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Rosetta Stone Spanish (Homeschool Kit, Levels 1 and 2) Review by Kris Price135 W. Market St.
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
I knew that learning a foreign language in our homeschool was going to be different from my experience. I learned French in a public school classroom for three years plus a fourth year in college. When I began to ponder how I was going to teach my children a foreign language, the mere thought of it made me cringe because I wanted my children to learn Spanish, a language I have never learned. I only know a handful of Spanish words, so I wondered how I could effectively teach this foreign language. My seventh-grade daughter wanted to get a jumpstart on learning Spanish, so I started looking at programs. When offered the chance to review this program, I jumped at it so that I could see for myself if the hype behind Rosetta Stone is valid. The TV commercials for Rosetta Stone state that "it is used successfully by the U.S. Special Operations Forces, West Point, NASA, and the U.S. State Department, as well as millions of people in 150 countries." That's a pretty strong endorsement!
I was first interested in the Rosetta Stone program because I believe in the immersion approach of learning. This statement on their website gives the philosophy behind the program:
Dynamic Immersion- is a continuous process. The Rosetta Stone curriculum is carefully sequenced, gradually incorporating new words, phrases, and more complex grammar as it reinforces existing learning. Your understanding of your new language grows naturally.
Once the program was installed on my daughter's computer, she took over her own study of Spanish with little guidance from me. I sat in and observed various lessons so that I could understand how the program works. According to the website,
Rosetta Stone presents a carefully chosen selection of four images and asks you to select the image that matches the written text and the voices of native speakers. Building on the knowledge you've already gained and your intuitive grasp of the meaning of each picture, you make a choice. There's absolutely no translation or memorization to hold you back, so you start making progress immediately.
My daughter had confidence from the very beginning because she quickly knew the meanings of new words based on the context of the other words in the sentence as well as the pictures presented on the screen.
The Homeschool Kit contains both Levels 1 and 2. It can be run on Windows XP/2000/2003 and Mac OS X 10.2 or later, and it comes in 30 languages. My daughter installed the program herself, so setup is easy! Included in the kit are a User's Guide, four CDs (two for the program and two supplemental), and Study Guides, Curriculum Texts, and Workbooks for both levels. Although one could learn some Spanish using the CD only, the program will be most effective if the student follows along in the Study Guide as he goes through the exercises on the CD. The Study Guides reinforce English grammar while explaining the Spanish counterparts. The Workbooks also reinforce what is being learned on the CD.
New vocabulary words are listed at the top of each Study Guide chapter. Exercises within the lessons include matching English to the Spanish translation and also writing in Spanish. Even the directions for the exercises are in Spanish--talk about total immersion! Review exercises in the Workbooks include crosswords, search-a-words, and answering or translating sentences. Level 1 contains 92 lessons and over 300 hours of instruction, while Level 2 contains 118 lessons and over 400 hours of instruction. After looking at the lessons, I believe that each level is probably equal to two years of study, so this kit would provide up to four years of foreign language credit. However, because each family is different, there is no timetable for completion of each level. Students should proceed at their own pace to ensure success with learning the language.
The CD program is excellent; it has a wide variety of exercises for all types of learners. My seventh grader is hearing impaired (she wears hearing aids), and she gives Rosetta Stone a "thumbs-up," saying that the pronunciations of the native speaker are clear. She also likes the fact that she can repeat pronunciations over and over again until she feels that she is hearing it correctly. The program allows students to read along with the speaker or to turn off the captions to test their knowledge. One unique feature is the final exercise, which records what the student is saying (must have a microphone handy) and then allows him to compare his pronunciation with that of the native speaker. After the student feels he has gone through enough exercises on the CD and in the Workbook, he can then proceed with the test on the CD. A score is given for this test, and all test scores are saved so that the parent can view the student's progress.
I have one comment about the exercise in which the student reads the caption and tries to match it to one of the four pictures on the screen. I sat down and chose Lesson 8 of Level 1 (the last lesson on the first CD). Although I did not choose all of the correct answers, even my minimal knowledge of Spanish enabled me to choose many correct responses. If the speaker mentioned a color or the number or gender of people in the pictures, it was fairly easy for me to choose the correct answer without ever having gone through any of the previous lessons. I'm not sure this is a problem exactly, but I would caution parents to be sure that their child is actually completing all of the exercises.
I will definitely use Rosetta Stone Spanish with both of my children during middle and early high school. I believe this program will give them a good foundation before they take Spanish classes at the local community college as part of a special program in which our children will participate. I do have a few concerns about whether they will retain what they are learning as they won't be conversing with other students in a classroom setting, but this may be my own bias since I attended public school and had no other choice for learning a language. I would have to use Rosetta Stone much longer to be able to assess my daughter's retention of the language, but my daughter is very happy with it and completes her weekly work on her own without my having to remind her. I believe that says a lot about the effectiveness of Rosetta Stone!