Frequently Asked Questions

Click below on the question for which you would like an answer:


  1. For what do the letters “ULAT” stand?

  2. What is the ULAT’s goal for its students and how does it seek to accomplish it?

  3. Where can I find an impartial review of the ULAT’s effectiveness?

  4. How might the ULAT be used in a homeschool setting?

  5. How might the ULAT be used in a traditional school setting?

  6. Is it necessary for all members of a single household to have their own subscription?

  7. When one subscribes to the ULAT, does one have access to all three languages the program teaches?

  8. How can a teacher, who is new to the ULAT, prepare himself or herself to use the program?

  9. How old should a student be before using the ULAT?

  10. How long does it take to complete the ULAT program?

  11. Does one lesson equal one day of study? In other words, how long does it take to study each lesson?

  12. How are the ULAT’s three years of curriculum organized?

  13. How is testing performed within the ULAT program?

  14. Does the ULAT program keep track of a student’s progress through its lessons and grade a student’s tests?

  15. How can homeschooling parents evaluate their child’s performance if they themselves do not speak the language their child is learning?

  16. How is a typical ULAT lesson organized?

  17. Does the ULAT program autosave a student’s writing as he or she is typing and does it keep a permanent record of that writing?

  18. Is the ULAT accredited and how much high school credit will my child receive for using the ULAT curriculum?

  19. How does one subscribe to the ULAT and is it possible to obtain a discounted subscription?

  20. The ULAT places an almost exclusive initial emphasis upon the skills of listening and speaking and delays a student’s introduction to writing for almost three entire semesters. Can the lesson sequence be modified by teachers who want to pursue a less radical approach and to balance listening, speaking, reading and writing from the program’s beginning until its end?

  21. The ULAT is a three-year program. What if a student only can devote two years to its study?

  22. Who created the ULAT program?

 

 

For what do the letters “ULAT” stand?

The letters “ULAT” correspond to “Universal Language Acquisition Tool” because the vision for the program is for its design to enable the identical layout of a lesson to be rapidly modified to teach any language.

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What is the ULAT’s goal for its students and how does it seek to accomplish it?


Its goal is to go beyond merely giving students an analytical understanding of the structure of a language. The ULAT is designed to enable them to actually speak the language and thereby be able to use it as an authentic communication tool. To accomplish this, it trains them to think in a 3-step process, as does a native speaker of the language and as opposed to the 5-step thought process typical of students who have received a heavily text-based initial form of instruction in school. This desirable 3-step thought process is totally without any recourse to the student’s native language nor to the need to envision printed text before speaking. Additionally, the ULAT respects the Natural Language Acquisition Sequence, which develops language skills in the following order: listening to speaking to reading and then, much later, after an exposure to phonics instruction, to writing. This stands in stark contrast to traditional language instruction which places a heavy emphasis on the written word from the first day of class.

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Where can I find an impartial review of the ULAT’s effectiveness?



You can read a very complete review of the ULAT at Cathy Duffy Reviews by clicking HERE.

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How might the ULAT be used in a homeschool setting?


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How might the ULAT be used in a traditional school setting?


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Is it necessary for all members of a single household to have their own subscription?


When a person subscribes to the ULAT, all members of his or her household may also make use of its lessons. Each household only needs a single subscription.

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When one subscribes to the ULAT, does one have access to all three languages the program teaches?


When a person subscribes to the ULAT, all members of his or her household may also make use of its lessons. Additionally, the subscription gives the household’s members access to all of the languages it teaches (currently Spanish, French and English). One family member can study Spanish and French, another just French, another just Spanish, etc. It makes no difference. The same applies to multiple families subscribing as a group. One family can study just Spanish, another Spanish and French, etc. Each household only needs a single subscription.

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How can a teacher, who is new to the ULAT, best prepare himself or herself to use the program?


The most complete orientation to the ULAT method is found in its author’s free ebook, called “In Other Words” and which is found by clicking HERE. (If time is lacking, you can find a synopsis of the entire ebook on its last two pages.) After reading the ebook, you can also find training materials and resources for teachers by clicking on the “Teachers” link on the ULAT’s homepage.

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How old should a student be before using the ULAT?


