Pimsleur > Rosetta Stone

I spent the summer after I graduated college traveling Europe, with two weeks in Tunisia at the end. To prepare, I tried to teach myself French using the Pimsleur method (think “a series of tapes,” except that this was the 21st century so I got the CDs from the library and transfered the tracks onto my iPod.) I didn’t learn to speak French all that well, but I was trying to learn on a very short time frame and I did manage to learn enough French to get by. It was especially useful in Tunisia, where most of the people I encountered weren’t used to dealing with English-speaking tourists.

As I was getting ready for my recent move to Korea, my parents got me the Rosetta Stone language-learning software for Korean. I eagerly started it, expecting it to basically be “Pimsleur, but better” since there are obviously things you can do with a computer program that you can’t do with a set of audio files. While I’m grateful to my parents for the present, I ended up coming to the conclusion that Rosetta Stone is an inferior method to Pimsleur, and have since switched to Pimsleur Korean.

Here are the main advantages I see that Pimsleur has over Rosetta Stone, at least as I’ve experienced them. The advantages are so overwhelming that I’m probably going to sound like a shill for Pimsleur, but I haven’t received so much as a review copy from them.

1. Pimsleur focuses on teaching you things you’re likely to actually use. Rosetta Stone does not. Pimsleur starts off with things like, “Excuse me,” “Do you speak English?” “Do you speak Korean?” “I speak a little Korean,” “Where is ______?” “It’s over there.” Rosetta Stone starts off with things like “man,” “woman,” “boy,” “girl,” “The man runs,” “The boy runs,” etc. Not only is this approach less immediately useful, in the long run I’m less likely to remember what I learn through Rosetta Stone, because I’ll never use many of the words and phrases it teaches very much, and if you don’t use a word or phrase you’re likely to forget it.

2. Pimsleur teaches you in English. Rosetta Stone tries to teach you with nothing but pictures. Immersion can be valuable, and Pimsleur does this to an extent. Once you’ve progressed a bit in the program, it starts giving you instructions in the language you’re learning. But Rosetta Stone tries to go all the way on this from the beginning, only using pictures to tell you what words and phrases mean. This works fine for concrete things, (“man,” “The man runs,” colors, big/small, etc.) it’s terrible for abstract things.

For example: Rosetta Stone kept showing me three phrases, “annyong haseyo,” “annyonghi keseyo,” and “annyonghi kaseyo,” alongside pictures of people waving to each other. I could figure out that they had to do something with saying hello and goodbye, but I couldn’t figure out what was what. Since I knew Korean is a language that can express a lot of levels of politeness, I thought maybe that had something to do with it, and I was supposed to look at whether the people in the pictures where friends or coworkers or whatever. I had to go to another source to find out that the first one was how Koreans say, “hello,” the second is how you say goodbye when you’re leaving, and the third is how you say goodbye when the other person is leaving.

This problem is related to problem #1, since many of the most useful phrases in any language will be relatively abstract and therefore hard to convey with pictures. “Excuse me,” “Goodbye,” “I speak a little Korean,” “Where’s the park?”–these are all going to be hard to convey to someone using no language, only pictures.

3. Pimsleur is all about practicing producing the language, and includes plenty of repetition. Rosetta Stone isn’t and doesn’t. Rosetta Stone has you do some producing of the language, but you waste a lot of time answering multiple-choice questions, and answering multiple choice questions isn’t exactly a practical language skill. Pimsleur, on the other hand, has you do nothing but practice saying words and phrases.

Pimsleur is also VERY heavy on repetition and review. This is  a good thing. While Rosetta Stone does some of that, I believe Rosetta Stone’s makers focused too much on cramming in content, something that tends to lead to less retention in the long run. This seems to be a symptom of the same philosophy that created problems #1: trying to cram your head with things they think you “should” know, rather than doing what will help you most in the real world.

Rosetta Stone does have one tool that ought to be really helpful for learning to speak, namely, it has you speak into a microphone and the software checks your pronunciation. However, the software isn’t terribly reliable: often, the software would say something was “wrong” when I was pretty sure it was right, so I would say it again the exact same way (to the extent I could manage) and the software would say it was right. There were other times where I was virtually certain I wasn’t getting the pronunciation, and the software said I was right anyways.

