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197 of 204 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Truly Get a Feel For Spoken Japanese - Worth It!
Before I start my review I want to give you a little background. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Washington. I've taught English to Japanese students in Japan from grade 6 through 12, then college age students from Nagasaki University. I've also taught American English speakers Beginning Japanese classes at the...
Published on March 12, 2011 by BumbleB Media

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146 of 157 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overpriced. Has problems, but does what it says it will do.
I bought this item directly from Rosetta Stone, paying, unfortunately, more than I would have had I bought it directly from Amazon. Live, learn, and expect a (usually) better buy from Amazon! Apart from my negative feelings on the price, I have the following comments on the program: it is very slow to load and run. It does, as other reviewers have said, freeze without...
Published on January 14, 2011 by John Brady


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197 of 204 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Truly Get a Feel For Spoken Japanese - Worth It!, March 12, 2011
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before I start my review I want to give you a little background. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Washington. I've taught English to Japanese students in Japan from grade 6 through 12, then college age students from Nagasaki University. I've also taught American English speakers Beginning Japanese classes at the local community college for two semesters, with students ranging in age from about 18 to age 60.

I'm reviewing Rosetta Stone Japanese based on my experience as a Japanese language learner, a Japanese language teacher and an English language teacher for Japanese people.

There are three parts to learning with Rosetta Stone included with the cost of this set:

Rosetta Course - Select images and text on the screen by speaking, clicking or typing the answer.
Rosetta Studio (online for 9 months) - Converse and interact online with a native Japanese speaker using the same vocabulary and lessons in Rosetta Stone.
Rosetta World (online for 9 months) - Interact with other Japanese language learners through conversation and games, or do the language games and activities alone.

To me, the greatest aspect to Rosetta Stone is that you get a well-rounded experience of listening, speaking, interacting with other students, plus interaction with a native speaker -- as opposed to some language courses where you only listen to an audio and try to repeat what's said, like with Pimsleur. The screens of vocabulary and dialogue do seem like flash cards, but it's more complex than just flash cards. HEARING is so important to establish new pathways in your brain for a totally different language like Japanese. Flash Cards are writing based -- not the same.

** I think it's important to note that Japanese is a not like learning a European language (I've also studied Portuguese and Spanish) where you can have a basic grasp or understanding of sentence structure and the grammar, then by just exchanging vocabulary words you can still get the gist of what's being said. Listening to conversation and learning *patterns* for speaking, pronunciation and intonation is very important to communicate in Japanese.**

For those of you who feel learning the Japanese writing system is very important, IMO it's helpful to a point. However, when it comes to communicating with native speakers, learning thousands of characters does not help unless your goal is to be a translator -- the only time I used those hundreds of hours of study and memorization (I will say learning hiragana and katakana is a help).

In fact, when I went to Japan I had three years of Japanese language learning -- mostly grammar, memorizing characters and translating -- and it took me six months to get up to speed in order to hold a real conversation, say, in a teacher meeting, with my colleagues. I wish I had something like Rosetta Stone back then!

That said, for those who want it, Rosetta Stone does have some writing lessons included. You can't write on the screen, so basically it's still a multiple choice setup. Rosetta Stone does give you the option to read along with the lessons and you can read using the alphabet, using what is called Hiragana. You may also use Kanji characters or you may use Kanji characters with some pronunciation help from what's called Furigana.

Grammar-wise, there is no guide or explanation of even basic grammar. This program is designed to mimic learning a language much like a child does, by listening and learning patterns. There are lessons in RS that focus on what are called "particles" in Japanese grammar, such as wa, de and ni. If you are a true beginner in Japanese, a basic book on grammar may help you get a feel for it. Many Japanese learners highly recommend the free "Genki" lessons online.

Finally, IMO, Rosetta Stone Japanese _is_ a good value. The hours of lessons (that you can repeat anytime), additional practice with other students, with the opportunity for live tutoring sessions is well worth the cost (this used to be over $1,200 through Rosetta Stone - it's less than half that now).

Compare that to offline with a course at a local community college. For a 3-credit course per semester you're looking at about $200-$300 per course. You're probably going to spend about $500+ and learn basic grammar, rudimentary writing, and probably a small amount of speaking and hearing. From my experience, that's certainly not enough to communicate beyond introductions and a few helpful phrases, if you decide to go to Japan.