The ULAT was originally designed to be used in middle and high school, though there is nothing about its content that is not appropriate for elementary students as well and many elementary students have experienced success with it. Typically, because understanding the ULAT’s images requires the use of symbolic thought, it is best to wait at least until a student is entering the third grade before beginning to use the program. The best way to determine the ULAT’s age-appropriateness for your child is to try out the first 15 lessons that are made available free of charge.

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How long does it take to complete the ULAT program?


The answer to that question depends upon many factors, but especially the age of the student. Generally speaking, if students are able to study the ULAT lessons for at least 45 minutes per day, they should complete the ULAT program in three years. Those younger than high school age, of course, will likely not be able to study the ULAT’s lessons as long or as frequently, and therefore may time far longer, which is fine provided that their interest doesn’t wane. For high school age students, the first-year course corresponds to Units 1 and 2, the second-year deals with Units 3 – 6 and the third-year course presents Units 7 – 10.

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Does one lesson equal one day of study? In other words, how long does it take to study each lesson?


No, one lesson does not equal one day of content. Some lessons can be mastered in a single day, others may take up to four days, depending upon their content. Test results will show whether or not the lesson has been mastered and if more time is needed for its study.

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How are the ULAT’s three years of curriculum organized?


The best way to discover that answer in detail, of course, is simply to go to and consult the ULAT’s Table of Contents for each language taught. However, speaking of the general vocabulary topics with which it deals, they are as follows: common verbs and the school environment (Unit 1), daily routine activities (Unit 2), human description (Unit 3), domestic life (Unit 4), writing exercises reviewing Units 1-4 (Unit 5), urban life (Unit 6), nature (Unit 7), manual activities (Unit 8), writing exercises reviewing units 6-8 (Unit 9) and either autobiography writing or the study of the Gospel of Luke (Unit 10).

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How is testing performed within the ULAT program?


ULAT tests are all timed. The lesson in which a test is located will contain start, pause, reset and stop buttons and a countdown clock is located at the top of the screen indicating how much time remains for the test. Tests exist in both oral and written forms.

Oral tests are of two types. The simplest oral test involves the students looking at several series of images, which represent words and whose meanings have already been made clear to them through the videos they have seen and the exercises they have performed, and then forming sentences corresponding to the content of those series of images. At the end of an oral test of that nature, a video is found which presents the correct answers and there is a link to a grading guide to help their evaluator to determine an appropriate grade for the students’ performance. The other type of oral test is an oral presentation in which the students see images suggesting topics about which they can speak. The students provide as much detail regarding the topics being suggested by the images and are graded on the basis of the quantity of information conveyed and its structural correctness.

As for written tests, they also are of two types. The simplest, as is the case for the oral tests, involves the students forming complete sentences from series of images and then transcribing them. The second type of written test is in the style of an open-ended composition for which the students are specific number of minutes during which to convey as much content on topics suggested to the students, either in image form or in writing. Once again, they are evaluated on the basis of the sheer quantity of information conveyed in writing and by the grammatical correctness of their writing.

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Does the ULAT program keep track of a student’s progress through its lessons and grade a student’s tests?


The ULAT is award-winning curriculum but, like a textbook, and despite its hundreds of hours of video instruction and simulated oral interaction, the ULAT is not itself a live teacher who can evaluate spontaneous speech or open-ended written compositions, nor does it keep a record of the lessons a student has completed. This is the responsibility of the teacher and/or parent supervising the student’s studies.

Performing the task of grading could be easily done if the ULAT merely provided its students with multiple choice testing, requiring them simply to write “A”, “B”, “C” or “D” as a demonstration of the total extent of their language learning. However, the ULAT’s objectives for a student are far greater than what multiple choice tests require. Language programs that rely on multiple choice tests and translation activities will produce students who can analyze a language, but not actually speak it or express their own thoughts in writing. The ULAT seeks to train students to think in such a way that they can actually communicate with a native speaker, either orally or in written form.

(Please read the response to the next question for responses to the issue of evaluation and grading.)

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How can homeschooling parents evaluate their child’s performance if they themselves do not speak the language their child is learning?


Since the ULAT is merely curriculum and does not itself keep track of students’ progress through their lessons nor does it correct and grade the students’ work, how is a parent to handle the issue of grading? The ULAT provides teachers and parents with the answers to its various tests and a grading guide to help establish a grade, but the student still should be evaluated in the second language. The following are four suggestions to that end:

1) The parent can enroll the student in a homeschool co-op using the ULAT program and which is directed by a trained instructor.