In principle, I think it still should be possible to make something that has all the advantages of Pimsleur, plus some additional features that are only possible with software. But Rosetta Stone gets too many basic things wrong. Maybe it’s designers got too wrapped up in doing fancy stuff with the software–I dunno. But I do know that if you want to teach yourself a foreign language, I’d recommend using Pimsleur.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    My company gives us Rosetta Stone for free. I’m using it for Japanese. I think one of the major problems I have with it is the fact it throws you into the program without a single note of why the language is parsed the way it is.

    It’s fine with a rather English-like language (say, German) but Japanese is entirely different and it’s got structure that I wish they’d elaborate on. Why are three people “sannin” while three bowls are “sanhon” and three shirts are “sanmai.” (I understand why only cause I looked it up, but it should be inside the program itself!)

    And yea… the pronunciation recognition suuucks. “I said ‘inu’ you stupid program. ‘Iiiiiiinuuuuuu’ what?! Still wrong?!”

    • mw

      Right on target. Pimsleur is solid and effective. RosettaStone is visually flashy and useless.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

        Yea… except Rosetta Stone is free (for me at least…)

    • http://kagerato.net kagerato

      Every language has its grammatical quirks. While the use of different counting words for different classes of objects seems weird to Westerners, it can’t possibly be any stranger than the attachment of number, gender, and even ‘case’ to nouns. (Which, in turn, leads to subject-verb agreement and countless hours of frustration.)

      Japanese also has a much more regular sentence structure (subject, object, verb or SOV) at least in ordinary use. It’s difficult to define what the norm is for English and many other languages, since there are many different structural styles used even in ordinary writing — completely leaving aside the matter of literature.

      Let’s not even go into the horror behind English spelling (made even worse when one has to consider British versus American). Japanese is spelled phonetically. You can count the number of exceptions and weird cases on your fingers (such as ‘oo’ vs ‘ou’ when a word uses the kanji for ‘large’, or in the word flame ‘honoo’).

      If I’m writing a wishlist for the language’s direction, number one would have to be dumping the Chinese legacy that is kanji. That would definitely require introducing proper word separation/spacing in writing, since kanji fulfills that role at present. People may complain about ambiguity with homonyms, but if you can disambiguate with context in speech you can do the same in writing. Indeed, in writing you can leave footnotes or asides as necessary.

      • http://euroatheist.wordpress.com/about/ pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

        Every language has its grammatical quirks. While the use of different counting words for different classes of objects seems weird to Westerners, it can’t possibly be any stranger than the attachment of number, gender, and even ‘case’ to nouns. (Which, in turn, leads to subject-verb agreement and countless hours of frustration.)

        - number: Japanese does have number, though not obligatorily marked, unlike SAE.
        - gender: yes, but probably one can teach gender to Japanese students through the example of said measure words. (but English doesn’t have gender either, and I was under the impression this was about a comparison of English with Japanese)
        - case: Japanese has case. English does not, except for certain pronouns.

        Japanese also has a much more regular sentence structure (subject, object, verb or SOV) at least in ordinary use. It’s difficult to define what the norm is for English and many other languages, since there are many different structural styles used even in ordinary writing — completely leaving aside the matter of literature.

        I don’t understand this at all. English is usually regarded to have a much more rigid word order due to the fact that it has no case marking. Japanese on the other hand, is regarded to have a freer sentence word order precisely because it marks all noun phrases for case.

        Let’s not even go into the horror behind English spelling (made even worse when one has to consider British versus American). Japanese is spelled phonetically. You can count the number of exceptions and weird cases on your fingers (such as ‘oo’ vs ‘ou’ when a word uses the kanji for ‘large’, or in the word flame ‘honoo’).

        Considering the fact that you’re ignoring kanji here, your comparison is a bit disingenuous. I personally think that Japanese has the most complicated writing system currently in use.

        If I’m writing a wishlist for the language’s direction, number one would have to be dumping the Chinese legacy that is kanji. That would definitely require introducing proper word separation/spacing in writing, since kanji fulfills that role at present. People may complain about ambiguity with homonyms, but if you can disambiguate with context in speech you can do the same in writing. Indeed, in writing you can leave footnotes or asides as necessary.

