Rosetta Stone review – It works but – read this

My name is Mark Biernat and I learn and teach languages in Europe. I know a lot about programming and languages to I am a go to person for both subjects.  The reason I created this page is I get many the people who ask me about Rosetta Stone language program. Most people have heard of it and are tempted to try it. Their marketing is great, they are in kiosks in airports and in every bookstore or online venue.

At first I said ‘sure try Rosetta Stone’. It is expensive, but if you want, try it. However, it did not work for me and people I know who tried Rosetta Stone.

I can recommend Rosetta Stone to some people but not to all.

Quick pros: The good about the program: It is good if you want to play around in the language. The program is robust and will give you enough to do that has some visually stimulating content. You can do it in your own home.

Quick cons: Yet to date I have never personally met someone what made serious progress in a language with this software. I am sure there are people, just not in my circles. It can be boring. It is too rich for my blood.

Quick alternatives: If you have a natural talent with languages and can pick them up, I can recommend Rosetta stone. If not try it or consider and an alternative to Rosetta Stone at a fraction of the cost.  Make flashcards or hire a tutor for a year at the price of Rosetta, try some cheaper mp3 programs, get resources from the library.

All what I write about Rosetta Stone is based on my own personal experience and my opinion. Further, since I am writing language learning material so I am partial towards my program. However, that does not mean what I write about Rosetta Stone is not valid. If anything it gives me a good perspective. I am not currently in competition with Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone has like 100 languages, I am focusing on Slavic languages. In fact, I do not have anything even for sale yet. Further, my first product will be learning language with music and mp3, very different from the Rosetta Stone. What I write about Rosetta Stone is all for your information, and take it for what it is worth.

Rosetta stone did not work for me because although the idea sounds great as does Rosetta Stone’s marketing, however, the content and the design of their lessons are horrible if you are trying to learn a language. I know people who bought Rosetta Stone, spent a lot of money and more important time and it did not work. It caused them to be frustrated. I would rather be honest and tell my story, so others do not waste so much time on something they will not be happy with. However, ultimately you can spend the money and try Rosetta Stone for yourself. I would be curious to hear your feedback.

Learning a language is blood, sweat and tears no matter what approach you take. If you buy Rosetta Stone or if you take classes, I think to learn a language you have to try a lot of things, and find what works for you. But with Rosetta Stone there will be more blood, sweat and tears than there has to be.

Rosetta Stone did not work for me because:

  • Rosetta Stone’s lesson vocabulary are non useful. Rosetta Stone has, “boys jump” for example instead of “how are you?”.
  • Rosetta Stone pictures are unclear.You spend too much time guessing the meaning of the image than learning the word.
  • Rosetta Stone has no grammar explained. I am not big on grammar, but adults need some understanding of what is going on, why nouns or verbs are changing. You can buy other programs or books but you need the explanation parallel to the lesson material you are learning. Not Rosetta Stone’s lesson in one direction and a grammar book covering other material. Why spend all that money on Rosetta is you are going to have to buy other things.
  • Rosetta Stone’s translations are in PDF. Any translations Rosetta Stone has is in are in a large separate PDF file, so when you scroll through it it takes forever to find what you are looking for.
  • Rosetta Stone is more about guessing than learning. Many people can go directly to Rosetta Stone level 3 in Spanish for example, and guess what picture is correct but that does not mean they can speak the language. I tried this for Chinese, I know no Chinese and at a high level, I was guessing the picture. So a correct answer is more depend on your ability to test or guess than you ability to learn the language.
  • Rosetta Stone has this voice analysis software, that is only for sales. For me it never worked and I am a tetchy. It is a joke. My friend who is a native speaker in Polish scored bad for the Polish language and I scored good, and I am not a native speaker. It is just a sales point for Rosetta Stone, but not real.
  • Rosetta Stone is a very boring program. Nothing going on except same old same old pictures. Most people get really tired from doing a few lessons and give up. I was bored out of my mind.
  • Pictures are cheesy. The Pcordialos look like they are from the 1990s, almost comical.
  • No ability to put the Rosetta Stone program to an mp3. Therefore, you are chained to your computer, and if you are like me, you want the option at least to have it on mp3 so you can take it with you to the park or other places with easy, not spend more time on your computer.
  • Rosetta Stone installs only on a disk not directly on your computer, so the disk will spin around when you use it and for me it is mildly irritating. There are many more reasons, but I was frustrated after trying to learn Polish with Rosetta Stone. It was more a waste of time than money.
  • Rosetta Stone is a cookie cutter. Rosetta Stone is manufactured by a large company with every language structured the same. A cookie cutter approach. To fit all languages into one framework as Rosetta Stone does is beyond me. The cookie cutter approach fits well into Rosetta Stone’s marketing model, however, it does not work if you want to learn a language. For example, Polish is very different from English and English is different from Chinese, but for Rosetta it is all basically the same. I learn and teach languages. I tried Rosetta Stone Polish and it was ridiculous. In the first lesson three noun cases with no explanation. I think with the Rosetta Stone approach you will get confused and frustrated, when you try to learn your target language. But try it if that is what you want to do.
  • Rosetta Stone is a marketing company. Rosetta Stone has good ideas and the creator of Rosetta Stone was innovative, but Rosetta Stone’s forte at this juncture is marketing.It is a marketing company with bright shiny yellow web pages and a big sales budget. On the other hand, LearnFast took years of personal work and creativity on my part to create.
  • Rosetta stone did not work for me. I have never known someone that Rosetta Stone has worked for.

