on January 10, 2011
I found out two months ago that my university was sending me to Italy in a year to teach for one semester. I'll be teaching in English, but my wife and I will need to live, shop, eat, travel, and deal with random problems in Italian, so we got Rosetta Stone to help us learn.
I've read reviews here and there by people who were disappointed in Rosetta Stone, but I have found it better than I expected. Having learned one language as a child, studied four more as an adult, traveled and at least briefly conversed in six, and taught one (Latin) to kids with my own textbooks (Schola Latina), I'm almost perfectly pleased with the way Rosetta Stone is helping us learn Italian.
As another reviewer points out, the program, while expensive, costs less than a semester of Italian at many a university, and you get a lot for the money. Each of five levels has four units, and each unit has four lessons; that's eighty lessons. Each lesson includes a core lesson of about forty screens, and from four to fifteen supplemental and review exercises of five to fifteen screens. That's about 10,000 screens of exercises in the main track of the program. In addition, you get fifteen months of free access to games, stories, and interaction with native speakers, all coordinated with your progress in the program. Each level also comes with four long CDs for repetitive drill.
Rosetta Stone's special angle is that the student doesn't translate. That is, you don't respond to words in one language with words in another language. Most of the exercises are based on pictures -- cleverly clear pictures. But the program is not all about responding to pictures by choosing words, as some reviews have suggested; different screens call on, exercise, and build different skills. Sometimes you respond to written words by choosing a matching picture. Sometimes you respond to a picture by choosing a matching written word or phrase. Sometimes you respond to a spoken phrase by choosing a picture, and sometimes you respond to a picture by speaking a phrase. (The program has voice-recognition capabilities and will tell you how close your pronunciation is. You can turn the sensitivity up or down in the settings, and you can visually compare your pronunciation with the program's by clicking to see an audio graph.) Sometimes you respond to a picture or spoken phrase by typing a phrase. And in screens covering grammar, you look at a picture and choose one of two or three choices of endings, words, or phrases.
In between sessions on the computer, you can practice repeating syllables, words, phrases, and sentences with the CDs. One reviewer called the CDs useless, but I must disagree. "Fluent" means flowing, and getting the words of another language flowing out of your mouth requires repetitive practice speaking familiar phrases, just as becoming fluent on a piece of music requires playing it repeatedly, even after you know the notes intellectually.
The program doesn't shoot straight to handy travel phrases like "Where's the metro station?" or "Do you have a vacancy?" Its goal is to give working knowledge of the language, so you learn basic vocabulary, grammar, and idioms before getting to travel phrases. They might be trying to get extra money out of you by "tricking" you to buy at least two levels, but I think the approach is appropriate if the goal is to learn to read and converse in the language. After all, if you only want to greet someone and ask how much the souvenir costs, you can get a Rick Steves phrase book for a lot less.
We've almost finished Level 1, and so far we've learned colors; household objects and rooms of the house; family members; animals; clothes; eating; numbers up to 69; being cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, tired, and well; how to say where you're from, where you work, and when you do various activities; occupations; basic shopping; how to ask questions; and quite a bit more. Could we travel with this knowledge? No. But what it allows us to do is practice spontaneously with each other all day here at home, because most of our time together is spent working, eating, putting on clothes, finding things in the house, and interacting with other members of the family or the pets. And now we have the means to talk about all these things in Italian. Clever program! The titles on Level 2 suggest that we're going to learn travel phrases and more tenses (everything is in present tense so far).
Now, the program is touted as the natural way to learn a language. But note that it is named after a discovery that allowed linguists to learn a forgotten language in a most unnatural way. And remember that learning a language by repeating stock responses to phrases and pictures is only the natural way to learn a language when you're two. You still need your mother to correct you constantly: "Not 'I goed outside,' Johnny. 'I went outside.' " The exercises in Rosetta Stone introduce the student systematically to grammatical gender, conjugations, declensions, irregular verbs and nouns, rules of syntax, etc., but you have to notice the details and draw up the rules yourself. The program doesn't say, "Notice that the last letter of the word for 'black' is one thing when you're talking about a cat and another when you're talking about a car. Remember that these words represent two different categories of words called 'genders,' and note the gender of each noun you learn." If you've learned other languages before, especially Romance languages (or their mother, Latin), you notice many of these details. But if not, you might be quite confused by what seem like random inconsistencies. In any case, we teach older kids and teen-agers (and my graduate students!) a systematic understanding of the grammar of our native language, and as an adult, you should probably supplement Rosetta Stone with another cheap program that has grammar lessons. It's good to hear the varying details and and work them in to memory by rote, but it's also good to read and learn a rule for why they vary the way they do.