Rosetta Stone seems ideal for a student who has some basic Japanese grammar (on your own is fine) and who is planning to go over to Japan, say, for work or to study as an exchange student. If my child were heading to Japan as an exchange student, I certainly would consider having them study the Rosetta Stone Japanese course prior to going to give them a basic feel for the language, proper pronunciation, listening practice and the chance to speak with a native speaker.
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235 of 253 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of Rosetta Stone Japanese, February 22, 2011
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This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have learned a lot of useful and coherent Japanese from this program. The Rosetta Stone method works well when it comes to learning the foundations of the language and engaging in intermediate level conversations. I also think that the Japanese version is one of their better offerings.

The most important thing is that Rosetta Stone is geared toward audial learning and feedback for your own pronunciation and comprehension. While I have had some issues with the Italian version of Rosetta Stone accurately recognizing and grading my accent, this has not been the case with this course. As you may know, the Japanese language is composed of phonetic particles which are highly regular, but need to be emphasized and articulated precisely. Rosetta Stone excells at this, because there is simply one clear, right way to say the word, and they get you to say it just right.

As mentioned previously, I took Italian in college, and my teacher from Florence said my accent was my strong point (!). Yet Rosetta Stone Italian would not recognize words I knew I was saying perfectly. However, just the opposite has been true with the Japanese Volumes; my wife is Japanese and it used to kill her how badly I mutiliated what little I knew, and now she welcomes me attempting a conversation.

There are some criticisms that you do not learn relevant phrases for typical tourist situations. While this may be true, you are going to get a whole lot more than that with this program! Seriously, if you finish all three levels you will be well on your way to being an intermediate speaker of conversational Japanese, and the "where are the traveler's checks" stuff is easy to pick up in an afternoon. Much more complicated is learning the ordinal numbers (for different shapes of objects) and the counterintuitive grammar of this distinct language which developed in isolation. I think you simply need tons of repetition for that.

I see that many people are comparing Rosetta Stone unfavorably to the Fluenz course. Now, I will admit that I have not taken these, but I understand that they utilize an attractive woman to teach you lessons, just like a teacher would do, and then have you type answers. While this might be preferable for certain learners, particularly with European languages, remember that Japanese has three alphabets and you simply would not be able to type anything in the Fluenz method until after spending a very long time memorizing not only Hiragana, but how to type it on a Western keyboard. I really do not know much about Fluenz, just wanted to point out a major potential issue if they were to tackle this same material.

Now, the one thing I will agree with is that it's pretty bogus that you do not actually own the software after spending hundreds of dollars. You cannot resell it! I found this out the hard way after my troubles with the Italian version. So, it's best to think of Rosetta Stone more as a course you are paying for that will always be at your fingertips and that you can utilize at your own pace. I have no idea what some of these so-called "reviewers" are smoking when they say you can get the same level of interaction and instruction for free off the internet or with flashcards. Give me a break.

This program was responsible for getting my off my duff and immersing me into the language of my wife and her extensive Japanese family. I am very grateful for that, and it works. Just ask yourself if you are prepared to truly immerse yourself, both financially and in the language itself. You cannot help but make major progress with this excellent program.
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146 of 157 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overpriced. Has problems, but does what it says it will do., January 14, 2011
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
I bought this item directly from Rosetta Stone, paying, unfortunately, more than I would have had I bought it directly from Amazon. Live, learn, and expect a (usually) better buy from Amazon! Apart from my negative feelings on the price, I have the following comments on the program: it is very slow to load and run. It does, as other reviewers have said, freeze without warning. When that happens, I can only go to another section of the lesson I am on to get it back to responding again. And, it usually freezes at the same place in the program. So, the program has bugs in it. Yes, as one reviewer has said, the pictures of some activities are too small to determine what response the program expects of me. Fine differences make for drastically different expected responses. The program is, as advertised, total immersion; there is no English language help available in the program, and all questions, answers, and expected responses are all in Japanese. So, anyone expecting any hand holding from the program in the way of English language help is going to be greatly disappointed. That said, the program is excellent in presenting situations one might encounter and hearing the language spoken for that situation. I quickly learned the difference between language used when speaking of men and women, their friends, male and female children, activities such as eating, walking, riding, cooking, shopping, reading from books and magazines, grammar, and such other essentials. After going to bed each night, after doing my lesson for the day, I remembered many things that I had always wondered about. My wife is a native Japanese, and she helps me with the finer points of the program. I took four courses of college Japanese, and can say that this program has taught me more than all of those courses combined. Overall, it meets my needs and is a very interesting, interactive program -- but buggy.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does what it claims, fantastic product ... but with some problems. And, a few comments on "immersion", March 24, 2011
By 
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First I'd like to say I agree with what appears to be the consensus on this product: a bit overpriced, but does what it claims. The Rosetta Stone language philosophy is: Language immersion through learning + feedback through a well-rounded (and fun) program which reinforces comprehension & pronunciation (including accents).