An alternative to Rosetta Stone

My program is the best alternative to Rosetta Stone. In fact there is no comparison if you want to learn a language. My program has taken five years of my life to create. I am an American that teaches and learns languages in Krakow, Poland. I used my own creativity and brain to think of a way to help you learn languages. Further,I live in an flat in Krakow (Podgorze), Poland and have had the help of amazing creative talent here in Poland to make something really unique and special. I am not a marketing company. I simply have a love for languages and created something to help others. I can not touch Rosetta in terms of their marketing machine, however, they can not touch my product in terms of effectiveness and my personal creativity. I am using the beta of my program (actually the alpha) to learn Russian.

Rosetta Stone cost

The cost of Rosetta Stone is very high, their idea people like to pay( believe it or not). If you pay a lot, then people will value it more. But there is not correlation between the price and the effectiveness.

Is Rosetta Stone bad?

Rosetta stone is not bad. It is a matter of cost/effectivness.  I have used their products personally, spent a lot of money and time using Rosetta Stone, and it did not get me too far, maybe a little frustrated. I could guess the pictures during Rosetta Stone lessons, but It did not help me speak the language. Rosetta Stone looks good and has excellent marketing, but it did not work for me. Rosetta has a very good idea, but it does not work, at least for me, nor anyone I know who bought their product. However, the idea is interesting. Please let me know your feedback a positive or negative about various language learning programs including Fairfield’s Rosetta Stone.

Merry Christmas in Polish

How to say Merry Christmas in Poland

If you want to know how to say merry Christmas in Polish you came to the right place. I will give you not only the expression, but also transliteration and the meaning behind it all. I will also give my perspective, as an American living in Poland, and from the perspective of  my wife, she is Polish and wrote the second part of this.

An American perspective of Xmas

Why do I prefer Christmas in Poland more than in the USA? I am an American born and raised but also Polish and live in Krakow. In the USA I was always stressed about gifts and shopping. However, in Poland I do not buy gifts. What, are you kidding?

It is a religious celebration more than a commercial celebration, where in the states I feel it as more a commercial holiday, traffic, crowds, endless holiday jingles and commercials and sales. Who likes that.

Imagine a world without a commercialized Christmas holiday, if you like the idea come to Poland.  In fact, for gifts  and games Poland has Santa Claus day on December 6th for kids. Christmas on the other hand is a peaceful religious holiday for singing and decorating the tree on the 24th. The ornaments and decor actually go up on Christmas eve.

Oh, one last thing, you can say Merry Christmas in Poland. In American you say happy holidays. There is a world of difference in the feel of these two holidays greetings.

The linguistics of a Polish Christmas

Linguistically speaking I feel it pretty hard to learn the Christmas greeting in Polish because of Polish pronunciation.  English words are short. Polish words are long because they pronounce every single letter.

However, if you break down the symbols and transliteration and learn it piece by piece it will eventually roll off your tongue and you can use it in many situations, for about two months that is. In my mind this is a good investment in learning.

The phrase Merry Christmas in the Polish language

Wesolych Swiat, Bozego Narodzenia i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku

weh-sohl-ih shveeaht, Boh-zheh-go nah-roh-djehn-eeah ee shchehs-leev-ehgoh no-vegoh roh-koo

Maybe copy or print this and try to practice it until you have it down. It literally means, “joy to the world, birth of God, and a happy new year”.

You can just say Wesolych Swiat and this is enough.

Xmas card from Poland

Merry Christmas a Polish perspective

This part my wife Kasia wrote:

Christmas is the most important, meaningful and favourite Polish holiday. In Polish it is called “Boże Narodzenie” or “Święta Bożego Narodzenia”, which means Christmas Holiday or literally the holy birth. It is totally dedicated to religion, tradition and family. Święta Bożego Narodzenia are in some ways similar to American Thanksgiving, when the whole family and friends meet to celebrate and spend time together.

The holiday last 3 days. Is started with the Christmas Eve which is called “Wigilia” or sometimes “Gwiazdka”. Wigilia is a very special time and it has unique atmosphere of warmth, when you feel like you are united with the whole world and all good souls. For me it is a very moving and joyful day and I’m always looking forward to it. Wigilia is celebrated December 24th, when the days are short and the evening comes fast, but although it is cold and dark outside. After Christmas the days are getting longer, and the amount of daylight increases, which has an additional impact on this celebration and its meaning – the Christ was born and brought God’s light and the hope to the world.

