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The Rosetta Stone experiment


By Braden Cundiff





The motivations for learning a second language vary from Italian pickup lines at Kilroy’s Sports Bar to being able to decipher a primary source in a history class.

The commercials are convincing – they say they even have the support of NASA and the U.S. military. The Wall Street Journal endorses it as well, and with a starting price of $260, it better be a legitimate program.

The issue is whether Rosetta Stone works effectively enough to warrant the investment of so much time and money.

Well, I have taken it upon myself to try it on my own.

Yep, I fell hook, line and sinker for the made-for-TV product. I want to have a basis of Mandarin before I travel to China next spring, so I purchased Rosetta Stone and have been trying it for about two weeks.

I work 15 to 30 minutes a day and have been impressed so far.

The software works in such a way that you associate pictures and sounds with words. You start with basic words and phrases and it builds up your knowledge base slowly. It also requires you to speak into a microphone and repeat the words or phrases. The system records your voice and even plays it back to you.

It is a far cry from the dreary days of IU’s Proyecto Ancla, and it avoids the usual monotony that comes with language learning. However, I have already started to notice some issues, the first being that talking into a headset trying to speak Chinese brings a flurry of comments from the roommates. Either be prepared for the jokes they will make, or start locking yourself in a room. By the way, I have found the second choice to be the most effective.

The second obstacle is that it is not a quick process. The Rosetta Stone system is developed in such a way that it requires a person to stay active in the program for several months. This could pose a big problem when it comes to staying motivated, especially when you are trying to do additional learning outside of classes.

It’s important to remember why you are learning the language to combat motivation problems. For example, if I don’t continue to study, I might be ordering fish eyes instead of french fries.

So you can imagine my desire for learning Mandarin before next spring. That desire and the effectiveness of Rosetta Stone so far give me hope that a TV commercial’s product may just work.

At the two-week mark of the experiment, I would have to give Rosetta Stone a B+. Check in again in a month for a new report.

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