Thoughts on Rosetta Stone Spanish

by Anna

I'm learning Spanish as part of my 101 in 1001 list ( and in preparation for a stint of volunteering in Central America - and I'm really enjoying it.

It took me some courage to convince myself that language software was really worth USD500, but I got there. And it is. Worth every cent.
My previous experience studying spanish was as a 4th year engineering student with one elective: SPAN1000 - Introduction to Spanish. The class was great. 6-8pm, twice a week for a semester. Our engineering classes usually finished at 3 or 4, so my engineering buddy and I would hit the student bar for a few hours of v cheap cocktails to get us in the mood. Our earnest first-year-arts classmates gave us disapproving looks at the start of every class, but we didn't mind, we were much more fluent than they were. Or happily thought we were, which is just as good, right?
So, how is rosetta different? The booze is easily replicated, though now it's just a civilised glass of shiraz on the sofa. I feel like rosetta is a slightly stricter teacher. Back in SPAN1000, I usually got away with speaking some form of "spanish-sounding French," using 7 years of French study as a comfortable crutch. And it worked (High Distinction, just in case you were wondering....) Now I get a very unhappy gameshow-wrong-answer noise when I'm lazy with pronunciation or grammar. There's also no tuning out while the other 11 students have a go at saying Hola. It's one-on-one, 100% - perfect for a Gen-Y attention-seeker.
Despite the required concentration and strictness, it's fun and satisfying.
I'm up to past and future tenses now, which is opening up a whole new world of possibilities. There's really only so far you can go with: I'm from Australia, I like swimming, I am sleeping, it is morning, it is sunny. It's a strange way of learning. I felt a bit panicky without any verb tables to hang onto, but you really do just sort of figure it all out.
A few other points to note: unlike blogging, this activity is not entirely transferrable to a cafe or plane environment. Four repetitions of "A-par-ta-men-to" will eventually garner some strange looks from fellow diners/travelers. There is an option to turn off the speech-recognition function, but it's only feasible for about an hour before you feel like you should go home and catch up on the speaking parts. Or maybe that's just me - diligent student that I am.
I also think rosetta (I feel that, 60 hours in, we're on first name terms) could profitably market the program as a weight loss aid. I frequently snack while learning, talking, reading, doing most things really, but have given up even trying while using rosetta. The instant you pop that piece of chocolate in your mouth, you're prompted to repeat "The book is under the bed" and it KNOWS if you're eating and will make lots of gameshow-wrong-answer noises until you swallow and speak clearly. Equally, when you reach for a handful of chips, you'll be asked to choose between "The man has 3 red apples" or "The woman has 3 green apples" and scramble to manipulate the macbook touchpad with an elbow or wrist.

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