Why I am no longer considering buying this.

by J
(New York City)

I was initially dazzled by the endless commercials, the testimonials and the pretty packages. I read and reread their website, but the more I research this method outside the realm of RS's advertising, the less I want to buy this. I am currently learning Farsi the "hard way"--through memorization and audio, and I think it will be more rewarding in the long term.


Generally, if you shell out hundreds of bucks for a software, you expect it to be excellent. Five stars AT LEAST. I don't want a foundation for $500, I want the whole damn house, brick by brick. But here is a detailed list of reasons why I am not going to spend that money on RS, and why you probably shouldn't either:

1- The initial claim of learning like a child is bogus in itself. When you watch baby relatives grow up and learn English, they start with simple words that they learn the meaning of through repetition. Adults hold up objects and say "Booook. Book. Book." My adorable baby cousin says this all the time, pronouncing the "k" more like a G. Eventually she will pronounce it correctly and start using sentences like "I want a book." This won't be a feasible method 20 years later, when she's fluent in English, because a) she already has a native language that she associates with the world around her and b) she is no longer a child. When you use RS, do you really look at the picture and think "picture-->chica", the way you would as a child? No, you probably think "picture-->girl-->chica". Thinking in a language requires immersion into a community that speaks a language and immersion into the culture. If you really want to immerse yourself, close your laptop, go to Spain, take a class and start talking to real people. It's the only way to learn from your mistakes.

2- If we accept that language is an essential part of any culture, then we must conclude that in order to succeed in learning a language, one must learn the culture too. There are 4 image sets that RS uses. The images were mostly taken in the DC area and so are completely divorced from the complexities of the cultures these languages are spoken in. You can't explain a culture with a few photos, of course, but a Russian learner should at least get actual photos of Russia. Wouldn't a Farsi learner want to know the words for tea, carpet, wall and garden? After learning the most basic words and greetings that are common in all languages, the next words learned should reflect the important parts of the culture.

3- The way it works is limited already by definition. No aids in English if you get lost, you only need to know one word in the sentence sometimes to guess right, and what you think is "The car hit the deer" could just as easily be "The deer was hit by the car". Think about the investment you make by buying this software. You do not want flaws like this when you're spending enough money to buy 30 books(why not buy a grammar or phrasebook instead?). At some point you need some knowledge of the grammar to really understand it. Americans generally know little about English grammar, but that's because when you learn a first language you just absorb the grammar rules through repetition, which doesn't work when you're older. Furthermore, many languages have nuanced distinctions in terms of formality, spoken conversation, and writing. In Farsi, one can say "Bad badak ra havaa kardan"--"I flew the kite" in spoken conversation, but not written. Written, it would be "Bad badak ra parvaaz dadam". This sort of nuance in language usage can't be taught by a computer.

4- A prerequisite for learning a language is to have something important to say and the motivation to say it. It's a lifelong commitment and you need to be willing to work for it, and yes, sometimes invest a little money in it. There's no easy way out and if you're really committed, you'll put in the real hard work necessary to get there. You need to talk to native speakers, you have to research their culture and history, you have to memorize conjugations and spend hours making flashcards. Rosetta Stone's products are certainly making millions for some smart execs who took advantage of our desire to have it easy. Forget years of study and hard work. Just sit on your butt at the computer and have it all given to you! Don't say "It's not perfect"...at the price they sell it for, they should spend the money necessary to take photographs in each country, put in some English hints when starting sentences and conversations, provide some background on the cultures, and explain some of the trickier aspects of grammar and usage.

I'm sure it will continue to sell well.

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