Thoughts on Rosetta Stone

I’m now about a week into Rosetta Stone’s Latin. It’s been a largely positive experience. Rosetta Stone is truly a remarkable program. The software is completely “Latin driven,” in that none of the instruction is in English. The only English you see is the “click here to continue” or similar items from the interface. The program has you do quite a bit of reading, listening, and speaking. There’s not been much writing so far, though I’m expecting that to increase as I get farther. The speaking uses a microphone to capture your voice and then tests it against their samples. Occasionally this is frustrating, but most of the time it works well.

After a week in, I’ve completed the first two units of level one. The breakdown is something like this: Each level has four units. Each unit consists of four “core lessons.” These core lessons have grammar and vocabulary components (though it’s all taught inductively through pictures). In addition to the core lessons, there are supplements to each which focus specifically on areas like pronunciation, reading, or writing. The program has time estimates for each exercise. The “core lessons” are estimated at 30 mins, and the supplements range from 5-10 mins in estimated length. I often complete the core lessons in less than 30 minutes (I make a point to move quickly), though the estimates have been more accurate for the supplements. Each unit concludes with a mock conversation of some sort where much of the dialogue you’re supposed to generate yourself from context. These are actually quite challenging, though I haven’t had to repeat one yet (I’ve only done two).

Note that the program chooses the supplements based on the focus you choose at the beginning of the level. I chose to do the “standard” focus, which is a good mix. However, I kinda wish I had done the “reading and writing” focus since many of the exercises seemed superfluous. Thankfully, the program allows you to deviate from the plan and skip exercises if you so choose (as well as do exercises the “focus” would otherwise have you skip).

I’ve been pleased with my progress so far. I’m starting to get a feel for basic Latin sentence structure, and my vocabulary is growing. But so far, the vocabulary has been my single biggest complaint. Rosetta stone is targeted primarily at people who want to be able to communicate in the language. This is terrifically sensible for languages like Spanish, French, and Russian. It’s even useful to an extent for languages like Latin, in that you engage the language like you would any other. Latin is something that real people spoke, wrote, sang, and prayed. However, I don’t care about most of the vocabulary I’ve learned so far. Knowing that coffee is ‘potium arabica’ isn’t going to help me work through Cicero or Tertullian! I can’t fathom how knowing words like ‘telehorasis’ (TV) and ‘radiophonia’ (radio) will ever aid my study of ancient texts! At points, they do try to take a word and relate it back to it’s ancient context (through handdrawn pictures of Romans, or by people dressed up in togas!), but this is not terribly frequent.

For this reason, I’m glad that I’m combining Rosetta Stone with a more traditional textbook (Wheelock’s Latin). Here, I get to flex my analytical and textual muscles more. I get to see the standard metavocabulary (genitive, ablative, etc.), and learn more useful vocabulary. Working through both a textbook and Rosetta Stone has worked well so far, though I am anxious to see how it goes in the future. I hope that I’ll soon be able to make sense of some actual Latin text, though I suppose we’ll see.

Deo gloria!

~alex

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Rosetta Stone

  1. I noticed Rosetta Stone has added Latin in the last year and I’m fascinated. I’m glad to hear of someone who has tried it.
    I’m wondering if it would be helpful to either learn or at least review Latin itself when learning a Latin-based language.
    I got Rosetta Stone through a college (it’s at http://www.cbcwebcollege.com in California) and have access to all the languages at once (not a bad deal for $48) so it would be easy to experiment. The only problem is I already started Spanish and am up to Level 2 so it wouldn’t be a fair test.
    Thanks for a great review and for getting me excited about learning a “dead” language.

  2. That’s an awesome deal! I’m not really far enough in to guess how Latin would be useful. I know a good deal of French, and a smattering of Spanish, but neither has been terribly helpful in terms of grammar. Vocabulary is a different story though ;-). Between French, Spanish, and English, the vocabulary is not too bad.

    I’ve heard lots of people say that Latin grammar is useful to know when looking at other languages, but I haven’t learned enough to say yet. I’ve noticed some helpful comparisons with ancient Greek, but too much yet with French.

  3. Thanks for the insight into the Rosetta stone Latin course. It’s always been too expensive for me to consider, and I’ve seen far too much poor quality Latin computer stuff already.

    ‘potium arabica’ is not what I know as standard for coffee in neo-latin, though it is immediately intelligible. sometimes you’ll see ‘caffeum’, of obvious derivation.

    And sorry it took so long to get over to your blog. Some fine stuff here and I’ll be sure to read along.

    1. Thanks for the feedback on the Latin. I am rather curious as to where they get all of the modern words.

      Any suggestions (or corrections) for Greek are welcome of course. I’m still at “see spot run” stylistically, so there are bound to be lot of errors. I’ve enjoyed your Latin blog posts. I’m able to follow generally what’s going on, which is encouraging for a newbie like myself.

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