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Rosetta Stone: A Tour
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Hello. Welcome to the Five-week Linguist Show. One of the questions I’ve been asked so many times over the years is all about Rosetta Stone. I’m going to start with what I’ve always thought of Rosetta Stone, and then I’m going to give you a tour.
For many years, honestly, it would have been something that I wouldn’t have thought to try, and there’s quite a few reasons for that. First of all, I don’t have time. A lot of my language learning has to be mobile, or if I have time to sit down in front of a computer, I’d rather be watching [inaudible 00:00:01:02], watching Netflix, working with a native speaker on Italki. I certainly wouldn’t gravitate to something like this with the very limited amount of time that I have to engage in this kind of thing.
Also, 10 years ago, I thought it was unbelievably pricey. I really believe in paying for quality. I would sooner spend money… In my opinion, a Mac computer lasts me a really long time, much longer than my PCs have ever lasted me. I’m sure they’ve gotten better, but I’m happy to pay the extra money knowing that it’s going to start up for 10 years. I’d rather have a car that I know is going to last for a long time and pay a little bit more for it. Now, we’re all different. We all have different needs, of course. But that’s my opinion. I’m not going to spend a lot of money on something if I don’t feel a whole lot of confidence in it.
Not knowing Rosetta Stone, I felt like the prices I saw were a bit much. What level do you pick? If you’re going to invest this kind of money, what level would you pick? But I decided to, after being asked so many times about it, to give it a little go.
It’s been a really interesting experience. Now that they have the program online, I think it’s very reasonable. They run specials all the time. I’ve seen lifetime offers for something like $150, very reasonable. If you’re starting out in a language, all the lessons are pretty much 30 minutes. We’re going to go through some of the features in just a second. But I think if you’re beginning in a language and you realistically have 30 minutes a day and you’re not using Pimsleur in your car, which is a big one of mine, Pimsleur and audio books in my car, just because that’s the way it fits. If I had a job where I was at a desk at lunch, and I was starting in a language, this might be something I would do. I would definitely explore. I would use it along with something else. Maybe I would do this and some Duolingo, because I really like all the features that Duolingo has added, and we’ll talk a little bit about the differences in their approaches and how I think the research correlates to what they’re doing.
So if you can see here, this is Italian and I haven’t felt particularly… I would say this is a good course. There’s 20 units here. This is a really good course for beginners to go through. And within these 20 units, I believe there are four lessons. Let’s take a look. Let’s look here. So yeah, there’s four lessons in each one, and then they have the pronunciation, the vocabulary and the grammar. So what I think is really interesting is that’s 88 lessons. That’s 88 lessons of 30 minutes a piece. And if you’re a novice learner, more than 30 minutes at a time is going to be really mentally taxing.
So as you build up, you can certainly build more time into that. But I would say 30 minutes is a really good place to start. Less than that I’m not really sure that you’re going to get the benefits though. I think anything is better than nothing, but if you were to do 30 minutes a day of this, and you can do a couple of hours a week, I would do something that’s at least five hours a week, whatever I do. And a lot of programs don’t recommend that you do… For beginners, the lessons aren’t more than 30 minutes and that’s for a reason. So maybe I would do 30 minutes of this a day and then maybe get my notebook and work in doing tasks journals, task notebooks, a bit of reading.
I would add about 15 minutes onto this and whatever it is, total it up to about five hours a week. Because that way it’s enough time to make progress, but it’s not so much time that you’re going to mentally tax out. So let’s just take a look at what the lessons look like.
Everyday things, this is unit 11, and so there’s 20 different units and you do the microphone set up. And they ask you, every time you log into a lesson, you get a microphone check. And so they want to make sure that your microphone is set up properly and they’ll look for your microphone, whatever that means. [foreign language 00:06:30] so I think that’s a fun little place. I’m all set. They give you a little check. You’re all set and [foreign language 00:06:43] so right now I’m listening and I need to match the sentence to the picture. [foreign language 00:06:57] So really you’re listening, [foreign language 00:07:02] Okay. So you’re going to select the picture. And it’s going to [foreign language 00:07:08]
So what I think is really interesting about this is activities.
