walkitout: (Default)
Each language learning system has some number of languages that it covers and a whole lot more that it does not. Excluding English, Spanish is the most commonly included. Dutch is somewhere down the list, altho probably included in more online/software courses than it would be based on demand, simply because some of the higher demand languages require a whole different approach -- languages with different alphabets, different writing systems, tonal systems, etc. present technical challenges that are tougher to deal with than just adding another European language. Babbel had a really good freebie period when I was looking for something post-Rosetta and I was impressed enough with it that I paid for a while before turning off the account simply due to non-use (I wasn't using Duolingo at the time, either, and I figured I might as well not use a language website for free, versus not using a language website that charged me so much per month or whatever).

Navigating Duolingo is dead simple. Do the next lesson. You sometimes get a choice of two or three ones to do next, but it's all laid out visible on a tree, with opportunities to attempt to test out at intervals. Babbel has a straight line "Beginner's Course" but it also has pick-and-choose sections as well, and it isn't obvious, the way it is with Duolingo, how much you have left before you've done all of it. Babbel paid to have actual humans speak the words, vs. Duolingo's robot. Because I have a real live instructor to talk to at fairly frequent if not perfectly regular intervals, I've turned off the use-the-microphone feature on both of them. I'm doing these lessons with kids and/or husband in the room a lot and it's irritating enough already.

They both have a mix of pictures, translating exercises. Babbel has extensive, in line grammatical explanations. If you want that in Duolingo, you go dig around in the comments. (Crowd sourced grammatical explanations are about as good as you would expect them to be.) I don't like doing Duolingo on my phone, because I run into fat finger errors. I discovered I really _liked_ Duolingo on the laptop, because I type fast and relatively accurately. So I've been trying to do Babbel on the laptop (I used to use the iPad for this more often in the past) and I'm running into all kinds of problems because of the way the type-in boxes handle editing and cursor positioning. It is somehow NEVER what I expect it to be. If they fixed that, I would probably really love Babbel. As it is, it's going to take me a while to adapt.

Rather than go through _another_ start from the beginning and go through everything (these are getting painful) Dutch course, I'm going through the grammar specific stuff, in hopes that it will clear up some persistent confusion I have with open/closed syllables and vowels, and some of the verb tenses. I also seem to have some difficult to characterize word order issues when there are adverbs, objects and negation. Maybe some extra sentence building practice will help with those.
walkitout: (Default)
A., who is tutoring me in Dutch, comes up with some truly entertaining homework assignments. This week, one of the assignments involves the difference between the Royal Family and the Royal House. Another involves finding out how autism is treated in the Netherlands, and then figuring out how to describe the services my children receive her in the United States. There are others, and then on my own I'm tracking the issue the Raad van State asked the European High Court to resolve (how are you allowed to address credibility issues with people seeking asylum in Europe, claiming to be LGBTI; immigration services want to be sure they really are, and not just economic immigrants pretending to be LGBTI, but some of the tests/rules used are just horrible).

In the course of reading the Dutch wikipedia article on autism:


I found this:


Which is charming. Also this:


Which just proves that anyone who thinks that kind of approach is unique to America is ... mistaken.

What I'm really looking for are the terms of "speech therapy" and "occupational therapy", but I don't want to do some sort of direct translation if those therapies are not typically offered to autistic children in the Netherlands -- further explanation would be required.



That is _so cool_.
walkitout: (Default)
I haven't bought the full version of this app, but it's the first one that has been really tempting. They include enough vocab in the free version to convince me there's enough more in the premium (3.99? Maybe?) to be worth it. The spelling portion gives you how many letters (like playing the game hangman) and then a set of tiles to choose from, a nice balance between making it crazy easy and just giving you blank space.

The speaker is native Dutch (male voice, again, I have not attempted to modify this), not synthetic (or if it is, I cannot detect it).

I have, as yet, detect no translational errors and honestly I don't think I've even found anything arguable.

