Is Rosetta Stone Really Worth It?

People ask me all the time whether or not buying a language learning program like Rosetta Stone is worth the investment. Admittedly, it has a hefty price tag, but it is significantly cheaper than when it first became available.

Rosetta Stone was at one time under contract with the US Army, and is now collaborating with four year universities to offer online language learning programs for credit. The software definitely has some obvious benefits and is clearly effective.

Is it right for you?

Well, that really depends on the kind of person you are. Are you the kind of person who starts a project and sees it through, or are you a serial project starter who frequently moves on to the next project once you start to lose interest?

I’ve found that if you have the dedication it takes to go home after a long day of work, then open up your computer and be productive, then this type of program would be perfect for you.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who is always going to ‘start tomorrow,’ then, maybe it’s best if you sign up for a traditional classroom course.

If you are the kind of person who feels like Rosetta Stone is the right fit for you, then by all means, jump right in! I personally think the idea of studying a language at your leisure, while in your pajamas sounds like a pretty good time!

Of course, it’s still wildly beneficial to combine your e-learning with some conversation appointments with a private tutor or native speaker over coffee or tea. By using the language skills you learn on the computer, you’ll be able to put them to good use in conversation with that person.

Whichever method you choose, try your best to stick with it. Learning a language cannot be done overnight, and you are bound to lose interest at some point when the going gets a little tough. Believe me. It will be so worth it when you’re traveling the globe and can rattle off your dinner order for you and all your friends.

Rosetta Stone has so many different languages available, so whether you’re interested in studying English, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese or Japanese, you’re bound to find a language that intrigues you.

Buena suerte!




It’s Raining Chairs!

On a rainy day a while back, I was talking with Vicky on the phone and she screamed, “ahhhh, it’s raining chairs!” We both started laughing and she explained that it’s a popular expression in Greek, although it doesn’t quite translate the same way into English.

raining chairs large
Photo Credit: Jamie McCaffrey

On the other hand, I’m sure there are people in other countries that think “it’s raining cats and dogs” is equally outlandish!

I love how every language has its own set of colorful proverbs and idioms that make it so beautiful and unique.

So on this rainy day in Boston, I’ll be looking out my window and celebrating the raining chairs!

What are some of your favorite expressions in English or any other language? I’d love to hear from you!

Quick Tips for Learning a Language

So here we are in February. If you are anything like me, those resolutions you made just a month ago are a fond memory. If so, don’t fret because it’s not too late make a positive change.

Here are some quick tips on how to improve your language skills in only minutes a day.

  • Set up mini-goals. Every time you reach a goal, you will receive that necessary motivation to reach your next mini-goal.
  • Reward yourself when you hit your goals. After memorizing 20 new words or writing your first diary in that language, go out and buy a coffee, get a manicure or go see a movie!
  • Schedule just 20 minutes into each day that you devote to your learning. This time can be spent doing anything from watching a tv program, listening to music or reading out loud. Eventually, this 20 minutes will become a habit.
  • Go old fashioned. Get a pen pal from that country.  
  • Follow a blog in that language.
  • Spend money. I’ve found that nothing lights my motivational fire than money spent. Take a class or buy some movies or music.
  • Make a recipe from that country. Better yet, use a recipe in that language.
  • Celebrate! Celebrate holidays, traditions, culture, dance, etc.  You could have a party that recognizes that culture in some way.
  • Recruit a friend. When learning a language, a speaking partner will be absolutely necessary. This will also be important because you can hold each other accountable for any slacking!
  • Try to think in that language. Constantly translating in your head back and forth gets very tiresome and will create frustration.
  • While listening, try to focus on the main idea, not just individual words.
  • Smile! People will understand you’re not a native speaker and most people will be delighted that you are learning their language and trying to communicate.
  • Travel. Nothing will give you the language bug quite like traveling. Get out and see new places, meet new people and have fun with your new language skills!!

Remember to keep it fun because if you are enjoying the process, you’ll be more inclined to stick with it. If you miss a day, just make sure you don’t miss the next day.

Also, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not learning fast enough. If learning a language were easy, everybody would speak 10 languages!

As always, if you have any tips that have worked for you, feel free to share.

Happy Learning!!

For the Parents

In my 13 years of teaching experience, nothing has made quite a difference in the learning curve of my students as when the parents are involved in their children’s education. It’s pretty interesting, because many parents are very hands-on with all their children’s school subjects with the exception of language, art and music. (I don’t teach art or music, but I do think they are also crucial to a child’s personal and creative development. In this post, I will only touch on language, but it is not my intention to imply that art or music are any less important.)

Nobody should expect their children, themselves or their students for that matter to be fluent in a language if their only exposure is that weekly 60 minute lesson. Most kids spend much more time than that playing video games or updating their FaceBook pages, yet we are still surprised when students can’t speak after 2 years of classes.

Parents and other family members should take an active interest in their children’s language learning as well. Even a couple minutes a day can make a huge difference in a student’s language growth. For example, when you’re sitting down at dinner time, ask your child “what is this” in that language. If your child is learning Spanish, point to the dinner plate, glass, table or rice and ask “que es esto?”

Family having lunch at restaurant
Photo by Tetra Pak

So many of my younger students’ parents ask me if they should try to speak with their children when their accents are heavy or they don’t have perfect grammar themselves. I always say that a little practice with some mistakes is better than no practice at all. The main goal is to communicate with others in that language. If you can do that at home, chances are, you’ll feel a lot more confident to try speaking with a native speaker. I normally find that people hesitate to speak with native speakers, not because they can’t speak, but because they’re scared.

So what happens when your child is learning a language that you have never studied? You should take this opportunity to study the language from scratch right along with your child. Try some of the following techniques to learn even the basics of the language with your child.

  • Hire a private tutor to come work with you and your child
  • Check out the many language learning websites for helpful tips, vocabulary lists and pronunciation guides
  • Check your community to see if there are language groups you can join
  • Make a weekly foreign film movie night
  • Label different things around your house and make it a family affair to try to learn more vocabulary
  • Celebrate holidays and festivals from that country
  • Try a new recipe from that country
  • Subscribe to online or paper magazines/newspapers in that language
  • Start listening to music from that country and try to sing along
  • Write your shopping lists in that language
  • Do some research to see if there is a popular game from that country you can play with your family
  • Play I Spy in the car (of course in that language)
  • Have fun – Everybody’s idea of fun is a little different, so be creative and do something with your family to include your child’s own personal interests, while speaking in that language

Let me know how these techniques work for your family and if you have any other ideas to share!


Use Your Senses

Have you ever smelled something and it made you recall a certain memory? Do you ever see a building or a person and it reminds you of a place your person you used to know? Have you ever heard a song that reminded you of a specific time in your life?

Smell(Photo by Dennis Wong)

I’m a firm believer that our senses heighten our memories and enable us to recall facts and information more effectively. Whether you’re a native English speaker learning a new language or you are learning English as a Foreign Language, using more senses during your studies can really help you memorize information and vocabulary better.

The next time you study, why not try some of these ideas?

  • Read a magazine article aloud
  • Sing along with the radio
  • Use subtitles on the television and try to say the words with the actors
  • While cooking, taste different ingredients as you say their names
  • Close your eyes and smell different flowers or foods and describe them
  • Go outside and speak with a native speaker
  • Write down words you hear on the radio or television
  • Eat a meal from that country and describe it orally or on paper… or both!
  • Touch different things in your house and say their names or describe the textures

Using your senses as you learn (or teach) a language encourages you to have fun and add creativity to your learning experience. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I encourage you to try to use all five of your senses this week during one activity. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Have a great week!