Rosetta Stone – Rosetta Stone Version 3 Levels 1 & 2 review

language learning software with speech recognition
Photo of Rosetta Stone – Rosetta Stone Version 3 Levels 1 & 2

There are lots of ways of learning a foreign language: you can take individual tuition, join a class, listen to recordings or run a computer application. Rosetta Stone, as you might guess, is the last of these and tries to make full use of the advantages of a PC or Mac to improve the learning experience.

The program uses a technique called Dynamic Immersion, which means there are no English-language translations of any of the words or phrases you learn while using it. It relies heavily on high quality, colour photos of people, things and situations. To maintain a variety, sometimes you have to add a foreign language caption to a picture or select the right picture to match a word or phrase.

Rosetta Stone uses speech recognition to assess your pronunciation, comparing what it hears with its internal recording of the correct speech. While it can pick incorrect pronunciation of a single word out of a sentence, it can also be fooled with quite poor rendition, as long as the core vowel sounds are approximately correct. A headset is bundled in the box.

Most languages are available in three stages, starting with basic words and building up to simple, but useful conversation. Each level is available separately, or you can buy levels one and two together, which is what we are testing here. There are 30 different languages to choose from (though not all are available as Version 3 products, yet), from mainstream European tongues, like French, German and Russian, through to less obvious ones such as Tagalog and Welsh.

The Dynamic Immersion technique, which uses no English, isn’t completely successful, as it’s not always clear from the photographs what every word in a given phrase means. It generally works fine for nouns, but it isn’t as easy to pick up some rules of grammar from this approach. For example, the use of ‘ils’ for ‘they’ in French, even for a mixed group of men and women, with ‘elles’ reserved for all-female groups, isn’t obvious from the way it’s taught here.

Spoken examples are all given by native speakers and words and phrases are repeated after you’ve given your response, as well as said before, for useful reinforcement. Each unit consists of between 30 and 40 screens in a core module, plus subsidiary modules in areas like grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and writing. At the end of each unit, a Milestone scene enables you to try out what you’ve learnt.

Company: Rosetta Stone

Contact: 0800 310 1829

Rosetta Stone 3 is a varied and well-designed method of learning a new language. The carefully shot photographs help bring home distinctions between parts of speech and vocabulary and are, by and large, effective in doing this. A few simple English instructions on what is wanted at each stage of tuition wouldn't go amiss, though.