A New Way To Learn a Language

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Rosetta Stone, the language-learning company that had a very successful IPO earlier this year, announced a major expansion of its service today. In addition to its online and CD-ROM based tools, the Inc. 5000 company is launching two new features: online coaching with a trained Rosetta Stone coach, and person-to-person conversational activities with other learners.

The CD-ROM and online tools will still be available for $549 and up, but you can get the entire package for an introductory price of $999 (eventually, it will cost $1,200, according to CEO Tom Adams). That price covers 12 months of unlimited use of Rosetta Stone's tools for one language. (Here's a list of the languages available; the new services will be available for 24 of the 31 tongues.)

Rosetta Stone takes an innovative approach to language instruction: it offers no translation and teaches no grammar. Instead, it attempts to mimic the experience of being immersed in a foreign country. It uses images and games: you might, for example, be presented with four photos: a white dog, a black dog, a white cat, and a black cat. The first three images will be described in words ("Il Cane e Nero"), and you'll have to fill in or speak the sentence that describes the fourth. The company uses its own speech recognition technology.

The new service, Totale, comes with more complicated, competitive games. In one game, two students are presented with slightly different photos; they must find the difference by asking questions ("Is there a plate on the table?"). The coaches, meanwhile, play their own games with students, and are explicitly forbidden to give translations. Currently, the company employes 60 coaches, and coaching is only available at certain times of day.

Have you used Rosetta Stone, or another language-learning tool? What did you think? I'll be testing out the Hebrew tool, because I'm curious how Rosetta Stone manages to teach a language with an unfamiliar alphabet. I'll let you know how it goes.

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Last updated: Jul 28, 2009




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