Monday, January 08, 2007

Rosetta Stone

The other day, I learned that my local public library has a site license for Rosetta Stone, which allows patrons to use language courses for free through the library's website. This costs about $50 per month if you subscribe individually, so it's a nice discovery.

I had read some critical reviews of Rosetta Stone, but I've been pleasantly surprised. The majority of each lesson is based on comprehensible input. For example, you hear or read a sentence and select a matching picture from four pictures on the page. This is the technique used by Winitz and Reeds in the papers referenced here*. The exercises are well thought-out and fun.

My main disappointment is that the Thai Level I course (the only Thai course that's available) is much too easy for me. I wish I had learned about this resource 8-9 months ago, when I could have benefited more from it.

I agree with some of the criticisms I've read, but they seem pretty minor. For example, it looks like the authors are using the same sentences and pictures for many different courses, so there's little linguistic or cultural specificity to what is presented.

I have been introduced or re-introduced to a few unfamiliar words (such as the word for "skirt" and certain classifiers). The reading practice is also helpful. But unfortunately, I think I found this resource too late to get a lot of mileage out of it.

I'll be interested to try a course sometime for a language I don't know at all, like Spanish or Japanese.


* Winitz and Reeds' papers:

Winitz, Harris. 1981. A reconsideration of comprehension and production in language training. The comprehension approach to foreign language instruction, ed. by H. Winitz, 101-40. Rowley: Newburry House Publishers.

Winitz, Harris, and Reeds, James A. 1973. Rapid acquisition of a foreign language (German) by the avoidance of speaking. International Review of Applied Linguistics 11.4.295-317.

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