Wigilia or Christmas eve

Wigilia in Poland is celebrated with a traditional dinner, served with 12 dishes, one for each month. The dinner starts when the first star appears in the sky and that is a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem. In polish tradition people are sharing wafer and say Christmas wishings to each other. After that they eat the dinner together. The dinner table is decorated with a white cloth, under which people put a hand full of hay. On the table there is a one extra table set for an unexpected guest. The food served during Wigilia doesn’t contain meat.

The most popular Polish dishes are:

  • borsh whit little dumplings stuffed with mushrooms, in polish it is “barszcz z uszkami”,  – fish (ryba) – fried, served as soup or in a gelatin,
  • cabbage with pea, in polish “kapusta z grochem”,
  • kompot – a drink made from bolied fruits (usually dry plumes).
  • Besides that there are served pie with mushrooms, pasta with poppy (kluski z makiem) and for dessert: “makowiec” – which is a poppy-seed cake, “sernik” – cheese-cake, or “kutia” – a sweet cake, popular in eastern part of the country, made with wheat and honey with nuts and raisens.

After dinner there is time for “kolędy” –  Polish Christmas carols.
The evening ends at midnight with a special mass called “Pasterka”, from the word “pasterz” – English ‘shepard’, which refers to shepards preyers. Pasterka also begins Christmas Day, but it is a chalange to stay up till the mass, especially after such fulfilling dinner.
The main thing on Christmas Day is a mass, and going to church.

The day is extraordinary and people spend it on celebrating and being together with a family and friends. Except for life-saving types of jobs, nobody goes to work this day, all the shops are closed.

How to say “Merry Christmas” in Polish? Here you find greetings and a few expressions, that will be useful:

  • Merry Christmas – Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia, the short version of this is simply – Wesołych Świąt (Happy Holiday) and you can say it while sharing the wafer, but also in your workplace, shop, etc.
  • Other wishes you can say during Wigilia (wafer sharing):
  • All the best – Wszystkiego najlepszego
  • God’s blessing – Błogosławieństwa Bożego
  • Lots of health – Dużo zdrowia – this is a very poplular fraze, and polish people say it with other ocasions (birthday, name’s day),
  • Lots of love – Dużo miłości
  • Lots of happiness – Dużo szczęścia,
  • All kind of prosperity – Wszelkiej pomyślności
  • Be fulfilled with your family – Zadowolenia z rodziny
  • Dedicated friends – Oddanych przyjaciół
  • People’s kindness – Ludzkiej życzliwości
  • Make your dreams come truth – Spełnienia marzeń
  • Anything you wish for – Wszystkiego czego sobie życzysz
  • Cool presents – Fajnych prezentów

If you know the other person well, you can say something personal, that you think they may wish for, but with this list you are ready to celebrate Wigilia in Poland.

Let me know if you are Polish or have Polish roots and your experiences or stories regarding the Christmas tradition, what do you remember in your home?

10 best places to study a language

Best place to learn a language

I am not talking about countries to learn a language, you can learn a language anywhere.  I am talking about where to study a language, literally. Where is are the soles of your feet when you are studying.

Living in Poland I am amazed how well Polish people speak languages. Maybe it is because their language is so complex, but more likely they believe in the hard way. They believe in studying for years and hours a day. Americans and Brits just want the easy way. To speak the a language without work. I know I am an American. These are the places I see people here doing translations and having their nose in the dictionary and cramming vocabulary lists. If you see language learning not something you do in class or school but rather everyday anywhere than this might help your experience.

Where to study a language

  1. Study your lessons on a train – I was on the Train back to Kraków last night and all around me where people, not just students studying English. Really, the woman across from me had her son and she was studying English while he was running around the train. There was a girl next to me doing exercises. Trains are a great relaxing way to travel. No need to drive, just sit and learn vocabulary. If you can strike up a conversation with a foreigner even better. I have taken some long Russian Ukrainian trains before and by the end of the 20 something hour ride you are talking politics etc with your car mates. I do not drink, I just like to talk.
  2. Study a language on a subway – We have trams in Krakow and I see people all the time cramming lists and just not students.
  3. Learn a language in the bath – One of my favorite places to review dialogues. I take an MP3 player in and just sit back and relax. I though in some magnesium salt or even listen to some foreign language songs. The acoustics are great in the bathroom because it is a small room with water so I do not wear earbugs rather a radio MP3 player.
  4. While napping study a language with hypnopedia – Laying on the coach I often simple listen to a repeating loop of language words and phrases. Eventually I fall asleep and some how I think the vocabulary sinks in my brain. I think brainwaves are at a deeper cycle and more receptive to music.
  5. Walking and talking a language – I often walk down the street talking to myself in a foreign language, my language I study is Polish, now. People think it is strange to see someone talking to themselves, but do you really care?
  6. On a bench or in a park is a peaceful place to learn – Not a library? Well is not a nice park bench more enjoyable in the summer. Besides maybe some pretty girl will come sit next to you and help you.
  7. Driving and listening on your way to work to language audio lessons – I have not had a car for years but many people like this approach. I think your brain is in an alpha state and this is a good place to be when trying to absorb new information.
  8. On vacation or any restful place or environment – The main resistance to studying a language is stress, doubt and lack of confidence. Why not lay on the beach and read some foreign language romance book. By the end of the short novel you will have learned a lot.
  9. Bed is a good place to learn a language – Do not think of this in the wrong way, or you can if you like.
  10. Church – Go to foreign language service. I live in Kraków and you can attend mass in about a dozen different languages and read the Bible in any. The service and text are all the same in any language, therefore go to mass in your target language and see how it feels different and let it absorb into your conciousness. Although this should not be your purpose of going.

