April 23, 2010 | Spanish
I Finally Tried Rosetta Stone!
I take a Pimsleur competitor on a test drive.
For the past several days I have continued studying grammar, mostly in the same McGraw-Hill book I mentioned previously, Spanish Verb Tenses by Dorothy Richmond. So far I have made my way through a review of the present tense, reflexive verbs, irregular verbs, present progressive, preterite, imperfect, future, conditional, present perfect, past perfect, and some imperative.
Some of the translation exercises are funny. I am being asked to translate sentences such as “The dish ran away with the spoon.” (El plato huyó con la cuchara.) In another exercise, I had to translate a paragraph about New Year’s resolutions. The first-person narrator in the exercise promised that this year she would lose weight and work harder and read more and go to the gym more and spend less money. I don’t do formal resolutions myself, but I have to say, those sounded oddly familiar.
And I love the range of cultural references. A single exercise contained allusions to Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, El Mago de Oz (mago is “wizard”), Casablanca, George Washington, John Steinbeck, Pinocchio, Martin Luther King Jr., Christopher Columbus, Sears, Gandhi, and Little Red Riding Hood (in Spanish, Caperucita Roja, which my tongue enjoys saying).
More important, though, I would like to report that yesterday I got my act together and finally opened the Rosetta Stone TOTALe product that arrived at the beginning of this month. If you are familiar with this project (one of whose goals was to focus on recession-friendly language learning), and are familiar with this product (which costs $999), you may wonder how the latter fits in with the former.
The thing is, I have now been asked about Rosetta Stone so many times that I felt I needed to check it out. My top priority, after all, is good language skills, and this product is certainly far less expensive than some of the intensive language classes I have looked into. If you consider the amount of money people spend on flat-screen TVs that they (a) can’t afford and (b) can’t reasonably fit in their living rooms, well, let’s just say I’d rather have a language-learning product in my apartment than a monument to the television industry.
Also: I was able to get a review copy, so I didn’t actually pay for it.
I have to confess, I was kind of dreading the initial experience, because I have had numerous technical travails on this language journey, and I thought Rosetta Stone might be a big technological pain in the ass to set up.
It was not.
In fact, it was remarkably, dazzlingly easy to get started with the program. I plugged the new headset they sent me into my laptop, my laptop detected it, and then their system checked my setup and told me what I needed to download for full functionality, which I did, and everything was totally easy and intuitive and quick.
I was shocked.
The next thing that happened: I couldn’t figure out right away how to skip the introductory levels, so I called customer service, whose number I was able to find immediately (often such things are buried at the bottom of a back page), and a polite, articulate woman immediately gave me accurate, articulate instructions about how to skip ahead, which I was able to do instantly, and I said thanks and hung up within maybe a minute of first picking up the phone to dial for help.
That, too, was shocking.
As I mentioned, this is Rosetta Stone’s TOTALe product, the Rolls Royce of their offerings, which includes all kinds of stuff I haven’t used yet and other stuff I don’t even know about yet. I gather I am going to be able to practice with other people, play games, etc., so I will report more when I sort this all out. For now, though, I just tried out some of the standard lessons in the fifth of the five Spanish levels they offer.
In truth, I liked it better than I had expected. I generally hate clicking things with my mouse, and I hate being on my computer more than I have to. And I like at least some grammar instruction in English, so that it can be advanced and technical and 100 percent clear. None of these predilections seemed to portend much of a future for me and Rosetta Stone (which includes computers, clicking, and as far as I know, no English), but as it turned out, there was less clicking than I thought there would be, and I found the product professional and polished and aesthetically pleasing.
I was not terribly interested in some of the content (I don’t, for example, feel I need to know the names of construction equipment right now), but I think part of the issue may also be that my general skills are beyond their fifth level. Although I didn’t get everything right, I averaged 95% on the parts I completed, and some of the things I missed were about getting used to the system rather than about the Spanish itself.
I am more interested in seeing how Rosetta Stone works for a language I don’t have familiarity with, such as the next language on my schedule: modern Greek. For Spanish I feel like, I might as well just get out there and walk around New York and talk to people in the five boroughs, rather than sit in my apartment or office on a computer.
But overall it was a positive first experience, and I will definitely be trying it out some more.
Speaking of Greek: it is likely that I will add a month onto my Spanish program and delay Greek until June. I have gotten quite a bit done with Spanish, but not enough, and I want to learn as much as I can while I am on a roll.
Anyway, New York is so full of Spanish that I think it is only right to give it additional time!