practice with and include recorded, native-spoken audio to help hone the student’s ear and pronunciation skills. 

screenshot of digital flashcards and vocabulary work in breaking the barrier spanish

Interestingly enough, the company has also created a digital flashcard app that can be downloaded onto mobile devices. 

screenshot of breaking the barrier flashcard app in action working on spanish

Much like the flashards in the online platform, the app contains various pictures and audio guides to help practice various terms, but also integrates speech feedback technology. 

Similar to babbel and other programs, this allows students to speak into their device and have the app judge their pronunciation of each card, allowing them to fine tune their speaking skills and accent in real time, which is pretty cool and can be quite helpful. 

How It Works

As we’ve mentioned, Breaking the Barrier offers full, 1-credit courses in either Spanish or French at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. 

Although much depends on a homeschool’s own schedule and pacing needs, generally speaking each book in the series represents about 36 weeks of study at a 4 day a week schedule (about 2-3 weeks per chapter). 

With their homeschool package, the company offers pacing and scheduling suggestions that families can use, although they are of course free to move at their own pace, keeping in mind that the online materials are licensed and accessible for a 12 month period. 

Each book or level in the series contains about 12 chapters, each of which builds on previous knowledge in a sort of spiral fashion, and both beginners-level books also contain an additional chapter, called First Steps, that introduces the unique letter sounds and accents of their respective languages. 

Each chapter in a level is broken down into a number of lesson sections that students go through sequentially. 

screenshot of table of contents for a chapter in the breaking the barrier spanish online version

Most chapters start off with a short discussion about different places, peoples and cultures that speak the language in question (e.g. French and Quebec in French, Spain and Mexico in Spanish).

In these sections, which are written in the intended language, students are introduced to different local topics, such as the food, music, icons and important people of these places, not only providing students with focused practice but also providing them with some cultural background, which is kind of interesting.

Following this, the series moves to a vocabulary section, which introduces students to a fairly wide selection of words, nouns, adjectives, verbs and more that they will be working with.

screenshot showing learning beyond simple language in breaking the barrier spanish advanced edition

In the online version, this vocabulary section also includes digital flashcards that allow students to click on individual words and receive a picture and audio pronunciation, which is kind of cool. 

screenshot of vocabulary section of breaking the barrier online spanish

Following this vocabulary workout, students begin the instructional component of the chapter. 

This section introduces specific grammar and language concepts to students and provides them with various examples to look at. 

In the online version of the series, students can also immediately click on audio demonstrations of these examples, a definite advantage of the digital version as it allows students to hear the proper pronunciation of each word without the need for CDs or external files/equipment. 

After each concept is taught, students are then given a variety of exercises to work with.

The immediate presentation of practice after each specific concept is a nice touch in our opinion, as we feel it can be more efficient to reinforce learning when concepts are still fresh and it can serve to break up learning into smaller chunks, making the work seem a bit less intimidating on the whole. 

There are also quite a few different example types available for each concept, from fill in the blanks to editing and, of course, writing, and these change up fairly regularly – something that can help prevent lessons from becoming overly monotonous and predictable. 

screenshot of advanced spanish exercise found in breaking the barrier online homeschool spanish edition

Following instruction and practice, there is often an oral practice session, which has students (and a partner, although this can be done in writing) ask and answer questions in the target language.

Interestingly, each question comes with its own audio file and hidden answers, which can make it a bit easier for less-than-fluent homeschooling parents to practice with their students. 

Once this is complete, in the online version at least, there is usually an exercise in the target language related to the country and culture introduced at the beginning of the chapter. 

These often involve video, text and/or audio, touch on a number of interesting topics, such as history, foods, music, art and in general are a kind of cool way to end a lesson. 

Before moving on to the next chapter, students are generally given a summary quiz or test, which is scored with an answer sheet in the paper edition and graded automatically in the online version. 

Our Thoughts

For the most part, we found Breaking the Barrier Spanish and French courses to be more comprehensive and, frankly, more interesting than many other language programs we’ve seen so far. 

Beyond its traditional and effective systematic language instruction and ample practice, the series also introduces students to different cultures and places (beyond Mexico and France) where their target language is spoken natively.

Not only does this make lessons more interesting, it also gives students a broader understanding of the interaction between language and society, which is always interesting. 

The online version of Breaking the Barrier also gives homeschooling families a wide variety of useful tools that can make learning a foreign language at home a lot easier than traditional methods. 

Its automatic grading functions, progress tracking, quiz scoring and ready (and correctly pronounced) audio/video files can make the program a lot more user-friendly, particularly for parents who themselves have little to no knowledge of either Spanish or French. 

Further, the variety of exercises and the inclusion of various interesting videos and texts can make study far more engaging than a traditional workbook, which in turn can help prevent students from zoning out during a lesson. 

It is important to note, however, that the online version of Breaking the Barrier (which in our opinion really offers the most capability of the two programs), with its multimedia materials and ample on-screen reading and practice, will increase screen time a fair bit over the course of the week, something that can be an issue for some families. 

More than that, homeschooling parents should be aware that access to the online learning platform is given for 12 months after purchase, which should be fine for most families but can be an issue for those taking things a bit more slowly. 

Pros and Cons of Breaking The Barrier


Effective courses in Spanish and French

Breaking the Barrier offers comprehensive, step by step language instruction for Spanish and French, covering all the grammar, listening, oral and written instruction students need to get a solid grasp on their intended language. 

