Rosetta Stone Squared: How ‘Exponential Learning’ Gets You Talking

Anyone who’s spent time in a traditional language-learning class remembers the moment all those lists and charts you memorized failed to produce anything. Somewhere—at some shop, street corner, bus station or backyard barbeque— your language study left you speechless. You couldn’t speak a lick.

Of course it’s easy to blame the method most of us used in school: the grammar-translation method or GTM for short. And you’d be right—except that GTM never claimed to be able to help anyone learn to speak. In fact, the method was developed specifically and exclusively to improve reading and writing skills in the classical languages. Communication was not the goal.

So when it became important over the past two decades to actually speak another language, the grammar-translation method simply wasn’t fit for the job. And that’s the problem.

When we learn a new language—most often in school—we also acquire a method for language learning: a set of strategies, techniques and tactics that guides the language-learning process. Grammar-translation is one of those methods. Understandably, the method sticks with us and we depend on it when we continue our language learning beyond the classroom, whether it’s with a self-study program, another class, or an in-country experience. And that “sticky” method, whatever it is, usually determines whether we’ll succeed, especially if we want to speak the language.

In the case of the grammar-translation method, for example, we learn to depend upon translations and grammar explanations in our native language even though the GT method itself usually accounts for our failure to speak the language. We venture out into the world nonetheless, fortified with translation-based dictionaries and phrase-books hoping we’ll learn to speak. But the method gets in the way.

What we need, then, is a method for learning to speak a language that carries us all the way through the process, beginning to end, and delivers real communicative value regardless of the context: self-study, conversations around town, or in-country. You could call it an “exponential-learning” method that multiplies its value in each new setting. Imagine a completely natural language-learning method for self-study (x) that builds your conversation skills with live native speakers at the same time (x2) and gives you exactly the strategies and tactics you need to continue learning when you’re surrounded by native speakers in-country (x3). You could call it exponential learning, or you could just call it “immersion,” the method you were born with.

The Dynamic Immersion method in Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe takes exactly this approach. It’s not only what you learn in Rosetta Stone programs, it’s how you learn that equips you to communicate with native speakers and to continue your learning process in context. In V4 TOTALe, for example, you’re completely surrounded by the new language from the very beginning, just like being in-country. Yet you learn systematically from the start. In every screen, you use the language you’ve already learned as the context for learning new language. You’re always looking for what you know. And you develop all key language skills simultaneously with constant opportunities to practice live conversations with native speakers right inside the program.

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Consider the “exponential” value of this approach when you’re out and about. Ordinarily, we feel a bit overwhelmed talking with native speakers in everyday situations. Having tried out a greeting or a question, we’re suddenly confounded by a response we don’t understand, full of language we haven’t learned. We freeze and get discouraged. In Rosetta Stone, however, we’re trained to do the opposite: to listen carefully for language we know in order to solve the meaning of language we don’t know. And we start breathing . . . and speaking again.

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Duane Sider

Duane Sider, director of learning for Rosetta Stone Ltd., is passionate about changing the way the world views language learning. In his role, Duane has introduced Rosetta Stone® solutions and the joy of the language-learning journey to a variety of audiences through numerous speaking engagements worldwide. Additionally, Duane has authored a number of articles and papers on immersion methodology in second-language acquisition. Duane joined the company’s international operations in 1997, became director of learning in 2003, directing domestic and international training programs, and assumed his current responsibilities in 2008. Prior to joining Rosetta Stone he taught literature, philosophy and aesthetics at the university level for 14 years. Throughout his career, Duane has traveled, performed and taught extensively throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, promoting international communication and advocating new technologies in education. Duane holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Messiah College and a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Virginia. He has written two plays, a collection of poetry and manages a theater company in Virginia.
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