        Of course it’s never gonna happen, due to reasons of cultural attachment. Some researchers also claim that the reading speed of kanji-kana-majiribun is superior to that of pure kana, but that’s controversial, and even if it were true, the opportunity costs are immense. But kanji have become an integral part of Japanese culture and identity, you won’t get rid of them.

        Some westerners still try to lecture the Japanese that they need to get rid of kanji (and the Chinese too), like William Hannas. But even Hannas acknowledges the homophony problem, and this of course this is where Hannas even has a point. Given the primacy of spoken language, a lexicon full with homophones does impede communication. But the problem would lie with the lexicon, not with the script. In some more frequent cases, such as 化学 chemistry・科学 science both read kagaku or 私立 private・市立 muncipial (as in private high school vs. public high school) both read shiritsu, some colloquial alternative readings have sprung up (only used to disambiguate), such as bakegaku for “chemistry” and watakushiritsu for “private”.

        • http://kagerato.net kagerato

          - number: Japanese does have number, though not obligatorily marked, unlike SAE.

          - gender: yes, but probably one can teach gender to Japanese students through the example of said measure words. (but English doesn’t have gender either, and I was under the impression this was about a comparison of English with Japanese)

          - case: Japanese has case. English does not, except for certain pronouns.

          Obligatorily marked is exactly what number attachment to nouns means. With few exceptions, you cannot write a noun in English without clearly distinguishing singular versus plural. This is a pain and essentially useless, because it’s trivially easy to explicitly identify singular or plural whenever it is actually necessary.

          In Japanese one uses certain suffixes such as ‘tachi’ to identify plurality, an adjective which implies number, or a declaration of the explicit count. All slightly different ways of doing the same thing, honestly, and none very complicated.

          English doesn’t have gender (with the obvious exception of the he/she pronoun dichotomy). I don’t think German does either, in which case English is simply showing Germanic roots. Most romance languages have mandatory gender on nouns, as I recall. Spanish and Portuguese definitely do, and I believe Italian and French have it as well.

          As to case, I know of no example in Japanese where there is any use of case assignment to a noun. Perhaps there are literary examples. I’m talking of case as it is used in Latin, where exactly the same concept is inflected (differentiated) based merely upon the way it is used within the sentence structure. English has a very weak form of case in the distinction of I/my/me, us/we, them/they, and so forth. It’s not applied to nouns generally, though it is certainly plenty annoying with just pronouns.

          I’d be interested to know what it is that you think at all resembles case in Japanese. You can attach prefixes and suffixes to nouns to change their meaning (or sometimes just their interpretation, as with honorifics). That’s not grammatical case, though. In general, nouns do not change shape in Japanese (adjectives and verbs do).

          I don’t understand this at all. English is usually regarded to have a much more rigid word order due to the fact that it has no case marking. Japanese on the other hand, is regarded to have a freer sentence word order precisely because it marks all noun phrases for case.

          You’re going to have to be much more specific. I don’t understand what you’re trying to say at all here. I can trivially rearrange the sentence order in English so that I’m talking like Yoda, with noun before verb or verb before noun. I can even shift adjectives such that they appear before or after the noun with plenty of clever (and unnecessary) grammatical tricks.

          In Japanese, thanks to explicit particle marking, you can rearrange some sentence elements as you like. However, talking like Yoda doesn’t really work. People won’t understand you clearly when you start the sentence with your verb, proceed with the verb’s object, and then finish with the subject or topic.

          I have no idea what you’re saying by “noun phrases marked by case”. A noun phrase may be identified as an introduced topic using particle ‘ha (wa)’, or as the subject using particle ‘ga’, and if both are not used at once then either particle may be implicitly marking both. However, this really has nothing in general to do with nouns or case. Essentially all phrases of all kinds are marked using some particle in order to be grammatically complete. That has nothing to do with changing the shape of nouns themselves.

          Considering the fact that you’re ignoring kanji here, your comparison is a bit disingenuous. I personally think that Japanese has the most complicated writing system currently in use.

          Actually, even if you consider kanji, spelling is still far more consistent than in English. With kanji, we are identifying by concept instead of pronunciation, but it is quite reliable none the less.