But if you've spent $300-750 on Rosetta Stone, you can stand to buy another $20 book. We're happy with what we're learning with Rosetta Stone and have confidence that we'll be prepared for the immersion experience a year from now.
on December 5, 2010
Rosetta Stone is useful for some people. I consider myself to have learned a lot from Rosetta Stone V4 Totale. I do not work for Amazon, Rosetta Stone, or any competitor of these companies. I originally bought the Italian version because I wanted to talk to people in Italy on my next vacation, and I work in a winery so I thought it would be cool to converse with vineyard owners in Italy. I purchased this program with realistic expectations: I would probably not be fluent in Italian even if I completed all 5 levels.
1.) Expect to start off slowly and do not expect to learn the language overnight. I expected the program to last at least 6 months, and still not be fluent. The first lessons and level basically teach you to say, "the horse is running." "Il cavallo corre" It was not until I reached lesson 4 of level 1 that RS started to teach useful sentences such as "I would like to purchase some vegetables with a credit card." It starts very slowly, and you must have lots of time and drive to get through those first lessons.
2.) I purchased the Totale version and found the RS World feature to be fun and useful. I especially like the Simbio feature where you get to converse in English with a native Italian speaker and converse in Italian with them. You basically play games and can chat with them. This feature drives me to learn more vocabulary so that I can speak more clearly with the native speaker.
3.) The RS iPhone app is useful for repetition. To learn Italian, I found myself repeating the same phrases and words over and over again. Maybe 10X. Even basic phrases such as "the horse is running" because each noun has a gender and the verb has to correspond with that gender. The app is only helpful for repetition (memorization), not new learning.
4.) The RS CD's are pretty useless. Basically, you can listen to a native speaker repeating the same phrases over again in your car or iPod. I found this very boring and stopped using it. I switched the radio back to music.
5.) The RS studio feature allows you to take live lessons on the internet from a native speaker. The classes are 50 minutes long on the internet. I find them kind of nerve racking; however, you can use this for motivation to do your lessons (ie set a deadline for learning a certain lesson, so you force yourself into a time schedule). I study the RS iPhone app for repetition to get ready for a studio session. However, the native speaker only speaks in Italian, so it can be hard to follow directions since the direction are in Italian, and catches you off guard. Also, there are some minor audio glitches during the lesson, which are quite annoying.
Overall, I would recommend this product to those who are visual/audio learners; you must tolerate the fact that there are no translations only pictures, writing, and native speakers. RS is not for everyone and don't expect to be a fluent speaker even after months of learning. I believe only true immersion (living in Italy) will force you to become fluent. So, don't listen to a RS salesman who says you will be fluent. It is quite expensive; however, my sister goes to Mizzou and every credit hour costs $300. So, one semester of Italian at Mizzou will cost $900! So, RS expense has to be put in perspective and I'm sure that students at Mizzou who take one semester will not be fluent after one semester at $900. RS Totale is convenient for me because I live in rural Missouri and no junior college around me teaches Italian (only Spanish). That is why I like RS, even though it has many faults.
I'm updating this review as I use the course, since waiting to provide a single, full review after I'v'e progressed through all the levels would likely take months. Since this is the newest version, I feel it's more important to update as I go along. Hopefully this is more benefit to you reading this now, rather than me waiting 6 months or a year to write the review, at which time Rosetta Stone might be on to a whole new version anyway.
My 9yo daughter is really excited about learning a new language, so I'll try to mix in her experience as appropriate as well.
What it comes with:
-1 program installation disc
-5 Language level discs (these provide the actual lessons). You can install them as you go or all at once.
-5 levels of audio cds, each level contains multiple cds (4 each level).
-Keyboard overlays, with both black and white overlays. These are stickers you can place on your keyboard keys to show the language's special characters.
-USB microphone/headset combo
-Registration card (it's like a credit card but you scratch off the registration number and enter it when you install the software).