What are your favorite places to study a language even if you are not in a foreign country? Let me know and the more intresting a place the better.

Dreaming in a foreign language

Have you ever dreamed in a foreign language? This is my personal experience with dreams and I am curious about yours.

My dream experience

I often dream in the Polish language as I have lived here for a while.  My Polish is good but not perfect. When I dream at a subconscious level I am pretty pleased with myself when I am speaking Polish (although I am not aware it is a dream). Why? Because the native speakers in my dreams always understand what I say perfectly. Further, I understand them perfectly. In my dreams (both literally and figuratively), I am like a native speaker in this foreign language. Both in speaking and comprehension and I never need a dictionary.

However, when I recant a dream dialogue to my wife who is a native speaker she laughs. This is because the native speakers in my dreams were making the same grammatical mistakes that I make when I am awake. I wonder why. It takes the wind out of my sail a little as in my dream world I am equipment and people are charmed by my linguistic skills.

A dream is really a dialogue with yourself. Therefore, there is perfect comprehension of the spoken word.

Some people believe that you can tap into the collective unconsciousness and access information and even language information. For me that is a little more speculative. However, this much can be said. If you are dreaming in a foreign language then you are doing well.

Can you use dreams to learn a foreign language?

Can dreams help you learn a language?

  • To remember dreams keep a dream journal by your bed. When you wake up write down all your dreams even in sketch form. When I did this, I could remember several a night in detail and often stream of conciousness one leads into the other.
  • As you are drifting to sleep try to suggest to yourself to dream in your foreign language.
  • Read up on lucid dreaming and try to use this in language learning.
  • During the day start thinking in your foreign language, even change your inner dialogue or create dialogues in your mind in a foreign language.
  • The purpose of dreams or day dreams in a foreign language is not a grammar drill, school or exercises, so it does not matter if you are making mistakes. The idea is to get more of your brain online linguistically.
  • You are smarter than you think. Intelligence and ability is really teaching the brain to access more of the raw material which is latent and waiting for you to develop.

Let me know your thoughts about day dreams, dreams, lucid or deep or even fantasies in foreign language and your experiences. When does your imagination take you linguistically. Do you think imagination is a connection with a deeper reality? I think conscious cognitive thought is like an iceberg, only about ten percent of the mind is conscious and seen on the surface. The other 90% is something that is largely untapped for its potential.

Easiest way to learn a language

I believe in the hard way to learn a language. I believe in doing such things as sitting down and either listening to the radio for a few hours a day in your target language or doing exercise in grammar books. I think there are many methods that will make studying easier to learn, such as music or travel or flashcards, but you have to approach it with persistence. In this post I will also tell you the easiest way to learn a language.

The hard way to learn a language

When I have a student tell me they are not making progress, I dump them with homework.  I tell them to buy a book and do three chapters of grammar exercises a week and explain the ideas in the exercises to me. I also make them read a book in English and write papers on it. There is no way you will learn a language without learning that the responsibility rests on you. You are the one, not the teacher who is responsible for studying. Study every week for x number of hours and then go to class to practice. If you complain you are not good, ask yourself do you study five hours a day?

For most people they have the will and will take the hard way, but they do not have the time. Therefore it becomes a time management issue.  Even for me I have not time to improve my Polish and I live in Poland. I know I have to go back to the old ways, the hard ways and make time and do it.

The easiest way to learn a language

My wife learned English just by speaking to me. It is an easier way then the above mentioned methods. She never studied English in school and spoke only a few words when we meet. I overloaded her with English until her brain hurt as I love to engage in conversation. Now she is fluent in English. I guess that can be called the easy way to learn a language.

If you are trying to learn a language on your own I would recommend tools to make it easier:

  • Make your own language flashcards and carry them with you. I have a box of several thousand words and phrases.
  • Download audio mp3s and use them. There are many places to go, such as the  I am starting a free site with audio mp3s for language learning  – If you send me files I can use them on the site.
  • If you religious read the entire Bible in your target language. By the time you finish you will speak the language
  • Buy a grammar book and do every exercises in the book and outline the rules
  • Practice with native speakers, that alone will help, if you are somewhere in the middle of Kansas try Internet chats.

I have notices women love to do grammar and book work while guys prefer conversation, ironically.  Both are effective, but to work both need overload and work. This is why I believe in the hard way to learn a language.  I think there are easy ways to learn a language, but you have to take those methods and apply them with will and determination. And again the easiest way to learn a language is fall in love.

