Learning a new language opens up so many more doors than the obvious one of breaking down a language barrier. It expands your thinking, opens your mind to new worlds and possibilities, allows you to see your own world through new eyes. Those are just a few of the reasons I want my son to grow up with more than one language. I’d heard about Rosetta Stone Software, and I wanted to see what made this language learning system different from the others I’ve tried throughout the years.
“Total immersion” is a phrase Rosetta Stone likes to use when describing their technique. All I could imagine for such a concept was to be plunked in a foreign country all alone with no guidebook. Fortunately, Rosetta Stone doesn’t take things that far. What they do offer, however, is a way of learning a new language that mimics how we as babies learned our first language.
When our mothers and fathers first started holding up objects to us and telling us what they were, (“Look, it’s a doggie!”) there was no text flashing below their heads to give us the phonetics and the proper spelling of our newfound language. We had to associate the sound of that word with the actual object. Much in this way, Rosetta Stone allows the learner to first make associations with photos and sounds. Somehow, it seems to make the whole process much easier.
My 3 1/2-year-old son and my husband have really taken to this program. The software comes with everything you need, including headsets with a built-in microphone so one can repeat the words. (Yes, the program even knows when you’ve said it correctly.) My husband instead ran the program through our speakers and set up our own microphone so he and my son could play with it together. What resulted was a toddler who occasionally spouts phrases in Mandarin Chinese. We don’t always know what he’s saying, as little ones remember language better than us adults. It’s been encouraging and fun. And since the software remembers where different individuals are in the program, that means I can learn too.
Overall, we’ve been having a lot of fun with Rosetta Stone Mandarin Chinese Level 1, and hopefully with some practice we’ll all three graduate soon and move to Level 2. Then, who knows? Perhaps we’ll take off and visit the Great Wall. Or actually order our Chinese food in Chinese. Or simply confound passersby at the mall and confuse our relatives. Either way, learning a new language expands our horizons by giving our family a group activity that is as enriching as it is fun.