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What is your experience with Rosetta Stone language learning software?


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Yes, I know that a live teacher is the best way to learn Chinese but my work schedule is crazy and never regular. I am using many of the tools I learned about here on the forum (Pleco flashcards for example) but my progress is too slow for me. I want to pick up the pace and a friend recommended Rosetta Stone which to be honest, I think is a bit pricey. Is it worth it?  Is there a better software that has speech recognition and correction?

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Lanchong

It's a tool which you can use to improve, but it might not be better than what you're doing already. It's not a magic pill for sure.

You say your progress is too slow. How long have you been studying, for how long each day, and what level are you at? You might be progressing slowly - in which case other options are worth considering - but perhaps it might be a case of adjusting your expectations of how long it takes to learn Chinese.

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Bigdumogre

Rosetta Stone is a decent tool to have but not the greatest. I've learned do much more from pimsluer ( get it from library) and npcr than I ever can from Rosetta Stone. I do use it when I have time but it's only a tool.

There are some pretty well priced online tutors through skype I forgot the website but will try and find it (think classes were under $10 a lesson)

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Shelley

There is quite a long discussion about RS here:-     http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/19915-learn-chinese-with-rosetta-stone/

 

You should draw your own conclusions but if I remember correctly the general conses was that it was not as good as its advertising may lead you to believe.

 

I would read all the posts in the above link and search for RS on this forum to get a well rounded opinion before making any expensive decisions.

 

It seems Pimsleur is favoured over RS. Ah, just beat me to it as stated in post #4 :)

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lakers4sho

Get a language exchange partner. Italki is a good place to start, you will never run out of choices, and it's free. The downside is that since you're going to be talking to people from China, you'd have to take time difference into consideration.

lakers4sho

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I went through level 1 (minus one or two lessons) of the Rosetta Stone Mandarin course before going to China for a couple months in 2010.  Since the philosophy behind the Rosetta Stone software prohibits any English instruction, there was no explanation of tones, tone modification, pinyin pronunciation, grammar, etc.  This was a huge handicap for me.  I was pretty much a raw beginner at that time.  (I knew Mandarin had four tones, but that was about it.)  Also, I felt that the course was too predictable for my use.  (I.e. I could guess the correct multiple-choice answers without fully paying attention to the meaning of the language.)  I did like the audio feedback in the software.  (Having several layers of visual feedback of your speech compared with the native speaker was quite helpful.)

The 100 hours of effort I put into Level 1 of RS proved of little use when I went to China.  As far as listening comprehension, ability to use the language in simple situations, etc., I found a few sessions of the Pimsleur CDs much more helpful to me.  (The Pimsleur approach forced me to constantly think of how to reply and use new vocabulary -which reinforced it in my memory).

So back to your original question: Since speech recognition was one of RS strengths, I don't know of a better software for this.  However, I don't think they are worth the cost (money or time to use them). In my opinion, you can probably do similarly well with the Pimsleur CDs (listening, repeating, practicing over and over), and with a very inexpensive tutor on italki (as lakers4sho mentioned above).

Another thing to consider is purchasing a textbook (e.g. Integrated Chinese or NPCR) with CDs/MP3s.  You can usually get a lot of speaking practice if you follow along (and use the CDs to compare and correct against the native speaker's pronunciation).

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If you think you might end up purchasing Rosetta Stone, be sure to sign up on their e-mail list at rosettastone.com. Or if not there, then sign up on LiveMocha.com (apparently Rosetta Stone bought them.)  I began to receive e-mail specials from both sites, in the name Rosetta Stone, and the savings offered were substantial. In fact, it seemed that the e-mails sent from the LiveMocha domain, in the name Rosetta Stone, offered the largest discount.

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gabbklein

I can't compare or contrast for you, but I can give you a straight opinion of RS without telling you whether it's "worth it" -- I didn't pay for it.

 

My work purchased me the online-only package (I can access it on my phone, too) for a year for a couple hundred bucks. I've already learned several other languages besides English, and I like learning languages. This is the first time I've learned a new language on my own -- I have no experience with Pimsleur etc. The RS software is *definitely* not enough, though. I supplement it heavily with freely available resources. I read this and another forum daily. I'm working my way through notes on Mandarin Essential Grammar on Yale's site. Every time I learn a new word through RS, I write it down in a notebook, look up all the characters on Google Translate, and plug it into Anki flashcards, which I practice daily.

