walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

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.


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.

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