          I didn’t mention kanji there because it had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make, in other words.

          Of course it’s never gonna happen, due to reasons of cultural attachment. Some researchers also claim that the reading speed of kanji-kana-majiribun is superior to that of pure kana, but that’s controversial, and even if it were true, the opportunity costs are immense. But kanji have become an integral part of Japanese culture and identity, you won’t get rid of them.

          I’m not naive; I know that. A ‘wishlist’ is merely my statement of opinion on what I would do. No one is obligated to follow it and I don’t recall suggesting any Japanese person would.

          There’s little conclusive scientific evidence as to how the type of script affects reading speed, as far as I know. Probably because it’s a political and cultural bomb-shell where the results would be accused of severe bias no matter what they said. It’s not really an issue of significance for adult literates because the continuous familiarity with the language builds up to the point of reading speed reaching a “good enough” threshold to be practical. This is far more a concern during the period of initial learning, and attempts to engineer simpler and more straightforward languages (which won’t be adopted anyway, but that doesn’t make it any less fun).

          • http://euroatheist.wordpress.com/about/ pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

            Obligatorily marked is exactly what number attachment to nouns means. With few exceptions, you cannot write a noun in English without clearly distinguishing singular versus plural. This is a pain and essentially useless, because it’s trivially easy to explicitly identify singular or plural whenever it is actually necessary.

            In Japanese one uses certain suffixes such as ‘tachi’ to identify plurality, an adjective which implies number, or a declaration of the explicit count. All slightly different ways of doing the same thing, honestly, and none very complicated.

            No, you’re wrong. Grammatical number is obligatorily marked in Standard Average European (SAE), but not necessarily in other languages. A book to read on this topic:

            Corbett, Greville. 2000. Number. CUP.

            But my point is: even if number is not obligatorily marked in Japanese (you forgot a couple of possibilities to mark plural in Japanese btw), you can teach Japanese students the concept of number through it.

            English doesn’t have gender (with the obvious exception of the he/she pronoun dichotomy). I don’t think German does either, in which case English is simply showing Germanic roots. Most romance languages have mandatory gender on nouns, as I recall. Spanish and Portuguese definitely do, and I believe Italian and French have it as well.

            Argh. German has fully retained the three Germanic genders. Most other Germanic languages have merged masculine and feminine, as in Dutch, Swedish etc.
            I don’t think there is an Indo-European language spoken in Europe that has lost gender except for English, and Armenian. Persian doesn’t have gender either, but Hindi does, but I’m certain between them there will be some Indo-Iranian languages that don’t have gender either.

            As to case, I know of no example in Japanese where there is any use of case assignment to a noun. Perhaps there are literary examples. I’m talking of case as it is used in Latin, where exactly the same concept is inflected (differentiated) based merely upon the way it is used within the sentence structure. English has a very weak form of case in the distinction of I/my/me, us/we, them/they, and so forth. It’s not applied to nouns generally, though it is certainly plenty annoying with just pronouns.

            I’d be interested to know what it is that you think at all resembles case in Japanese. You can attach prefixes and suffixes to nouns to change their meaning (or sometimes just their interpretation, as with honorifics). That’s not grammatical case, though. In general, nouns do not change shape in Japanese (adjectives and verbs do).

            Again your idea of grammar is very Eurocentric. Have you ever looked at linguistic literature on Japanese grammar? They all talk about case.

            Shibatani, Masayoshi. 1990. The languages of Japan. CUP.
            Takeuchi, Lone. 1999. The structure and history of Japanese. Longman.

            and of course

            Martin, Samuel E. 1975. A reference grammar of Japanese. YUP.

            You’re going to have to be much more specific. I don’t understand what you’re trying to say at all here. I can trivially rearrange the sentence order in English so that I’m talking like Yoda, with noun before verb or verb before noun. I can even shift adjectives such that they appear before or after the noun with plenty of clever (and unnecessary) grammatical tricks.

            In Japanese, thanks to explicit particle marking, you can rearrange some sentence elements as you like. However, talking like Yoda doesn’t really work. People won’t understand you clearly when you start the sentence with your verb, proceed with the verb’s object, and then finish with the subject or topic.

