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I’ve been planning my dream vacation to South America for a while, complete with Evernote clippings of destinations I’m dying to see and a Gmail filter to keep an eye out for sales on flights. While the trip is still more of a dream than reality, I thought I’d get a head start on it by refreshing my Spanish. With the new updates to the Rosetta Stone language learning suite, I can get back to the basics and brush up on my conjugation without stepping foot in a classroom.
Rosetta Stone’s approach has evolved with the times. The software now offers live chats with a real language instructor, a free iOS app, interactive games, and a community of others who are also tackling a new tongue. Unfortunately, that evolution doesn’t apply to distribution. You’ll have to install from a physical CD, and sit through a round of web-based updates before you can get started. Worse yet, the software runs on the Adobe AIR platform, but the install process doesn’t do a good job of checking your AIR installation first for compatibility. It took three separate tech support sessions to figure out that our Adobe AIR installation was the culprit in our install problem.
The Rosetta Course takes you through four lessons, including pronunciation, grammar, reading and vocabulary.
Rosetta starts off by having you memorize frequently used nouns and verbs. It’s very bare-bones language instruction, with Level 1 teaching you just enough to navigate your way through a grocery store. Included with your purchase is a USB headset with microphone, which is frequently used throughout the lessons to practice pronunciation of specific syllables and words every couple of exercises. If you’re a quick learner, or just refreshing your Spanish, the activities can become repetitive. Further on you’ll learn grammar, proper conjugation, and more advanced vocabulary. The course will test you with various activities in between core lessons by having you play matching games, fill in blanks, choose the right conjugation for a photo, and more. Along the way you’ll rack up points, but the only reward for sticking through the entire lesson is that, at the end, you’re allowed to schedule your 50-minute live chat.
In addition to the included lesson material, Rosetta offers optional online content to enrich your learning for $25 monthly. The extra features include mini-games that you can play solo or with up to three random users online, and stories that you can peruse or read along with other Rosetta users. You can play the solo games at any time, though activities with others are limited to a 12-hour window, from 8AM to 8PM PST, so if you’re a night owl, or have a day job on the west coast, they’re pretty inconvenient. There’s also an iOS app included with the purchase of the language suite, which is basically a virtual set of flash cards to take with you and test yourself throughout the day.
As a package, the whole point of Rosetta Stone is to immerse you entirely in a language so that you can grasp the basics in what is (presumably) a short amount of time. It works as long as you discipline yourself to spend a few hours each day focused on the lesson.
The bottom line. Rosetta Stone is still one of the best language learning suites out there, but installation troubles and limited online options leave us feeling a bit malo.
Mac OS 10.4.11 or later, CD-ROM drive, USB port
Easy to learn exercises, interactive software with accompanying free iOS app.
No digital download. Uses finicky Adobe AIR architecture.