Rosetta Stone Totale French
Once you get the application installed and working, it is a lot of fun. I actually look forward to learning the language. It gives no English interpretation but shows an image with each phrase. They call it Dynamic Immersion. You hear, see, say and even type the phrase. The program goes over learned material and also breaks down pronunciations. It's colorful and not only fun to use but to look at as well.
It is a fantastic program but not without its quirks.
Problem 1 - license agreement.
We rarely read license agreements but I have started to look them over. This is one that I was tempted to decline - too many lawyers got into this one. Stuff like you don't own it, this is a license to use, etc. Because of the license agreement I was hesitant to signup for the online features for fear I am walking into additional charges I will have trouble getting out of. But I did and will definitely update if that happens.
Installation went ok on my desktop (Windows 7) except for the headset. First thing starting the application it asks to setup the microphone but the headset wasn't listed. I tried support (see below). The instructions say to plug in the headset prior to installation. But after unplugging and reconnecting the headset after installation my computer found it. But then you have to go to your sound settings on the Control Panel and set it to default in order for this application to use it- every single time. They should have taken care of that step programmatically.
Installation on a Netbook
My netbook (with Windows XP) doesn't have a CD player. With all other applications I put the CD (or DVD) into my desktop and connect to it. But it didn't' work with this installation. I happened to have a CD player that I can connect via USB and that worked fine. As with my desktop I always have to choose the headset in Control Panel every single time.
For support I tried the online chat. But it turns out support isn't familiar with Totale yet. The Knowledge Base was also lacking information on this particular version. Being a computer guy I was able to get everything working but still you should be able to install an application and run it with little difficulty, especially in this price range.
This is where the program really fails. While the screen is colorful and pretty nothing tells you what to do, what it's about, or how it works. There are tiny little icons on the upper right of the screen where you can eventually find this information. But when you start an application you should be guided right away. There is an arrow to continue but it took several screens before I was beginning to understand how to use this application.
Connecting online was worse. It kept asking me to signup so I finally did. But then it says I can't use it until certain things are completed. After looking at the online screens I later received an email that said I was scheduled to do something online which I had no idea what it was or why. When I clicked on the link it took me to a system check to tell me my speech recognition doesn't work and to download the update. Nothing about schedules but of course my headset worked. Then the next day I received an email saying they were sorry they missed me.
So many discs
With this version there are six application and language CDs and about 20 audio CDs. It would really help to include a DVD with everything on it and a install to copy all the audio so that it can easily be played on an mp3 player or ipod.
Problems Ripping Audio for MP3 Player
I used Windows Media Player (Windows 7) to rip the CDs to mp3s. Because there are so many I was just swapping discs when they were complete. Turns out some were overwritten and naming was not consistent making for a disaster figuring out what was transferred. I don't know where the fault lies but they better get with Microsoft to clear this up.
This is one of the better features. All you need is the additional language/level disc (and activation code) and it adds it in a couple of clicks. But when using a computer like a netbook without a CD it currently will not work over the network.
This is a fantastic feature to be able to say the phrase and have the computer verify it. However, it is far from perfect and isn't that precise. It works about 95% of the time but occasionally I have trouble getting it to recognize what I said. And sometimes I wonder if what I said really was correct.
This is not something you will load up quickly and start using. It takes a long while to get into the application. Once into the lesson it can take a long time to get back to the home page. There is no hour glass or any indicator so if you try to quit sometimes Windows will come up and tell you the application is not responding and ask if you want to kill it. But if you wait a while it returns and you can close the application.
It is very difficult to get around the lessons for instance if you want to start over or just go to a specific section. It tries to be intuitive and constantly asks if you want to continue where you left off even if you chose to reset everything. And sometimes it doesn't get that correct.
It keeps score through your lessons. I have no idea why because you always have to choose the correct choice. And sometimes they are simply accidental clicks. The score really gives me no clue as to how I am doing. What tells me how I am doing is what I remember which is why I like to restart and go through it again.
