Here's the thing. My French is not as good as it used to be. Last week, I met the very interesting Zahid Hussain, a local author and entrepreneur. Turns out Zahid speaks not only German, Urdu and English. He also went to school in France and his French is outstanding! Since I hadn't spoken French for over a year, I was excited to practice and started a conversation with him. And within a few minutes, I was pretty embarrassed. Zahid took no nonsense, and I forgot quite a few words. No excuse! Time to get back to studying!
My French Study Buddy: Rosetta Stone Advanced
Even though I had already been playing around with the new Rosetta Stone Advanced system for the Creative Language Learning Podcast, I admit that I hadn't really taken the time to study French with it. I know what it's like with language learning: You have to MAKE time. Knowing that I wanted to really push my French to a higher level, I've now started scheduling regular sessions to work with Rosetta.
Rosetta Stone Tell Me More
The system I work with is called Tell Me More and based on software developed by a company acquired by Rosetta Stone in 2013. Unlike a lot of the traditional models of buying Rosetta Stone as DVDs in box sets, this one gives you straight online access and bases your level on a very thorough 20 minute assessment.
I'm not someone who has spent a lot of time studying languages online and usually prefer live classes for the challenge and community sense of studying in a group with others. Of course I've done a bit of work with Duolingo and Memrise, but neither of them really captured me. Rosetta Stone was different right from the start. The thing I noticed immediately is how much less playful and inviting the user environment looks. The message this system sends is "You're a serious language learner", and we aren't here to mess about.
What's Different about Rosetta Stone Advanced?
The sheer volume and size of the content really stood out. There is so much to be studied and Rosetta Stone Advanced doesn’t look like it will get boring any time soon. After the first assessment, I felt confident very quickly and enjoyed playing around with the system.
There are grammar explanations and backgrounds where needed and the library of reference material in this version of Rosetta Stone is solid. In terms of how you learn, imagine lots of immersive practical exercises from translations to conversations (yes, with a computer...but it works!). The system features culture topics to keep you entertained. Any word can be clicked and looked up. And in all that, Rosetta Stone Advanced still sticks with the classic Rosetta Stone approach of avoiding the use of your native language by breaking the lessons down into manageable steps.
Here's what makes the system great:
- Extremely thorough and comprehensive language content, covering different topics and a large vocabulary
- Reliable starting assessment which leads to good prompts that suit your language level
- Vast range of exercises covering all four core language skills (if you've read my book Fluency Made Achievable you'll know that I think those are the foundation behind fluency in any language)
- Focus on comprehensible input and an immersive environment
There Are Disadvantages to Rosetta Stone Too
Of course, no language learning software can be perfect. Even though this system impressed me a lot more than any other computer-based class I've seen, there are things to be pointed out.
Not every exercise is as easy to complete as I would like it to be, and I admit that some of them drove me straight up the wall. For example, the pronunciation trainer needed me not just to repeat a word, but to repeat it very closely to the demo audio so that I could pass the lesson. The whole way Rosetta Stone's interface is laid out makes you want to complete lessons with a perfect score, so this has the potential to get irritating. The system also sticks with the same type of exercise for a long time, and that resulted in my attention wandering more than it should have. I mean, who wants to pronounce 94 unconnected words in a row?!
The other thing I noticed is that Rosetta Stone Advanced doesn't feel quite ready for 2014. I am a busy person with an iPhone, so I’d like to see a daily checklist, a scheduler or daily timed activities. There is an iPad app that looks sophisticated, but the Tell Me More access doesn't cover it so I cannot talk about it in this review.
In short, a few Rosetta stone disadvantages are:
- The exercises can get pretty boring
- It doesn't feel as technologically advanced as I would like it to be
- It is a computer and lacks what a human language partner can offer you
- The topic selection is very wide, but not current, not regularly updated or necessarily relevant to what YOU are interested in
My Verdict on Rosetta Stone Advanced for French
Overall, here are my final thoughts on the system. Language learning with Rosetta Stone Advanced is not too difficult for me, because I really appreciated the grammar explanations. I am mostly this one for reviewing a language that I have already learnt. As a brand new learner, I would actually really enjoy how much the system lets me try, play with and achieve. I believe it is definitely possible to advance a level with this software.
What stands out the most for me is just how much this is a system for "serious" language learners. It's not cute and engaging like Duolingo, it's not a game. This is a learning environment that's been well thought out and designed to help you spend several hundred hours studying your language. Altogether, I know that Rosetta Stone Advanced is priced at the high end of all language course ranges, and it certainly lived up to its value promise better than I had thought. BUT the speech recognition the system uses still doesn't deliver as much as even 20 minutes of talking to a real person can give you. That's a value for money score of 3/5.
The course quality is solid, and the assessments at the start and throughout are a good motivator. I do want to deduct some points though for the system being less fun than language learning can be, so there's an entertainment score of 2/5.
Finally, there's the most important score of all.
Does this work?
Well. Rosetta Stone Advanced is not the most up-to-date software when it comes to the real life examples, but at least for the French version I used I felt the vocabulary relevant and the grammar backgrounds useful. The biggest problem is really the low entertainment value, because it doesn't make you look forward to coming back to the system many times.
For someone who is committed and proficient at working with a computer, Rosetta Stone will provide great results. I do think this system is going to work in making you more familiar and confident at your language. The drawback is that you won't be applying it in real life, so, final verdict:
I would recommend Rosetta Stone Advanced as a very thorough computer-based language learning system for self-guided study, BUT I’d recommend regular contact with a real tutor too.
What Else Am I Doing to Improve my French?
In addition to switching the language on my iPhone Spider-Man game to French, I have also started reading the headlines at Le Figaro on a daily basis. The website offers a good selection of videos, from cinema reviews to the weather forecast. I do wish that there was a great French podcast to catch up with. I am also a subscriber of the Journal en Français Facile podcast from RFI. Do you have any other tips on how I can bring my French back to life?
Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop. All the links in this article are affiliate links, that means they cost you nothing but support Fluent. They're for the Euro version of Rosetta Stone, but it is available all over the world. You should also know that Rosetta Stone kindly allowed me to use this software for a free trial but had no input over my review.