ROSETTA STONE APPROACH:

I am a far cry from being a language expert, but I have used other language programs (and other Rosetta Stone program), and I believe the have a very solid product.

Many users have complained about the "immersion" approach - so here's my quick 2 cents on that: There are several language theories, and I tend to agree with immersion. I have some academic reasons for this (I've studied Chomsky, linguistics, semiotics, etc, in graduate school), but for me the proof is in the pudding when I watch my 1-year old child acquire cognitive tasks like language. She obviously does not use flash cards or try to memorize words one at a time - she is immersed in the language every day (hearing it, seeing it, trying it out, reacting to our feedback) and picks it up like a champ.

The apprehension from Rosetta Stone users (I believe) is that Japanese is *so* foreign from the Romance Languages (English, Spanish, French, etc) and there is NO English (zero, as far as I've seen) in the program. So if this makes you apprehensive, and/or if this isn't your learning style (hey - everybody learns differently), then I would suggest avoiding all immersion-based softwares (not just Rosetta - that includes most of the top companies). But for me, this is my preference.

The program has 3 parts: The course/software itself, the "studio" (get 9 months with your license - interact with native speakers), and the Rosetta "world" (also 9 months - play games, etc). The three together (theoretically) provide a well-rounded language experience. However, please note that you are paying for the extras - the software itself is fairly similar to much less expensive alternatives (like the Instant Immersion brand).

THE SOFTWARE:

There were some problems with the software (running on a new Windows 7 laptop). It was a bit clunky, runs slow, and even crashed my system a few times.

The larger issue for me (as with all Rosetta Stone products) is the licensing. You are only allowed to load the program twice (theoretically, one copy on your desktop and one on your laptop). But if you have a crash, a stolen laptop, if you need to reinstall due to Windows errors, then you are basically up the creek - you have to buy another copy.

In my opinion this severely limits the use of your program (and as one user put it, you never really "own" it). Another user encouraged me to look at it another way: This is a course (like a college course) - and you should spend 9 months with it and then never need it again. Learning a language is not really like an operating system or photo editing software, where you basically use the same functions every day for several years - you progress through the program then you're done.

All I can say is, the licensing restrictions really make me feel uncomfortable. At heart, I really believe if I buy a product (and have the serial number), I should have unrestricted personal use of the product. I should be able to transfer ownership (put it on my wife's computer when I'm done with it), resell it, load it onto my next computer, etc. And this raises another limitation - I can't use it on my netbook (which I travel with) because I've already used my 2 installs, but also because the CD-Rom has to be in place to use it. So if you plan to use it while traveling, or even at work, for example, you can't unless you also carry around the discs.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

Some users have reported that the early levels don't really teach you relevant phrases, and I tend to agree with that.

Also, the headset is cheap - not a big deal in my book, but it really makes me curious why Rosetta Stone would sell a top shelf program and include a dollar store headset.

CONCLUSION:

This product is NOT for you if: (a) Any of the issues I mention give you pause, or (b) you're wanting to learn casually - and not serious about jumping right into the program. Also, if you're looking for an effective yet less expensive alternative, they're out there.

You won't find any other out-of-the-box product as comprehensive as Rosetta Stone, but you can definitely piece together your own learning program (i.e., Instant Immersion for $10, then Google for language free games, audible feedback, etc). Other reviewers have mentioned several other options.

However, if the cost doesn't bother you, & if you're OK with buying another copy should your laptop get stolen or computer crashes, then I say go for it! I truly give it 4.5 - 5 stars based on its merits.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fun and easy way to learn Japanese literally translated from English, April 17, 2012
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
About me: I have been using Rosetta Stone (v3) Japanese for about 3 months, and am on Level 2 Unit 4. I studied Japanese with a private tutor for 6 months about two years before I started using Rosetta Stone, and I have a Japanese boyfriend. I have free access to Rosetta Stone courtesy of my school.