 

I've been studying for about 3 months (I'm halfway through level 1 of 5). I can give and some very basic biographical information and describe some common things and activities. I *think my pronunciation is comprehensible, although the language recognition software is pretty useless for that.

 

I hope this helps!

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Demonic_Duck

I signed up for Livemocha ages ago (before the takeover, after which it incidentally became terrible) and as a result I stil get frequent emails, each telling me that it's the last chance to get the amazing 45 or 50% discount they're offering (for whichever holiday was most recent/out of the goodness of their hearts, delete as appropriate). 50% off a ton of money is still half a ton of money, though.

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Demonic_Duck is right - they're pretty relentless with their marketing.

 

Having used The Pimsleur Method to learn some Russian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, I'm quite the fan of this method. However, it's not quick, and as has been discussed elsewhere, there's some extra considerations one must take into account when trying to learn Mandarin via The Pimsleur Method.

 

But if cost isn't a consideration, I discovered when doing a 30-day trial of Rosetta Stone that it can actually complement The Pimsleur Method. That said, it seems apparent RS isn't well respected amongst serious Chinese learners. You could do what I did, though, and just find out for yourself, via Rosetta Stone's 30-day money back guarantee. It's not much of a hassle if you go the download route (i.e., there's nothing to ship back to them if you decide it's not for you.)

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Also, although they didn't used to, they now have a demo in Chinese - make sure to try that before you buy...

 

I tried it a few months ago... I think the idea behind it is kind of cool - it kind of allows you to "discover" different aspects of the language, and I do think there is value in this... However, I also think that, although we are not children anymore and we maybe don't "soak up" a language as easily or whatever, we do have one big advantage: we can have things explained to us in a language we already know. Immersion is great, but I think using it to the extent that we ignore this extremely valuable resource, like Rosetta Stone does, is not wise. Also, as for the speech recognition, I remember being quite unimpressed. I'm sure they put a lot of money into it, but I'd say you'd be much better off with a guide and recording yourself with audacity and comparing yourself to native recordings. I'm not a native speaker, but I can guarantee you I am more discerning of my own speech compared to a native speaker's than the software Rosetta Stone uses is (at least I was when I used it a few months ago... And I highly doubt they've made any exponential progress on that in the last few months...) 

 

I just checked out the method section on the site. It says:

"If you want to learn to swim, you need to get in the water. It's the same with learning to speak another language. Without your native language for help, you'll learn actively—which makes you more successful."

 

That's great, and they do let you get in to the water slowly (they don't just push you off the diving board), but their method of teaching is more like: observe the teacher actually swimming, but he won't tell you anything about the stroke he's doing and how to do it - you just have to watch and learn. Who would hire a teacher like that? I think their speech recognition is supposed to be the feedback part, but, until they get that better, I'm not convinced it's any better than the far cheaper version of doing it yourself - in fact, I'm convinced it's worse - it's much less useful and much more expensive. (Note: I'm not saying that the swimming metaphor is applicable to language learning, but they were the one's who used it, so I thought I'd critique it :) )

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hedwards

I think it's way too expensive, for the $500 they want for the level 1-5 course, you could get quite a few hours of one on one instruction, several movies and books and still have money to spare.

 

I used to use Tellmemore by Auralog, which is generally better regarded, but the Chinese support in most of these packages is less advanced than for the Indo-European languages. But in general, it's probably better to invest in a few good books and skype credits.

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  • 7 months later...

Update: I've been using Rosetta Stone Total-e (online subscription) to study Mandarin for just under a year now. This was my first non-Indo-European language, but I have extensive experience studying languages: I've got a Bachelors in Linguistics, and I've studied several languages to fluency as an adult. I was a Spanish teacher for five years.

 

The program consists of 20 units. They're separated into 5 levels. Each unit has about 4 "Core Lessons" in which new vocabulary/grammar is introduced. Then there are short suppporting lessons in Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Pronuciation, Vocabulary, and Grammar, as well as Review lessons sprinkled throughout. The end of each unit is a "Milestone", that aims to simulate an immersive experience in which you use the language you've learned up to that point.

 

You can select traditional or simplified characters. (I've selected simplified.) I believe you can also choose to just use pinyin. The lessons mostly use characters, but pinyin is used in some listening and (ironically) writing lessons. There is no instruction in how to form the characters; nothing about radicals or anything.

 

There is no English used anywhere in the instruction. Vocab and grammar are taught through extensive use of images, repetition, and highlighting differences.

