I have no use for Rosetta Stone; I don’t think it’s good for anyone. In my opinion it’s a waste of time, toil, and treasure, for all learners at all levels.
(If you are one of my friends who bought Rosetta Stone, loves it, and is making great progress, then please prove me wrong, please continue to use it and learn your target language; if that’s the path you’ve chosen then I hope it gets you there, and you can rub it in my face, I welcome it. But when you find yourself ready to give it up because it’s not sustainable, I’ll be happy to help you come up with alternatives.)
A lot of people have blogged about how they don’t like Rosetta Stone, I don’t have much to add. Let’s just look at the commercial I’ve posted above. 37 seconds in, a man says that now he can say to his wife, Wife, “Je t’aimerai à la fin de ma vie.” There’s an erstwhile English translation floating romantically beside him that says “I will love you until the end of my life.” Awwww, very romantic; I’m sure that’s what they’re going for.
The problem is that the translation is a mistake. What the man really says is: I will love you AT the end of my life,” as in, I will love you when I am about to die. Not now, I don’t love you know, I shall love you later, at the END of my life. Not now!
If he intended to say what the translation suggests, he should have said “Je t’aimerai jusqu’à la fin de ma vie.” The word he missed is “jusqu’à,” which means “until.”
Let’s forgive the man, he’s just a learner, and if we are to take this commercial at face value, then he used some pretty crappy software to learn with. One question though, who in the Rosetta Stone Corporation green-lighted this mistake and let it go into heavy rotation? Embarrassing. Obviously they are not serious about accuracy. It’s ok for them to show their customers getting close, but no cigar.
But JP, you say, Rosetta Stone gave him a future tense verb, a cliticized pronominal indirect object, and a pretty tricky adverbial phrase, that’s pretty good, right? Yes, I must admit, that’s pretty good for some multiple choice. But come on, you don’t think this dude might have other French learning resources in his life? Like, oh, I don’t know… being married to a French woman….
There’s a TV news show that was asking new immigrants to the USA how they learned their English… there was one lady who spoke very fluently who said that when she arrived in California two years earlier, she didn’t speak a lick of English. The reporter said “what was your secret?” and her answer was, unequivocally, “Rosetta Stone.” I am absolutely sure that TWO YEARS IN CALIFORNIA had nothing to do with her progress! #sarcasm #eyeroll.
In any case, I don’t know anyone who has learned their target language because of Rosetta Stone. I don’t know anyone who knows any one who has learned their target language because of Rosetta Stone. I know a lot of language professionals like me who think that Rosetta Stone is a giant waste of money, and I know a bunch of people who bought the product and then gave up on it. The sad part is that they blame themselves for being quitters, instead of blaming Rosetta Stone for selling them some multiple choice quizzy software.
You know, it’s not going to hurt anyone to do some multiple choice quizzy software, but learning a few words and going out to communicate with people, those words will lodge that stuff in your brain a thousand times more effectively. Think about it; you don’t need software to learn to ride a bike, you need to get up on the bike and ride it. You don’t need some quizzy software to learn to eat with chopsticks; you need to pick up some chopsticks to eat… it will help to be hungry. Similarly, if you want to learn to communicate in a language, you should be spending your time communicating in that language; that’s where your time, toil, and treasure should be going.