Installation is simple, although it warns you that you cannot change the install location at a later date. I've heard RS is hard to get reinstalled and reactivated. Total size is about 2.5 GB of data plus a few other folders. Therefore, ensure you have about 3 GB of free space just for the program. If you rip the audio cd's to iTunes, mp3, etc, you'll need additional storage space for those.
The USB headset has been a bit buggy on my system. I had to reboot several times before my PC (Win Vista Home Premium) would properly install the drivers. Once that occured, it works fine, however it seems that any time my pc goes to sleep, when it wakes up the headset will not work until I do a full shut down and restart. Other reviewers have also had problems with sound only coming from one ear. Overall, I think it's just a cheap headset. The software does let you select which audio devices you want to use, so if you have a better one or just want to use speakers and a separate microphone, I believe you can do that.
As a watchout, you cannot later sell or reinstall this software. Don't plan on buying it thinking you could sell it later, as you might run into problems. It also detects if you make major hardware changes. For instance, when my computer's motherboard failed, I swapped my hard drive into a different computer, the software detected this and it wanted me to update the registration. It was painless in that it just popped up a screen with the activation code already filled in and I just had to click ok. Hopefully it'll be just as easy when I get my original computer fixed and swap the hard drive back into it again.
You can create multiple profiles, so that more than one person can use the software. For instance, I created my profile and one for each of my children. You enter your name, age, and male/female. Note that you must supply an age over 13 to be able to access the online content. As you begin your lessons, you choose how you want to learn from preset options inluding speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Note that the online lessons are only available for 1 learner, and there's a note in the package that states you MUST start the online lessons within 6 months of installing the product. Plan accordingly, and don't expect that even though you can create multiple user profiles that you can then each utilize the online tutors. If you list a profile user as less than 13, it will not allow that profile to activate the online access. The software & website does give you the option to buy online access for additional learners with the price ranging from $25 for 1 month to $150 for 15 months.
Right away you're presented with the language. It's a multi-media experience right from the go. For instance, the very first screen shows a picture of a girl and another picture of a boy. The program speaks "Una bambina" as the words are shown above the picture of the girl. You then have to repeat the phrase, and repeat it correctly to move on. You can adjust the difficulty of speaking and how strict your pronunciation must be. It then moves on to the boy's picture, "Un Bambino". The next screen has a girl drinking and a boy eating, with the appropriate phrases.
As you move on, it presents you with scenes like a man drinking, woman eating, etc. The program is teaching you to recognize male vs. female, old vs. young, and the accompanying words to use. Additionally, the program starts to ask you to click on the right picture without seeing the written words.
In essence, you're hearing, seeing pictures, seeing words, and having to speak the words all in the same lesson. While they don't call out word gender, etc, you're being exposed to it. Then the next steps take what you've just learned a bit further. Each screen builds on the previous in a logical and natural way.
Audio Companion CDs:
Each level comes with 4 audio cds. Ripping them to iTunes in AAC format on the "iTunes Plus" setting results in each disc requiring about 300-400MB of space.
I've installed it, but have yet to use it. Initially, when I tried to login using my credentials it just gives me a message saying "No languages available". I believe you have to initialize your online access first, then it will let you use the iPhone app with your purchased language.
General Program notes:
-It keeps track of where you are, and has a progress line at the bottom of the screen.
-Adjustable levels of speech recognition.
-Speech recognition considers male and female speakers.
-If you choose to buy the lower version with only 3 levels, you can upgrade level by level through the online interface. It said that with each upgrade you purchase you'll get the audio companion, a new cd, and a new headset. It didn't show me the pricing since I had all levels installed.
Here's a little about me so you know how I'm looking at these software packages. I'm a military officer, living in Italy, who is not fluent in a second language, however, I have travelled the world many times over, lived overseas for years, and I can communicate in multiple languages. I have a bachelors in Biology and a masters in Intercultural Studies, and I learn best by doing and then by seeing things done by example and then imitating it.
I was able to use Rosetta Stone free of charge through a military program and used it for about 4 months straight for Italian. Here are my impressions.