Once you get by the quirks this application makes learning a lot of fun. I look forward to learning a new language using this application. I think the process works even though you don't get the English translation. Online it says you can legally install it on two computers. While that is a convenience, I do prefer using it on my netbook so I can use it just about anywhere. For what it is supposed to do - teach you a language, I think it is a great application and for that I would give it 5 stars. But for the price it should no way have so many issues. I only deducted one star as I can work around the issues. Others may find them more annoying than I did.
on December 30, 2010
Think twice before investing a lot of money in these systems. You can only install it twice, then it shuts you down. My hard drive crashed, then weeks later my computer. I try to put it on my new laptop, and it won't let me. So technically my $600 is then wasted. Great system, huh?
I call them up and have spent hours pleading my case. They told me that because I bought it through an amazon vendor, it's a pirated copy. Nowhere on their website or any of their advertising do they caution you about this. I told them they were punishing me for buying something for $600 in good faith. I spent 3 hours talking to different people about this, being dismissed repeatedly. Their customer service is absolutely terrible.
In short, be very very wary before you get into the same situation I did. Computers and laptops are never reliable for long. Two strikes, then you have to trust that they'll honor your large cash outlay, and let you continue to use something you've paid a lot of money for! I am totally disillusioned with this very bad company.
I told the customer "help"line that because of their attitude, I would tell everyone I could and warn them about this situation. They said they didn't care. So here I am, warning all of you good people out there. Go with a different language learning company who actually values their purchasers.
on October 12, 2012
In my opinion, the most important part of learning a language is communicating with another person. The TOTALe online component was great for this in that you could set up two 50 minute sessions in advance, but they had to be in two different levels. Now, unfortunately, the two session limit remains while the sessions have been cut to only 25 minutes. While I like 50 minutes and I can see others only being able to fit in 25 minutes it would be best if Rosetta Stone allowed 4 sessions and two consecutive in the same level. After calling their support line I got connected to India where I was transferred 4 times with a lot of hold time for the representative to tell me that they've essentially cut back therefore further limiting their customers after we've paid and committed to a TOTALe subscription.
The software is okay, but you really need supplement material for French in particular and the ad-libbing of a live teacher that the 50 minute sessions offered some help in that department. To that point most adults do better when they learn the rules of the language and French has many. The use of many prepositions, liaisons, enchainment, etc. are important parts of the French language. Without knowing any rules and being left to figure them out on your own is a little like being a caveman who sees fire for the first time and trying to recreate one yourself in another location - good luck to you. If you have language learning experience you might be able to catch these things and then reference a grammar source of some kind, but I believe that rules make it easier for adults to take command of a language and just giving examples of grammar does not work for French.
There are many people that felt Rosetta Stone was insufficient on its own. Here are just a couple of examples that RS French needs better grammar lessons:
In conclusion, the two-star rating is due to the cost to value ratio. If the price were lower and the marketing wasn't "all you need in one package" I would likely revise.
UPDATE: Rosetta Stone now limits you to two 25 minute sessions per month with your subscription. It's insulting after all the money you spend to buy their software!
Now that I've finished working through Rosetta Stone French completely, I invited anyone to comment with questions and I'll do my best to answer them. Also, I recently posted the following review on another website:
I own three complete Rosetta Stone programs and have worked through all of them with various problems and have some feedback. Rosetta Stone is not great for many reasons including:
1. It's far more expensive than other methods that are are more effective
2. The software and its license itself become a technical and management issue for many (just ask someone who has had a computer crash and needed to talk to India to re-instate their license).
3. Children learn by immersion better, while adults have more complex brains. Translation and LOTS of supplementary material is needed.
4. After a bit it's BORING due to the lack of any personality the program has (no character to follow, no human investment). Other programs are much more fun and add humor.
