Rosetta Stone Hindi
March 10, 2013
Series Rosetta Stone
Publisher Rosetta Stone
Price $399 for all three levels; $179 for Level 1
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
Rosetta Stone is a multimedia computer-based language-learning application. For Hindi, the publisher offers three levels. Among other things, you can get online coaching from a native speaker in what they refer to as “Studio sessions.”
I used Rosetta Stone Hindi in 2010, so aspects of my analysis may now be out of date, but I have used other Rosetta Stone products more recently, and the concept has in my experience remained consistent.
Some of my time on Rosetta Stone Hindi was pretty frustrating, to an extent that I was tempted to give it a lower rating than I ultimately did.
However, I have to give Rosetta Stone credit for at least showing up to the party! Hindi does not get a lot of attention in the American language-learning market, so it is difficult to find self-help language-learning resources. (Pimsleur, which I love, offers only 30 Hindi audio lessons—not enough to get you very far.)
But here are some of my gripes.
First, with Rosetta Stone you don’t get any explanation of how each vowel sound in Hindi has two different written forms, independent and dependent, depending on where it appears in a word. There is no English in Rosetta Stone lessons. If I hadn’t already known, before I began the program, that the same sound was depicted in two often radically different ways, I would have been really confused.
Nor did the English-free Rosetta Stone Hindi explain the existence of conjuncts. Conjuncts are consonant combinations that are written differently when appearing in combination than they are as standalone letters. Maybe I missed something, but it took me ages (and Google and Facebook searching) to figure out how to render conjuncts with the Rosetta Stone keyboard, so for a while I got basically everything wrong in the writing exercises and became exasperated. (I’m no longer sure how I did it, but I think it might have been by clicking the Shift key to bring up an alternative Rosetta Stone keyboard with conjuncts on it.)
I can appreciate the benefits of learning a language all in the target language. Nonetheless, some things simply require explanation in one’s native tongue. Absorbing your first language—which is done as an immersion experience, without a grammar teacher handy to explain things to you—is not the same thing as learning a new language later in life.
The Rosetta Stone voice-recognition software irked me, too. Each time you log in to the program, you have to recalibrate the microphone by speaking into it the words “one, two, three, four, five.” When the microphone was inadvertently moved post-recalibration (I am fidgety), the program often just stopped accepting large chunks of my answers. I didn’t at first know how to recalibrate mid-lesson, so I would get into a big fight with the program over whether I was pronouncing things right or not.
In fights between humans and computers, the human is always the loser.
One thing I do thoroughly enjoy is Rosetta Stone’s reading lessons, not just for Hindi but for other languages with wholly unfamiliar writing systems. In the Hindi application I got introduced to two Hindi letters at a time—manageable pairs. Those exercises were a lot of fun. I learned some of the same things as in the writing lessons, but the pace was much better.
So yeah, I know I don’t sound super-enthusiastic, but if I were starting from scratch I would still—despite my lack of enthusiasm—seriously consider buying this, because I just haven’t encountered that much good stuff for Hindi out there. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, of course. I have a feeling there are quite a few quiet and excellent language-learning products (whether simple flashcards or books or something more complicated) sitting there unmarketed and undistributed, simply because promotion requires a lot of time and money.
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