Problem #1: The biggest selling point for Rosetta Stone is that they advertise that you can learn language "like a child." Unfortunately, there is a problem with this claim that most people aren't aware of. A child's brain is PHYSICALLY different than that of an adult. Up until the age of about 6 years old, a child has many neural connections that if not used, will waste away and they can never be brought back. This is why children make massive steps in learning languages when they're young. You can also look at it the opposite way if you look at Feral Children (you can google that), children who were raised in isolation and didn't learn a language. Once found, people have tried to teach these children language, only to run into massive road blocks because those critical years went by without any language development. These children will NEVER be able to be completely fluent in a language and will constantly have to work at it, it's actually kind of sad. So, there's the scientific reason why you as an adult can't "learn language like a child." Since you already have a language you know, it's natural to learn it in a a more structured way where you're learning the hows and whys, instead of, this is a word and that's a picture with what that words means.
Now, onto the actual software.
It's 4 pictures on a page, and you learn to relate the words to the picture, with you having to figure out what exactly the word means. There are variations on this theme, and sometimes you have to type the word. At first it's kind of fun and you do feel like you're making progress, but I found it's really hard to keep at it since it can get really boring. I believe that the reason I'm getting bored is because even though I'm learning the language, it's not useful information. For example, some of the words in the first week are cat, boy, girl, car, apple, horse, kitchen, and man. Okay, some of those words are nice to know, but you know what I really want to know? I want to know how to interact with the produce guy on the corner and ask for some garlic. In order to get to that point, you have to stick with this program for a LONG time! So yeah, if you are not surrounded by Italians like I am, then you have to retain this repository of italian words and then be able to pull them out once you learn how to say some useful phrases. Where's the motivation to keep going? Well, it's hard to find it.
Problem #2, and by FAR my biggest issue with Rosetta Stone...
You know that window that pops up on your computer screen that is filled with small text, and if you don't agree to it then you can't install the software on your computer? Well, this is essentially what that windows says when you install Rosetta Stone. You can only install the software on two computers, and even though YOU BOUGHT the software and it's in YOUR POSSESSION, YOU DON'T OWN IT! Yes, they tell you that you are only LEASING the software. Okay, so what does this mean... Go to any online site and see if you can find a used Rosetta Stone package.... You can't. Rosetta Stone actively monitors online retailers and has them pull used software ads since it's a violation of their user agreement. Sleazy? It doesn't get much sleazier, does it?! This practice is HIGHLY questionable and I imagine it is only a matter of time until somebody sues them for this, but until then, don't plan on selling your software if you don't like it, unless you have a neighbor that wants to buy it. For me this is reason enough to avoid the company all together.
The good #1.
You will learn part of the language for sure, but it will be a long time before you find that it will be useful, and by the time it is, you will have likely forgotten a great deal. It has been 18 months since I used Rosetta Stone and I'm still able to retain some of the words I learned.
Conclusion on Rosetta Stone:
A child would probably have fun with Rosetta Stone and it would be a good supplement to a real language program, child or adult. If you're a tourist looking to visit Europe for a few weeks, then this is the last thing you want to use. Be realistic in that you're not going to become fluent for a 3 week trip, so what you need is a tourist language program. Check out Rocket Italian (not on Amazon). It's BY FAR the cheapest option so if you don't use it, you're not stressing about all the money you lost. It's all online/downloadable content, and it's the information you will need. Want to rip some mp3s to your iPhone and listen on the go? Not a problem. If you can get through all of it, and there's A LOT to learn in the program, you will have a great base to go further if you want, but again, if you're just a tourist, it'll be plenty. If you're planning on living in Italy, consider instead Fluenz Italian. It's more than the Rocket program, less than Rosetta Stone, oh and a bonus, you can sell it when you're done! It's similar to Rocket in that you're learning the things you actually need instead of random words, but it's much more comprehensive, more than what you'd need as a tourist, or that you're likely to have time for, but perfect if you're going to live there. It's fun and more interactive, and should keep you motivated to keep at it a bit longer, how much longer, well, I guess that depends on you and your learning style.
If you have any questions about the 3 options, Fluenz, Rosetta Stone, or Rocket Italian, just ask in the comments and I will try and answer them.
on September 2, 2012
Okay, so I'm not fluent or anything, and I'm only on level one of five. I don't know yet how well I'll be able to converse with people at the end of this program. I am doing this right, though, with great motivation to learn Italian, and I believe I can offer some useful information to those considering the Rosetta Stone program as a PART of their language learning process.
