Monday, October 27, 2008

Hands on with Rosetta Stone

For the past month, a few other dealnews staffers and I decided to learn Italian using different methods for a feature. Louis Ramirez got Pimsleur, I got Rosetta Stone online, and Jeff Somogyi used whatever free stuff he could find online, which I imagine was mostly podcasts.

Anyways, we were to use the systems as recommended for 30 days, after which we would take a test to determine which method worked the best.

You can find the results posted over on dealnews, but I thought I'd take a moment to expand on my experience with Rosetta Stone.

1. Rosetta Stone is brilliant!

Seriously. It's probably the best language learning software out there. It was a simple as logging into the Rosetta Stone website, testing the mic, and plugging away. The image-based instruction, matched with the complete immersion in Italian, proved to be the most effective method of learning a language I've encountered to date. (In the past, I've attempted - at varying degrees of fail - to learn French, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, and Danish.) Despite my slow progress through my Rosetta Stone courses - due to an unusually hectic month, not to any troubles with the coursework - I feel like I made decent strides into learning the language. And sure, "Le donne nuotano" and "la bicicletta e verde" may not come up in my life any time soon, but these phrases stuck in my head, along with dozens more. In fact, I can even understand them. And pronounce them with what I surmount to be a generic Italian accent. Result!

2. Rosetta Stone is friggin expensive!

Sure, I probably should have looked at the sticker at sometime during the learning experience, but it completely slipped my mind. I didn't learn about Rosetta Stone's exorbitant fees until after the test was all said and done. After my experience with the Italian program, I had the inkling to sign up for the French version so I could brush up on a language I knew somewhat conversationally back in the day. But at $199 for a six-month subscription, I quickly gave up on that idea. I really like the software and the method of instruction, but the price is a bit prohibitive. That said, if you've got the time on your hands, you could probably fly through the three lessons of a language in that time period; for comparison, to buy the retail-boxed version of all three lessons would cost $549 directly from Rosetta Stone. But it's frankly just a bit too dear for me.

Anyways, what I came out of this experience with was an appreciation for the methodology of Rosetta Stone's instruction. For those looking to seriously learn a language, I can see Rosetta Stone as being a wonderful tool in preparation for serious coursework in the pursuit of said language. It doesn't prepare you for a long weekend in a foreign land - I didn't learn what "bathroom" or "hotel room with two beds" are in Italian. What it does give you is a solid foundation for learning a language of your choice, and they currently offer 31 languages to choose from. So, while your $199 might not allow you to, say, order another beer in Farsi*, it will set you up with a solid understanding of the basics of that language.

* I don't know how to write it in arabic script, but it's something like "Mon bishtar ahjool mee-choum". Don't ask me why I know that.

No comments: