Guest Author - Julia Reed Zaic
This is part two of a two-part series on using the Rosetta Stone language program. Volume I was a summary and description of the overall Rosetta Stone program that I began about 45 days prior to traveling to France. Having made it through Level One, I still recommend the program, however, with a supplemental guide specific to the business traveler.
Preparing for my two week trip to Europe was hectic. I think I can say without hesitation that anytime we business travelers leave for any period of time, our lives – personal and professional – are turned upside down in preparation. Not only must we prepare for the trip itself (packing, etc.), we also have to prepare to leave our offices behind. So attempting to add a session of a language program into my already hectic schedule was a tall order.
Fortunately, the Rosetta Stone program can be ingested in small portions. Since the software tracks your progress, you can spend as little as 5 minutes, or as long as an hour working on your lessons. If you have to quit, the program will return you right to the last lesson you completed.
So I did my best. I averaged about 2-4 hours a week up until the time I departed for Europe. As I described in Volume I of this review, the program is unique. Your lessons begin with pictures, and a native speaker’s voice describing the picture with the appropriate nouns and verbs. Then, you are quizzed immediately. A series of different pictures appear on screen and the speaker describes one of them so that you must choose what picture matches the description spoken. The key to the program is the strategy of engaging you to see, hear and identify basic words and phrases.
I was surprised how quickly I learned the building blocks of the French language. The combination of engaging almost all my senses made the vocabulary and sentence structures stick in my mind and easier to recall. I found my progress to be quicker than I had anticipated. As I moved through the lessons, the most trouble I encountered was during the typing exercises. Yes, the program requires you to type what you have learned at certain intervals. I wasn’t very excited about this part of the program but I must say that spelling the language every so often when asked to describe in writing certain pictures helped my recall and pronunciation.
The most valuable aspect of the program in my opinion is the software’s ability to track your ability to pronounce the language properly. The purpose of learning a language is to speak it, and the program uses a specially provided headset so that you can speak the words back to your virtual professor.
A few days before I boarded my flight, I gave myself an internal quiz. What would I say when I got on the airplane to the French and English speaking flight attendants? Would I be able to greet them? Yes. Would I be able to describe my baggage? No. Would I be able to tell the taxi drivers and waiters in Paris that I don’t speak French very well and if they could help me with English? Yes. What about at the hotel, would I be able to say that I am checking in? No. Could I ask where the bathrooms are? Yes. Could I order properly from a menu? Not really. Uh-oh. It’s Paris for godsakes, and eating is my favorite sport.
It seems there was a decent amount of basic functional travel lingo that Rosetta Stone did not teach me. So, I supplemented. I purchased the Lonely Planet book for Fast French. It wasn’t because the Rosetta Stone French program wasn’t enough. It’s just that the program was geared to actually teach the language, starting from the basics, not to prepare someone for short trip. I needed to have a book to to prepare me for daily activities like purchasing tickets at the metro station.
So, with a combination of the two,when I boarded the Air France flight, I could already speak very short, very elementary phrases using the appropriate words, and using the correct pronunciation. For example, when the woman next to me was offered a pre-dinner drink and asked for red wine, I was able to say in French “I’ll have the same, please.” Not a huge accomplishment, but hey, it was communication in another language that I do not speak.
Overall, after using Rosetta Stone for a little over a month and completing Level One, I felt like I gained an “ear” for the language.It was effective, especially since I found Parisiennes to be accommodating, yet not overly eager to assist. Making the effort went a long way as I stumbled with what I knew. However, for the business traveler who doesn’t have months to prep and accomplish the entire program, I would highly recommend a supplemental phrase book to carry with you to use for those short phrases you might need to find quickly.
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