            I have no idea what you’re saying by “noun phrases marked by case”. A noun phrase may be identified as an introduced topic using particle ‘ha (wa)’, or as the subject using particle ‘ga’, and if both are not used at once then either particle may be implicitly marking both. However, this really has nothing in general to do with nouns or case. Essentially all phrases of all kinds are marked using some particle in order to be grammatically complete. That has nothing to do with changing the shape of nouns themselves.

            Easy. You made the claim, you get to provide the references that prove your point.

            Again, your Eurocentric bias just lets you look at the position of the predicate. It’s true that as a consistently head-final language, Japanese usually puts the predicate last, but there are exceptions to this like 倒置法. But I’m talking about the fact that the noun phrases before the predicate can be rearranged as required by pragmatics, which is aided by their overt case-marking.

            Actually, even if you consider kanji, spelling is still far more consistent than in English. With kanji, we are identifying by concept instead of pronunciation, but it is quite reliable none the less.

            I didn’t mention kanji there because it had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make, in other words.

            Consistent? Must be very strange criteria by which you measure consistency of an orthography. You seem to have studied Japanese enough to understand the intricacies of the kun-yomi and on-yomi and you still talk about it being consistent?

            I mean, I’m a great kanji lover and all, but consistency is not one of the traits of the Japanese writing system.

          • http://kagerato.net kagerato

            We seem to have already hit the maximum nesting level, so this looks like it will be my last post on the topic…

            No, you’re wrong. Grammatical number is obligatorily marked in Standard Average European (SAE), but not necessarily in other languages.

            I didn’t know that European was a language :D

            You seem to enjoy generalizing concepts to an extreme extent. As a result, you’ve taken a lot of what I said to mean something well beyond the actual intent. In that paragraph, I was only speaking of English (even though it does apply to quite a few European languages).

            I never claimed anything about “not being able to teach” any concept to any group, by the way. Nor did I make any claims as to the best methods to use. Recall that my original point was that every language has grammatical quirks (in the eyes of the critic, flaws).

            Argh. German has fully retained the three Germanic genders. Most other Germanic languages have merged masculine and feminine, as in Dutch, Swedish etc.

            My mistake, then. I’m not that familiar with German itself, but it does seem that most of its derivative languages have modified its grammar in some significant way, including with regards to grammatical gender. I don’t know what the ‘third’ gender you’re referring to is; that’s quite interesting.

            Again your idea of grammar is very Eurocentric. Have you ever looked at linguistic literature on Japanese grammar? They all talk about case.

            More Eurocentric than identifying Japanese grammar by structures most famously and thoroughly used in a key (and archaic) language of the West? I really doubt it.

            You don’t seem to actually have anything to offer in regards to my precise statements and definitions of how case changes the shape of nouns (yes, nouns, not noun phrases, and yes, nouns, not phrases of all forms).

            You (and any random linguist/philosopher/commentator) are free to use your own definitions of case and cite whatever writings you want to defend them. They don’t match the one I used and in my opinion, make no rational sense.

            What you’re talking about is a far broader concept, in other words. It’s almost as though I claimed English has case because the articles ‘the’ and ‘a’ can and are frequently applied in English, with no particularly strong effect on semantics.

            Either way, I’m not going to hunt down decades old academic papers that may or may not be behind pay-walls. Cite some clear examples of natural language off hand to demonstrate your point, or concede that the definitions do not match and thus what you are talking about is simply different.

            Indeed, your later paragraphs show me clearly you are quibbling over definitions and insisting on using separate terms and identifiers from what I defined. I have no interest in arguing semantics, only practice.

            Consistent? Must be very strange criteria by which you measure consistency of an orthography. You seem to have studied Japanese enough to understand the intricacies of the kun-yomi and on-yomi and you still talk about it being consistent?

            You assign some awfully impractical meanings to words. How does the pronunciation (which is what kun-yomi and on-yomi are, as you must know) impact the spelling (how a word is written)? This could only be true if you admitted my oversimplified remark earlier about Japanese being spelled phonetically was true, even though you explicitly contradicted that. It’s paradoxical to try to make it both ways.

