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Rosetta Stone Level I and II (Spanish) review

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Rosetta Stone Level I and II (Spanish)

See also: Feature on Learning Languages

Ease of Use:
Functional Expectations:
Continuing Interest:
Value for Money:

Target Audience: 6 years - Adult
Cost: US$
Cost: A$
Contact: info@rosettastone.com

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Many of the early exercises are the same as the Traveler (traveller) version, although the emphasis is on some basic words and phrases like colours. In both tested versions I found that a dictionary was necessary, and an online dictionary was especially useful.

Sadly (annoyingly?) one can't scrape and copy text and quickly find the meaning of a word or phrase. Choosing which dictionary to use was decided by two factors. One, the UltraLinga does not have all the conjugations of verbs as entries, BUT it doesn't need accents for searches (yes!). UltraLinga also has integrated pronunciation (if you have the text-to-speech engine).

A major pain in all the software was the inability to break down phrases and sentences so that the user could learn the correct pronunciation. Even in Traveler I quickly lost interest (hope) in pronunciation. Since the sentences and phrases was pictured, not text, I often couldn't remember the damn sentence, and if I was trying to concentrate on pronouncing a word or phrase correctly it was difficult to have to just listen for the particular problem part.

To really have impressive speech evaluation, one needs what a good teacher would do -- a system that continues to put forward the errors (intermittently) until the user is consistently correct, and a system that will break down incorrect pronunication to constituent words or phrases, or PLEASE drop into an explanation of how to make the sounds.
A problem that I had consistently with the Rosetta titles was discerning exactly what was supposed to be going on. The Traveller early/late/on time drove me nuts, it was more a IQ test (or mind-reading) than a test of word recognition, worse, some of the photos were a problem, especially that effeminate male in the theatre and other scenes where the genders were unclear.

I did miss being talked to like a grown up. Yes, I was bored by the 'Essentials' of the 'Learn Your Way' titles, but I was desperate for adult contact after a few hours of flash cards.

One frustration with the cards is that there is no allowance for clicking in the wrong place. Most frequently I made errors because I clicked where the image WAS, or I identified the correct card, looked at it, and clicked, but the mouse was elsewhere. In the really simple lessons the program loops back to first principles and I was first BORED, then FRUSTRATED, then HOMI-F***ING-CIDAL, then I got REALLY mad. How about some feedback, you know, why not give me an idea of what my score status is and ask ME if I'd like to proceed or look a-f***ing-gain.

Frankly after an hour the annoyance factor was resulting in more mistakes, I knew the material, but the stupid thing kept boring me by going back and showing me the damn flash cards AGAIN. And unless the muchacho was going to do something bloody interesting with the caballo I didn't want to see her backside ever again.

When programmers write routines that assume that I'm a f***ing idiot with good hand-eye co-ordination then I get a touch violent.

Looking up the dictionaries did highlight a couple of things in Rosetta where the dictionary and Rosetta differ in GENDER (which means spelling), and then I did have a bit of a chuckle over the 'ten fingers' counting part -- um, you know people with ten fingers usually have surgery these days.

Product: The Rosetta Stone Spanish (Espanol) Level 1
Publisher: Fairfield Language Technologies
Distributor: Fairfield Language Technologies
Language: English/Spanish
Operating System: Windows/Mac
Rec. Retail Price:
Release Media: CD-ROM
Accessories incl.: n/a
System Requirements:
Web site: www.rosettastone.com
E-mail contact: info@rosettastone.com
I did my traditional clog dance when I discovered I could easily turn off the extraneous noises, bipping and bopping software gets my goat. And yes, I have to admit, that the lack of HELP in pronunciation quickly pushed me through the gamut of frustration, anger and the belief that I would NEVER be able to do it. Worse were the occasions when I gave any old pronunciation and got high scores.

One thing I noticed with all the evaluation software is that they were slow on my P2 machine and about a quarter of my 'fails' were because I was repeating before the machine was ready. Rosetta's graphical evaluation demonstrated very clearly how much noise from the PC was being picked up. It'd be nice if there was an ambient setup that identified and deducted the sound of the CD-ROM disc spinning and the PC fan.

Only twice did my self-testing results get recorded, I don't think I ever really mastered the interface. Unlike LYW, Rosetta comes with a user guide that MUST be read or you won't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting value from the product.

During the testing the pictures flip from place to place, most of my errors were hitting the picture where it WAS, I crashed the system a few times answering questions too quickly. This is a problem more prevalent in Level I than in the traveller (traveler) version.

Another thing that is annoying is that no one thought about the typing/writing exercises interface. To type the text one must use accents in order to be correct, but there is zero help to actually enter those. And after typing every entry you have to take your hand off the keyboad and click with the mouse. Why not have a simple keystroke to start the check? Too easy? Programmers get so locked into mouse/WIMP technology they don't think about the humans they inflict it on, and the wasteful practices that they force.

Learning a language is best done when one is relaxed and mentally engaged, not frustrated, angry, annoyed, incovenienced, insulted, treated like an idiot whose time has no value. Gosh, is this the emotional state they were trying for?

What I missed in all the products was some statement of realistic expectations. At the end of the programs, what should I be able to do? Should I expect to run many times. Something like that is in Rosetta's guide, but mainly a how-to process.

by Ali Kayn
See also: Learning a Second Language (feature and other reviews)
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Filed: 1-Jul-2001 : Last updated: 1-Jan-2002: Last compiled: 31-Mar-2010
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