|Editor's Review Costs & Features User Reviews|
We have awarded Rosetta Stone (Chinese) our prestigious Silver Award in this category, having reviewed 17 Teach Yourself Chinese Guides. Read our review below to find out why...
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Rosetta Stone (Chinese) is at once educational, systematic and engaging. Rosetta Stone uses what it calls the 'Dynamic Immersion' method which means there is no translation into English, no memorization, or no repetitious drilling of words and phrases. It puts you in the linguistic drivers seat from the start, hearing Mandarin from the get go and building upon your understanding session by session. Rosetta Stone, whether level 1 or level 5, gives you the foundation upon which you will build a more complex knowledge of Mandarin, and if its claims are true, it will have you practising and learning Mandarin quicker than you might expect.
Rosetta Stone offers its Mandarin software at five different levels. If you are a novice Mandarin learner you might purchase Level One or if you have a more sophisticated understanding you might try level 3, 4 or 5. One drawback of these different levels is the cost. You can only buy Level 1 individually - the rest come in box sets which include either level 1, 2, and 3 or 1,2,3,4 and 5. So you must decide in advance how far you want to take your language learning. Do you want to fork out for the entire 5 levels and try to master Mandarin yourself level by level? Or, if you wish to take small steps to gain an understanding of the basics then you would purchase level 1. You must decide how far you want to progress with Rosetta Stone and base your purchase on that decision.
Let's consider Rosetta Stone in practice; Level One Mandarin: you set up the program on your computer and plug in your Rosetta Stone state-of-the-art headphones, then you can choose an activity from either Speaking, Listening, Reading or Writing. For example if you chose speaking, words and phrases are spoken to you by a native speaker accompanied with written examples and you must match these words and phrases to the visual images they represent by clicking on them. Rosetta Stone also makes use of speech recognition technology, whereby your voice is recorded and repeated in comparison with the native speaker's pronunciation. This serves to help you perfect your Mandarin intonation. In the writing section you write what you hear and the program will highlight errors and allow you to correct as you go. As you move on, the program naturally builds upon the language you have previously covered. It builds up your vocabulary in a logical and intuitive way theme by theme - for example past, present and future tenses, work and free time, socializing and directions, amongst many others using the four main language skills – writing, reading, listening, speaking.
It is important to know that Chinese Mandarin is written in pin yin which uses the Latin alphabet to represent Mandarin sounds. This ensures that non-Chinese speakers are able to say the word and read them, as traditional Chinese symbols would be far too difficult. It seems that Rosetta Stone is one of the most expensive language software programs on the market. There are alternative programs that appear to offer a wider variety of activities and ways to engage with a new language that are not as expensive. Perhaps the most scathing criticism of all is in the use of the immersion method, this means there is no English explanation at all, you are learning blind, and this might cause problems if you are completely new to the language.
Overall, Rosetta Stone offers a great opportunity to learn spoken Mandarin; it provides a variety of activities in an engaging way using an audio and picture presentation. You will be surprised how easily you pick up the intuitive dynamic immersion method, but if you are serious about learning the language it is necessary to supplement Rosetta Stone with other learning materials, as learning such a complex language as Mandarin is never going to be easy. Rosetta Stone is a great program to encourage you on your way, but you should be aware that you could easily forget the language if you are not actively using it in everyday life. Primarily designed for non-native speakers considering going to China, or for those already there who want to improve their grasp of the language, Rosetta Stone is undoubtedly top quality software for language learning.
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