My friends have always had good things to say about Rosetta Stone. Written reviews, however, vary widely. In fact, as a good friend of mine would say, it’s almost a religious discussion.
I am a complete novice at learning languages, so I’m not going to try and get into linguistics or theory. However, my impression of Rosetta Stone (Korean) is a bit mixed at this point.
My first approach was using Rosetta Stone during my lunch at work. When I didn’t have an office mate it was great because I could take advantage of the listening AND speaking portions of the lessons. I have to admit, though, the speaking portions were a bit frustrating at times. It seemed that it would accept words I butchered, but other words I found nearly impossible to reproduce. I tried using the voice visualization tools, but couldn’t quite figure out what I was pronouncing incorrectly. Now that I have an office mate, I have the speaking function turned off. I find it less frustrating (ie, I’m moving faster through lessons), but I can tell that I’m not picking up on the words as quickly since I’m not forced to speak them. Maybe this experience is more Language Learning 101 than any issues with Rosetta Stone! There are some Rosetta-specific things I’ve noticed, though.
1.) For basic words, photos work well. But even within the first unit, I’m encountering more complex situations where I’m not sure what is happening in the images, so I’m not sure what I’m being taught.
2.) I’ve already mentioned voice recognition. I’m pretty sure it’s accepted some really poor pronunciation. Maybe what RS considers “correct” will change as I advance through the units.
3.) When I first tried the program, a native Korean speaker looked at it and was appalled that there was no alphabet being taught. At the time, I repeated the RS advice to “trust the system”, but I’m starting to agree more with this person. I know there are bunch of apps and other sources of information to learn the Korean alphabet. Learning a few vowels on my own has really helped my performance in RS. I know part of the immersion concept is to avoid memorization, but for the cost of the program, I would think they could provide some kind of fun way (it’s not memorization if you’re having fun, right?!) to learn some or all of the alphabet. I’m sure there’s a lot of complexity in the Korean language that I don’t know about, but knowing the vowels and just a few consonants I can already cobble a word or two together. That’s empowering for a newbie language learner.
4.) The cut and paste problem has been noted in other reviews of Rosetta Stone. In some cases, folks are practically offended that the true culture associated with the language are not fully conveyed in the photos, since the same photos are used in all the RS languages. I don’t have too much problem with that (maybe because some find it too Americanized, and I’m, well, American, plus I have other resources (people) for learning about culture). But I do feel the program loses value when I’m learning “Korean” words like “sand-wee-chee” (sandwich), “kuppee” (coffee), or “jooss-eh” (juice). These are some of the first words I learn and I think it may be a function of vocabulary being taught in the same order, no matter the RS language program.
Despite the issues I’ve described, I’m generally enjoying Rosetta Stone. In part, that’s because I can work on it XX minutes per day and accomplish XX% of a module and feel like I’ve accomplished something. Overall, I just think the cost of Rosetta Stone and product literature raise expectations to a high level. If I forget the cost and continue using other resources, I think Rosetta Stone will have served its purpose (and will probably end up exceeding my current expectations). The most important lesson for me at this point is that no program is going to automatically teach me a new language – it’s really up to me to actively engage in learning.