Plenty of solid practice for each concept

In addition to providing instruction, Breaking the Barrier also offers quite a bit of practice for each concept it introduces, which can help solidify a student’s knowledge and prevent the development of skill gaps in the long run. 

Varied practice exercises keeps students on their toes

Not only does the Breaking the Barrier series offer a lot of practice for each concept, it also changes up the types of exercises and practice questions that it offers, which can go a long way in making learning a lot less monotonous. 

Online and print learning options available

Breaking the Barrier is available in both print and fully digital options, which gives parents and students the freedom to choose a learning style that best suits their needs and preferences. 

Accurate, easy to understand audio and clear video 

Breaking the Barrier also integrates multimedia learning in the form of video and audio files, which are easy to understand, recorded in high definition and, perhaps most importantly, have native speakers pronounce key words and sentences when necessary.

Engaging cultural content

Beyond simply learning a language, in this series students get an opportunity to learn more about the cultures, people and countries where their chosen language is spoken, something that can help them broaden their overall understanding, appreciation and learning. 

Automated tools with immediate feedback and progress tracking

The digital version of Breaking the Barrier’s books let students know immediately when they’ve gotten something right or wrong, automatically record a student’s results and often make use of visual tracking tools that let them know how they are progressing through a lesson – all things that can make learning a lot easier for student and parent.


Not the cheapest language program around

With books costing around $65 and a year’s learning around $150, although it’s not the most expensive program around and while its bundles do provide a lot of value for money, Breaking the Barrier is also not the cheapest and may be a bit of a stretch for those on very tight budgets. 

Online version will increase screen time

While it does support paper-based study, it is important to note that the Breaking the Barrier digital editions will have students spending an extra couple hours a week in front of a screen listening, reading, watching and inputting responses, which can be an issue for some parents. 

Who Is The Series Ideal For?

Those looking for a solid high school level course in Spanish or French

At the end of the day, Breaking the Barrier offers solid, approachable and easy to use full credit courses in Spanish and French that can be a welcome addition to homeschools interested in these languages. 

Families with few foreign language speakers that can help out

With ready audio, video and even speech-recognizing apps, Breaking the Barrier does not necessarily require students to have a parent or teacher fluent or even capable in the language they are learning to get the most out of it, something that some parents may be happy to hear. 

Fans of multimedia, multisensory language learning

The online editions of Breaking the Barrier are filled with interesting audio and video examples and exercises that can turn a boring language lesson into a more engaging, multimedia experience. 

Those looking to learn something beyond simple language and grammar

Although language acquisition is its main focus, Breaking the Barrier goes far beyond simple grammar and pronunciation and allows students to explore the cultures, peoples and places in which their chosen language is spoken. 

Those looking for a program with print and digital materials

Unlike many modern alternatives, Breaking the Barrier is offered in both print and digital editions, which allows it to be easily used by fans of traditional and online learning alike. 

Who Is It Not Ideal For? 

Families on a very strict budget

As we’ve stated, Breaking the Barrier isn’t the cheapest way to learn Spanish or French and, while not terribly expensive, may not be the most affordable solution for those on very strict budgets. 

Those looking for a program aimed at younger students

At the end of the day the pace, rigor, expectations and topics explored in Breaking the Barrier’s different levels make them more appropriate to high school and, with a little adaptation, middle school students. 

As a result, they may not be the best program for younger students looking to hone their French or Spanish skills. 

Those looking for a program that teaches languages other than French and Spanish

At time of writing, Breaking the Barrier offered Spanish and French instruction and did not offer a solution for other popular foreign languages such as Mandarin, Latin, German and so on. 


Note: Prices correct as of writing, all prices in USD. 

Breaking The Barrier offers specific homeschooling packages for both Spanish and French at all levels, which include both a printed student workbook, printed answer key, pacing/scheduling guide, dictionary/pocket guide and 1-year access to its online system for about $150. 

All three levels (e.g. three years of study) of either language can be picked up as a single package, as well, for about $350. 

Those interested in picking up printed versions of the series can do so as well. 

Printed versions of the student books cost about $65, hardcopy answer keys cost around $15 and testing packets around $30-35, depending if they are printed or digital. 

As always, parents should make sure to check the latest prices and be on the lookout for any deals or offers that might be available.

Is It Worth The Price?

Although perhaps not the absolute cheapest high school language program around, ultimately we feel that Breaking the Barrier can provide a lot of value for homeschooling families looking to study either Spanish or French. 

The program offers comprehensive and systematic language instruction, giving students a firm grounding in grammar, vocabulary and structure of their target language, while providing ample (and varied) practice exercises and quizzes to help solidify and reinforce their learning.

The series also manages to take students on an interesting dive into the various cultures and countries that speak the languages taught, not only providing students with more relevant practice but also giving them greater insight into the interaction between a language and its people. 

The online version even manages to take this a step further, providing students with engaging videos and native-spoken audio that can not only help immerse them in their learning a bit more but can also help them develop a stronger ear and proper pronunciation. 

Finally, Breaking the Barrier’s online tools also can automate many of the day to day tasks of foreign language learning, with tools such as embedded audio samples, automatically-scored quizzes and practice problems, progress tracking and even a vocabulary app with speech feedback capability that can make things easier for busier families and particularly helpful for parents who may themselves be a bit rusty in the Spanish and friends.

Bottom Line

With its solid language instruction, ample practice, interesting culture inserts and time/effort-saving online options, Breaking the Barrier’s courses can be an effective, user-friendly and welcome way of learning high school French or Spanish. 

Picture of our author and editor Anne Miller

About the Author

Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.