Rosetta Stone's program for Latin American Spanish Level 1 consists of four units: Language Basics, Greetings and Introductions, Work and School, and Shopping. Each unit is divided into four Core Lessons. Each of the lessons has nine activities through which the learner is taken in the following sequence: Pronunciation, Vocabulary, Grammar, Listening and Reading, Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, and finally a Review, in which select exercises from the different activities are presented again.
After each unit, there is a Milestone. The Milestone integrates all the material of the unit into an interactive "conversation" in which the program is the learner's conversation partner. The learner interacts not by typing, but by actually speaking, deducing what to say from the real-life situations portrayed. For instance, the learner sees a flower shop, but all the flowers are yellow. The learner, having learned colors and how to form questions, and having been exposed to the flower shop scenario earlier, is presented with an answer that "not all the flowers are the same color" and thus deduces that the question he or she is being prompted to ask is, "Are all the flowers the same color?" Naturally, the Milestone is the most exciting moment in the process, because learners can feel the success of having mastered the vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and other material in the Core Lesson's exercises.
The exercises are the heart of the program. Because no translation is used, some may wonder how the program can teach grammar. One example (which I found ingenious and difficult for a lone teacher to duplicate in a classroom) should suffice to convince readers how effective the program is and to show how it uses the mind's own natural ability to seek patterns and make connections between situations, images, and language. When teaching the concept of subject-verb agreement and conjugation, a series of six photos appears. Each photo contains varying numbers of people (from one to three) and either one or more bunches of red roses. There is one person who appears in all the photos. In one, she is alone, holding a bunch of roses, seeming to speak to the learner. In another, she is pointing to someone with her who is holding them, but looking out at the learner. In another, she appears with two other people; each of them is holding a bunch of roses and all of them are looking at the learner. The learner hears a series of declarative sentences, such as "I have flowers," "she has flowers" and "we have flowers," which he or she is to match with the photo by clicking inside it. In this way, the connection between subject, its corresponding verb endings, and the situations in which they are used are all reinforced without any need to translate! Ingenious indeed, and only technology can do it, unless schools and universities want to put three professors in every classroom of their level one Spanish classes.