5. You need to SPEAK to a native speaker regularly to make progress. Speaking to a machine or to Rosetta Stone's instructors for 25 minutes per month won't do you any good. And woe to the person who has connection problems or if Rosetta Stone has technical problems - which they have ofter.
6. The marketing makes it look as if your success will require little from you except for sitting down and working through the program. I could not disagree more - it's hard work and takes effort and dedication.
7. Writing and building a language reflex (speaking) are lacking enough to require a good deal more of supplementary material.
8. When you do have the Rosetta instructors, they barely correct your mistakes leading to bad grammatical habits. Grammar instruction is necessary. Most languages have very different structures from one another. Even languages such as French and Spanish are different and you really need to rely on someone to tell you your mistakes. That's how we all improve. Imagine going through grades K-12 and having no one to correct your mistakes. It would be as if we all graduated from Los Angeles Unified public schools (yes, I mean to be snarky!)
I won't name other programs in this post since my intention is not to promote any particular product, but look for dual language (English-French for example) conversational approaches that will walk you through natural and semi-complete dialogues with grammar points.
on May 15, 2011
One of the things that Rosetta Stone fails to tell the buyer is that the online services only last for three months. After that the user has to buy additional months. The current rate (from my discussion with Rosetta Stone today) is $20 a month or $50 for 3 months, you pay less the more months you purchase. The online services only works for one person. If you have another user on the program (spouse, child, whatever) that person has to buy his/her own online services. Without the online services, the program seems to be pretty much useless and no better than some of the free programs online.
So it is not just the $479.00 purchase price. It is that price plus the online service charges. That could add up to an awful lot of money to get through all of the five modules - unless you can get through them in 3 months, which is highly unlikely. Not worth the cost, in my opinion, and I don't like the way they hid the fact that the online services are extra.
on December 31, 2010
Don't expect much help when it comes to their helplines. They only allow you to install your very expensive software twice. If your hard drive crashes multiple times, as mine did, you're in trouble. Like another person here, I bought from an amazon vendor and was told it was pirated, so they wouldn't give me a new activation code. Basically, they punish their customers because they want to control their revenue streams -- instead of going after the vendors actively selling Rosetta Stone on this site, they refuse to allow you, the buyer, to use what you've paid for!
Beware this unethical company!
on July 12, 2011
I will say this about the program: It is very good. There is lots of repetition, the lessons are a joy to go through, and I rarely get bored with it. I enjoy the fact that it listens to your pronunciation using the headset, so you get lots of practice speaking, listening, and a good amount of writing practice. The program is quite good. I used it in language lab at my school and loved it and now I love it at home.
That said, the risk of losing all your money is real. They don't tell you that you may only install the program twice (using a code that's provided in the box) and after that you may not reinstall, meaning you have trashed $500. So, if your hard drive ever needs to be wiped for a virus, you would have to reinstall. There's your second installation. You'd better never have to do that again because the code is now unusable. So if you install the program on both your desktop and your laptop, that's it. You've used up your 2 installations. Pray you don't ever have to wipe either or both clean and that you'll use the same computer(s) for the rest of your life because you won't have any installations left.
Pray you don't have to contact customer service about this because they are very rude and unhelpful if you use up your installations. They do not want to help you even though you've shelled out hundreds of dollars. Pray you can find a computer savvy person to find a backdoor to make the program work without the code. And above all else, keep your receipt for life. It's they only way they will consider giving you a new code because they want proof that you bought it from them and not from a friend or whatever. The customer service and licensing policy is ludicrous for the price of this program. The product is great.
Rosetta Stone TOTALe French v4 is marketed as an innovative, total language solution for someone wishing to learn to speak, read and write conversational French. It certainly meets and exceeds those claims - it's remarkable!
Apologies in advance for the length of this review. Rosetta Stone TOTALe represents a substantial financial investment so I am assuming people considering it will want a lot of information before making a buying decision.
