I’ve had my eye on the Rosetta Stone language software for a while now. Everyone says it’s great, but $500 is a little steep, even to learn a whole new language. They dropped the price by almost 50% over Cyber Monday, though (the deal’s still going on now), so I had to try it.
I got Spanish, the language I took in high school and college, and the only foreign language where I know more than a handful of words.
This is hardly my first stab at language software. I’ve written before about Duolingo being the bee’s knees (and free to boot). But Rosetta Stone does offer something I haven’t seen anywhere else: immersion.
Aside from the menus and other little messages, there’s no English. You don’t translate anything. You just learn Spanish.
You see the word “gato” on the screen, and a voice says it. There’s a picture of a cat. Okay, so “gato” means cat – except you don’t have the English word “cat” in there cluttering up the works. It’s just “gato” and the picture. You can think purely in Spanish. This is a subtle distinction – translating vs. straight learning – but it does make it easier to get in the zone.
The production values are as high as you’d expect for software that costs a quarter of a thousand dollars, which is good, because the pictures have to be clear and match precisely the phrase you’re trying to learn. They are, and they do. And a variety of different voices pronounce the words, which is nice.
The biggest problem I’ve run into is voice recognition. I guess it’s state of the art, but the technology still isn’t quite there yet. Often it correctly recognizes what you’re saying, but it fails frequently enough that I finally turned it off. Fortunately, that’s easy to do and doesn’t penalize you.
Is it worth it?
Too soon to tell. I’ve only used it for a week so far, and there’s a massive amount of material. At half an hour per day, it should take over a year to complete.
But so far it seems good. And if I do, in fact, become fluent, then it was worth every nickel.