Jamie Turner asked in a comment how I'm liking the Rosetta Stone Italian courses.
First of all, I got the Internet-based version rather than the box. It's subscription based, but unless you plan on using it for a year or two, it's much cheaper to go the Internet-based version.
As far as I can tell it's all Shockwave based anyway so there's no difference in functionality. You have to be connected to the Internet, of course, and a couple of times the client had trouble getting data from the server, but those were minor problems for the cost saving.
One nice thing about the Internet version, which might not be true of the boxed version, is I get previews of all the other languages they offer.
As I've mentioned before, I had to download the Shockwave plugin and, as it's not a Universal Binary yet, run it with Apple's Rosetta. Rosetta on Rosetta, but it works fine.
So what do I think of the course? It seems very good for learning to read as well as to understand isolated spoken sentences. I don't feel it does nearly as good a job as Pimsleur at teaching me to speak, or participate in conversations. Pimsleur has a remarkable ability to get you giving responses in Italian without having to think. I don't see Rosetta doing that, however, Rosetta is giving me a much better (and faster) knowledge of the grammar than Pimsleur.
Rosetta's approach is very simple. Four pictures—four phrases or sentences. Depending on what style of exercise you want to do, you interact with the pictures and sentences in a different way. Once exercise involves reading and hearing a sentence, being shown four pictures and having to pick which picture is being referred to. This is done in a set of four so you end up matching up four sentences with four pictures. Another style is being shown one picture and four phrases / sentences and having to pick which phrase or sentence matches the picture.
The variations are supposed to suit different learning styles, but I found the choice a little overwhelming. It's too repetitive to do all the different exercise types over exactly the same material. I ended up just sticking to one exercise type. I may repeat the course doing a different exercise type once I'm finished with this one. That may be more of what's intended anyway as once you finish one lesson in one style, it takes you on the next lesson in that same style anyway.
There are exercise styles for speaking and writing as well but I haven't gotten into those yet.
The matching approach works well not only for vocabulary but also grammar. They'll show pictures of a girl about to cut a piece of paper, a girl in the middle of cutting a piece of paper and a girl who has cut a piece of paper. And so you learn verbal inflection for tense and aspect that way. I found that quite effective, although I would like to couple that with some sort of summary at the end.
One thing I really missed, though, was that, other than each set of four questions being shuffled randomly, the progression is entirely programmatic. The questions are never based on what you've got right or wrong in the past. I think that's a huge missed opportunity—something combining the Rosetta Stone approach with the sort of thing I'm implementing in Quisition would be very powerful.
At the end of the day, though, I would recommend Rosetta Stone for reading and listening comprehension (preferring Pimsleur for learning conversational skills). Note that you can view a free demo to see for yourself if you like the Rosetta Stone style.
Hope this is of some use to people considering Rosetta Stone. And stay tuned, as I might use this blog to explore an implementation of my own that makes various improvements I'd like to see.
The original post was in the category: language_learning but I'm still in the process of migrating categories over.
The original post had 4 comments I'm in the process of migrating over.