Rosetta Stone: the method behind the hype, a spelling bee with a twist, and Hillary’s Congo adventure

rsThis week, the rise and rise of Rosetta Stone. With big government contracts and a huge advertising campaign, Rosetta Stone is now America‘s #1 language teacher. It offers software-based language teaching programs in 31 languages (their assumption — perhaps well-founded — is that British English and American English are distinct languages, as are Castillian Spanish and Latin American Spanish). The company went public earlier this year, so with the money raised from that, expect to see and hear plenty more of its advertising.

If you learn the Rosetta Stone way, you’ll absorb a language the way an infant does. Well, that’s the theory. Can you really turn back the clock and re-create the conditions of babyhood and infancy on adults who already speak one or more languages?  Rosetta Stone says you can in certain key ways. ichineseThis infant method means that you learn through images and conversation, not grammar and translated vocab lists. Not everyone agrees, including many classroom-based language schools. The advice from Georgetown linguistics professor Alison Mackey is to use Rosetta Stone as one tool among many. And these days, there are plenty of tools out there. Me, I’m learning Chinese right now. I take classes at a small institute in Boston’s Chinatown, and I supplement that with podcasts. I’m struggling badly with Chinese characters, so I’ll probably download this iPhone app.

spellAlso in this week’s cast, non-native English speakers from around the world take part in an English spelling bee in New York. The backers of this competition, seemingly without irony, have christened it a “SpellEvent.” Not a word you’ll find in the dictionary. We hear from the winner and from other competitors.  Finally, a note on Hillary Clinton‘s not-so-lost-in-translation moment in Kinshasa, Congo.

Listen in iTunes or here.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Rosetta Stone: the method behind the hype, a spelling bee with a twist, and Hillary’s Congo adventure

  1. I would definitely love to learn English the Rosette Stone way. Software has become an essential part in learning English and the internet has many websites that teach on ways to learn English in a better way. Spelling Bee competition being around, one can prepare for spelling bee through this websites.

    Tony Smith

  2. Mike

    The product of Rosetta Stone is a very useful tool for one to learn a secondary language like Spanish, German, Italian, etc. The possibility of learning another language and practicing it through a program like Rosetta Stone is quite fascinating. I myself am fluent in Spanish. I come from a Hispanic background and learned Spanish throughout my life and throughout 3 years of Spanish class in middle and high school. Although I am fluent in it, benefiting from learning a new language using Rosetta Stone wouldn’t be a bad idea. All of the kids in the podcast learned English from an early age and can speak the language almost fluently now. It takes years of practice to fluently speak a language. You have to master grammar, word pronunciation, spelling of the word, etc. But once you get the hang of it, you will be able to not only speak the language fluently enough, but you will also be able to communicate better with other people as well.

    Mike Chacon
    CST 229
    Professor Tirpak
    9/30/09

  3. Tina Nguyen - Student of Intercultural Communication in NVCC

    From this article, I can conclude that technology has a big part in how we learn different languages. The Rosetta Stone is just one of the very many techniques offered to us for this to happen. In the second paragraph, the writer points out how individuals can learn through images and conversation and not just grammar and translated vocab lists. Because of this new approach to teaching, I feel like a larger number of Americans these days can learn a variety of languages much quicker than using traditional methods. The spelling bee is an example of how we put our knowledge of another language to the test. As you can see, languages bring people together.

  4. TJ Felegie

    I am a student in an Intercultural Communication class and one of the biggest things our professor stresses is language. Any tool that can teach a language effectively is worth it. Knowing even pieces of another language gives you a better chance of communicating with millions of other people. And with Rosetta Stone offering 31 languages and flourishing with all of them, it seems they must be onto something.

    • Professor Tirpak

      Terry,
      Have you used Rosetta Stone or known anybody that has? What do you think might make this tool more effective than learning a language the traditional way by taking classes?

