Rosetta Stone?

Rosetta Stone is clearly the biggest name in language education to date. Because they have marketed their product so much online as well as in kiosks in the mall, many people consider using this program to learn a language. As such, I receive many inquiries as to my opinion on its effectiveness.

One of the first things I would say is that it is online computer-aided instruction. Even if it were the best tool in the world, that would not mean anything if you are not going so sit in front of the computer after working a full-day. You know yourself better than anybody else. Is this type of learning environment going to work for you? Or would you prefer the dynamics and accountability of a live class? If you know you need the discipline of attending a weekly class, you may consider using Rosetta Stone or another computer-aided tool like Duolingo as a supplemental tool.

Other students have reported to me that it is helpful, but they need a real-life instructor to ask follow-up questions and for real-life application. I had a student ask me why the computer kept marking his answer as incorrect. He was missing a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and a period at the end. Computers are programmed for certain responses and if those responses aren’t matched – it’s wrong! A live instructor can help give you the feedback you need.

Additionally, Rosetta Stone is not a quick way to learn a language as many people may think. A student reported to me that she completed 3 units of Dutch and can only speak a little. She completed the 3 units twice. Another student who is Spanish speaking and studying the English version has free access to Rosetta Stone and has gone through Units 1 and 2. He reports, “No me gusta. Pienso que no aprendo mucho porque es demasiado largo para no aprender mucho.” He gets frustrated with going through so much practice and then feeling like he hasn’t learned much.

Instructor Alberta Norton wrote in an online discussion, “In my experience, Rosetta Stone provides for no interactive speaking. After about 3 hours, students tire of the platform.  It is boring and mono directional. Language is about negotiating meaning. With computer programs, there is no possibility for this negotiation.  This methodology completely ignores culturally-based language; this is the only way language should be learned in my opinion. Language and culture are intrinsically linked.  How can that be effective?”

So the language experts and students are in agreement. Whenever possible, take a live class. We recognize that this may not always be possible if you are trying to learn a more obscure language or if you live somewhere remote. In those cases, computer-based instruction may be the only option you have. But when you have the option of a live class, explore what is available through private enterprises, Adult Ed programs or community colleges. Contact us for Spanish or English classes in the San Francisco South Bay Area.

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