2) The parent can learn the language along with the child and thus become able to perform the evaluation (the additional benefit being that the parents provides the child with the opportunity of conversation practice in the course of day-to-day life in the home).

3) For oral tests, the parent can make a recording of the student’s responses and compare them to the answers provided in the answer video that follows each form of the test.

4) The parent can choose to do none of the above, knowing that his or her child is at least using a curriculum that is best suited to the acquisition of oral fluency, and then can have the child take a standardized exam (CLEP, for example) at the end of the second year of study to have an objective measurement of the child’s progress.

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How is a typical ULAT lesson organized?


Most ULAT lessons begin with an instructional video. An instructor will present new vocabulary or a new sentence structure, however he will do it entirely in the language being taught and with no recourse to English. It is very important to remember that the teacher does not expect the students to understand everything he is saying. With a little creativity and dramatic expressiveness, he will make clear to the students that which is absolutely essential in his presentation. The students need simply to keep an open mind and be patient. Their comprehension will come. Invariably, as the weeks go by, they will find themselves understanding more and more of what the instructor is telling them.

After watching the instructional video, the students work independently through the lesson, doing the exercises that follow the video. Most lessons contain a great number of images, whose meanings are gradually conveyed to the students through the videos. Some of these images will have a red border, other borders will be green and still others will be black. Red borders indicate that the image is a link to a sound file. By clicking on it, the students will hear a word or, in the case of a series of images, they will hear an entire sentence. If the border is green, this means that the images is a link to moving image (GIF). If the border is black, the image presents information, but is not itself a link to any sound or moving image.

Following the exercises, a lesson may have a timed test. The existence of countdown clocks at the top of the lesson indicates that the lesson contains a timed exercise or test. By clicking on the clock at the top of the lesson, students can go directly to the corresponding timed exercise or test. Lessons concluding with a test will usually contain four forms of that test. A video providing the correct answers to the oral tests is found at the end of each form of the test. As for written tests, the location of their correct answers is revealed to the teacher or supervising parent of a student at the time when the school or family subscribes to the ULAT. That location should not be shared with students!

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Does the ULAT program autosave a student’s writing as he or she is typing and does it keep a permanent record of that writing?


Yes, the ULAT autosaves the students’ writing to a local folder on their computer. In this way, if they close the lesson, intentionally or not, and return to it later, that writing will still be there. However, they should be aware that if they clear their browsing history, that writing will be erased. For this reason, upon completing an assignment, students should print it or save it as a .pdf file and save it permanently to a folder on their computer and/or email it to their instructor.



Here is a quick summary of the primary advantages this autosave feature presents:

  • Written work cannot be lost, even if one loses Internet connection or refreshes the page

  • Students can return to their work and complete it at a later date

  • Students can submit to you their written work in an ink-friendly hard copy form or send it to their evaluator as a .pdf file.

  • Since written tests exist in multiple forms, teachers or parents can opt to assign one of the forms as a homework assignment for additional practice and conveniently receive it, once completed, as a .pdf.

  • Students can save their written work to a folder on their computer and thereby have a “dossier” of their writing to show to schools and authorities needing to be aware of the content the students have already studied and to what degree they have attained mastery.

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Is the ULAT accredited and how much high school credit will my child receive for using the ULAT curriculum?


Sometimes we hear the questions: “Is the ULAT accredited?” or rather “How much credit will my children receive if they use the ULAT?” These questions manifest a lack of understanding of the two issues. The ULAT is curriculum. It is not an educational institution. Educational institutions are accredited. Curriculum is not. Schools grant credit. Curriculum does not. Though the ULAT is far more dynamic than a textbook, substitute the word “textbook” into the two questions above and you will see how they lack sense. The ULAT is simply a tool, like a textbook, that students use in pursuing their education.