In short: I have enjoyed using Rosetta Stone for free, and finding the motivation to do daily Rosetta Stone sessions is very easy. However, the longer I spend learning with Rosetta Stone, the more concerned I am that I am not actually learning Japanese, I am just learning Japanese translations of English. I firmly believe that Rosetta Stone must be used with supplemental learning materials that address usage, culture, grammar and vocabulary. Given how much is missing from this language learning solution, it is definitely not worth the sticker price. If you can access it for free, though, you might find it worth your time ... or not.

Pros:
- Low stress level (there is almost no challenge; it is always very easy, so you never worry that you're going to 'fail')
- Option to switch between romaji, kana, kanji, and kanji with furigana at any time
- Professional photography (when the models don't look corny, the photos are almost always extremely beautiful)
- Polished software (relatively bug-free, but not without typos or speech recognition difficulties)
- Intuitive interface (for me, but not for everybody)

Cons:
- Copy-and-paste from other languages: Rosetta Stone takes a copy-and-paste method to producing their software for different languages. You end up learning a lot of vocabulary that is American or Western, like salad, sandwich and bed, but not sushi, unagi or futon.
- No emphasis on special features of Japanese: This is a result of the copy-and-paste method. Japanese is quite different from English and the Romance languages, but Rosetta Stone almost completely fails to acknowledge these differences. One specific example: Japanese months are numbered regularly using numbers, not names. So January is '1 month', September is '9 month', etc. However, Rosetta Stone insists on drilling you on the 'names' of the months, even though you learned the numbers 1-12 many units ago. Moreover, Japanese days of the month are numbered using two separate numbering schemes (native and Chinese), but there is no attempt to teach you the days of month systematically. Instead you find out incidentally along the way that some days of the month are not constructed as you expect. There are many other examples: style (levels of politeness and formality), adjective conjugation, etc.
- Inaccurate usage: Again, a result of the copy-and-paste method. One specific example: Rosetta Stone presents 'ii deshita' as 'was good'. This is a literal translation of the English (or Romance language), but no Japanese ever says that. They say 'yokatta desu'. (It is the adjective that is given the past tense, not the auxiliary verb.) There are many other examples: putting subjects into almost every sentence (when Japanese typically omit subjects), using 'gomennasai' instead of 'sumimasen' in some contexts, no emphasis on in-group vs out-group vocabulary, etc.
- No cultural awareness: All languages are highly intertwined with culture, but the culture you see in Rosetta Stone is completely American or at most, Western. For example, when refusing an invitation, a Japanese would almost never say 'no' straight out, but present very polite excuses.
- Writing practice is rudimentary
- 'Milestone' activities at the end of the unit are too close-ended. They have a pre-written script that you must follow in order to be graded as correct; however, in a real conversation, there is always more than one way of saying something. There are many appropriate responses you could make, and while accounting for all of them is obviously impractical, there often at least two or three ways that would be common given the material already taught. The milestones would be a lot more enjoyable and realistic if the script allowed a few variations when appropriate.

Note that I do not comment at all about the 'immersion' approach taken by Rosetta Stone. It is up to you how fun/effective that approach is for you, and how much time pressure you're under. I think Rosetta Stone does a decent job at the immersion approach, but I'm no expert.

Recommendation: Do your research to find out if Rosetta Stone is worth your time or money. There are a lot of language blogs out there who have pretty negative reviews, and they go into detailed reasons as to why. In my opinion, Rosetta Stone Japanese would not work well for absolute beginners or advanced students. It would only work well for advanced beginners, those who are still beginners but who already have some Japanese learning. Japanese is a relatively unique language, and the differences you are used to seeing between English and other Romance languages are not the relevant differences between Japanese and English. It is important to know about certain unique features before embarking on learning Japanese using Rosetta Stone, otherwise you might be extremely confused (or not even know what you're missing), which is why I don't recommend Rosetta Stone for absolute beginners. Second, even Japanese Level 3 is extremely simplistic, and Rosetta Stone does not teach many important aspects of Japanese language usage, so I would not recommend this software for advanced learners either.

Additional reviews of Rosetta Stone (Amazon won't let me link, so I'll just name them and you can Google):
- Fluent in 3 months (very detailed review, not particularly of Japanese, with responses from Rosetta Stone included)
- Tofugu (funny review with lots of interesting alternatives listed, including a free(!) Rosetta Stone clone)
- Japanese LinguaLift
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars College Student Review, July 19, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
Hey everyone!

I see a lot of negative feedback for the Japanese version of Rosetta Stone. While I believe everyone may have their different views about this program, I believe that this programs is a GREAT supplement to help a student study japanese. Will someone become fluent with this program? NO. Will it accelerate a students speaking and understand of the japanese language by a great deal? YES.