It's strictly a vocab builder. There's the spelling test. There's a "memory" section where it shows you four pictures while saying the words for each, then it repeats one of the words and you are supposed to touch the matching picture (so no native language multiple choice aimed at teaching). There's a flashcard section. The "quiz" is back to the 4 pictures from "memory", but it shows 4 pix and then says one word you're supposed to choose. "Words" offers an English language translation -- you have four choices for what the Dutch equivalent it. "Listening" is hearing the Dutch equivalent and then picking out of 4 choices the English translation. "Meaning" is a no-sound multiple choice offer Dutch choose English.

Words, Listening, Meaning and Spelling all are offered in blocks of ten. At the end you are scored and have the opportunity to put ones you are having trouble with in the "review" list.

There are 27 categories. Animals, Building, Car and City are included in the Free version. Clothing, Color, Education, Entertainment, Family, Feelings, Food, Countries, "Greating" (ha! They mean greetings), Health, House, Body, Materials, Measures, Shopping, Directions, Nature, Numbers, People, Sports, Tools, Weather and Work are all marked "Pro" so I haven't tried any of them yet. However, I am increasingly tempted.

I'll update this review as I explore it further.
walkitout: (Default)
Like all kids' apps, there is the slight problem of not knowing how much you are signing up for in terms of in-app to get all the pieces, but the good news is, there's no question about whether these are words that Dutch people use (they teach them to their kids!) or that the speakers are natives.

Expect this to be updated. A. has stolen the ipad from me to play with the app, which is a good sign.

The word for squirrel in Nederlands is eekhorn. Heh -- pronounced like "acorn".

ETA: It won't let me buy the premium stuff! I get "canceled"! This may be region enforcement, but serious bummer. I don't have restrictions enabled on this iPad so it isn't that.

The "sour grapes" in me sez it's just as well. Their cartoon of a "zeekoe" showed it getting out onto something white and ice-like. I looked up "zeekoe" on Dutch wikipedia. Zeekoeien (is the right plural -- I had the wrong one but B. kindly corrected it for me) don't do ice.
walkitout: (Default)
Before You Know It is a product of Transparent Languages, which I keep looking at and then not actually trying (I think this is because they are not a great Mac option).

BYKI is a flashcard study/quiz app. As near as I can tell, once you buy the (premium?) version, you get access to all the lists/card sets (I don't think they charge for the download more section, but maybe they do and I just don't realize because I haven't hit the free limit yet). You can decide whether you want to "study", use the cards in one direction or the other or go to the quiz, which is nice -- you can just go straight to the quiz without sitting through the "learning" portion. They use a native speaker. Some of their translations are a little iffy (Dank u wel is "Thank you"), but nothing like AccelaStudy.

If you want a flashcard/phrasebook study tool, BYKI is excellent. I've picked up a few words through it, but not enough to commit me to spending much time with it, because there are other ways for me to build vocab faster.

I think I got BYKI as a downloadable application for my laptop some years ago and had a roughly equivalent impression of it.

ETA: I'm going to retract some of the positive review because they screwed up the translation for sour cream (giving it as creme fraiche and no I'm not going to do the punctuation on that correctly sorry). That is incorrect (I mean duh), see here for detailed, correct explanation of the various kinds of cream ("room"):


I'm sensitive to this issue for two reasons. I'm allergic to milk products in general, and it can be very difficult to figure out how to cook in a new environment when translating the basic underlying foods is hard. I helped my cousin M. (from Mexico) figure this out (not for a Dutch word -- this was from Spanish) when we were hanging out with my Mennonite friends. It took a while, even tho M.'s English is fantastic, because we ultimately needed someone who had milked cows to figure out which kind of cream she remembered from her childhood.
walkitout: (Default)
Babbel presents a much trickier decision in terms of should I buy the premium. In the case of Babbel, the premium is a subscription service, and, alas, the only Dutch course available through Babbel is the beginner course.