I give this five stars based on what Rosetta Stone is intended for, not some independent rating based on some fantasy or educational philosophy. If you take this or other five star reviews to mean Rosetta Stone will easily make you fluent without any other outside learning, you are misunderstanding what Rosetta Stone can do for you.
With the disclaimers out of the way, here's my review.
The Rosetta Stone program is a wonderful introduction to a language. It teaches you vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, and along the way you absorb some grammar as well. It builds up your confidence and keeps you motivated. Those last two things are very important. Rosetta Stone does not teach you Italian culture, or Italy-specific words. Rosetta Stone does not teach you how to conjugate verbs, though you will be conjugating verbs without realizing that's what you're doing along the way. You will never see translations into or from English on anything. You will be presented with pictures, text, and audio, and need to speak, type, and choose pictures or text to complete each exercise. Each exercise repeats words and concepts from before, but does so in a slightly different way, which trains your brain quite effectively and you will learn the material with excellent recall later. You will learn to listen, speak, read, and spell.
The ease at which I have learned the vocabulary in the program was really quite surprising. I can recall words and sentences readily, because the multi-format repetition used in Rosetta Stone burns it into your brain. At the end of a session, I have a headache and I'm hungry. I can feel my brain burning up calories and moving neurons around. To me, this is a great sign (and a sign to take a break so I don't burn out). When I later need to use some aspect of what I've learned before and it comes to me instantly, I can see the results quite clearly. What I've learned so far has no real usefulness to a tourist, at least so far, but if all I wanted to do was ask where the bathroom was, or buy train tickets, I'd just memorize a phrase book. They are a lot cheaper than Rosetta Stone, and if push comes to shove I can take it with me and point at phrases in the book to convey my meaning. What I want is to truly know the language.
Rosetta Stone alone is not going to make you fluent. I have a long ways to go with the program, but I'm pretty sure I can say that. The fact is, Rosetta Stone is very, very good at getting you to memorize things, without making it seem like you're memorizing things. But that memorization only goes so far, even if it's perfectly designed to make sure you can think and speak in Italian without having to pause and translate back and forth with your native tongue. Rosetta Stone is fun, it uses a variety of techniques to utilize all your learning "vectors", and it's great at motivating you to stick with it. But if you really want to learn a new language, you need to do more than sit in front of a computer running Rosetta Stone.
Think about how long it took you to learn your first language. You spent years as a baby and toddler, babbling away with constant corrections from your parents and perhaps siblings. As you get older and go to school, they formally teach you new words and some basic grammar concepts, more and more as you go along. You watched television and movies. You read books and had spontaneous conversations all throughout the day for years. You had spelling bees and gave oral book reports. You're still learning the language, too, learning new words all the time. Ort, bezoar, merism, fugacious, inveigh, erotema, anacoenosis, apotheosis, bedizen, meretricious.
Rosetta Stone is something you turn on, use for half an hour to a couple hours at a stretch, and then turn it off again. See the difference? Even if it was perfect at teaching you a language as a baby learns his first language, it's not hard to see how it can't possibly get you to native speaker fluency.
Rosetta Stone is really quite excellent as the core structure of your curriculum, but you need more than just Rosetta Stone in your curriculum. Doing a lesson a day, for 80 days, you can complete the five levels in the Rosetta Stone program and have a fairly large vocabulary, and understand quite a bit of the language. In fact, I recommend doing just that, because it will keep you working on it every day, making clear progress, and build up your confidence and vocabulary. But that can't be all you do to learn Italian.
When you're not at the computer, practice your vocabulary on the world around you. Narrate your life as you live it, in Italian. Don't translate what you want to say, just stick to the Italian in your thoughts and words. Try forming sentences that you weren't directly taught in Rosetta Stone, but know how to do anyway because you've picked up on some grammar. Listen to the audio CDs included for the section you're working on now, as well as all the older ones. Practice your pronunciation, and listen carefully to the nuance. The Rosetta Stone audio is top quality, so take advantage of it. Get a grammar book (I highly recommend, as other reviewers have, Essential Italian Grammar by Olga Ragusa) and read it. Flip through it again often, focusing on the areas you're currently learning in Rosetta Stone. Get a nice big thick English/Italian dictionary (I use Webster's New World Italian Dictionary). If, as you narrate your life in Italian, you come across a thing or action you haven't learned yet, look it up in your dictionary and add it to your vocabulary. You might want to get a "mini" dictionary as well, that is easier to carry with you. Get a phrase book too, I like Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary. Learn some new phrases, in addition to the ones Rosetta Stone teaches you, but really learn them. What words do you already recognize from a different context? What clues on grammar can you identify? What words can you take from those sentences and use in others of your own creation?