While books are great for learning rules of a language, they do not help in saying the words correctly and understanding what is being said out loud. This is where RS comes in. This program can help students get used to saying japanese words out loud and saying them CORRECTLY. After level 1 unit 1 of this program, I saw a dramatic increasing in my understanding of the spoken language. Even though I could not understanding what was exactly being said, I could understand where words ended and began. I could understand the sentence structure. And I could know if it was a question or a demand.

For best results, I would study White Rabbits flashcards for the Kana everyday. Then, I had the Genki textbooks for japanese that I did 2 chapters a month. Together with RS, I was able to ACTUALLY talk to Japanese students at my university. I could introduce myself, see how their day is going, and tell them some stories ALL in japanese.

If you want more motivation to learn a language, spending $400 dollars on RS will MAKE you want to LEARN it. lol I studied Japanese on and off for 3 months before I got RS, but after I sank in the $400 dollars I studied EVERYDAY. I was going to get my moneys worth.

Also if you hate the program, you can always return it within 6 months for a FULL refund. AMAZING.

If you are getting money for college, borrowing money for college, or planning on going to college-- you will be used to spending a lot of money for your education. And learning a language should be no different. If you are serious, I would buy as much as you can to help you learn and achieve your desired level.

Would I recommend?
Yes.

I would also recommend a japanese dictionary, japanese textbook, kana flash cards, and may be a separate grammar book.
If you are really adventurous, I would add japanese podcast 101 to listen to in the car, japanese music and movies to enjoy, and finding japanese people to speak with.

I hope this review helps everyone. If you have any questions, you can give a comment for me to reply back to.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overpriced & Over-rated, especially for Asian Languages, May 19, 2011
By 
Rodney Gottula (Shepherd, MT United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
As someone who lived in Japan for three years and has successfully completed all three levels of Rosetta Stone Japanese with high scores, I cannot give more than two out of five stars given the programs cost versus its effectiveness. (For beginners, I would highly recommend Human Japanese as the software is excellent and less than $30!)

I'm not sure how effective RS may or may not be for European languages, but it seems to me that both the Chinese and Japanese are merely translations of a basic program used mostly for European languages. I found many of their sentence structures to be accurately translated, but seldom used in natural conversation. The photos can often easily be misinterpreted, especially in the very last activities of each section. There is a lot of repetition and redundancy built into the program, which can be helpful, but can also seem quite tedious. I would value the program at maybe $50 or so if one were to pay what it's worth, but even then, it would be hard to justify a four star rating. For the $300-$500 one must shell out, a combination of other materials--books, CDs, websites, etc., would be much more effective.

Finally, if you are a true beginner, this product is not for you. I would recommend knowing hiragana and katakana at least, as well as having an idea of basic Japanese sentence structure before even considering the purchase of Rosetta Stone Japanese.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Software - Price Seems Far Too High, August 18, 2011
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is my first experience with RosettaStone software. I have heard fairly good things about their products from people who have used them to learn Spanish and French. After spending some time with it, I was impressed with how easy and quickly I found myself acquiring basic language skills. I would not say I am proficient (or that using Rosetta Stone will make anyone proficient) but it ranks up there with some of the best language learning tools I have encountered. Even having said that, I would have to throw in that the price seems exorbitantly expensive for what you get. This has long kept me (and many people I know) from buying RosettaStone's products. Now that I finally have some experience with their products, I would say that what you can learn from these products is not enough to justify the extremely high price tag.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for dedicated students only, September 19, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
I would recommend this product to only those to who can dedicate at least an hour everyday or every other day to use this program. Like learning any new language, it takes dedication and a time commitment.

My review is based on the perspective of a person familiar with studying Japanese language (but far from fluency), surviving mulitple visits to Japan, growing up in Japanese-American family in an environment with access to many native speakers and with Japanese culture very prominent in my community (if you've ever been to Hawaii, you'll know that much of our population has Japanese ancestry). I would say that prior to using this program, I had the Japanese language knowledge of maybe a Japanese fourth grader, meaning I knew basic hiragana writing, easy numbers, some directions, and very basic conversation. My intention of purchasing this program was to brush up on my Japanese language learned here and there throughout childhood and college courses with a goal to get to an advanced level and eventually help to bring me to fluency.

