Rosetta Stone Greek
March 10, 2013
Series Rosetta Stone
Publisher Rosetta Stone
Price $399 for all three levels; $179 for Level 1
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
Rosetta Stone Greek offers a colorful computer-based multimedia experience—images, text, listening, reading, speaking, etc. It is very pretty, and yet by the end of my Rosetta Stone experiences, I found myself disenchanted.
The company has an immersion philosophy of language-learning, meaning there is not a single word of instruction or explanation in English. Although I was usually okay without the English, I personally don’t believe in immersion for adult teach-yourself language-learning materials. It’s one thing if you are living in a country where everyone speaks the language, and another entirely if you are trying to learn something on your own in an English-speaking environment with no teacher standing in front of you to answer questions.
The total lack of English slowed my progress through Rosetta Stone Greek. Grammar explanations and instructions in English are helpful and can in fact be extremely efficient.
At times I was also just a bit confused about what I was supposed to do. For example, sometimes you are expected to match text/speech with images, and in a couple of places I got stuck trying to figure out what exactly I had to click, and in what order, to get the matching up accomplished.
One thing I like about Rosetta Stone Greek is that it gives you a lot of basic vocabulary right from the start. Colors, for example. There are some very fundamental things that, even by the sixtieth of 60 Pimsleur Greek lessons, I hadn’t learned.
Another thing I like about Rosetta Stone generally is that for languages with different writing systems, such as Greek, it is really nice to have a way to reinforce unfamiliar letters or symbols. Teaching myself alphabets entirely on my own can be a real challenge. I wouldn’t want to skip the work I do myself—e.g., copying letters over just as I did with English back in first grade—but Rosetta Stone Greek gave me a lot of practice in recognizing letters, words, and sentences.
Recognizing, yes. Writing, no. Rosetta Stone Greek does a wholly inadequate job of preparing you for their writing lessons. I consistently scored well on almost all lessons except for the writing ones.
To give you a sense of how a writing lesson works: a sample task could be to look at a photograph, listen to an accompanying audio clip, and then write down whatever sentence you hear, using a Greek keyboard Rosetta Stone gives you on your screen. You can replay the audio if you want, many times.
Having done a great deal of extra writing practice outside of Rosetta Stone, I knew a lot more about Greek writing than the application had taught me—and yet I still did terribly. In Rosetta Stone mostly you are just looking passively at words and sentences, without the time or practice needed to absorb them. And definitely without the time or practice needed to re-create them on your own. Recognizing a word is very different from writing it, especially when a language has multiple ways of rendering the same sound, as Greek does.
I mean, in one exercise, with totally insufficient preparation, I was being asked to come up with sentences such as:
- Οι άνθρωποι από την Ελλάδα μιλάνε ελληνικά. (People from Greece speak Greek.)
- Οι άνθρωποι από την Αίγυπτο μιλάνε αραβικά. (People from Egypt speak Arabic.)
Pretty fancy-looking, right? I was kind of proud of myself for being able to do as well with this as I did, and yet my score was abysmal. Deflating!
Now, on the speaking front: part of the Rosetta Stone Greek program involves your saying things, and then the program tells you if you’ve pronounced them right. Here one confronts the limits of speech-recognition technology. I was often told I had pronounced things correctly when I could see two seconds later, as the program repeated the phrase, that I had gotten consonants totally wrong or added syllables.
Speech recognition is a nice idea, but it was not where it needed to be in order to work for this language-learning application.
Pricing and product options for Rosetta Stone Greek are confusing. After extensive discussion with customer service in early 2013, I determined that besides the CD-ROM option, for which I give pricing here and which gives you lifetime access to the Rosetta Stone Greek content (is anything really lifetime?) plus three months of access to a finite number of online classes, you can go with a different and less expensive subscription option.
The subscription is based on time and gives you access to all their Rosetta Stone Greek TOTALe content, which means not only the content on the CD-ROMs, but also the online stuff such as classes and games (which some people may enjoy, but I don’t care about). Subscriptions range from $129 for three months to $299 for a year.
Here’s the thing: when your subscription ends, your access goes kabloo-ey. I mean, you got nothing. No reference materials, nothing to look at, zip—until you renew your subscription.
That’s weird. I don’t consider that a reasonable option.
But beyond that, the lack of control in this sprawling electronic system is for me just plain unnerving. Rosetta Stone Greek takes over your learning for you, sending you where it thinks you need to go next. I didn’t always agree with its decisions on my behalf, and couldn’t figure out how to override them, and I spent a lot of time confused about where I was, the structure of the learning arc from section to section (some of which seem very similar), why I was repeating sections, and so on. I also strongly dislike being tied to a computer, but I am an incredibly visual learner, so I did appreciate the combination of oral and visual instructional experiences.
Rather than allow someone else to determine a multimedia experience for me, I prefer to create my own using different language sources and authorities—Pimsleur audio lessons, grammar books, flashcards, television, and conversations with people who speak the language I am trying to learn. That way it matches my needs more closely.
I didn’t find that Rosetta Stone Greek translated into real-life speaking skills or a good grammar sense. But test-drive a free sample off their website and form your own opinion.
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