Oh wait, but there's more. Call up your cable company and subscribe to to an Italian language channel. Where I am, I can get Rai Italia. Watch some game shows, and some cultural programming. Pick up some simple books in the Italian language, and try to read them without using your dictionary. You'll be surprised how much you can figure out from the context of what you already know. See if you can rent or buy some foreign films in Italian, and don't use the subtitles.
Learning a foreign language is hard. Rosetta Stone will give you the best possible start, but you need to put in some hard work outside of the program and don't expect it to do everything for you. Rosetta Stone gives you simple and clear Italian to allow you to effectively communicate your ideas. Real Italian is often mumbled, spoken quickly, or said in thick regional accents. It's filled with slang. The sooner you're exposed to it, the sooner you can start to understand Italian as you're likely to encounter it on a tour of Italy. Use Rosetta Stone for all its worth, which I would argue is considerable, but don't only use Rosetta Stone. Before you even feel confident, you should start talking to native speakers. Find out if there's a language club in your area. Talk to random Italians on Skype, or native Italian speakers in your community. Visit Italian language web forums or chat rooms on a subject you're interested in. There's a lot you can do for free or very cheap to supplement your Rosetta Stone learning experience. Don't be a passive learner, go out and be active with your Italian as much and as early as possible. Practice what you learn from Rosetta Stone, and don't ever be satisfied with what Rosetta Stone teaches you.
I recommend Rosetta Stone as the core of a language learning curriculum, but it's only one part of it.
Okay, that was a long review, but some quick addressing of Rosetta Stone's most common criticisms.
1) Price. It's expensive, yes, but you get what you pay for. The pictures are all high quality and quite clear in what concepts they are conveying. The extensive research into language learning Rosetta Stone does is quite evident in the program. You are also paying for their huge marketing campaigns, of course. But I've done some research on credit hour pricing at local colleges, and you should too. Rosetta Stone is not so expensive after all, and I could never really learn a foreign language in a formal classroom, anyway.
2) Repetitive/boring. It's certainly repetitive, but I wouldn't exactly say it's boring. Look, you get out of this what you put into it. If you don't find this interesting, why are you learning Italian anyway? When the program is repetitive, I know it's because the more repetitions I get on something, especially in Rosetta Stone's case where the repetitions are often in different formats, I know I'm going to retain it better. I don't mind in the slightest, because I want to learn Italian, and I enjoy learning Italian.
3) Too easy. It's true you can figure things out much of the time by process of elimination. I would argue that's not exactly a bad thing, since you're still absorbing the language this way, and the whole idea is the pictures are unambiguous. More to the point, you can cheat at this if you want to, but you're only cheating yourself. Don't just hit the answer quickly because it's the last picture left on the page, or a particular noun only applies to one image. Read the full sentence, or look over all the pictures, and do it right.
4) No conjugation tables. This one is certainly valid. As I said above, you should get yourself a grammar book if you really want to learn Italian. Rosetta Stone won't make it completely obvious what's going on with various conjugations and quirks of Italian grammar. Rosetta Stone will still present you with grammatically correct sentences that you can and may instinctually figure out over time. Grammar lessons aren't total immersion, though, to be clear.
on July 27, 2013
I spent 6 months with this program, 1-2 hours nearly every day, and progressed halfway through the last level before taking off for Italy. Now I'm back after 3 weeks, and I don't believe all my effort was worth it, and I'm rewriting my review. About me: I'm 69 and have a pretty decent ability to learn languages, though I'm no genius. My family often kids me about the fact that whenever I travel abroad I am compelled to make a major effort to learn the language of the country where I'm going.
