September 17, 2010 | Hindi

Rosetta Stone Party (Er, Press Event)

In which I hang out in SoHo with TOTALe folks.

Yesterday I went to a Rosetta Stone press event for the new release of their TOTALe language-learning product (version 4). The event was held at the Culinary Loft in SoHo and involved food as well as language.

John DeLucie of The Lion Restaurant, Cooking

John DeLucie of The Lion Restaurant, Cooking

Specifically, there was a cooking demo from chef John DeLucie of Waverly Inn and The Lion fame. The former I guess was a cool New York restaurant, and the latter is a cool New York restaurant, but I am neither a foodie (unless sushi is involved) nor cool, so I had to have this explained to me. 

I confess I was at first not totally thrilled about the food part of the agenda, because as I have mentioned numerous times before, I am determined not to confuse grammar with gastronomy. Too many language projects devolve into eating projects.

But once I realized the demo involved cooking a zucchini frittata, I perked up immediately. I cook eggs with zucchini all the time. Since the zucchini frittata discussions will not advance my discussion of language learning or Hindi, however, I will keep any newfound wisdom pertaining to eggs and zucchini to myself.

Learning Zucchini Best Practices

Learning Zucchini Best Practices

After the culinary arts demonstration ended, the focus returned to the language arts. Really, being at this event was like being at Disneyland. All around me were Rosetta Stone staff. These are people who spend their daily lives on one aspect or another of getting more language learning out there in the world.

I mean, what more cheerful product is there than something to help you learn another language? In happiness output, it outranks a Happy Meal, which to me is one of the most depressing products ever, a million times over!

So anyway, the whole thing was kind of awesome from that point of view.

I loitered a long time, even though I had had an appointment for just a half-hour product demo. Most of my time there I spent talking to Mike Fulkerson, senior vice president of Labs & Technology at Rosetta Stone. (Thanks, Mike!) Our discussion ran from participles to the technical details of TOTALe to the size of the Korean language-learning market, which I was floored to learn is three times the size of the U.S. market.

I confided in Mike my frustration with the Rosetta Stone writing lessons. He said skip them. As a non-skipper, I found that piece of advice rather liberating. I do believe I will try it!

While there I was (gently) berated for not having investigated the “Studio” feature of TOTALe. This involves practicing online in small groups with a native speaker-tutor. There is no reason for me not to have done at least one of these sessions—except that the idea of my project is that I am going out into the world of New York City to practice.

Unfortunately, with Hindi, it has been harder than usual to find victims to practice on. So it might in fact be useful to take advantage of the Studio sessions. I resolved to sign up for one soon.

Before leaving, I talked to a Rosetta Stone employee named Vera, who is in charge of the hiring and training of the coaches who run the Studio sessions. They are (as mentioned above) native speakers, currently all U.S.-based, who, among other things, have to audition for these positions. As someone who lives in a city of actors—with an actor, in fact—I found the idea of auditioning to be a Rosetta Stone coach very charming.

I left kind of wishing I could stick around all day. And I thought of another pile of questions on the subway back to my office.

Much later, around midnight, I realized I hadn’t yet opened my goodie bag from the event. You got to pick your language theme for your bag, and I had chosen Japanese, which I will be undertaking soon.

The bag was very heavy.

Pen for Scale. Does This Look Like 33 Servings to You?!

Pen for Scale. Does This Look Like 33 Servings to You?!

Part of this was attributable to the TOTALe box. But in addition, there was seaweed. Sake. Wasabi. Miso soup. A bunch of cool foodstuffs like that. Also some kind of sesame bar, which, I noticed in looking at the ingredients, claimed to contain 33 servings. Yeah, right. If you are an ant, perhaps! 

The last thing I pulled out of the bag was something that did not quite look like a food product…because it wasn’t. It was, in fact, an iPod Touch.

Looking at that iPod, I had to laugh. I have had quite a few iPod misadventures, among them trying and failing to win an iPod back in May on an overheated and undershaded five-kilometer course in the Bronx.

In spite of complaining extensively about the technical limitations of my lower-end iPod Shuffle, I have stubbornly and absurdly refused to buy myself a real iPod. And I guess my stubbornness has now been rewarded: I finally have what I need for my mobile language-learning purposes. There is, for example, a mobile application of TOTALe that can be run on iPods.

And, of course (sorry, Rosetta Stone), you can use them for Pimsleur as well.

Comments (2)

Ken • Posted on Thu, September 23, 2010 - 11:46 am EST

Are you really surprised that any language-learning market is larger than the US?  Most Americans couldn’t care less about learning a foreign language.

And WOW, awesome on the new iPod touch!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, September 23, 2010 - 7:44 pm EST

You have a point, Ken, but there are an awful lot more Americans than Koreans, so I was surprised anyway!

And thank you.

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