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Language Software Company Is 'Bright Spot' in Bad Economy

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Take note that Rosetta Stone, a language-software company, has done well in its launch as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange. A Washington Post article published this month says the "company appears to be a bright spot in the economic drudgery." (Hat tip to Colorin colorado.)

The success of the company, which sells software to the U.S. Army and State Department's Foreign Service Institute, as well as schools, indicates that many people in this country desire to learn a foreign language (of course, we really don't know how much they are actually using the software they are purchasing). But at the same time, the Center for Applied Linguistics has documented that the proportion of elementary schools in this country providing foreign-language classes declined over the past decade, which I reported on this year in Education Week.

Could it be that Americans are turning to tools like Rosetta Stone software as adults to learn a foreign language and compensate for something that was missing from their K-12 school curricula?

I've personally used the software for improving my Spanish, and I've found it helpful, but my experiences of being immersed in Spanish during summer study stints in Latin American countries were much more valuable. I also find that my English-Spanish conversation exchanges with Spanish-speakers here in the Washington area have been a better teaching tool than any software.

The software is used as supplementary material in a lot of schools for teaching foreign languages and English as a second language. The lessons use photos to illustrate words and ideas in the target language and don't provide translation into English. Thus, they're based on the concept of immersion.

3 Comments

I think the interest in Rosetta Stone is great although I think that their methodology is rather old fashioned and not particularly effective.

Language is communication and interaction. Using language software isn't helpful in much but slightly improving a language you already know or providing the most basic of phrases.

Absolutely, language is communication. Any language study should be focused entirely on getting you to the point where you communicate in daily conversational use, and achieving fluency through this usage. Not vice versa. I've used RS and it works but ONLY if you rely on it to give you the tools for conversation, not for it to do it all for you. Rote instruction and memorization (sans immersion) is well known to make it difficult to achieve that necessary level of interactivity w/o first studying for 2-3 years.

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