The program has many strengths. It teaches entirely through pictures, and often their way of conveying ideas is ingenious. You never translate from your native language into Italian, and there are no conventional grammar tables or vocabulary lists. It's a pleasant way to learn. You go at a comfortable pace and there are many built-in reviews. The native speakers you listen to all have nice voices. I did some live on-line learning sessions on the Rosetta website, and the instructors were friendly and patient.
The program has 3 outstanding weaknesses. First, it lacks practicality. Adult travelers need to be able to find their way around airports, railway and bus stations. They need to get around in cities, hotels, stores and restaurants, to understand the instructions provided for natives in all these places, to be able to ask pertinent questions and understand the answers. Although the program does cover some of these areas, it's really inadequate.
At least half of the vocabulary I learned in the program (covering such crucial topics as baking a cake, ice skating, and who won or lost a basketball game) I had no use for. Frequently I did not know important words and had to look them up. I might be able to phrase a question or request, but often couldn't understand the answer. When you ask someone a question, their response is frequently another question. At that point I was usually lost, and had to ask the person to repeat themselves, then they would often switch to English. So what was the point of my trying to speak Italian? See more below.
The second problem had to do with speed. The speakers in the program all speak beautiful, clear Italian at a moderate pace, and of course this is necessary when you are starting out. However, no one in Italy talks that way! Normal Italian speech is about twice as fast and does not separate words with such precision. The program does not prepare you for this.
Third, you really do need supplementary materials. Visual learning is all well and good, but there are times when you need a dictionary, a grammar reference and a list of verb conjugations. It would be nice if you could access such resources within the program, instead of having to find them elsewhere.
So, this program is nicely put together and fun to use, but if you expect to be able to get off your plane and find your way around Italy after using it, you are likely to be disappointed.
on December 14, 2011
While the software is fine, I have a couple of complaints. The first being that it is totally immersive. Usually this would be fine, but it is kind of a problem if you are used to learning several languages and you want some reference for the grammar structure. It would be good if they included a small reference for that, and also a brief picture dictionary. My biggest complaint, however, is with the online access that supposedly comes with the software. Be aware when using the product that there is a 6-month activation period for the online language learning. It is not a "free" period, unlike the claims on the box. Even though it says there are 15 months of free access, if you do not activate within these 6 months (a policy which is not mentioned anywhere on the Rosetta box or in the policies online that accompany the product) they will not return you your remaining time, only a canned 6-month period, even if you try to activate the product only a month after the 6-month period. In my mind, for something so expensive, this is outright stealing. It was a really disappointing discovery in an otherwise ok program. Next time I'll spend the money on an in-person course.
on July 22, 2012
I teach French in a department of Romance Languages at a university in Boston. Wanting to learn Italian, I asked one of my colleagues for advice on how best to teach myself the language. He recommended Rosetta Stone. I took his advice, and overall am quite pleased. The pluses far outweigh the minuses - though the minuses are not without significance. Here's my review:
(1) The program comes as close to replicating an immersion program as one can outside of either an actual immersion program (i.e. one in which you are parachuted into Italy) or of a university setting. I teach French using an immersion program in a university setting, and Rosetta Stone is *very* close to accomplishing what I try to accomplish in my classroom on a regular basis. It succeeds better than I do in organizing activities that force some kind of interaction with the language in question; it fails, however, in accounting for the unexpected response that is nonetheless correct. Consequently, it occasionally tells students that they are "wrong" when, in fact, what has been said is both grammatically and logically correct. This can be discouraging for students who are unable to anticipate its necessity (and it is indeed unavoidable as soon as one is dealing with a computer program rather than an actual instructor).
Other programs pretend to "improve" Rosetta Stone by including English translations. While I am definitely parti pris on this point, I nonetheless would affirm Rosetta Stone's philosophy: to truly learn another language, one cannot be translating from that language into English. There is no substitute for an immersion program precisely because Italian is, finally, not English, nor is it equivalent to English at every point. The programs that use English translations are more reassuring, perhaps, but ultimately they will not teach you *Italian*.
(2) The re-iterative aspect of Rosetta Stone, occasionally lamented by other reviewers, is in fact instrumental to acquiring in some real sense the language. However boring it may be at times, it is nonetheless helpful insofar as it sears into one's brain certain structures that otherwise would be difficult to remember.
