I am holding in my hand the CD for Rosetta Stone Latin, Level 1, Personal Edition, dated 2004. This review is a critque of that product.
The student begins with a preview of the lesson and views a picture and listens to a speaker tell him/her what is represented in that picture in Latin. No English is used at any point in Rosetta Stone. The student identifies the picture with the word. Once all the words have been learned, the student is given a chance to view four pictures. The speaker gives the word in Latin and the student points to the appropriate picture with the mouse and clicks on it. If the answer is correct, a check is given with an approving sound and another word is spoken. If the student is incorrect, an x is shown with a disapproving sound. The word is spoken again and the student has a chance to make another choice. Four choices are available and by a process of elimination the student will at some point make the right choice. So far so good. Much useful vocabulary can be learned in this manner.
Soon the program gives sentences, again illustrated in the pictures shown. In the beginning the sentences are all given in the present tense and it is not difficult for the student to learn the appropriate Latin and then select the correct picture from among those given. Later, however, the student is shown pictures in which the action taking place is located in the present, imperfect, perfect, or future Latin tenses. Additionally, the nouns are shown in various cases appropriate to the picture. Now the student must identify the appropriate tense of the verb and case of the noun. Without help at hand in the form of a grammar book of some kind and a Latin dictionary, the student must try to figure out what is happening to the words and why. This activity is time consuming and unhelpful.
Latin nouns, pronouns, and adjectives decline, that is they change form depending on whether they are in the nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, locative, or vocative case. Verbs are much more complicated and must be translated according to person, number, tense, etc.
Just as a start, the student must memorize the five declensions of nouns and the four conjugations of verbs and know them well or simply guess at an accurate translation of what is shown in Rosetta Stone. Instruction not given in the Rosetta Stone program is essential. Without instruction it is highly unlikely the student will ever be able to read or write Latin correctly.
If the student is serious about learning Latin and is progressing systematically with a Latin text of choice, Rosetta Stone is a useful aid to vocabulary acquisition and sentence recognition. It does not appear to me to be a "stand alone" product which even the brightest student can use to master Latin. For the significant amount of money spent on this product, the publisher should construct a text to explain the complexities of the Latin language and key the explanation to each lesson in the program.
A friend of mine recently gave me a lovely present: Rosetta Stone: Latin 1, 2 & 3. While it is never proper to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially such an expensive one, I would like to put forward a review of this software.
Before I begin my evaluation, let me qualify what I say here. I am not a beginning student of Latin. In fact, I am a life-long student of this language, and I currently teach it at university level. The reason my friend got me this software was because it is hard to get Latin materials where I live, especially of the multimedia sort, and he thought it might be helpful to me. (If you happen to be reading this, I am really grateful!)
Over the past week, I've worked my way through Level 1. This was my first time using Rosetta Stone software, and I must say that I am quite impressed by the approach. I can imagine Rosetta Stone would do the job of teaching a modern colloquial language quite well, but it is my opinion that Rosetta Stone leaves quite a lot to be desired in its attempt to teach a classical language like Latin.
The direct method used by Rosetta Stone is to be commended. Linking images directly to Latin words without the interference of a "third wheel," meaning the student's native language, is refreshing. However, the content of Rosetta Stone's Latin course fails to take into consideration a beginning Latin student's long-term needs.
Generally speaking, a student who takes up Latin will be unlike the student who takes up a modern language in that he/she will often have an uncommonly well defined set of goals in mind. I mean it would be rare for, let's say, one to take up German only because one wants to read Goethe's Faust. More often than not, one will take up German because one wants to visit Germany--to order a bit of bratwurst in Bavaria. Latin students, however, very often have as a long-term goal the ability to read the Vulgate, for example, or Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War. So, in evaluating Rosetta Stone's Latin course, one must ask: how far is Rosetta Stone able to get the student toward this kind of goal? The answer is, well, not very far.
It is apparent that Rosetta Stone was designed for teaching modern languages, and it seems that what they have done is to develop a Latin course based upon the vocabulary and grammar that one would need to use in learning a modern language. This is not necessarily bad, but it doesn't really prepare the beginning student for what the vast majority eventually want to do with their Latin. For those few who, as a hobby, wish to learn some modern colloquial Latin, it is very nice, but Rosetta Stone doesn't make any of this clear. In fact, Rosetta Stone doesn't even appear to be aware that there is a difference between the two.
To give a reverse example, imagine a student in some non-English speaking country picking up--at very high cost--a software package that promises to teach English. Now, imagine that the software in question taught the student the English of Chaucer! You'd end up with the student making phrases like "thay myghte noghte" for "they might not," all the while totally unaware that all but a highly-trained few in the English speaking world would even know what he/she is talking about!
To give a few examples, in Rosetta Stone Latin I, the student is taught that the Latin word raeda means "car." The sentence "vir raedam gubernat" (the man is driving the car) is taught matter-of-factly. Of course, in modern Latin raeda can certainly be used to mean "car," but if one were to come across this word in Cicero, it would mean "wagon" not "car." The student is not made aware of this fact.
Furthermore, the student is taught that the Latin for "sandwich" is paniculus fartus. Overlooking the fact that the modern concept of a sandwich didn't exist for the Romans. (they would have understood meat and bread, even stuffed bread, which is what is meant by fartus--get your mind out of the gutter!) That being said, the folks at Rosetta Stone don't seem to realize that the modern Latin phrase for sandwich is actually pastillum fartum--at least that's what it is according to the Vatican where the official language is Latin. Inappropriate vocabulary to one side, there is also a small issue concerning pronunciation.
The pronunciation used in Rosetta Stone's course is, as far as I am concerned, quite alright. The one point I would raise, though, is that they teach the reconstructed Classical pronunciation without mentioning that this is only one of two systems currently taught today--the other being Ecclesiastical or Italian pronunciation. The difference would be comparable to the differences between American and British English. I don't say one is necessarily better than the other, but the student should be made aware of the differences in any case. Now that I have said that, there are a few places in Rosetta Stone where the Classical pronunciation isn't followed. In Rosetta Stone, the adjective magnus (large), for example, is pronounced mag, as in magazing, and nus, as in n+us. In both Classical and Ecclesiastical Latin, when "g" comes before "n," it is pronounced "ng," as in sing, so the proper pronunciation should by "mangnus." Of course, that is a minor detail; nevertheless, you would expect Rosetta Stone's Latin course to be more carefully prepared, especially given the premium price.
While I don't think Rosetta Stone is a good starting place for the would-be Latinist, I do think it is a nice way for the established Latinist to get his/her feet wet in world of Living Latin despite the courses occasional deficiencies.
In closing, I hope Rosetta Stone will continue to develop their Latin course and begin marketing it as a "modern colloquial Latin course," which it is, rather than marketing it as a good way to study Classical Latin, which it is not.
edonnelly wrote: (unlike, for example, the Pimsleur course, which I also got free from my library, which was incredibly useful for learning some Spanish)