How should I use my potential Rosetta Stone subscription?
June 24, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I just got a new job where I will have access to Rosetta Stone for a single language. I don't need to learn any languages for work so please help me decide how I'd like to use it.

I took Spanish for all of high school and much of college and even spent five weeks in Ecuador (ten years ago). My Spanish used to be pretty decent but it's not anymore. Improving my Spanish could also be helpful to me long-term for future jobs.

On the other hand, I'd really like to learn Arabic. This might be useful at some point but it doesn't have the practical applications of Spanish for places I expect to live (northeast US; DC now and possibly New England in the future). I know that I'm not likely to be fluent but I just think it'd be neat to know.

I also generally have some issues with auditory comprehension (in English as well) which means that when learning a new language I can pick up reading and writing decently quickly and I am okay at speaking but I have a lot of trouble understanding the spoken language which is often the most useful thing.

I have a few questions:

1. Would Rosetta Stone actually help improve my intermediate level Spanish or is it best for beginners?

2. Would Rosetta Stone be really helpful with understanding another language when it's spoken?

3. Does it really address all aspects of the language or just a few of the basic reading, writing, speaking, listening skills? How would learning the written aspect work for Arabic?

4. SHOULD I use it to improve my Spanish? It would probably be the smart and responsible thing to do but this seems like such an awesome chance to learn a new language for free! On the one hand I want to get better at a language in which I'm already conversant and on the other hand I don't want to waste my opportunity to try something new.

Bonus Question: Are there any other languages I should try besides Spanish or Arabic? I only get one (and I definitely wouldn't be able to do more than one anyway; honestly this might end up being academic depending on my follow-through) so if it turns out Swahili is just super awesome let me know.

At the most basic: How should I use Rosetta Stone and should I try Spanish, Arabic, or a surprise third option?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: P.S.: If you make a suggestion for a different language, please let me know how easy it would be to learn; if I could become pretty much fluent in something within six months I'd be more likely to pursue that than something with lower practical returns (yes I know Arabic is a very challenging language).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:56 PM on June 24, 2013

I can't speak for much of this question but I've attempted Rosetta Stone for Arabic and I think it would not be a good starting place for a total beginner. I can already read and write Arabic so I skipped to the oral parts, which I didn't get very far into because it irritated me due to being completely in really formal Modern Standard Arabic. It uses case endings, which are not spoken except in very formal contexts, like religious recitation, and doesn't do a good job at all of explaining why they are there (if I remember correctly it doesn't tell you at all, so you would be learning words with additional vowel sounds at the end without fully understanding what they are there for--I might have skipped over quite a bit of the introductory stuff, however). In your position I would probably just pick up the Spanish (Latin American) version and begin Arabic with an actual teacher--sorry to be boring!

Maybe you could pick up Portuguese if you want something different from Spanish that would still be close enough to where the Rosetta Stone could help you? Just a suggestion.
posted by Papagayo at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2013

My son learned Arabic-one thing he found out is that what is taught is standard Arabic but the truth is there are many dialects of Arabic -so a lot depends on what you actually would want to do with it. I think I'd go with the Spanish myself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:07 PM on June 24, 2013

Response by poster: I did take Arabic for about two months in college so I have a VERY VERY basic knowledge; I know about case endings and that there are many dialects. I used to know the alphabet and some basic phrases but it's been years. I don't know the actual language but I have a decent amount of knowledge ABOUT the language.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2013

I'd stick with Spanish for two reasons. First, it's easier and you know more already so it's going to be less frustrating (at least, I would find it less frustrating), which means you're probably more likely to stick with it. Second, as you found out, when you don't use a language for a long time, you start forgetting. You're going to have a lot more opportunities to practice/use Spanish in daily life than Arabic.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:19 PM on June 24, 2013

Spanish is the obvious answer if you want this to be practical. But if you don't really care about being practical and just want to do something fun, I would recommend Turkish. Turkish is actually quite a simple language to pick up, despite its relative distance from English. I personally find the sound of it to be very pleasant due to the vowel harmony. It's written phonetically and in Latin script, so it's very easy to sound out words as you read them (this might be a stumbling block with Arabic). I spent about a month learning Turkish out of a book before I went on a trip there a couple years ago, and I could get surprisingly far with what I had learned in that short time. Turkey is a fantastic place to visit as well, although right now might not be such a good time... There are also many Turkish expats living in the US if you wanted to practice.
posted by permiechickie at 7:25 PM on June 24, 2013

Rosetta Stone is absolute crap for Arabic. Its nearly worthless--there is just so much that needs to be explicitly explained to the learner about the language in English that you can't just forgo your native tongue. Even at places like Middlebury, new students have a week or two of speaking English before they are fully immersed.

My suggestion to you is to purchase a cheap textbook for whatever language you want to learn, and use that as your basis. Only use Rosetta Stone to supplement the core course of a textbook.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:40 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to throw Russian out there for consideration. Lots of former USSR countries still use the language, lots of Russian speaking enclaves in the Northeast, and its a different language family so it'll mush your brain around more to learn it. I'd also consider Mandarin, or something totally foreign just to see what it's like.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:52 AM on June 25, 2013

Spanish because 1) Rosetta Stone Spanish is OK, 2) you have a foundation in it, 3) because it's very useful in the US, and 4) because it's a lot easier than Arabic (do you really want to deal with 12 verb conjugations or whatever it is with Arabic?). So with Spanish you will actually be able to achieve something that you will actually be able to use and will give you a sense of accomplishment. With Rosetta Stone you can also use the mobile app, which is great because you can squeeze in a little practice every time you have a spare 10 or 15 minutes here and there throughout the day and evening. And you can supplement it with Duolingo, which is free and similar.
posted by Dansaman at 10:26 AM on June 25, 2013

I too got RS free from my employer. I was not impressed. It might be okay as a refresher for a language you already know but I would not use it to learn a new one. So, um, Spanish?
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 11:39 PM on June 25, 2013

ESL teacher here who's used Rosetta Stone in class, and I'm also a language learner who's used RS. DO NOT believe their advertising; you cannot learn your target language only with Rosetta Stone. It is a good tool as a part of your language learning, but it cannot answer the questions about grammar and whatnot that you'll develop as you move up through its levels. To answer your individual questions,

1) Yes
2) Only if you're lucky enough to hear one of the questions that was in RS.
3) No, yes, not sure
4) Sure, why not?

Bonus question answer -- study the language you want to study; we can't tell you which language that is.
posted by Rash at 4:05 AM on June 26, 2013

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