What parents mean when they ask these questions is one of two things. Either they eventually intend to integrate their children into a traditional classroom setting and want to be able to prove the learning their children have accomplished while homeschooled or they are thinking of college admission. In the first case, parents can inform the middle or high school of how many years of language study their children completed while homeschooled, but these schools will almost invariably give new students a placement test anyway to determine the level of language course into which to place them. As for demonstrating to colleges the coursework accomplished by homeschooled children in high school, parents do well to have their children take the CLEP language test following completion of the ULAT program. It not only provides the college with evidence of learning accomplished, but can even earn students college credit for the learning performed while using the ULAT (or any other curriculum, for that matter).

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How does one subscribe to the ULAT and is it possible to receive a discount?


To subscribe, click on the word SUBSCRIBE at the top of this page. That will take you to a page where you can find out about discounts that are available when your school, homeschool organization or co-op places a group subscription.

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The ULAT places an almost exclusive initial emphasis upon the skills of listening and speaking and delays a student’s introduction to writing for almost three entire semesters. Can the lesson sequence be modified by teachers who want to pursue a less radical approach and to balance listening, speaking, reading and writing from the program’s beginning until its end?


Absolutely. Whereas the ULAT adheres to the Natural Language Acquisition Sequence, and therefore proceeds in its skill development from listening to speaking to reading and to writing, if teachers desire or are obliged to adopt a somewhat different approach, they can modify the order of the ULAT’s lessons to correspond to their own needs. For example, lessons 1.1 to 2.2 deal only with the skills of listening and speaking. Phonic and elementary reading instruction begins in lesson 2.3 and writing is not introduced until lesson 5.1. Unit 5 would not normally be reached until approximately the beginning of the second semester of a student’s second year of study. However, the fifth unit, which is entirely devoted to elementary writing, mirrors the exact order of the topics dealt with in the ULAT’s first four units. Therefore, as a topic is introduced orally within the first four units, teachers could opt to immediately follow the oral lessons dealing with that topic by the written lesson in Unit 5 on that same topic.

For teachers who want or need to pursue a less radical approach to language education than that employed by the ULAT, here is a proposed sequence of lessons that will provide a balance of the four skills in each of the three years of study:

    YEAR ONE

  • Unit 1 (Lessons 1.1 to 1.50)
  • Unit 2 (Lessons 2.1 to 2.10)
  • Unit 5 (Lessons 5.1 to 5.13)
  • Unit 2 (Lessons 2.11 to 2.32)
  • YEAR TWO

  • Unit 3 (Lessons 3.1 to 3.19)
  • Unit 5 (Lessons 5.14 to 5.40)
  • Unit 4 (Lessons 4.1 to 4.23)
  • Unit 4 (Lessons 5.41 to 5.53)
  • Unit 6 (Lessons 6.1 to 6.31)
  • Unit 9 (Lessons 9.1 to 9.14)
  • YEAR THREE

  • Unit 7 (Lessons 7.1 to 7.21)
  • Unit 9 (Lessons 9.15 to 9.20)
  • Unit 8 (Lessons 8.1 to 8.17)
  • Unit 9 (Lessons 9.21 to 9.32)
  • Unit 10 (Under construction)

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The ULAT is a three-year program. What if a student only can devote two years to its study?

If students can only devote two years to the study of a language, in order to provide them with the most balanced development of the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, it is recommended that they follow the modified lesson sequence outlined in the answer to the previous question above. It is highly doubtful that they will be able to complete the totality of those lessons in two years but, cutting corners where possible, they should simply progress as far through that sequence as possible. One method of streamlining their studies would involve only watching as much of each instructional video as is necessary to get the gist of its teaching.

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Who created the ULAT program?

Steve Nesbitt is its creator, though he believes the idea for the program had a lot more to do with his Creator than with any insight of his own. (Read the history of the ULAT, especially the section entitled “Inspiration at a French Fry Stand”, to appreciate his perspective on the matter.) Steve served as a Spanish, French and English teacher in public and private schools for 30 years in the United States and in Europe. He began creating the ULAT program during the summer of 1980 and the ULAT website has been in existence since the year 2000. Steve is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, a member of the National Spanish Honorary Society and from where he obtained a BA in French, and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction. He and his wife homeschooled their nine children through the ninth grade, both in the U.S. and in France, where the Nesbitts served as church planting missionaries for 13 years. Steve and Brenda now live in mid-Michigan, where Brenda has worked as an RN and lactation consultant and where Steve continues with the ULAT’s development, grows organic produce and raises poultry.

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