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A Guide to Rosetta Stone Language Software

Rosetta Stone

A few years ago, I was at a popular mall on a busy Sunday afternoon. A large yellow kiosk booth caught my attention, as it had large TV screens displaying pictures and foreign language words. The well-dressed sales associates were energetically talking and handing out brochures, and the title on the brochure, as well as the screen was “Rosetta Stone”. I’ll admit, it was quite an impressive looking program, and the salespeople boasted that it was simply the best way to learn a language. Currently, I’ve been able to thoroughly use several of the Rosetta Stone language programs (German, French, and Portuguese), and in retrospect, I’m very glad that I wasn’t suckered into that purchase several years ago.

Rosetta Stone is a very unique language program, as it utilizes solely pictures and words. Each lesson is structured the same way: sets of pictures, with words above them. As you progress through the lessons you’ll learn more and more words, and by the end of the first unit (there are 2 Levels for each language, each level is composed of several Units, and each Unit has 11 chapters) you’ll know how to form some simple sentences. By end of the second level, you’ll be able to form relatively complex sentences. Given that there are no actual explanations, and the only learning medium is picture-word association, it’s quite an impressive tool.

Unforunately, Rosetta Stone does not deliver all that it promises. With a price tag of 150 dollars (300 for a complete set), one should hope to leave the program and be able to have a good conversation. The program does teach quite a bit, but it is more along the lines of vocabularly and identification. After the expensive first level, you’ll be able to say “The dog has a small, red ball in its mouth” or “The man is trying to fly a kite” or “The plane is above the clouds”, but even something as simple as “Hey, how are you” or “Good morning” is missing. Another dissatisfying aspect of the program is it’s complete lack of grammar explanation. I understand the theory behind the program: learn the language the natural way. The problem with this viewpoint is that we are no longer in the same mental state as we were as speechless babies. We already know a language, and when faced with a grammatical construction that goes against our logic, we become confused. From this perspective, the “natural method” claim seems to be more of an excuse for laziness. Had Rosetta Stone’s creators tossed in a grammar explanation or recap after each unit, it would have had a lot more worth.

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Do not get me wrong, Rosetta Stone is a very good program. It is unique, innovative, and perhaps the best vocabulary-learning tool I’ve found in my years of studying languages. However, when you get down to it, it’s pricetag makes it a rip off. Rosetta Stone is a 50, perhaps 60, maybe even 70 dollar value, but it is nowhere near worth the price of 150 dollars. It is quite tragic, as it is definitely a program worth checking out. I recommend searching the library or borrowing from a friend.