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Unlike Rosetta Stone’s other language software titles, Latin Level 1 is the only language that is not spoken natively. Spanish, French, Greek, and the other language titles offer a much more practical result, the ability to use the language in the learner’s daily life. Not surprisingly, Latin Level 1 uses the same formula for language learning that makes Rosetta Stone’s other titles so popular with individuals, educators, institutions, and government agencies. As a dead language, Latin is far less useful as a learned language. However, with Rosetta Stone’s approach to immersion and learning, the language comes alive for the Latin student in a way other Latin programs cannot.
For several decades now, Latin has been replaced in educational environments by more practical languages such as French, Spanish, German, etc. However, a core group of students seems to emerge every year at various high schools, college campuses, and websites to spark interest in learning the language of the Romans. Many of these traditional programs such as those that use Jenney’s textbook or Wheelock’s approach rarely include speaking the language conversationally as a component to learning. Hence, these programs focus on translation as the main force behind learning. Although most traditional programs encourage speaking Latin aloud for learning purposes, few include conversational Latin. The purpose of this article is to review several aspects of Rosetta Stone’s Latin Level 1 language software to explore its place among other Latin programs. Rather than focus specifically on Rosetta Stone’s already-established formula for language acquisition, I will look at the software from the lens of a Latin educator and make observations about this software’s usefulness among other programs of study.
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Installation, Setup, and Ease of Use
Rather than look at these components separately, I have decided to lump them together into one category. The thought being that without each of these three components of installation, setup, and ease of use, the software would be useless. Luckily, Rosetta Stone’s software scores perfectly on all three of these components, allowing the user to spend less time worrying about getting the software up and running and more time on actual learning. The interface is amazingly simple to understand in comparison to other language software, with little time spent wondering, “What do I do now?" Installation is fast and reliable and I was up and running with the software in mere minutes.
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Traditional Latin programs have their own progression and pace. These programs answer the questions of when should each verb tense be introduced and how much information should be presented in each lesson? With Rosetta Stone, such questions are seamless with the lessons as the student need not worry about how much is being presented and which verb tense is being learned now. Using Rosetta Stone’s approach to language acquisition, Latin is presented in a unique way without the need for memorizing verb tense names, or conjugation and declination rules. Instead, the software takes you through a series of lessons that stress learning as one learned his/her native language. This is an interesting approach to learning Latin since most programs require rote memorization and tables of conjugated verbs and declined nouns. As a supplement to traditional programs of study, this software allows a student to immerse him/herself in Latin in a way that would be difficult with other programs. Since many teachers of Latin themselves do not speak Latin, speaking and listening take a back seat to the knowledge-acquisition approach of most programs. With Rosetta Stone’s Latin software, teachers can expose students to spoken Latin in conjunction with academic knowledge with the language. In this way, practical meets academic enhancing the student’s exposure to Latin learning as more than a rote exercise.
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Rosetta Stone’s approach to language acquisition makes learning the language like a game where learners can explore the language in a multimedia environment not possible with books or even in a classroom. Latin Level 1 offers learners of the language an opportunity to explore the language with a focus on elementary skills. Unfortunately, unlike other languages offered by the company, Latin has only one level. Lacking a level 2 or 3 makes the amount of Latin that can be learned from the software limited. Looking at the lessons offered in Level 1, it does appear that most if not all of the major components (verb tenses, nouns, numbers, grammar, etc.) of the language are present but there is a noticeable lack of learning Latin conversationally. Consequently, this software may be better suited to a supplement to another program of study rather than a comprehensive program in itself. Still, use of modern-day photographs to illustrate action within the lessons does bring Latin out of the ancient and into the modern. This aspect alone makes Latin seem more real as a language and less like an anachronistic relic of the past.
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Perhaps Latin Level 1’s most important and useful feature is the pronunciation of Latin throughout the lesson. It appears that the pronunciation adopted by Rosetta Stone is in line with what is known and accepted by scholars about Classical Latin pronunciation. This feature alone makes this software worth a look for students of elementary Latin, again as a supplement to classroom or home learning. Since many Latin teachers are not speakers of the language themselves, this software affords students the ability to hear both short and long, complex sentences without the breaks and “ums" present during early stages of learning. In addition, both male and female voices illustrate tonal difference between the sexes. Since most Latin courses focus on translation of ancient texts, most of which were authored by men, Latin is often associated with a male’s deeper voice. Hearing the voice of a woman pronounce Latin, again, brings to life a language that was actually once spoken.
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Given that Rosetta Stone’s Latin Level 1 offers something most programs cannot or do not, the price of the software is quite reasonable. This is especially true with the lack of multiple levels of learning. With only one level, a one-time purchase ensures everything Rosetta Stone offers for the Latin language is acquired in one package. Multiple Windows operating systems (2000, XP, Vista) are supported with Mac OS 10.3 also available as a platform, thus making transition from one platform to another easy. Overall, the unique opportunity Latin Level 1 offers makes this software a good value for the price.
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Immersion in Latin is almost impossible. Even teachers of the language rarely are able to speak Latin fluently. Consequently, teachers of Latin are not able to immerse students in a comprehensive learning environment. Latin, much more than other languages, is typically taught through rote memorization. Rosetta Stone’s Latin Level 1 opens up the language for the student by providing a method of learning outside of the rote paradigm. As a stand-alone product, it is an exploration of an ancient language. As a supplement to other programs, it brings to life a dead language and invites expansion and immersion into a typically rote learning experience.
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Image Credit: Rosetta Stone