  5. Kelly N

    I am a student at NVCC enrolled in an Intercultural Communications class. The society we live in is very culturally and linguistically diverse. To even function in this world, you need to be able to communicate with people from other cultures. Rosetta Stone’s method of teaching the “infant theory” – in that you start off with a blank slate and learn the way a baby would – sounds like a great way to learn a new language. It would be easier to learn something in their true context, such as images and conversation, and not necessarily grammar and translated vocabulary lists. Even though it takes time, these things put together would be effective in fully comprehending a language.

  6. Jennifer Shim (CST229; Professor Tirpak)

    It was so funny when the student got confused with Mr. Clinton and the President Obama, and it got Mrs. Clinton, the Secretary of State, somewhat ‘mad’. The student made a mistake because he was nervous. If he was ‘directly’ talking to Mrs. Clinton, the situation could’ve been better. It is much easier to correct each other’s mistakes through direct conversation. It is true that the meanings get mingled up during the translation frequently. Not being able to speak the language of a country that you are trying to understand is a barrier that makes it so hard. After 911, FBI and other federal institutions are looking for people who speak Middle Easter languages and many other minority languages. So, many students are learning the languages. Also, people are engaging themselves in learning 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th languages because of economic downturn. Due to people’s passion for learning different languages, Rosetta Stone sales are booming. The Rosetta Stone’s way of approach in learning languages is similar to the way we acquire language as children. I’ve tried the Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish, and it was quite helpful. The world is globalizing; and therefore, it is becoming important to speak different languages other than your native language. The better you speak other countries’ languages, the better you will understand the cultures better as well.

  7. Melissa Fernandez

    My name is Melissa Fernandez and I am a student in an Intercultural Communication class at the Northern Virginia Community College. I have opinions on Hillary Clinton’s answering questions at a university in Congo and the Rosetta Stone. I think it was unprofessional for Hillary Clinton to become upset about the question being asked. I could why she would get upset because she must be tired always being compared or referenced to her husband. I think she wants people to see her as an individual person not the former president’s wife. But she did the mistake to get nasty and should just have answered it differently.
    The Rosetta Stone caught my attention because I have seen these language software being sold at the mall but never paid much attention to it. Learning a language is very important and could help a person in a job or just improving communication skills. Now a days many people know about 2 or more languages and it could benefit you in many ways. These could probably to useful to the people that don’t have the time to go to school and its amazing how you can learn from your computer at home. I notice that technology is rapidly changing and it seems cool that you can interactive with the software. On the podcast, it said how it has about 31 different languages but doesn’t isn’t sure it actually works. Well I do have the English software and I’ll go ahead and try it out.

  8. Adela Gernandt

    Rosetta Stone
    I am very happy that Rosetta stone has gained such popularity and people know how to appreciate it. It also makes me happy to hear that more and more people are taking the time to learn a foreign language. I tried Rosetta Stone a long time before it became so popular among people and learned French and Italian .I would say it was the best method I have used so far. The connection of the visual with the auditory material is done in such a genius way that makes the language acquisition process very easy. As a linguist myself I have studied languages throughout my life but it definitely would have been a lot easier and more exciting if this method was available at the time.
    Adela Gernandt (International Communications)

  9. Jeremy Bilowus

    Intercultural Communications-Jeremy Bilowus-
    I think since Rosetta Stone key theory is correct, because you always keep the accent from when you were born. The infant method is a great idea and the concept of teaching kid a language instead of tackling the whole language. Learning from images and conversation the infant method has a more critical thinking level that applies to the language, in turn making it easier to recall. My only question is why did I learn spanish this way?

  10. Sarah

    Transparent Language also has good language learning software. http://www.transparent.com

  11. Aminhotep Presents

    While many language teachers may be uneasy with or skeptical of devices such as Rosseta Stone, the fact is that the demand for ESL learning surpasses the availability of effective teachers. This technology is being developed to meet this demand and in order to be effective it will require original approaches to language instruction. I believe the traditional teacher/student relationship will be paired down to its essence while certain cultural trappings will be shed in the process.
    Please read this article http://wp.me/ptcfd-p which addresses the issue in more detail.

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