The more difficult the language the more beautiful the women

A funny – correlation between language difficulty and women

There is a lot of attraction to learn the Polish language because Polish women are beautiful, I am just being honest. It is almost like the more challenging the language of a particular culture the more beautiful the women. It is almost like the more difficult the language the easier you will have it in life with regard to your wife. Think about it:

  1. Polish, Russian and Czech women command a case based languages with pronunciation that is almost impossible. Yet they have a reputation of being wonderful wives. I would attest to this from first hand experience.
  2. Arabic women are exotic and for western guys are perpetually out of reach because of cultural differences. Yet if you could access this language and culture you might be like Leonardo Dicaprio in that Middle Eastern movie.
  3. Asian, Chinese and Japanese and Korean are slim and quiet and seem to stand in the shadows next to their men culturally. After feminism  and man despairing in Western culture has gone amok, it is not bad to have an agreeable wife.
The reply in Polish is translated as ‘maybe because we speak such a difficult language.

In contrast I would say the Western European languages of English, Dutch, German have nice women, but perhaps I am too familiar with American and British women to have any ‘wow factor’. Of course this position is subjective and relative, however, I am curious if other expats and world travelers would agree. And if your an American girl do not take offense this is just for fun.

So you are adventurous and seek love and stories you will be able to recant when you are old and grey, you had better hone and tone your linguistic skills more than your body. Hit your local language lab or get some mp3s more than you pumping iron at the gym.

Do not believe me do your own survey of language tutors on YouTube and tell me which ones have the cordialter instructors.

Tell me the most difficult language and I will tell you where the beautiful women are hiding

Mr. Spock would say ‘fascinating’.  Polish has beautiful girls we know this but do you know what obstacles face the student ?  You want to see how many forms one Polish word might take?  Well here it is Polish by a long way.  This language is a linguistic nightmare, it is even harder than Chinese or Japanese (which have very little grammar) or Arabic (which has only three baby cases).

Please consider the exhibit below. It is only one word, but contains many forms.

This is clearly the most difficult language to learn

What are you kidding me? There are like over 100 forms, you can count them. This is one Polish word. It is the word ‘to read’. Every word in Polish must agree with the other words in the sentence, therefore, there are almost an infinite number of combinations in one sentence.

The pronunciation is very hard and people in this central European country speak very soft.  I would say to learn the Polish language it is equivalent to learning several other European languages. This especially goes for English speakers.

The language can be studied and spoken but only if you have the right attitude.  The right attitude is, you do not have to speak it perfectly to communicate, rather focus on vocabulary and you have to be patient.

There is a heated debate here regarding, “what is the hardest language” and here How hard is Polish to study?

  • Please like this post on Facebook as it helps spread the conversation about languages right now if you can.

The good news about being an expat and languages

Eventually all languages will go in your brain, even the most challenging.  If you are an American or a Brit and you want to live abroad, I usually recommend Poland because of the high standard of living compared to the price index, the exotic factor  that it is not somewhere like Canada, which is beautiful but the same as your own country, the warmth of the people welcoming you, and the attractive girls. However, to sweet talking girls in their native language, beyond the guttural slang and swear words primitives seem to parrot, it is a little more challenging. Eloquence in speech, partially with the opposite gender takes.

Check out my other posts on this site and please I need the help, just like this post.

Rosetta stone reviews – Notes from a linguist

The purpose of this post is to objectively look at Rosetta stone reviews.  The problem with reviews of any language program like Rosetta stone is the writers are not objective. I hope to not be partial or bias, when I offing my rating of this program.

Who writes opinions of Rosetta stone

There are three types of writers of reviews.

  • The first one is those promoting an array of language learning software companies, but does not make their own.
  • The second is a competitor of Rosetta Stone languages and trying to compare and contrast their product with the market leader.
  • There is a third category of people who are writing a guide of language learning products because they used it and they wanted to be useful to others. However, this category is the rarest.

I am in the second category. However, I am also in the third. I try to remain objective and clear on the pros and cons of this language course as I believe objectivity is the essence of intelligence and honesty is the best policy. If they create a better product, the onus is on me to improve mine rather than knock someone else. Further, at this juncture I do not sell any products yet as mine are being developed.

Pros of Rosetta stone

  • Easy to start using – you install and start using. Almost no learning curve to use the program.
  • Nice visual layout and good choice of colors, this keeps you interested.
  • Many level, like for example Rosetta Stone Spanish is a complete language course if you buy all the levels
  • I love the visual approach that can even be extended now to mobile. Who does not like to sit back and look at hots.
  • The idea is innovative
  • Many different OS and devices Rosetta Stone can be use on, I have yet to try to make it work on Linux, but will give it a try.
  • They are always adding more functionality and have recently included mp3 files.
  • Clear audio pronunciation of words and phrases with native speakers. Not all language programs use native speakers.  For example, Transparent languages, which is a good company, but uses a Czech speaker for their Polish language course.
  • 6 month return policy – most people will not do this, but it is nice policy from a respected company
  • Large Wall Street company (NYSE)  whose ticker symbol is RTS if you want to buy the stock.