 

Although I basically understand everything like that, I supplement it like this: Whenever I see a new word/phrase, I 1) write the characters down in a notebook. I don't use this for reference; I'm just using the action of writing the characters as a memorization tool. 2) look up the words in my Pleico dictionary. I do this to confirm my perception of the pronunciation (I then write the pinyin next to the characters in my notebook) and the meaning (that goes in the notebook, too.) I also like to skim through the alternate meanings and the definitions of each individual character. 3) enter the words in my Anki deck. There are two entries for every word/phrase: the characters and their English translation and the characters and their pinyin version to practice pronunciation. Additionally, I repeat everything said or shown by the program aloud, even when I'm not required to do so.

 

The program also provides games, chat opportunities, live lessons (at additional charge), and leveled stories. Supposedly,  you're supposed to be able to play the games with other learners and native speakers, but I've never found anyone availabe to play. I've stopped trying, and just use the single-player games (which all practice vocab recognition).

 

I like the program, and I feel I've learned a lot of foundational vocabulary so far. A couple of things to consider: 1) You can access this program as a phone app, but it doesn't include the writing lessons -- you need to use a computer for that. 2) To use the program on the computer, you need a USB headset. When I realized this via trial and error, and complained to customer service that this hadn't been made clear to me when I ordered the program, they sent me a complimentary headset. 3) The speech recognition has very low accuracy. It seems to mostly count syllables, or something. Because of my background studying language, I feel my pronunciation is pretty good, but I don't know how it would be for a newbie.

 

Here is my daily schedule:

 

My work browser has the following websites programmed as home pages (so they open automatically when I open my browser):

www.chinese-forums.com (of course!)

http://forum.wordreference.com/forumdisplay.php?f=72 (Chinese language forum)

http://comet.cls.yale.edu/mandarin/content/grammar.htm (basic Chinese grammar lessons)

https://hootsuite.com/ (I've got a stream that is a Chinese-language Twitter search geolocated to my general area.)

http://www.weibo.com/

Every day, I skim that day's forum posts, reading what interests me; I read one grammar lesson; and I read a few Twitter/Weibo posts. I've got a popup translator Firefox extension; I would understand very little without that.

 

Then, at lunch, I go through the day's cards from my Anki deck, and spend the rest of the hour studying Rosetta Stone. I can get through most of one Core Lesson or several supporting lessons. Before I start a new Core Lesson, I play the single-player games and read through that unit's story.

 

I started studying around February. It's taken me a while to develop this routine. I also took several months off when work/home got very hectic. So that you can get an idea of what I've learned so far, the following appears with no "spell-checking" or dictionary use -- straight from my little head. I'm sure there are plenty of errors!

 

大家好! 我叫Gabrielle。 我从洛杉矶来的。 我有一个女儿。 她叫Sophia。 我喜欢做饭也吃饭。

 

I can also talk about where things are, compare sizes, colors, and materials, talk about stores and what they sell (clothing, food, etc.), ask how much things cost and tell how I want to pay for them, etc.

 

I'd be happy to answer any of your questions or show screenshots of parts of the program that interest you!

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Shelley

Well I am glad you feel it works for you. I do how ever have say I don't think you would have done so well if you had only used RS. And you didn't pay for it. Getting your monies worth wasn't hard.

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Demonic_Duck

I have a question: one of the major criticisms I've heard directed at the Mandarin Chinese language version of Rosetta Stone is that it's essentially a program designed for European languages, and aside from changing the content into Mandarin, they haven't really done anything to adapt it to suit the Mandarin language, or Chinese culture. For example (off the top of my head, not sure if accurate), things like:

  • Food taught might be burgers, steaks, sandwiches, pasta, but no hotpot, Peking duck, baozi, noodle soup
  • Holidays taught might be Christmas, Easter, Hallowe'en, Valentines, but no Spring Festival, Dragon Boat, Mid Autumn, Tomb Sweeping
  • Pictures would mostly be white Europeans talking to white Europeans in suspiciously European-looking surroundings (but apparently in Mandarin)
  • Important distinctions such as different words for younger/older brothers and sisters would be neglected, whilst spending many lessons distinguishing between nouns and plurals or different tenses, which don't exist in Chinese

Would you say some/all of these criticisms are fair? Was this your experience with the software? Or have RS improved their Mandarin Chinese version since I saw those reviews?

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