Rosetta Stone is an immersion-style language program. That means that during the core lessons, there is no written or spoken language other that the one you are learning. There are no instructions or directions or translations in your native language, in my case English. The only words you will read or hear are French. The meanings are made clear through pictures, gestures and logic. It sounds almost impossible, but it is actually quite intuitive. It's amazing how quickly you pick up the words, the sentence structure, the grammar and the spellings. Immersion is how all children learn language, and it works just as well for many adults. However, because this software is quite expensive, you might want to make yourself familiar with immersion style to make sure you are comfortable with it before purchasing. I also use a free online French-English dictionary quite frequently after a lesson to make certain I am clear on some words and tenses. I will probably purchase a hard copy dictionary soon as a supplement. In other words, for anything further than being able to converse well and read signs or packaging or instructions, you will want some other resources.
The core program is divided into 5 levels, each with many, many lessons and reviews. Each lesson focuses on a particular aspect of the language - vocabulary, grammar, writing/spelling, pronunciation, etc. The lessons are short, so it is easy to do a lesson or two throughout the day when you have time. If you must end a particular lesson before it is finished, Rosetta picks up exactly where you left off the next time you sign in. This makes it extremely easy for even the busiest person to find time for lessons. They also move quickly from one exercise to another. Because of this, lessons are rarely tedious.
I particularly like that it employs numerous speakers, unlike courses that only use one male and one female voice. This way, you hear many different people saying the same words and phrases, which makes it much easier when you reach the point that you want to follow and understand conversations, french movies, etc.
The package includes a fairly nice, binaural usb headset with microphone. In most lessons, you are prompted to repeat, and later answer questions, in French. If your pronunciation is off, or if your answer is wrong, it prompts you to try again until you get it right. The voice recognition is good, but you will need to fine tune your headset settings and microphone position initially. The microphone needs to be pretty close to your mouth and the volume needs to be high enough. I suspect I will need to replace the headset regularly since I have several people in my house using it every day.
In addition to the core language levels (all 5 of them), there are also 4 companion audio CDs for each level - a total of 20 companion CDs. These are great for using in the car or in your MP3 player! Each CD includes the MP3 files for easy download to your player. It reinforces what you are learning and if you are chauffeuring kids around, they will be learning, too. I listen to them while on the treadmill because it makes the time go faster and I feel like I'm multi-tasking.
You can set up multiple users for the core program. My 20 year old son in college, my 8 year old son, and my husband are all users and working at their own pace. For me, it makes the cost of this program a little more reasonable. The 15 months of online support, which is the TOTALe part of this package, is only available for one user, so choose carefully which user will get this as it cannot be changed later.
The online services make Rosetta high octane. There are games and stories and individual tutoring sessions with native speakers and opportunities to converse in French with other learners. This feature absolutely speeds up the process of becoming conversational as quickly as possible. The individual sessions with native speaking tutors are scheduled, but the games and stories and other features are available anytime.
If the online opportunities don't appeal to you or you don't have enough time for scheduled sessions, you might consider purchasing one of the regular Rosetta Stone language packages. It's the same core language program, but without the 15 months of online services, and is less expensive. As an alternative to the online part, there are some free online communities, like Livemocha, where language learners can converse online with other learners. It's not as fluid as Rosetta Stone since the other learners are using many different programs and classes and are at different levels, but it's still a nice opportunity to practice speaking your new language.
A down side to Rosetta Stone is it's EULA. This software is non-transferable. If you don't like it, you are stuck and it would be a very expensive mistake. Also, I have read other reviews that say it is difficult to get help from Rosetta in the event of computer crashes or upgrades. I didn't have any issues with my install so I cannot speak to that, but it bears consideration.
If you want to learn French (or any new language) and can afford it, I heartily recommend Rosetta Stone. If you want/need to learn French as quickly as possible, Rosetta Stone TOTALe would probably be helpful in speeding up the process, although learning a new language well is never an overnight process.