What do we think about in-country language learning?

polish1Some days ago, I was cornered by a New York sophisticate who wanted to challenge me on Rosetta Stone’s efficacy. He cut right to the chase: “All right, so… does Rosetta Stone work?” he said. “And don’t you think that the best way to really learn a new language is to go to a country where they speak it?”

Implied in his question was a sense that Rosetta Stone does not think it’s effective to travel to a foreign country and study a language there, getting a full immersion experience. Au contraire, mon ami. We know that in-country learning works. Indeed, it was our own personal experiences of in-country language-learning success that inspired our quest for a better way to learn at home. One might even say that our mission is simply to make the in-country experience technology-enabled so that it can be accessed anywhere at any time.

Here are ways that we try to ‘virtualize’ the in-country immersion experience in our Rosetta Stone language-learning solutions:

  • 1. Immersion! We want you thinking in your new language as soon as possible. So just like in-country immersion, we keep you surrounded by the language you’re learning. We expose you to hours and hours of high-quality fluent native speech. And we never step outside it with translations or asides about what you’re learning.
  • 2. Unlimited time with native speakers. There’s no doubt that when you spend every waking moment on something, you make significant progress. Just think: during one week, in-country, you could spend 40 hours studying in an immersion classroom, 60 hours practicing speaking with locals and take the balance 68 hours to rest up and do some exercise (soon you’d even start dreaming in the language). With Rosetta Stone TOTALe, you likewise have unlimited study time, unlimited sessions with language tutors, and unlimited time with other learners and native speakers in our online community.
  • 3. Daily functional pressure to use what you learn. Invariably, when you’re in-country, you quickly try to establish some independence by asking a waiter for some food and drink, and soon you move on towards trying to make connections with local people that you meet. You end up using the language as you learn it, and, as you do, the learning sticks and comes to life. We replicate that pressure in Rosetta Stone by putting you in conversational situations where you need to speak to advance – from simulated conversations in your course, to guided conversations with a tutor, to online games with native speakers.

But while learning in-country is often a great experience, there are elements of Rosetta Stone that make it more compelling when you are starting to learn a new language:

  • 1. Structured immersion. In-country immersion can be chaotic, overwhelming and inefficient. You may understand nothing at all for a while, or incorrectly guess the meanings of particular words. In the Rosetta Stone curriculum, your exposure to the language is carefully ordered so that you can always derive the meaning of new words through context, and so acquire new language efficiently.
  • 2. Finding native speakers to practice with. Although you’d think it would be easy to find locals to practice with when you’re in-country, making those initial connections can be intimidating. In Rosetta Stone TOTALe, native speakers are always available online, as tutors or as partners in activities and conversations, so it’s easy to start practicing right away.
  • 3. Speech analysis. Many of us aren’t good at comparing our pronunciation to the speakers around us. And even if we are in-country, it can be hard to find someone willing to correct our pronunciation. With our integrated speech and pronunciation exercises, you get plenty of help to improve the way you sound, plus you can work on it without embarrassing yourself in front of others!
  • 4. At your level. Wherever you go in TOTALe, you get practice at your sweet spot. Whether you’re studying, reading stories, getting guidance from a tutor, or playing games, you’re working with language that’s just at your level, never over your head.

So, given the choice, you might wonder, what would I rather do: in-country immersion or Rosetta Stone TOTALe? Not constrained by time or money, I would try to do both. I would use Rosetta Stone to make the most of my in-country exposure, so that I had a very solid foundation and even considerable conversational experience, and then I’d spend months in-country making the language come alive as I navigated a new environment and connected with people in a more intimate way. Nothing beats the joy and enrichment that comes from confidently using a new language to unlock new cultural experiences.

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Tom Adams

Tom Adams is the CEO of Rosetta Stone. Since joining the company in 2003, Adams has changed the way the world learns languages by ensuring learners rediscover the joy of the language-learning journey. He harnessed his passion for language learning and embraced the company’s mission of turning Rosetta Stone into a global brand. Under Adam’s innovative leadership, Rosetta Stone has grown into one of the world’s leading language-learning solution providers, offering more than 30 different languages in more than 150 countries. With Tom’s guidance and drive to empower millions around the globe to learn a language, the company became publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (RST) in April 2009. In recognition of his accomplishments, he has been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2009 overall national winner, 2009 Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards (Stevies) and SmartCEO CEO of the Year 2009. Tom Adams holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Bristol University in England and received his Masters in Business Administration from INSEAD. A native of Sweden, he grew up in France and England and is fluent in French, Swedish, English and Spanish. He has a working knowledge of German and Chinese and is currently in the process of learning Russian.
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