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How to almost learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone Totale

Updated on December 3, 2011
Pcunix profile image

I was born in 1948 and spent most of my career as a self employed computer trouble shooter for Unix systems.

I have always regretted not taking Spanish or French in High School.  

I had a little French in 5th grade, but remember none of it.  I took Latin in 7th and went on with four more years of that.  I do not regret that at all - I think knowing Latin has been very helpful, but I still wish I had taken French or Spanish also.

Our daughters took multiple languages - French, Spanish, Russian and German.  One of them even majored in Spanish.  Their textbooks used to litter the house and I would pick them up now and then, but I couldn't summon the energy to get into it.  Too hard, I'm too old, it would be too much work.

But still it nagged at me.


I've been seeing Rosetta Stone ads on TV and all over the Internet. I suppose that our current recession might mean good times for Rosetta Stone : people competing for a dwindling supply of good jobs need every extra dooby point they can find, and having some foreign language skills in today's business world is definitely an asset. Maybe that's why Rosetta Stone has stepped up their advertising?

Or maybe there are other reasons. Whatever it is, they have been hard to ignore recently.

As I'm sure many others have done, I visited their website. Uggh. This stuff is not cheap. I would say it is overpriced, but that might not be fair - how much would it cost to take courses? Probably more, and this has the advantage of being self paced.

But still - Rosetta Stone costs more than most of us are ready to spend on a whim. I think that's too bad, because I believe that multi-culturalism is important and language is an important part of that. I don't mean being fluent, but I think we all should be able to read, speak and understand at least a little bit more than the language we grew up with. Lowering the price would let more people do that.

On the other hand, the quality is high. I got Latin American Spanish, Levels 1-3 and was impressed when I opened the box.

I am lying

Wait, that's not quite true. Actually I was mildly annoyed by how difficult the box was to open. I guess Rosetta Stone has had some problems with inventory shrinkage from surreptitious shoplifting and have hardened their packaging to combat that. A razor knife and a bit of tearing, accompanied with some possibly unneeded swearing were enough to get the box open, but it was difficult enough to tick me off some.

It is high quality

Once I had it open, I was happier. The included USB headset and microphone is obviously good quality and my Mac recognized it immediately. The pile of media was impressive and the installation was simple - it was time consuming (though not needing interaction after the first few prompts) and it takes up a fair parcel of disk space, but it all went smoothly.

And then I began my Spanish lessons.

I'm lying again

Actually, I hesitated. The uncertainty came up again. Really, aren't I just a little bit too old to be doing this? Thoughts of brain plasticity ran through my head. Or were those thoughts really running? Were not they getting mired down in mud, shunted off by broken synapses, blocked by rigidity and thwarted by resistance? How can I really expect to learn Spanish this late in life?

Didn't I read the reviews at Amazon? So many are so negative and cutting:

"There is absolutely no way you can learn a foreign language by solely using this software"

"DO NOT rely on this product exclusively to learn a language."

"completely useless!"

Oh my. Have I made a terrible mistake? Sure, there were some positive reviews too, but..

Aww, the heck with it. Let's see what happens. So I fired it up and registered and activated and a few seconds later someone said "Hola".

By the way, if you have not looked at the interactive demo Rosetta Stone has on their website, you really should do that. It shows you exactly what you'll experience using this software.

The idea here is immersion. There is no English. It showed me pictures, written text and I heard someone speaking. Sometimes I had to click on a matching picture, sometimes I had to speak back (and my pronunciation needs work!), sometimes I had to select the right word from a list. I spent a very enjoyable hour getting part way through the first lesson.

I'll just talk louder

Do I really expect to learn Spanish with this? No. I expect to learn some Spanish. I expect to learn enough that I have a chance of understanding at least part of what I might hear or read. I expect that I might be able to get a basic idea across to someone who speaks Spanish well and is as fumbling with English as I expect to be with Spanish.

I expect that by waving my hands wildly and pointing and grimacing and with a lot of body language I might be able to get pretty far even if they speak no English. That's all I expect from this.

But that's a lot, really. It could be enough to avoid a misunderstanding. It could be enough to help someone in need. Enough to stop the lawn crew from mowing my lawn when I don't want it done this week. It could be enough for a lot of situations.

I'm sure my daughters could help me progress if I find that I want to. They still have many of their books and they love correcting Dad anyway. If I want to learn more, I can.

But this will get me started and I don't think anything else could have. This is fun and easy and non-threatening and it sticks. I actually know a little Spanish now. Not much, but if you say something about a woman eating or a man drinking, I might know it. I could warn you that a child is about to run into the street and offer you a drink. It's a beginning, right?

I do wish this stuff was less expensive. I understand that you can find used versions, though the company apparently doesn't give you any right to sell the software, so there may be some inherent difficulties attached to such a transaction.