            You consistently avoid the point being actually made in order to talk about completely different matters. I won’t reply to anything more you have to say unless you actually intend to address my points on their level and with the plain definitions set out, not whichever unspecified personal or professional terms you insist on using. That’s how a discussion and agreement is reached — not by dictation and argument from authority.

          • What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding

            I’ll bow to Pelamun’s expertise in Japanese, but I wanted to make a few points:

            There is one productive case marking in English: the genitive ‘s, which attaches not to nouns but to noun phrases; i.e., you say “the woman’s hat” but “the woman on the left’s hat” and not “the woman’s on the left hat”. Whether Japanese has case comes down to how you want to define the term, but certainly it has NP markers that linguists who study the language have labeled case markings, for no doubt good reasons.

            Standard Average European is a recognition that language in Europe (and especially western Europe) share a lot of characteristics for two (or three, depending on how you count them) reasons. The first is that almost every language indigenous to Europe has an identifiable common ancestor (proto Indo European–exceptions include Basque, the Finno-Ugric languages, and geographically marginal languages like Maltese, Turkish, and Georgian), and so to a greater or lesser extent they retain features of PIE. The second reason has to do with contact and shared history and culture–basically, language whose speaker are in close contact will often end up sharing features; in addition, because of the unifying force first of the Roman empire and later Christianity, scholars of Western European languages have tended to describe them in Latin terms and to some extent have tried to impose Latin rules on the languages (e.g., the allergic reaction to split infinitives in English).

            One feature of PIE (aside from an extensive case system) is grammatical gender that was based on real-world sex differences. In PIE there were three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) that are still retained in German, but a lot of modern IE languages have simplified that to two or none (I don’t think you can have just one gender; thoughts, Pelamun?). Linguistically, gender is a way of classifying nouns into groups, and it’s not always sex-based. It’s notoriously difficult to perfect gender in a second language, in part because gender tends to carry little weight semantically or phonological–it’s just not salient enough, and getting it wrong rarely impedes communication.

            Regarding word order, I’ll defer to others on Japanese, but English has one of the more rigid word orders; there’s some freedom in topicalizing elements, but it’s not terribly common–English speakers much prefer SVO order, which is why Yoda sounds so funny. As a counter-example, in spoken Turkish, which, like Japanese, is basically SOV (and which may be distantly related to Japanese, though that’s controversial), there’s a lot of topicalization, and it’s fairly common to move a lot of elements after the verb.

          • What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding

            Oh, and one more thing: telling a linguist that you’re not interested in discussing semantics is kind of like telling a musician that you’re not interested in discussing melody.

          • http://kagerato.net kagerato

            Oh, and one more thing: telling a linguist that you’re not interested in discussing semantics is kind of like telling a musician that you’re not interested in discussing melody.

            While admittedly amusing, that’s not what I said. A discussion of semantics is different from an argument about semantics. In a discussion, each person may introduce terms and define them. In an argument, we waste time and breath attacking the introduced terms as incorrect instead of talking about the concepts themselves. The only meaningful objections to particular semantics are (1) connotations, where one side is trying to gain the upper hand by using emotionally or historically loaded words, (2) confusion, where it’s not clear what was actually said, and (3) self-inconsistency or a contradiction in terms. I don’t see how any of these applied to the case at hand.

            My definition clearly doesn’t match what some, perhaps most, linguists call it. That’s all there is to it. Maybe no one cares about the rather large differences in how this “case” is expressed in Japanese as opposed to other languages, or that it’s not really limited to nouns even but a more general feature of the language.

            If so, fine. I don’t think that promotes understanding of anything, especially to a “Eurocentric” audience that largely knows case in the context of Latin.

          • What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding

            OK, I’ll concede you said “argue”, not “discuss”; I misremembered. The point still stands: semantics is what language is all about*; it’s not trivial.

            As for the point at hand, you say you’re using your own definition of case. Well, that’s fine, Humpty Dumpty, but if you’re going to argue about a technical term in public you should at least understand how the technicians (i.e., linguists) use the term. A quick google search for “grammatical case Japanese” turns up a bunch of articles, such as this. Again, I’m not going to argue the details of Japanese because I don’t know Japanese, but I will leave you with these questions: Must a grammatical subject in English always be a noun? If so, how do you explain the examples below? (And explain them without using the word “understood”.)

            Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
            After nine works for me.
            To err is human.

            *Unless you’re a generativist, but in this analogy generativists are the rap musicians of linguistics.

    • http://euroatheist.wordpress.com/about/ pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

      Katherine,

      if you need some advice about Japanese grammar, also wrt resources etc, feel free to send me an email…

  • wholething

    I have been trying to learn Vietnamese with Rosetta Stone for quite a while. Vietnamese speakers can’t understand me. Every now and then I can pick out a word or phrase but I seldom get the subject, verb and object.

    I’ll try Pimsleur.

  • Kelly

    For getting started, Pimsleur is good. Beyond that, I’d suggest something like Lingq, or your own hacked-together version of it as described here. It takes some work, but you will be rewarded.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      You’re right about Pimsleur being just for getting started. Once I’m done with it, I was actually just planning on teaching myself based on whatever words I find myself needing to use, but I’ll look at this suggestion.

      • http://euroatheist.wordpress.com/about/ pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

        I do recommend series like Teach Yourself (most of them come with audio too) for the part after Pimsleur.

        Though as a linguist, my own favourite method is to get a reference grammar and work through it, but I understand not everyone likes grammar.

        For the vocabulary, might I also suggest SRS programs like Anki. Not only do they help you memorise vocabulary more efficiently, but also many other language learners have uploaded their own decks. For the major languages you can try and find basic vocabulary decks to systematically learn basic vocabulary.

        I have a Korean set or two from there myself.

  • left0ver1under

    As one who teaches English as a second language to students in Asia, and has used software plus tutors to try and learn languages myself, I have to say it’s not the method that matters. The biggest problem is the lack of commitment on the part of the “student”.

    I don’t like to flog a particular brand, but Lonely Planet puts the focus on learning a basic everyday sentence, and how to make variations of it. “Where is the bathroom?” can be changed to “Where is the post office?” or “How big is the bathroom?”

    No system is perfect. As I said, it’s all about how much effort one puts into it, not the method. When you’re interested, you’re more likely to make the effort.

  • http://euroatheist.wordpress.com/about/ pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Linguists have been complaining about one of the two programs mentioned here for years. But we rarely dare to do so publicly because we’re afraid of getting sued.

    But try asking any linguist what they think of the you-know-which-one-I-mean, and you’ll know..

  • sunsangnim

    What city are you in? I’m in Daegu and they have a pretty good Korean course at the YMCA. It’s not too expensive. I got through a couple levels and then got lazy. You don’t really need that much Korean to get by, but it can be helpful.

  • http://skeptichamster.wordpress.com Skeptic Hamster

    As a teacher of English as a Second/Foreign language I try to see language acquisition as learning an instrument- it’s great to learn the names of the notes, the complex chords and their ‘grammar’, but if you don’t learn a few easy, useful tunes early on you’ll lose the motivation to carry on. The best way to learn is immersion- that is to be taught the language you are learning *in the language you are learning*. This isn’t practical for tape/CD/mp3 courses, obviously. So the next best thing would be to be taught the useful stuff in your own fist language.
    I’ve heard ‘Rosetta Stone’ used to describe bad teachers(as in George is a bit ‘Rosetta Stone.’)I think that says it all.

  • Candiru

    I’ve been trying to learn Hebrew using Pimsleur for a couple of years now, and I think I have a handle on its strengths and weaknesses. One strength, as you mention, is repetition, which is essential for trying to learn a language which has no links or similarities to your first language. One of its major weaknesses is vocabulary — it’s very limited — and another is conjugation of verbs. It’s good to get a feel for how the language sounds and is structured, but it definitely requires supplementation to make significant progress.

  • What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding

    Pimsleur is probably a good way to get the survival language that you’ll need when you first get there, but if you want to advance beyond that, unless you’re one of those disgusting polyglots who can pick up a language in a week, there’s not much substitute for time and meaningful interaction. What you need to do is identify what you want to learn, and then put yourself in those situations. If you want to learn street Korean, hang out on the street (or in the clubs, or whatever), and talk to people. If you want to learn academic Korean, take classes, read journal articles, etc. If you want to learn the Korean of current events, watch the news and read the newspapers (and blogs and tweets and whatever). Basically, just immerse yourself, but make sure that your interactions are meaningful–that is, that you more or less understand the situation and are interested in communicating and being communicated to.