(3) In terms of pronunciation: the program gives wonderful examples of excellent - and varied - pronunciations. That said, in terms of one's own pronunciation, everything depends on the microphone, background noise, and interface with the program. It can be *extremely frustrating* to find that the microphone (provided by Rosetta Stone) does not register what you're saying, and consequently the program tells you that your pronunciation is incorrect. On occasion, I have had native speakers substitute for me, only to be told that their responses are also incorrect. This is obviously a significant flaw in the program.
(4) Similarly, it can be extremely frustrating to have to match images to statements, where the images in fact give themselves to more than one interpretation, and thus more than one "correct" response. Again, this is the limit of a an immersion computer program as compared to, say, an immersion program at a university. At the university, the instructor can determine if the response is correct even if it is unexpected. With Rosetta Stone, the unexpected is always incorrect.
That said, I would not only recommend Rosetta Stone, I would say that, for 80% of my students, it would be a completely adequate substitute for my class. It will not teach you a language such that you pass for a native speaker, but it will teach you how to understand it when hearing it, how to read it, and, in principle, how to communicate, both orally and in writing, with it. For 80% of my students, this is the very measure of success. For the remaining 20%, however, the classroom setting adds something that Rosetta Stone cannot, namely, the possibility of communicating in a more undetermined fashion, and the possibility of speaking in a more authentic fashion, both idiomatically and in terms of pronunciation.
In my capacity as a language instructor, I would not hesitate to say that Rosetta Stone is well worth the $ 400- $ 500 one pays for it. At this price, it is, in fact, a bargain.
on July 4, 2014
I waited and saved up a long time for this $300 item. It is very disappointing. I have taken a few italian courses and been to Italy more than 10 times. I consider myself a beginner when speaking the language but I can get around and converse with the locals.
This program is terrible for speaking practice. I setup the microphone and started with lesson one. Given my background with basic words I expected to ace the first unit. And I did. However something did not seem right - EVERY word I spoke was accepted. I then threw in a bogus wrong word and IT WAS ACCEPTED too..... I turned the speach recognition to the highest difficulty and it still accepts most every word - wrong or correct. I think the speech program is completely giving us a false sense of knowing we are speaking correctly. And this is what you need this program to do, all the other stuff with clicking on the right match can be found on the internet for free.
I would recommend you save your money and take a course locally.
For a pricey program like this, you expect the best. Is it worth plunking down $600?
Well, how serious are you about learning Italian? A local Italian program would be much MORE expensive to get to the level of Rosetta Stone. That local class will be teaching to 30 people, going at the pace chosen by the teacher. And that teacher may be very inexperienced in teaching. The one advantage the class would have is accountability. While Rosetta Stone won't give you a grade to make you accountable, it does motivate you to keep going. And the newest TOTALe version has great new modern tools.
How does Rosetta Stone motivate the learner? Why is it so successful?
The games pull you in and give you incentive to continue.
You get a large variety of activities that keep things interesting. As you go, there is always something new to add to what you've learned. Keeps you on your toes and makes you want to go on and conquer new challenges in the program.
The program is carefully designed to build learning and confidence as quickly as possible. More than most language classes.
You can spend as long as you want on it, or fit it into short breaks of time. You're not tied down to a class schedule.
You can learn by listening to CDs while you are driving or cleaning house.
The iPhone apps make it even more portable and accessible for down times, like when you are waiting for an appointment.
They choose the best. Smart, native speakers. They have a great sense of humor, too. The online chats with native speakers really build your confidence.
You keep building on what you know without feeling tiresome. You learn correct pronunciation with the speech recognition software.
As you do well with the program and complete the levels, you feel great. And from the tutorial sessions, you get over your fear of speaking in the new language.
You are immersed in the language, but at a non-intimidating pace. It is intuitive like learning a language from the beginning. You look at a picture of a cat and you think "gatto". It's a visual to word association that is a natural way to learn a language.
In addition to the program, I recommend you get:
An Italian verb conjugation book.
A portable Italian-English dictionary.
And as you get to level III, you get some Italian readers to practice your skills from a different perspective.
If you have problems with the software or tools, do call customer service. They have been very helpful.
Great for teens! I want to get these in French to help my sons in their French classes in high school. This style is more motivating than the structure of a high school class.