Cons of Rosetta Stone

  • Main Rosetta Stone review opinion – I have never known one person in my life, including myself that learned to speak or read a language with Rosetta Stone. I have taught languages for many years and know many who use the program, but none who have learned from using it. There might be some, but I have not met any.  My friend George has Rosetta Latin and Spanish but  despite spending over a grand, has made no forward progress. Perhaps it is because of sloth but maybe other reasons.
  • Program teaches no grammar and is confusing, maybe children can learn this way but adults think abstractly. If they were to learn this way they would need a lot of repetition.
  • Meaning of the images are unclear in some lessons but in others they are very interesting to look at
  • Written to teach English, not European or Asian languages that have a different grammar system. I tried the Polish course and it was really confusing. Poor design in terms of presenting a foreign translation of grammatical ideas so the learner can benefit.
  • I wrote a more complete review of Rosetta Stone here
  • Price is ridiculously high, I personally do not have the cash to pay for a the Rolex of language learning especially if I have not personally seen the results. Who has money like that, maybe in the 90s but now today?
  • Pure flashy marketing company with bright colors and eye candy but I doubt you will learn a language from it. They are masters at marketing and getting you to buy on an impulse with their colors. however, I have personally learned languages with flashcards but not with this linguistic software program, except some pronunciation as a very beginner.

Now as a large positive vote for Rosetta Stone languages, my competitor. Learning a foreign language with any program, language course or lessons is very hard work. The reason that Rosetta stone does not work might not be that the program is that bad, but people give up too soon. They pay the price and buy it on emotion but their commitment to learn their target foreign language is fleeting.

For example, my friend George did this. He paid 500 dollars for I think two levels of Spanish, now is not used. That is not Rosetta’s fault, they even offer a money back policy. I think the issue is, once you get past a few concrete nouns, abstract words and verbs really deflate many people’s motivation. Therefore, if you have will power and can afford the price, I think there is reasonable value with using Rosetta stone as long as you have the motivation to follow through and sit with it for an hour a day for six months. That is a very fair evaluation of Rosetta Stone. The free trial is not enough to apprise its effectiveness and make an informed decision, if it works or not.

My point is just do not pay and expect to learn, use it.

Rosetta Stone is rock solid in terms of programming, return policy and visual presentation but lacks in effectiveness – in my personal experience and opinion.

I do not want to end on a negative note. I have to say if you want to try anything by Fairfield Language Technologies here it is, I as a competitor am actually giving their site.  I also make no money off of it, I provide it for you if you want to skip the ratings and got to and reviews and go to their site.  I would like to hear your experiences and ratings regarding this software, or any thoughts you might have. All positive feedback is very welcome as I want off this as a balanced analysis.

Slavic languages

Slavonic Languages – the language of the Slavic peoples

Where did my interest in Slavic languages come from? I am something of an amateur Slavophile when it comes to languages.  I’ve spent the past decade learning Polish (as I live in Poland and no longer participate in a formal language course, it’s more at the passive than active stage at this point) and have made numerous trips to other Slavic countries.  What follows are some observations and a bit of background on Slavic tongues and their speakers.

Background of Slavic Languages

Slavic languages originated from one mother tongue known as Proto-Slavic, spoken previous to the 7th century.  Old Church Slavonic was the first written Slavic language, codified in the 9th century by Cyril and Methodius, two missionaries who adapted the written language from a tongue spoken in modern-day Macedonia.  Cyril and Methodius are revered in some countries in particular and one will see monuments to them and their work throughout the region.

Today Slavic languages are grouped into 3 geographical groups:  Western Slavic, Eastern Slavic, and the Southern Slavic families.  Western Slavic includes Polish, Czech, and Slovak.  Eastern Slavic comprises Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarussian.  Southern Slavic includes Serbian, Croatian, Slovene, Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian.  There are also minor Slavic languages, such as Kashubian (spoken by a small minority of Poles in a small region south of Gdansk;  the current prime minister, Donald Tusk, as it happens, is a native Kashub) or Rusyn in Ukraine.

Taken together they form a band spanning from the Adriatic Sea across Central/Eastern Europe through Asian Russia to the Sea of Japan.  Russian, Belarussian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Serbian are the Slavic languages which use Cyrillic.  Cyrillic is also used by some non-Slavic tongues, such as Moldovan and Mongolian.

Interestingly 2 languages of significance exist among this “sea of Slavs” that are not Slavic—Romanian (and by extension, Moldovan), a Romance language more closely related to French, etc, and Hungarian, a language only distantly related to any other.  The Baltic countries as well interrupt the Slavic domination of the region, with Lithuanian and Latvian related to one another and sharing some elements with Slavic tongues, but forming their own language group, and Estonian, a language related to Finnish and distantly to Hungarian.

The Cyrillic alphabet, though it may look exotic and difficult to master on first look, is not as tough as it may seem.  During a four-day trip to Bulgaria, I was basically able to get down the basics, to the point where I could read signs and pronounce words (not that I knew what they all meant, but a basic operational capacity in using the alphabet—helpful in train stations and stores).  Previously I had been in Greece for a week, which did help a bit as some of the characters in the Greek alphabet are similar, but for the most part it is not too terribly difficult.  On later trips to Ukraine, this capacity came back to me (and coupled with the fact that Ukraine has some similarities to Polish and that Polish is generally understood, particularly in Western Ukraine where I was traveling, I was able to operate fairly well).

