Rosetta Stone: Does it Work?

Learning Spanish is (probably) 90% will power. Sadly, will power is not my strong suit.

When it comes to Spanish it seems that I have this painful mental block that I just can’t seem to push past. I think it’s PTSD from high school Spanish and those rows of neatly conjugated verb charts. O, as, a, amos, an, those verb endings haunt my dreams. I never did figure out what was appropriate to use when or how to convert these complex endings in my head fast enough to have an actual conversation.

Does Rosetta Stone Spanish Work?

Close up of the Rosetta Stone replica
photo credit: laser2k

That’s where Rosetta Stone comes in. Unlike those tedious high school classes, Rosetta Stone Spanish takes a gentle, immersive approach. The computer program aims to teach you the same way that small children learn a new language. They use a system they call “Dynamic Immersion,” which instead of forcing you to memorize vocabulary and conjugations tries to introduce you to new language skills interactively. They claim that this will get you thinking in your new language from the very beginning.

On a practical level what this means is that they teach you vocabulary and grammar using pictures, pronunciation and small games. There is a lot of repetition and they use voice recognition software to check your pronunciation. They’ll show you a picture of a white cat and teach you “El gato blanco.” It’s simplistic yes, but through repetition you learn a lot of new vocabulary.

The downsides? It’s expensive. Like massively expensive. For the price of the software I could take three weeks of real life language classes in Colombia. It’s also just a computer program, so there is nobody to ask if you have a question or need clarification.

El Gato Blanco

But does it actually work? Sort of. My feeling is that used on it’s own, it will be only a semi-useful tool. Combined with actual language classes or immersion though, it’s a great way to reinforce and practice concepts and vocabulary. Mike claims that Rosetta Stone Mandarin really helped him to learn Chinese more rapidly while living in Xi’an.

Basically I don’t think that Rosetta Stone is a language learning solution in and of it’s self. I think it’s just impossible to learn language in a void without practicing and conversing in real life. If you used it in conjunction with other language activities, classes or discussion groups or something else, than it would probably help you to learn faster.

Of course my biggest problem is that Rosetta Stone Spanish only helps if you ACTUALLY use it on a regular basis. Luckily, my slacker attitude is going to be adjusted for me by this time next week when I’ll be speaking Spanish in Colombia whether I know how or not!


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20 thoughts on “Rosetta Stone: Does it Work?”

  1. I have tried Duolingo. I like it a lot but some of the new words are given to you verbally before you ever see them and can be frustrating. I like LiveMocha in conjunction with it. I’ve been looking at Rosetta Stone but it’s expensive.

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