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Rosetta Stone French Levels 1 & 2 Homeschool Edition Review by Donna Campos

Fairfield Language Technologies
135 West Market Street
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801
540-432-6166 or 800-788-0822

The Homeschool Edition of Rosetta Stone French Levels 1 and 2 is a combination set; the levels are also available separately. The set includes an Application CD-ROM, two Language CD-ROMs (one for each level), the Student Management System CD-ROM, a Homeschool Edition Installation Guide, the User's Guide, the Handbook for Teachers, the Curriculum Text, a Study Guide for Level 1, and a Workbook and Workbook Answer Key for each level. Only the four CD-ROMs are listed as the actual "Components of the Rosetta Stone Program"; the additional items are listed as Supplementary Materials. The workbooks contain matching exercises, crossword puzzles, and word finds that reinforce the material taught in the computer program. No written quizzes or tests are included, as the program itself has periodic testing and requires the student to reach specific scores before progressing to another level. You do not have to be online to use the program; it runs from your computer alone. To utilize the voice recognition portion of the course, you will need a computer with a microphone. The Handbook for Teachers lists optional Cultural Activities that will require additional materials if you choose to use them.

The course offers two scheduling options: Comprehensive or Accelerated. The Comprehensive option spreads the teaching of one level over two years--approximately 72 weeks total--which means it would take four years to complete Levels One and Two. The Accelerated option allows one year for each level. The stated objectives of the program are to enable the student to write in French, comprehend French, respond to oral/visual/written French stimuli, express him/herself orally in French, and demonstrate the skills necessary to continue study of French by the end of the program.

The Handbook for Teachers offers a basic overview of how the program works. The User's Guide contains more detailed explanations as well as screen shots to show the user how the lessons look throughout the process. The lessons incorporate pictures, text, and sound; and the user can choose to have the exercises presented in one of the following five formats: Listening and Reading simultaneously, Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing. There are two modes the student can work in: "Preview" is meant for practice and study (no score is kept), while the "Exercise" mode keeps a record of scores.

First, the user should install the Student Management System (SMS) CD-ROM, which tracks the progress of students. (The Installation Guide includes step-by-step instructions and screenshots so that you are able to follow along easily.) Each student is entered into the system by name, a unique username, and a password if you prefer to use one. Next, the Application CD-ROM is installed.

To begin working on the actual lessons, insert the Level One Language CD-ROM and type in the student's username and password (if you chose to use that option). The course jumps right into the exercises immediately. Rosetta Stone is based on total immersion, which means that everything is in French. There are no English explanations as you progress through the program. The initial exercise verbalizes an item while showing a picture and moves through four pictures, called a "quad." It then cycles through the same four items again while you choose the correct corresponding pictured item. Throughout the program, the system adjusts coursework according to your correct or incorrect answers, introducing new words and phrases as your knowledge increases. This course is ideal for the high school level and may even be appropriate for middle school students who have demonstrated discipline and a personal work ethic for independent study. The program is certainly well suited for independent learners.

Upon sitting down for my first attempt at "being the student" for this review, I was a bit overwhelmed. The complete immersion into French gets your attention and requires you to stay alert. After fifteen minutes, I took a break and told my husband that I was not sure this program would ever work for me. But after progressing a little further, I was able to tell him more than a dozen words I had already learned. I had to admit that it was indeed working for me, and very quickly! My fifteen-year-old daughter had similar success, and she began the program without previewing the User's Guide or any additional materials. Absolutely amazing!

The course allows for multiple methods of learning by offering the Preview mode, Guided Exercises, Regular Exercises, and Tests. Rosetta Stone uses native speakers with authentic texts and thousands of images that are true to life. The combination makes the new language comprehensible. The voice recognition portion of the program is fascinating to use as the student can compare his or her own voiceprint to that of a native speaker.

The parent can review class reports using the SMS, and the program allows you to limit the report by date range and/or lesson range as well as by any particular student or group of students. It even records the total amount of time each student spends on the lessons as well as the current lesson being worked on. The program can keep track of several students at the same time, even if they are using different scheduling options (Comprehensive or Advanced); and the parent/teacher can review all of the records at the same time. This is an ideal feature for families with children of different ages and/or abilities. Reports can easily be printed as well.

We did encounter a couple of frustrations. You have to insert the Language CD each time you use the program, which increases the potential of damage to the CDs through regular use. Also, if a student wants to access additional practice or review without recording scores, he or she has to log out and then log back in as a "Guest," which is a bit of a nuisance. And the tracking feature is tied to the students' usernames, so time spent logged in as a "Guest" is not included in the total time spent by each student. Nor does that total include time spent using the Workbook or completing the optional Cultural Activities. However, the use of a logbook would enable you to keep track of all those things.

Rosetta Stone French Levels 1 and 2 are a thrilling addition to our homeschool curriculum. Since reviewing this course, I have decided to learn French along with my daughter; this program is so easy to use and the learning comes much more easily than I ever expected. We knew that Rosetta Stone had a reputation for quality foreign language programs, and we now understand why. It is a homeschool-friendly immersion experience that works for a variety of ages and skill levels, with students working at their own pace toward the same ultimate goal: the understanding of a new language!

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2007