    I could quote a lot of literature on second language acquisition at you, but a lot of it is on the margins, and there’s really no substitute for meaningful interaction.

  • Pingback: Pimsleur > Rosetta Stone | The Uncredible Hallq « Pimsleur

  • Alex

    Rosetta stone “didnt work” because you didnt put forth effort. You say you did pimsleur for french well ok how much of the pimsleur program did you do? Then compare that to rosetta and you will see why it “didnt work”. Rosetta requires you to put forth effort and try to understand the language. Yes you can just use process of elimination to get the right answer but your cheating yourself. Also there are no explanations so you will need to get a grammar book to help. Im currently using both programs and I want to one day be fluent in french, so I think I value the two products differenly then perhapes a passer by does. Pimsleur to me is going to make me a bonnafied parrot that can repeat phrases and never UNDERSTAND what I am saying. Rosetta on the other hand I believe will get me thinking in another language, because after unit 1 it already has. When rosetta asks me a question I no longer begin by translating it so I have begun to think in french.

    ***Let it be noted I do not expect either of these programs to even get my language skills to conversational. ***

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      I did enough Pimsleur French to learn some useful things, and enough Rosetta Stone for it to be blatantly obvious I had was not learning a fraction of what the program’s makers imagined I would learn.

      I suspect that your better experienxe with Rosetta Stone was due not to more effort, but thr fact that you were combining it with other things. Maybe it’s helpful that way but needing other resources to be useful seems like a pretty big screw-up on the part of the program’s makers.

  • Duff Duff

    This comment misses the point of some of my criticisms of Rosetta Stone, badly enough that I wonder if this is pro-Rosetta Stone boilerplate written by an employee of the company. But I’m leaving it intact because I can’t prove anything. -Hallq.

    Learning a language without a visual stimulus? Why? Why not try to involve as many senses as possible? Why not present the language to you visually, without reference to your language? Why is it more logical or better to connect one language to another than to try to learn it without inter-language associations? Rosetta Stone if the person is patient and moderately intelligent, among other things, should be able to grasp the language easier than something from audio alone. It’s a simple fact… unless they are blind that is.

    If you are too impatient to sit through and use your brain to understand a concept (difficult i know), or would rather cheat (process of elimination) to see a “high score” then dont expect much anyways. Rosetta Stone takes time and patience. When first presented, you might have no idea what word is referring to what object/action in the picture, but thats the POINT. Its a process of learning, its meant to be confusing at first. In fact if you listen to the introduction, they TELL YOU to stick with it and dont give up if you are confused. Heck, use a grammar book if you have trouble understanding sentence structure from the images alone, but at least wait a few lessons before you try that, because most of the time you are supposed to not understand (which they then explain later once you grasp the basics).

    Basically they present you 1 to 10, but only teach you 1 number at a time, so expect to be confused if you are trying to learn 5 while they are teaching you 2. At first i was trying to do this with sentence structure in Japanese. I was trying to figure out what “wa” and “o” meant and why the object was presented before the verb. I spent 20 minutes trying to figure it out, then googled it and continued, and 2 lessons later it explained everything, only now i had conflicting information from yahoo answers/wiki/etc and was very confused.

    What i dont get is all these people are swinging on the pimsleur nuts, and then they go on to reveal they only want to know the “important words.” What? That doesnt even make sense. What you are really saying is you only want to know enough words to get by. Do you think you are fluent in English only by knowing the “important words?” No. So why waste your time with some gimmick praised by “everyone” about learning a language in 10 days.

    Hey this supplement will guarantee “weight loss” in 10 days, guaranteed, free, 4.99 shipping, guaranteed, big loss, big fun guaranteed!

    Would you buy that? No, no you wouldnt. So before people go around bashing Roestta Stone because their ADHD was too strong to let them get past the first few lessons, consider that RS seeks to teach you the FOUNDATION of the language, not a bunch of common words or sentences.

    If you really want to begin LEARNING a language, then give rosetta stone a shot (i never said you had to buy it).


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