Is Rosetta Stone language software any good?
February 24, 2004 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone around here used Rosetta Stone software for learning foreign languages? Did it work well for you?
posted by Prospero to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No, but I've used a bunch of other kinds. There was one that really helped with the vocabulary because it made it all like a game. I'm pretty sure it was the Instant Immersion software that I used.
posted by GaelFC at 5:00 PM on February 24, 2004

For reference- I was a linguist in the US Army and I majored in linguistics and foreign language in college. Of the many, many ways I've been taught to speak other languages, Rosetta Stone's method was the worst. I found it complicated (the GUI is not particularly user-friendly,) annoying (there are a lot of sounds that play complete extraneous to the pronunciation guides,) and incredibly difficult to view or review the basics of grammar and vocabulary. You basically have to play along with its pseudo-immersion program (long paragraphs that don't even employ basic words,) until you get to any vocabulary lists or pure grammatical instruction. Rosetta Stone would be great if you wanted to recite the History of Mount Fuji in Japanese, but for actual, conversational learning? It blows.
posted by headspace at 8:02 PM on February 24, 2004

What method(s) would you most recommend, headspace?
posted by jazzkat11 at 9:18 PM on February 24, 2004

It depends on your level of comfort learning a new language, and how comfortable you are testing yourself, but I would suggest a combination of:

*One of NTC Publishing's "Teach Yourself" titles- they're a wonderful, comprehensive beginning series that include grammar and vocabulary, and they do an excellent job of explaining the irregularities in a new language.

*One of Pocket Books' Language/English - English/Language dictionaries (they include the verb infinitives and base noun forms as well as conjugated and declined forms, where other dictionaries don't.)

*One of the Barron's 501 Verbs series- the entire book is made up of tables of infinitive verbs and their different conjugated forms, but they'll cover most of the verbs you'll need to get a good, working knowledge of a new language.

*A Berlitz beginner's course on tape or CD- you won't use this so much to learn the lessons, but to learn how to pronounce and inflect the words.

I also really recommend finding a native speaker who is willing to converse with you as you grow more proficient- you can actually find ESL students all over the Internet who are more than happy to correct your language, if you're willing to correct theirs. That's the best way to become truly conversational, though using the strict book/tape method can make you fluent enough to be understood, and give you the ability to read most books and newspapers. Slang and idioms are the hardest part to learn, and those are best learned from native speakers.

Good luck!
posted by headspace at 6:54 AM on February 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

Agree with headspace's last point; for the rest, quality of resources varies by language (the Teach Yourself titles, for instance, are excellent in some cases, notoriously bad in others). Was there a particular language you wanted to learn?
posted by languagehat at 7:56 AM on February 25, 2004

I'm not prospero but I'd like to learn a language too, specifically Thai. I'm a native English speaker, comfortable reading French, less comfortable with Latin, and able to plod along in German if I have a grammar and a dictionary at my elbow. I wish very much to learn at least one non-Western language and culture before my brain seizes up and gets old-dog/new-tricks problems. I picked Thai because it has a neat looking non-Western script but it's an alphabet and I wouldn't be looking at ten years of memorizing ideograms as I would for Chinese or Japanese.

But Thai is a tonal language like Chinese and I would really need to hear lots of it in order to learn to speak. I expect I can find a native Thai speaker around here to practice with but I'm also looking for CDs (or software with audio) so I can do some listening every day, can't afford daily lessons from a human.

This is important: I am very much more comfortable with old-style language learning (i.e. memorizing declensions, conjugations and vocabulary from note cards) than I am with the total-immersion business.

Any pointers would be very welcome. Thanks!

PS before some snarky person asks, my interest in Thailand has nothing whatever to do with finding a 13-year-old bride. Ah'm from Georgia, ah got plenty 13-year-old cousins ah could marry wifout going all the way over thar.
posted by jfuller at 9:20 AM on February 25, 2004

Response by poster: Was there a particular language you wanted to learn?

I'm thinking of taking up beginner-level study of a foreign language as a hobby for my own amusement, really, and I want to try something that's not taught at most colleges. I'm interested in Swedish, Dutch, or Norwegian, but the study aids for Norwegian seem to be few and far between. I'd like to be able to learn enough to read a newspaper, or be able to carry on a halting conversation with a native speaker, of the sort that lasts for a few minutes before aforesaid speaker switches to his or her excellent English.
posted by Prospero at 9:28 AM on February 25, 2004

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