Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rosetta Stone è stupefacente!

As illustrated in the photo at left, the Italian sentence Ha un pesce means
A) he/she has a book
B) he/she is contemplating an inner-office romance
C) he/she has a fish

Welcome to Rosetta Stone! This award-winning, critically-acclaimed language software is at the top of the heap of foreign language learning programs, and was at the very top of my Christmas list this year. I received the software one month ago and I am totally surprised at how quickly I am learning! Wow, I sound like Michael Phelps, but it's the truth.

I have a working knowledge of Spanish (translation: four years study in high school, two years in college, one class after college, grew up on the Mexico border and I STILL suck and stumble through easy conversations) and a passion for Italy. I thought it would be cool to start fresh in learning a new language, but one in the Romance language family, relatively close to that of my previous Spanish study. And with two little kids at home, a house to run, work projects to pursue and a bad track record in classroom learning retention, I thought a proven effective home study program the best tactic.

And I was right! I love how the learning is completely different than the traditional text book/teacher/workbook way I studied a foreign language in the past. Rosetta Stone doesn't force you to memorize vocabulary, grammar and verb conjugation rules that are virtually impossible to apply to a real world conversation or reading of a newspaper. Instead, the software simulates the environment of being immersed in a language, which as any study-abroad student will tell you is the best way to truly learn a new language. Rosetta Stone accomplishes this immersion feel with the use of images combined with audio pronunciation. Just as little babies learn their mother tongue through marrying the new words they hear with the objects they see, Rosetta Stone's amazing word/image association method helps the student to truly learn the language. Even a previous classroom failure like me.

The reason for the software's seemingly high price of 230 bones is Rosetta Stone's first-rate speech recognition system that analyzes the user's accent and (often incorrect) pronunciations using the included headset microphone. So you're not just learning how to understand others, but also speak the language well. As someone who uses free software all day long (no offense Google gods), I think the technology is incredible and worth every cent. It's super easy to use and install. You can actually buy the software for a non-technically-inclined person older than 40 and not fear they'll be too daunted to use it.

It comes with an audio companion so you can reinforce your computer learning during your commute, workout or while driving around with the kids. My children love it too. You should hear my two year old's emphatic pronunciation of ciao. She sounds like a kid in a Roberto Benigni flick.

Rosetta Stone is making my learning of a brand new language simpler and more intuitive than I ever thought possible. Me! Someone who has been telling people for years that I'm just bad at languages. Check out how excited I've made Roberto with my progress!

Chiaramente, è buono. Clearly, it's good.

Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software
Level 1 Italian, Version 3 with audio companion
Cost: $233

Graphic design by Jeannine Marie Soden of ROYGBIV Design

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