My first Amazon.com review: Rosetta Stone language learning program

I’ve published my first review on Amazon.com, and do I ever feel better. It’s posted here, but I’ve copied it below for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

My first experience with Rosetta Stone should have been a tip-off.
After numerous ads in Scientific American imprinted the Rosetta Stone name into my noggin over the years, I finally purchased Levels 1, 2 and 3 – the Homeschool Edition, for my kids to study Hebrew. The motivator was an ad I received by email offering free shipping.
So, I went online and attempted to purchase. I kept getting an error message which didn’t mean anything to me, so I called Rosetta Stone for help. In the course of the conversation, it became clear that the free shipping offer was for U.S. addresses only. I objected that they had sent me an email that offered free shipping with no such qualifier.
After going around the mulberry bush a few times on that subject, I realized that the operator was not going to break forth from her programmed algorithm. If I wanted the product, I’d have to pay the shipping.
When the product arrived, we installed it and began to run it.
The kids seem to enjoy the sessions and do well at them, although the voice recognition seemed to have trouble with the kids’ voices. My daughter has a better accent than I do, but the software seemed to understand me better than it did her.
My impression is that you can learn a language from the software, but it does have a cookie-cutter approach. As you may have heard, language is culture. People in France talke about different things in different ways than people in Saudi Arabia. You can’t have this diversity in a one-size-fits-all approach like Rosetta Stone.
Then, one day, for no apparent reason, the software stopped working. I called tech support and spoke with a friendly enough agent whom I’ll call “Suraj.”
Suraj didn’t really seem to understand what the problem was, but did help me to get going again.
Eventually the problem hit again, apparently after installing one of Rosetta Stones recommended updates. This time I got “Armaan” on the line. Armaan got me going again somewhat, and we had a nice chat about about the weather in India while the software loaded. I had an opportunity to help Armaan with his English as well.
Except the headphone wouldn’t work. I could see that this particular headphone, which had come with the software, was beginning to look a little more than gently used. Armaan suggested I get a new headphone and try again. I was a little suspicious, because now I could see that the software wasn’t working with the internal speaker and microphone system either.
I bought a new headphone/microphone and plugged it in. No dice.
At this point I had spent a lot of time on the phone with India and while I value the cultural experience, it’s not the one I paid $500 for.
Last week my computer died. It had been hiccupping for some time, and I was not too surprised to see it give up the ghost. I bought a new one for less money than the Rosetta Stone package cost, and decided to try loading it. I forwent the offer to download the upgrades.
I typed in the activation code and got a message telling me that the code was invalid. The message window kindly suggested that the software may have been installed on another computer.
I got on the blower to see what Armaan and Suraj could do for me. I listened to some very uplifting music for about twenty minutes and decided to hang up.
This software is recommended if you would like to learn one of the many languages that India has to offer, as you will spend a good amount of time speaking to Armaan and Suraj. You will also have the opportunity to develop your musical appreciation as you wait on hold. There are not even intermittant messages punctuation the music telling you to please continue to hold as your call is important to them. They know you know better.
Dealing with Rosetta Stone feels like making a pact with the devil. It’s tempting to do so because they offer some appealling bells and whistles. But it’s never good form to do business with someone you can’t trust, and I have found them untrustworthy. The devil may offer temporary benefits, but at what cost? I didn’t lose my soul, but I lost my time, and I lost my $500.

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Update: Rosetta Stone contacted me by email after I posted the above review. I emailed them my receipt and the activation codes. They authorized the activation and the product appears to be working now.

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2 thoughts on “My first Amazon.com review: Rosetta Stone language learning program

    • We did get several hours out of it. Myself and the kids got through the first part of Level One, if I recall correctly. So we did benefit. But we didn’t get nearly the benefit of the three levels. I would say we used about 10 to 15 per cent of the program. Even that might be a generous estimate. Thanks for asking.

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