Benefits of Learning a Slavic Language

It’s been my experience that if you get even one Slavic language under your belt, it allows you to operate and communicate in many countries and languages.  This is most true within the geographical grouping (Polish speakers will find it easier to understand Czech or Slovak;  Russian speakers likewise with Ukrainian and Belarussian).  With just a little bit of on-the-fly tourist study, I am able to communicate pretty well in Czech or Slovak, using only a base amount of words in the local language and plugging gaps with Polish if need be.  I don’t understand- “Nie rozumiem” in Polish, would be “Ne rozumím”* in Czech, “I don’t know”—“nie wiem” in Polish, “ne vim” in Czech, “large” or “great”- “wielki” in Polish, “veľký” in Slovak, etc.

Some words come out quite differently:  train-‘pociag’ in Polish, ‘vlak’ in Czech, for example.  But knowing one Slavic language helps you understand others.  This is true even across groups—knowing Polish I am able to understand some Russian, an Eastern Slavic language.  I recall on visiting Croatia, that the South Slavic tongue Croatian was surprisingly also understandable as well, at least to a degree.

The Slavic language speakers cover the most geographical area in the world.

Another benefit of learning a Slavonic language is the rich culture, overshadowed for ages by that of Western Europe.  Slavic countries are responsible for very fine art, literature, advances in technology, science, etc.  Chopin, Kafka, Mucha, Dostoevsky, Copernicus, Pushkin, and scores of other greats in the worlds of literature, music, art, and science hail from Slavic-speaking countries, and learning one of the languages can help contribute to your appreciation of them and their works.  Adam Mickiewicz is a renowned poet in Poland (and held in high esteem by the Lithuanians as well, for that matter).  Poles swear that English translations do not do him justice, however, and reading him in Polish is a must to appreciate the richness and depth of the language he used.

I also love Slavonic church music but this is another story.

Another reason to learn a Slavic language is the travel.  For example the nature in Russia is almost unparalleled. The colors you see in Siberia have an other worldly quality.  Knowing the Russian language will give you a passport to see such beauty.

Russian sky and birch trees; learning the Russian language will help your world travel to beautiful places like Siberia.

For those interested in traveling or even living in Europe, Slavic countries generally offer a much less expensive cost of living, especially when compared to their Western neighbors.  While this doesn’t necessarily hold true for the largest cities (Moscow, Warsaw) comparatively one can live and travel much more cheaply in Slavic Countries than in, say, the United Kingdom or Italy.

Fun with Slavic Languages

Though there are similarities among tongues, there are also some often-amusing challenges that arise when comparing Slavic languages.  While many words are similar, some words which seem to be the same, actually have different meanings.  The most well-known among Poles and Czechs is probably the confusion over the verb “to look”.  This verb in Polish is “szukac”, in the first person form it would be “szukam”, as in “Szukam policjanta” (I am looking for a policeman).  But be careful when you are in the Czech Republic and thinking you are asking a person on the street an innocent question—“szukam” in Czech has a much different and more vulgar (friendshipual) meaning.  The verb you want in Czech is “hledat”.

Another similar instance is found in Slovak—with Polish visitors to the country sometimes encountering the very funny “odchody” sign at stations—meaning “departures” in Slovak, but something like “excrement” or “feces” in Polish.  Not a great image and one that gets at least a chuckle from Poles.  “This way for feces”, Poles are advised and helpfully directed by an arrow on the sign.  No thanks!

The accent and pronunciation differences can be interesting as well.  Czechs, to my ears, have a sing-song pronunciation.  It sounds like they are serenading you in short bursts, with words rising in tone or with drawn-out syllables.  I find it quite charming, and is one reason why I consider Czech to be one of the more beautiful languages to listen to (more so than Polish, and also more so than the supposedly beautiful and much-lauded French).  Russian, on the other hand, and Eastern Slavic languages, for that matter, tend to grate on my ears a bit.  They consist of some drawn out sounds as well, but to my ears they seem to sound more “obnoxious” and exaggerated, for lack of a better description, especially in comparison to the lovely Czech tongue.

Another thing that Poles are well acquainted with is a Czech and Slovak pronunciation which sounds unusual to Polish ears—words may seem similar but pronounced in a funny way.  Poles tend to say that Czechs sounds like Polish children or babies trying to pronounce Polish words.  What is funny is that I have heard the same thing said by a Czech friend about Poles.  I would tend to agree with the Poles on this one though—the much harsher and harder sounds of Polish are more difficult for children to pronounce at first, and are more likely to come out sounding like the soft tones of Czech.  A simple comparison of the words for “thank you” shows this—“Dziekuje” in Polish, with the hard “dz” syllable, vs. the softer “dekuje” in Czech.

