Without a doubt, Rosetta Stone V4 TOTALe is an amazing product. It is easy to install on your PC and puts a whole world of resources at your disposal to help you learn a new language. If I could have given it 4 1/4 or 4 1/2 stars, I would have, but since I had to decide between 4 or 5, I'm giving it a 4. 5 to me is perfect and my experience with RS was not perfect.
Why? Because using RS can be very frustrating to a new user. This was my first time using RS but not my first time learning a new language. I learned French the "old-fashioned way" in school and taught myself sign language from a book. In both cases, I got to ask questions of the teacher or look up additional information in my NATIVE language to help me understand the nuances of the language and to clear up any points of confusion. But RS provides ZERO assistance to the student in their NATIVE language. I understand that the very basis of Rosetta Stone is total immersion, meaning you are totally immersed in the target language while you're learning it. However, I had hoped that there would be SOME opportunity to get questions answered in English and there is not (or if there is, I haven't found it). When you are in the RS software, there is NO English used (unless, of course, you are using RS to learn English!). When you have your live tutoring sessions with a native speaker (which are, by the way IMMENSELY helpful), the tutors are apparently restricted by their employer from speaking in any language but the target language. This means that, until I am several months into my study, I will not yet have the skills to ask the questions I need to ask in my target language!! Something is wrong with this picture!
Additionally, though I am a smart person, at times I could not figure out what was being asked of me in my RS language lessons. Putting aside the fact that I don't know yet that pelo means hair, I don't even understand what I'm supposed to do. Repeat the question? Give the answer? MUCH of the learning is VERY intuitive. They say hola. I repeat hola. They say adios. I repeat adios. But as the lessons go on, things get more complicated and there were times when I was failing lessons literally because I did not know what was being asked of me--what I was supposed to do. Eventually, I figured it out. Some things I figured out by visiting the Rosetta Stone website. Some by talking to someone I knew online who was also doing RS but in a different language. Some by trial and error. But to a person who is used to grasping most things on the first try and succeeding much more than failing, it was at times a supremely frustrating experience.
Now that I am about to complete the first level (which has taken me about 2 months), I feel much more confident and am having much less frustration with the system. I have had 3 live tutoring sessions and have learned a lot from them. The first was, of course, nerve-wracking, but I am really enjoying them now. In addition, there is Rosetta World, where you can play games to help you learn the language, either alone or with other people from around the world. I am learning Latin American Spanish, and most often play either with other Americans who are also learning Spanish or with native Spanish speakers (usually from South America) who are learning English. They help you, you help them...it is a nice system, and you get to "meet" some nice people and learn about other countries as well.
The system also provides audio CDs so that you can take your lessons with you in your car, on your iPod, etc. I found this less helpful, but it is a nice touch, especially for those who commute to work every day and could use that time productively by reinforcing their lessons during their commute.
I am now a proponent of total immersion, in that I do see a positive difference between how I recall Spanish when I prepare to speak it vs. how I would recall Frensh or sign language when I would prepare to speak or use them. The old way of learning language required us to constantly translate in our heads...translate what someone says to us in another language into English and then translate our response from English back into the other language before we respond. With total immersion, you just THINK in your new language...there is very little translation going on. In other words, instead of thinking "hair = pelo", I might touch my hair and think "pelo" without the literal mental translation of "hair = pelo". I still have issues with the fact that the tutors can't/won't answer questions in my native language, but at least I understand more now why they can't/won't.
Do I recommend this product? Yes, wholeheartedly...BUT with a caveat. Don't expect it to always be easy. Don't expect to never be frustrated. And don't expect to ever see or read or speak your native language while you're learning.
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