Guest Author - Julia Reed Zaic
Learning the basics of a language before traveling abroad on business is a terrific way to be more productive and effective in your efforts with colleagues or clients. Not to mention the independence it can give you for exploring in your off-business hours. It is also a sign of respect, rather than depending on the old American fallback position, i.e., relying on the rest of the world to speak English.
But who has the time to become even slightly conversant in a foreign language? The Rosetta Stone program touts itself as using “dynamic immersion” in order to learn a language fast and without mindless memorization.
My European business travel plans include dovetailing the end of a trip to Copenhagen into a week in Paris. Upon deciding that attempting to learn Danish and French at the same time would be too daunting, I chose the language to which I had more exposure growing up.
So, I ordered the French Rosetta Stone software from www.rosettastone.com. The software package for Levels 1 – 3 costs approximately $500. For my purposes, Level 1 might have been enough, and individual Levels can be purchased to save money, however, there is a volume discount offered for purchasing the entire package.
You can obtain the software in either MP3 form, or on CD. I chose the CDs and installed them on my laptop. It took approximately 25 minutes for each level. Once it was installed, I established a profile for myself (in case more than one person will be using the software) which is important because the system tracks your progress like a teacher (without a red pen). My profile allowed me to start the program at Level 1. Bon Jour!
The key to the program is the strategy of engaging you to see, hear and identify basic words and phrases. The idea is to get your eyes, ears and mind to recognize the meaning of the language you are studying. But first, the logistics. If it is your first crack at a language, you would be well served purchasing the whole package.
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. After going through this exercise, you will learn the very basics such as the difference between addressing men, women, and children and some very basic verbs such as to read, to eat, to drink, to drive, to work, to sleep, etc.
Rosetta Stone software also comes with a special speech recognition headset with a microphone so that you can speak the language too. For instance, you will see a picture of, say, a man running. The voice will speak it out loud and you will see the phrase “the man runs” on the screen in the foreign language. You are then prompted to repeat the phrase so that you can learn the correct pronunciation.
The system does not expect you to be perfect, but it does require a certain level of accuracy in order for you to learn how to actually speak what it is you are learning. The system also employs adaptive recall technology so that material that requires your further practice is re-visited as you go.
I ordered the French edition of Rosetta Stone and have spent enough time on the software to have accomplished the first level. The levels are broken down into lessons, units, and levels. Each lesson focuses separately on reading, pronunciation, vocabulary, recall, etc. and lasts about 30 minutes. Each unit of lessons is specific to a language goal. The number of units in a level varies between languages. There are some lessons that actually require you to type the words spoken so that you can have a better understanding of how to write the language you are learning.
Without having put the system into practice yet, I actually feel like I am really learning a general understanding of the language and enough vocabulary to at least meet and greet, and get around town with very basic conversational skills.
My impression is that Rosetta Stone is not specifically designed for certain practicalities of travel, such as words like “luggage”, “flights”, "I'm checking in", and other terms and phrases that would be helpful while in the midst of travel. However, the system does provide you with a firm foundation and understanding at what seems to be about a third or fourth grade level of language.
For this reason, and as a business traveler, it might be helpful to supplement the program with a practical language book with more useful terms that you anticipate you may need during your travels. Four weeks until Paris and I’m eager to share the fruits of my efforts using Rosetta Stone while preparing for my trip. I'll share my post-travel experiences at the end of the year. Au revoir!