If you have questions about any Slavic language or have Slavic ancestry or a general interest in Eastern Europe I would love to hear from you.

Remembering a language from your childhood

Were you every exposed to a language when you were young, however, have thought that you have forgotten it?  The reality is, your brain has some foundation already set. The purpose of this post is to convey some recent experiences I have had on my trip to the USA regarding language learning and the brain which will illustrate how, learning a language is like riding a bike.

Remembering a language from your childhood

My mother is almost 80 years old and she spoke Ukrainian as a child. Now she has not used the language for most of her life.  For the last 30 years she claims she has forgotten the Ukrainian language completely. She has repeatedly said she does not even remember a word.

However, I am in the USA visiting her now with my family and when we speak Polish, which is a different language from Ukrainian, she can understand us perfectly.  Not only does she remember everything, but at some level she can interpolate between two related languages, that is Polish and Ukrainian and come up with an understanding of our conversation.

This anecdotally confirms one of my beliefs that most memory problems are a retrieval problem.  That is, memories are formed fairly easy and stay with us a lifetime, however, the issue is to call up the information when we need it in a meaningful way.

This is why again I think that language learning a us a little like riding a bike, once you have learned it you just need to get back in the saddle.

Learning a language as an adult and not forgetting it

I studied French for seven years however, have not used it in twenty. After being in Paris this week, it was not a big deal for me to understand what was being said.  I do not think I could form a perfect French sentence, but with a little time in the country I am confident that I could speak French. Your brain does not forget what you have learned.

If you have been exposed to a language use it

If you have every been exposed to a language as an adult or a child, have the confidence to try to learn it.  Do not be afraid of failing or you have forgotten it, learn it.  What if you lived in say a Spanish area as a child but never spoke Spanish?  Why not try to learn it?  I think subconsciously your brain as picked up a lot. Your memory has almost infinite capacity to store and retrieve. It does not matter if your memory was formed as a child or as an adult. Your memory will be different for a language your learned a child more native, but that does not mean adult exposure is less useful.

If you calculate all the possible connections your memory has formed in your lifetime, you should be how shocked how rich you are in terms of neural connections. So much of your brain is latent just waiting for you to use it.

Many people as me should they use hypnosis to recall experiences or languages they were exposed to once. Sure if you want, but there is not need to.  Just simply, reimmerse yourself again.  If you herd Spanish as a child take a trip to Argentina.  If your parents spoke Polish or Ukrainian or Russian, take a trip to Europe and try it out.

Here is a study that confirms my thesis.

Remembering a language from your childhood

Two researcher did a study of children who were exposed to languages when they were young, yet moved abroad in their childhood.

The results were very enlightening. Here is an external resources that validates the above:

  • Remembering childhood languages

Let me me know what you think of this idea or if you have every had a similar experience, I would be interested to hear about your exposure to a language as a child.

What prevents people from learning a foreign language?

This is part three of how to learn a language.

How I learned a language interview

What prevents people from learning Polish, or for that matter any foreign language?

I really think anyone learning a language at some point hits a plateau, and if you are just doing rote learning, people can burn out quickly.  So the saying that keeping it fun and interesting is key is definitely true.

And part of keeping it fun is kindling a passion for the language.  If you have a reason why, you figure out the “how”.  I think that basic idea applies in so many areas of life, and it definitely does in language.

For some, especially those living in a foreign country, being able to function in the day-to-day, and the feeling of independence and freedom that being able to communicate for yourself gives you, is a strong reason ‘why’.

Others maybe motivated for reasons of love and the opposite friendship.  No surprise there.

I’ve also seen people, especially in upper levels of English and academics, who seem to take a real pride and pleasure in learning a language well, the semantics and the ins and outs.  They continue to devote time and energy to learning, among other reasons, because they have a natural passion for language in itself.  Some people have this, almost like a natural quality or inclination.  Others don’t, and so other reasons may have to serve as a ‘why’.  But I believe you can also cultivate a passion for a language—for example as you learn more about the structure and meaning and origin of words in a given language, it often naturally stimulates curiosity and interest.

For example, I particularly find the connections, similarities and differences among Slavic languages fascinating.  I discovered this early on a trip to the Czech Republic.  Some words were the same or nearly the same as in Polish (ie “rabbit”—“krolik” in Polish, “kralik” in Czech).  Others weren’t but made sense to me (“hospital”—in Polish “szpital”, in Czech “nemocnice”, which makes sense knowing the Polish “nie moc”, in other words roughly “to not be able to”, which would make sense—people in a hospital are generally incapacitated and unable to totally function normally until they heal).  And still others seemed totally unrelated to one another (the verb “to find” being “szukac” in Polish and “hledat” in Czech).

There are many other aspects of language that one can develop a passion about, not just the comparative aspects between languages.  For instance, if you are a political junkie, learning a language may allow you to read articles in that language that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to for lack of translation.  This will not only further expand your knowledge, but in a way can make you more savvy by being able to perceive an issue in the way it is written by the writer in its original form, with all its original bias and context (which is of course often lost in translation).

Continue reading how to learn a language here: What idea can help others learn a language?