This program can't teach you to be fluent, at best, you'll get to a high intermediate level, from which you should progress into learning advanced Japanese on your own or through another method, which is what I plan to do along with continuing my Kanji writing studies separately. I definitely would recommend learning basic hiragana and practicing it continually before even starting the first Rosetta Stone course. Reason being that you'll get more out of the program because it does not teach you Japanses writing. Rosetta Stone only familiarizes you with the basic hiragana and kanji characters. Maybe you'll want to purchase beginning hiragana workbooks like I did? If you are looking to learn Keigo (honorific/business style), look elsewhere - this program doesn't have Keigo courses, which makes sense because Keigo is for very advanced speakers.

Again, I would only recommend this for people who can dedicate the time for this program - that's the only way to get the most value out of this program. It's mindblowing that people give this program bad ratings and expect more out of this program when they don't commit the time neccessary to learning any new skill.

I am lucky because I have a lot of access to native speakers who help me practice speaking and support me when I have questions or struggle with grasping concepts. Because of that, I did not use Rosetta Stone's online web chat course to practice with native speakers - so I can't give you a review on that part of the program. If you do have access to friends or family that are native speakers, I definitely recommend tapping them for help once you begin the program.
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27 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless without companion materials, February 27, 2011
This review is from: Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had purchased the first version of Rosetta Stone for Japanese about ten years ago and had found it completely frustrating. When I saw I had an opportunity to try their latest version, I jumped at the chance, assuming that the company had vastly improved the program. Yes, it has many new features, but the essential problem remains the same. For an adult who does not know any Japanese to learn using this program, without any written materials, is nearly impossible. Yes, there may be some people out there who can do it, and kudos to them, but those people must have extraordinary inference abilities.

I am not an idiot, but I felt confused and frustrated from the very first basic lessons/screens. I tried the online demo of this program in French, a language I know a little of, to see if I could understand it better. I did, and it made me see what the problem was in trying to learn a language one knows nothing of, especially a language that doesn't use the same alphabet. I'm not even going to get into the problems of learning the syntax and grammar of a language so different than English. Rosetta Stone claims this is not important, and I have to disagree strongly.

In the first few screens, we're introduced to some basic words. We have to assume that our guesses are correct. They might not be, and there's no translation or explanation anywhere. The principle of Rosetta Stone is that we will learn "naturally." This makes sense when we are small children, for there are people around who will constantly correct us. If we say "me want juice" while pointing to a glass of milk, our mistakes will be pointed out.

This kind of "natural" learning is decidedly not natural for an adult. If I see a screen of four people drinking various beverages and eating food, as an adult, I would learn much more quickly if I learned the pronouns first, instead of struggling to infer what they might be. How can one discern whether the correct description of a photo of a boy drinking juice is "He is drinking juice", or "The boy drinks juice", or "The young boy is drinking a glass of juice?" The possibilities for confusion abound. When I used the French demo, as I knew the the respective words for boy, girl, man, woman, and the pronouns already, I could see why I was confused trying to figure it out in Japanese. Instead of progressing, I quickly became annoyed and frustrated. I spent hours with the program, only to come away with nothing. If I had spent the same amount of time being introduced to some real basics of language instruction, instead of a very fancy flash card system, I might have learned something.

On top of that, Japanese does not use the same characters as English. It uses kanji, hiragana, and katakana. There is absolutely no explanation given as to why, when, and how the different characters are used. I would imagine anyone would wind up using romaji ("roman characters") if they use Rosetta Stone. If you'd like to use the program as an advanced (and expensive) flash card system and read in Japanese, one would most certainly need to memorize the characters BY ROTE. No one, even a Japanese child, learns to read and write in Japanese without rote memorization. Saying this is possible is a sales gimmick and nothing more.

Additionally, the voice recognition does a poor job. In many cases, my incorrect pronunciation of a word or sentence was met with the happy sound of a chime that I had gotten it right. I knew this was not so. It was not just a matter of accent. I had not even said the right words.

It is truly a shame that because Rosetta Stone is so married to their concept of "natural learning" without written materials or explanations that they won't develop a full language learning environment. I can see, by using the French demo, that the program is fun. It is decidedly not fun for learning Japanese if one is a total beginner. It may be of use to those who have already studied Japanese and need reinforcement or refreshing, but it's a steep price to pay for that.

I am truly glad I did not purchase this program. Even so, I feel a sense of disappointment, for I had high hopes. At least I did not waste my money.
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Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set
Learn Japanese: Rosetta Stone Japanese - Level 1-3 Set by Rosetta Stone (Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Windows 7 / 8 / XP)
$399.00 $199.00
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