It may also be that immersion is the wrong way for you to learn. Some people like to sit down to memorize vocabulary and rejoice in the intricacies of grammatical rules and exceptions. That's how I learned Latin, right?

But this feels right for me.  I like it.

Update 19 days in

I've been doing this every morning for 19 days now. I finished Unit 1 and have begun Unit 2.

One thing I really appreciate is the ability to repeat lessons. I'm not satisfied until I feel I totally understand something. I was always annoyed by school where a subject was taught, you'd have a test, and then immediately move on. The only people who ever repeated their learning were those who did really badly - below 60% on the test.

Sixty percent? I'm not happy with 95% unless it was just an accidental wrong answer where I just zee'd out for a moment. I want to KNOW my subject to my satisfaction and even 98% might not be good enough sometimes.

So, the ability to back up, repeat and retest is very important to me. Rosetta Stone offers that ability every time you return to the lessons.


Submit a Comment

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

    Well, *I* like your hub and highly recommend it to other readers:

  • profile image

    Ghost32 5 years ago

    I do believe this is the finest Rosetta Stone Hub I've encountered to date. Much funnier than mine, and at least equally as truthful.

    Mine is the online annual subscription version. I'm getting my money's worth out of the Buzz Bingo game, at least...:)

    Voted Up and Over.

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

    I recently found Duolingo,

    I think I like that much more than Rosetta Stone

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

    I've had to restart several times..

  • profile image

    Callum 6 years ago

    just failed the first millstone so miserably i believed there must have been a software glitch (surely this is milestone 20?).

    day 5... moving on to section 2.

  • Deadsearose profile image

    Deadsearose 6 years ago

    Thank you for this useful and funny hub, I've been trying to learn Spanish for years and have not yet succumbed to the Rosetta Stone program yet but it's always in the back of my mind. It's nice to see a good and honest review from someone who has used it.

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    Funny :)

  • Pamela N Red profile image

    Pamela N Red 7 years ago from Oklahoma

    My daughter is wanting to learn Chinese and is going to take it in college so we thought we would get Rosetta Stone to give her a jump and we could learn too.

    Funny thing is my husband and I are gong to Italy this summer so he says to me, "Aren't we silly, learning Chinese when we are going to Italy?"

    Maybe we'll get lucky and there will be some Chinese that speak Italian to interpret for us.

  • Sandyksk profile image

    Sandy Jauregui 7 years ago from Sanger

    I have tried, and tried, and no suerte. If you search "free spanish lessons online" you'll get lots of choices, but even that didn't help. I'm sure a structed program like Rosetta Stone would be my only recourse. Thank you, now I know I'm not the only one trying. :)

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    I finished Unit 1 a few days back and found that I was not prepared for the Milestone Test at the end of the unit. I was close, but I was not ready.

    So I went back and repeated the whole unit. As I explained in the update I added to this post, that's easy to do with Rosetta Stone. I then redid the milestone and felt much happier with it.

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    See, that is what I should have thought. Dangerous stuff, this Rosetta Stone.

  • KKalmes profile image

    KKalmes 7 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

    I see eggs on my plate these days and I think "500 million recalled eggs"...

    I wasn't too far off without any Latin except mass...

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    I have noticed that I think of the vocabulary I have learned when I see things. This morning I looked at the eggs in my plate and "huevo" popped into my head. I wasn't trying to think of it, it just popped in.

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    Of course they do. But they also talk to each orher, plotting against us. It is best to be able to understand - safer.

  • LeanMan profile image

    Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

    Languages... they all speak English don't they???

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    Let us not walk into walls

    7th grade Latin. Someone comes in to deliver a note to the teacher. He's walking backward, talking as he leaves. Turns around quickly and walks right into the wall instead of out the door.

    Teacher quickly says "Ne ambulemus in muros!". Class laughs, some quicker than others :-)

  • KKalmes profile image

    KKalmes 7 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

    OK, I give up... something about not traveling or walking to the city wall?

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

    Ne ambulemus in muros!

  • KKalmes profile image

    KKalmes 7 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

    Hola mi amigo, muy bien... I had five years of French between 7th grade and my junior year in high school where I failed the last exam. Madam Dravillas was very disappointed with me, but conjugating those verbs was just to much for me... although, to this day I can say my aunt's cat is on the table... or was it her hat that was on the table?

    I would like to learn enough Spanish and Polish to converse with my new neighbors in the city... although they think I do understand them because I seem to get the jist of what they are saying sometimes and answer them in English... I think it scares them.

    take care and buena suerte mucho with the Spanish, mi amigo!

  • profile image

    klarawieck 7 years ago

    I know! Same thing happened to me. I tried to stop my lawn crew from mowing the lawn but I didn't speak enough German to communicate with them!