This is more of the same. But really the order in which, for beginners, I believe language should be introduced, is you first listen, and then you speak. And then we go to this stage, which is reading. So we’re learning what the language looks like. And then the last stage is writing. A lot of these lessons kind of roughly follow that pattern. Rosetta Stone prides itself on helping people become fluent. So I’m unclear that if I go directly- this is Lesson 11 that I’m working on, that I just clicked into right now- that I would go to lesson 20. It does a good job of providing input, which I think is really good and providing grammar and context. With that said, I don’t have a problem with using some translation, which is really a lot of what Duolingo does. They do a lot of translating.
And what the difference is here in the approaches is that Rosetta Stone calls their method Dynamic Immersion, and it’s essentially presenting to you language that’s very comprehensible and you’re doing something called TPR, which is total physical response. So you’re reacting to the language, right? It’s wanting you to acquire a language, which is that natural way, the way you acquired your own language. So it’s definitely got some strengths here. I’m assuming that their old levels were sort of put into this E-program I believe, so it’s not like level one, two, three, four, five, et cetera. I think these might be all the lessons together, though I could be wrong because I don’t see… I want to click around a little bit and see what’s on offer because I was really confused about that. Is this one level? Is this just for beginners? Because I tend to think not.
Now, what Duolingo does with the translating is, that’s using learning, and those are Stephen Krashen, that’s research-based, so acquisition is how we sort of naturally acquire languages like we did our first language. And learning are really deliberate activities, and translation being one of them. The acquisition of language is where you’re really going to pick it up. But you put those two things, the learning and the acquisition together, you will go far and you will do that fast.
So I would say if you’re going to do something like this, like Rosetta Stone, I would say definitely combine it with something that’s enjoyable in your life, something that allows you to be creative, to be reading or writing in a journal or listening to stories, listening to music, something that you really, really enjoy, drawing and labeling in the foreign language. But it’s interesting. They’ve got extended learning. So on top of, I want to say there’s 88 lessons here, I believe that’s what it said, you signed up for it and it’s got a phrase book and they’ve got games and stories and I haven’t really explored a whole lot of that, though I think they’re really interesting.
Okay. They also have something called “live tutoring” that you can sign up for. And I want to say that they have group tutoring and individual tutoring. I am told that they have a very focused approach, the same way they do with the lessons that they deliver. I believe this was originally based on something called the “learnables.” That’s what someone told me. I’m not quite sure how accurate that is. And the learnables was essentially a homeschool program. So a child who’s maybe going to high school at home, they could take the learnables for their foreign language requirement, or they want to take a foreign language for college or just for pleasure, that gave them an opportunity. They didn’t need their parents or whoever they were living with to be able to speak that language to teach. So I’m told it’s very focused like that.
And there’s individual tutoring and there’s group tutoring. I would say maybe sign up for one and see what it’s like. I think Italki is a great supplement to this. If you’re just starting out in a language and you want something that you can realistically, you’ve got all the content there. Say for the next six months, if you’ve got half an hour a day and then maybe a few sessions a week on Italki, I think you’ll be really pleased with the experience. I would not call this a waste of time, though. I can’t say that I can properly talk about how this looks longterm because my Italian is a little bit past this level. And that’s probably- they fixed the price issue, they’ve given people opportunities to do things like games and fun, they’ve made the price really reasonable and they’ve organized lots of tutoring in there.
So I would say that this is a program that’s really evolved. I wouldn’t dismiss it if I were just starting out in a language and I might even do this with my next language. I’m not sure what or when that’s going to be. I’ve really got to feel that I’ve solidified my goals in Italian, but I need to do it in a way that’s going to keep me sane and let me live the rest of my life. That means I don’t have a whole lot of time to dedicate to it every day. But I think if you were to supplement this, I see this as somebody who maybe you’ve got some time at your desk at lunch, you can sit and do, or you can go out in the park and do this on your phone, I know they have the app, and find some other spaces in your day.
I think this would be a really great supplement to Pimsleur because Pimsleur’s all audio and they use spaced repetition. And then if you were to do a lesson a day on that, along with a lesson of this and some tutoring, I think you would be really pleased with the progress that you would make and it wouldn’t cost you a whole lot of money. So I would say that I am really impressed that Rosetta Stone has taken their content and made a pretty easy-to-follow program that could definitely keep you engaged and learning and well on your progress as a beginner in the new language for at least six months.
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