WIPW (make that Thursday): Rosetta Stone Italiano Level 1

I really meant to post this yesterday but wow Wednesday really ran away from me. I don’t even know what happened. lol. I went to a networking cocktail party last night and only meant to spend an hour or so. I was there until 10 pm! Hey, it was a good time! I’d just be working anyway. 🙂

Before I even start the Rosetta Stone review, I’d just thought I’d tell you a bit about my learning language background. When I really started to think about it, it seemed relevent to how I’d receive Rosetta Stone. I started learning French in school at the age of 8 and I continued to take French class up to and including first year of university. It was elective from Grade 9 up. I always did really well in it. Well, at least in tests, I never really felt confident speaking the language. 

With 10+ years of classroom teaching, a besherelle and living in the one of the largest French communities in Canada outside of Quebec, you’d think I’d be completely fluent. But I’m really not at all. Not only is that disappointing, it’s frustrating. All those years and for what? Granted, I can read French very well and when I was in France I was able to buy train tickets and get around town but I expect more. Now, I know this all comes down to confidence. I should just speak French when I go to Le Croissant or my local bibliothèque but I just get freaked out. You know what I do? I think about what I want to say. Then I translate it in my head from English to French. Then I worry about what verb tense to use, if the ending’s ok, if it should be tu or vous and if there’s a masculine / feminine issue. If I go through all that for one sentence how can I ever expect to carry on a conversation? It’s exhausting!

So now that you know where I’m coming from, it’s time for the review:

Every since the first time I saw a Rosetta Stone commercial, I wanted it. It’s just so convincing.

But yikes it was so expensive! However, I tried the online demo and was convinced this would be right for me. I was probably on their mailing list for over a year before I saw the offer to get the full Totale package at about half price. I guess I was feeling wealthy at that moment because I bought the Italiano package immediately. And then I completely panicked. What if it doesn’t work? How could I spend this much money? Oh my God what am I doing?

Here’s what I got:

Rosetta Stone Italiano Totale : Levels 1-5
Headset
Audio companion disc for MP3  players

Here’s what I like about it:

1. You don’t translate anything.
Of course, you do some mental translating when put a picture and word together but there’s no English to be seen. From the moment you log on you’re completely immersed in your new language. You’re not worrying about masculine & feminine. My Quebecois friends tell me that English speakers always complain about masculine vs feminine words. I think it’s really funny that we get hung up on it but I know I can’t wrap my head around why a word becomes one or the other. In Italian, there’s the masculine vs feminine issue too but it’s not discussed or explained. I don’t have to debate it because I’m learning that it’s onlyl one way and that’s just the way it is.

2. You learn in every way.
The way it works is that each Unit has one core lesson and then smaller detailed lessons. One lesson is on pronounciation, one on grammar and one is writing, etc and so on. It really helps you remember. You not just repeating a word you hear, you also read it, say it and write it.

3. It really makes you think.
I found that particularly in the later units of this level that it’s a lot like problem solving. You have to figure out what’s going on because no one is going to tell you. You might get it wrong but so what? You’ll get the right answer and find out where you went wrong.

4. It’s funny.
Some of the photos are just so ridiculous that I actually laugh outloud.

5. The online segment is INCREDIBLE!

This is by far my favourite part of buying Rosetta Stone. With the program, you get access to an online community where you can play games with yourself, with another person or in a group. Each game challenges a different part of learning. For example, in one game you click on all the words you hear in a story that’s being narrated like a bingo. In another, you have to dig for treasure. You only get to see if there’s treasure under the section you’ve clicked on if you conjugate the sentence (described by pics) properly. In fact, for about two weeks, I just stopped with the regular lessons and just played the games. I found that they challenged me more and I didn’t want to just keep moving forward in the lessons if Iwasn’t really comfortable in the subject. Playing against other people is really helpful as well. I was shocked the first time I heard someone talk because I wasn’t expecting that but it really is helpful. After all, in the real world I’m not going to be talking to a computer in Italian. I also appreciated that they organzied an Italian Game Night. They sent an email suggesting a certain date and time for all Italiano users to be online so we could play games together. Sometimes, you might be online by yourself and not get the chance. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that one but I loved that they thought of it.

The other really great part about the online portion is that at the end of every unit, you can schedule a studio session with other people who are learning the same language and an online native speaking tutor. This video describes it.

I was incredibly nervous about my first studio session. I was actually going to speak Italian in public?! But once we got started my nerves melted away. I was just so impressed that I could understand what she was saying in real time.

What I think could be improved:

1. The online portion expires.
This sucks. I only received 3 months of online access so now I have to pay a monthly fee if I want to join back in. I know some people got 6 months but still it would be nice if that was included for up to a year particularly since I bought the complete set which includes 5 levels. At this point, I’m just going to leave the online portion for awhile and wait until I complete Level 2. Then I might get it for a month, catch up and see how it goes. They even took away the app you could get for your iphone! The app wasn’t the greatest to begin with but now I can’t even use it.

2. A reference guide would be nice
I don’t expect a full on dictionary or grammar guide but a little book of common phrases so you can practice away from the computer would be nice. The kit does come with an MP3 disc as well so you can download lessons to your ipod but you can’t beat a book!

Final thoughts:

That’s really it. For me, this is a great program and I’m getting a lot out of it. Of course, I won’t know how much I really get out of it until I’m in Italy or the next time I watch I am Love. Another great thing about Rosetta Stone that I love is that it has a lot of diversity. Honestly, all ethnicities and ages are included. They also have multiracial families which is really nice to see.  I also feel that I get a lot of bang for my buck but for the $500 I paid for it (still pains me to say it). According to their website each level will take 50-60 hours to complete plus the extra time you spend online. So that’s 300 hours of learning in my kit. It’ll cost me $1.67 per hour I spend using it. To me, that’s well worth it. Plus after shelling out that kind of money I’m definitely going to finish it.

I don’t expect that I’ll be fluent by the end of this. However, I feel like if I went to Italy today I would have the basics down. By the end of Level 5, I hope that I will have a really strong base so that I can explore other ways to become fluent which is my ultimate goal. Perhaps I’ll follow this guy’s lead.

Have you ever became fluent in a second language? What worked for you? What are your thoughts on Rosetta Stone? Share your tips I need all the help I can get!

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