March 4th, 2013

A Bit More About Rosetta Stone Dutch

I've been moving faster through the Units as I go along; I have a spare Milestone that I am saving for tomorrow morning and then two units and I'm done with the three levels. I'm getting through a Unit a day (which makes sense -- it's about 6 hours of material, which is what you'd get if you were taking an intensive, and you can get through it faster than the estimate).

Because my memories of the earlier version of Rosetta Stone are limited, and my recollection of what was actually in Dutch in 3 Months even more so, it's hard to know just how much vocabulary I've picked up. It sure _seems_ like there are words in this thing that I learned while in country -- that is, I didn't know them from the Hugo Course; I'm sure the flip is true as well (that lots of words were covered in Hugo's course that aren't in Rosetta).

I think the best part of this process for me has been re-learning the grammar in a completely different way. I'm familiar with German grammar and Dutch grammar in the way that you learn it in a textbook-driven course where the grammar is explained in the native language and the examples given in the target language. Rosetta Stone, however, buries the grammar in the examples -- there's no discussion of well, exactly _when_ do you use die vs. dat or al vs. gelegd or any of a large number of other things. Some of the forms I got purely by "ear" at first and then worked out the rule from the examples (I _still_ haven't had to break out a grammar to puzzle anything out, which I find astonishing, and grammar has NOT been the problem I have with the newspaper, either, which continues to be a combination of vocabulary and unfamiliarity with governmental institutions). But most of the forms caused the old grammar rule or trick or whatever to surface very quickly.

I have no idea what it would be like to use Rosetta Stone to learn a language that one had no (real) familiarity with. But I'm increasingly curious. Maybe in July, I'll pick a different language and try Rosetta on that.

Rosetta Stone Status Update: Level 3 Unit 3 done only 1 Unit left!

So, the bummer is that Dutch only has three levels. But the good news is, that means I'm done way sooner than if it had five! Feelings of accomplishment are imminent!

The two EuroTalk levels arrived today as did the Prisma self-study book with CDs. That actually looks pretty amazing.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I ordered from eBay UK Hugo Dutch in Three Months with CDs (I don't think they've done Taking Dutch Further with CDs yet or whether they ever intend to do so). That'll give me a chance to compare its content to Rosetta Stone for at least a high-level comparison review. And then of course at some point I'll xfer the tapes from Taking Dutch Further to mp3 and work through that for a while.

I think I have enough to keep me busy for the next few months.

Missing the Point

In Nate's Morning Coffee Links today (, I found this:

And I thought, oooh, that could be interesting. What will this author do with the whole genocide problem.

*crickets chirp and other noises conspicuous only when the Silence is Total and Induces Trepidation*

Nope. Not about the genocide -- it's about Orson Scott Card's position on gay marriage (just to be clear: his position is abhorrent), and how to compensate for that if you decide to go see the movie of _Ender's Game_.

While I would always prefer to direct positive attention to women bloggers and the women who inspired them -- even if fictional -- I just can't. I cannot. If you are writing about _ethics_ and how to deal with an author's position on gay marriage vs. enjoying a


and the genocide part of it, specifically, the framework that attempts to make the child Perfect and Justified in Every Way for Committing Genocide, then I cannot help but feel that two things happened here, both of them bad.

(1) The author writing about ethics has Missed the Point.

(2) The author will find this piece incredibly cringe-worthy at some future point in time.

That's an essay on the topic of Ender, Genocide and Orson Scott Card that you might find helpful in understanding why the teenager in you wants to defend Ender and/or the author, and while your instincts and feelings must be attended to and nurtured for you to grow and develop to be the Best Possible You, nevertheless, those instincts and feelings -- that is, You in your most core Self -- need to change.

Now. Change now. Do not defend people who commit genocide. Do not defend authors who depict a fictional world that justifies genocide. That's a Bad Path. Get off it.

The Economist (a blog there) had a review of Rosetta Stone

Here it is:

It's pretty detailed and generally positive with some specific concerns and enough description to support those concerns.

It's the best review of RS I've seen so far.

Also, The Onion had some fun last year with RS, suggesting Michael Phelps was using it to (re)learn his native language.,28957/

ETA: Looks like Pimsleur only has the first 30 lessons (basic Course 1) for Dutch.

has some reviews. I don't think I'll be buying this, since I already have a CD course that covers more language, and I still don't find reviews of Pimsleur compelling.


Ellen Jovin says:

"Although you can alter the setting of the voice-recognition software to make it fussier or less fussy (something that took me months to realize, by the way),"

and when the Economist blogger says the voice rec doesn't handle tone correctly at all for Mandarin, I would feel much more comfortable if he had acknowledge that there is not just the "fussiness" control but a _separate_ control for tonal/not tonal -- if he didn't find that control and it was switched off, that would explain one of his problems, so I sort of wish he acknowledged it and said that wasn't what was going on.

Ellen Jovin has this to say about Milestones:

"Normally I would get between 95% and 100% in most modules, but then in their writing modules and in review units called Milestones I would get scores like 25%. It was extremely irritating.

"The program simply didn’t prepare you for those modules. The Milestones were poorly constructed. In them you would follow a series of photos illustrating a narrative (one involved people riding a bus, for example) and have to guess at what the people depicted were saying. The voice recognition software would tell you if you succeeded. However, it just wasn’t possible to anticipate and say what would come out of their mouths quickly enough or correctly enough. I can’t anticipate what people are going to say in English, much less Hindi or Japanese!

"I would be very interested to see data on how other users performed on those units. They can’t have done well relative to the other lessons. For me this kind of unnevenness was a massive flaw that really damaged my confidence in the product. It suggested a lack of attention to language-learning efficacy and an inability to respond quickly to and change problem areas in the program, perhaps because it had been set up across a gazillion languages already in precisely that way."

My scores on the writing have been a little lower than on the rest of it (in the 80s rather than the upper 90s on a first try); my scores on the Milestones have dipped into the 70s. At no point have I dropped below 70% on anything (that's not quite true, actually: the Voip device quit working early in one Milestone and I only got to do 3 out of however many, resulting in a score in the 20 percents but that doesn't really count). I agree with Jovin that it's very difficult to figure out what you are supposed to say in the Milestones, much less how, however, you don't actually need to know, if you are able to keep attending it will give you some additional clues without dinging you for the point. Also, unlike Jovin, I attribute my difficulties with this section to my Aspie-nature, and I'm suspicious that's what's going on with her, too:

"I can’t anticipate what people are going to say in English, much less Hindi or Japanese!"

Well, there you go, right? Neurotypical people are better at navigating visual social cues than we are.

A lot of the people who negatively review RS (whether based on detailed experience like Jovin, or encountering other people who tried RS and not being impressed by the results) attack the marketing. I don't really get that, because I haven't seen much of the ads (I don't see very many ads; I've had TiVo for a long time) and honestly, I didn't even know they had kiosks to sell the damn thing in airports until I started looking at reviews of the product.

Sometimes I can just be so oblivious.