Babbel is structured a bit like Rosetta Stone, in that it is heavy on pictures, and in that it offers a voice recognition feature. It differs from RS in that it relies upon word/phrase equivalency with "native" language (I used English, I believe you can set your native language but I haven't tried it). There is a nice little chunk you can try before you buy. The pictures are clear. They used what sound like native speakers. The words I worked through were at least as plausible as RS's. The dictation/spelling portion is more incremental than RS, in that one part of it just asks you to pick the correct first letter and another section offers you tiles to spell the word/phrase with. Those are both valid pedagogical strategies to (demonstrate that you are) learn(ing) how to read/write/spell a language.

The voice recognition feature suffers from approximately the same set of issues as RS, altho they handle the first syllable/communicate when you can start speaking marginally better.

Babbel is potentially highly disruptive of the RS revenue stream altho it suffers from offering fewer languages/only lower level courses in many of those languages.

If I had not already bought RS, and was looking for an online method for learning/reviewing Dutch or another language, I would start with Babbel. Because you get unlimited access for a period of time, if you work for many hours diligently, you could save a ton of money over RS.

If I decide to learn another language after this summer, I will be looking even more carefully at where Babbel is at that point.
walkitout: (Default)
I have not upgraded and it should become quickly apparent why.

The free version seems to have 132 words in it; the premium has on the order of a couple thousand, if I understood the descriptive material correctly.

In the flashcard portion of the app, the English speaker is a male native speaker with a relatively neutral American accent (there may well be a way to customize it, I don't know). However, the Dutch speaker sounds synthetic, with a frequency range that suggests adult male -- but it sounds synthetic, like a program not a recording of a person. For some of the words, the results are compelling (mistig, veertig). For some of the words, the results are less good (oranje) and for at least one, I think it's actually wrong (scharlaken). The result on groen actually sounds like the person whose speech was sliced and diced for the rest of it actually _said_ that word for real.

Scharlaken is particularly weird, because the sch sounds right in verscheidene, but it is pronounced "sh" here. I repeated it a ton of times and I doubled checked the sound clip on nl.wiktionary.org -- it is supposed to be the usual sch and it just isn't.

So you cannot trust the pronunciation here: it sounds synthetic AND it is sometimes wrong in an important way. Can you use it just to learn the words visually/spelling? I did not detect any spelling errors, however, whoever put this together screwed up badly in the word mapping. You could argue about whether you should translate lightning as bliksem (which seems pretty straightforward) vs. bliksemflits (their choice). Ditto the way they translate donder. Whatever. But they translated pacifier (this is in a list of 132 words with _nothing_ about keeping the peace and a few other baby related words like diaper) as vredestichter, rather than fopspeen.

Synthetic Dutch speaker, pronunciation error(s), wildly incorrect translations = I'm going to delete the free app. Just fixing the individual errors in pronunciation and translation quality is not going to be enough to convince me to retry this product, because I'm _learning_ this language. I should not be able to detect these kinds of problems in the basic version of the product.
walkitout: (Default)
This will be the last Rosetta Stone update for a while (possibly forever -- sort of depends if they add more levels, create a new version, fix the A.U.B. transaction etiquette problem and send out a patch and I get ambitious and decide to check it out, etc.).

I think it's probably accurate to believe you would be at or almost at A2 on the CEFR after going through 3 levels of RS Nederlands (altho to some extent that might depend on how hard you game the pronunciation/speaking sections: if you make a good faith effort, you'll do fine; if you notice how bad the voice rec is and figure out how to exploit that and the programming structure around the problems with the voice rec, well, on your own head be it). Based on descriptions of Pimsleur and past experience with Dutch in 3 Months, you might be slightly further along, but none of these things will get you reliably to B1.

I'll probably install EuroTalk tomorrow, but I don't expect that to get me to B1, either. I'm marginally more optimistic that the Prisma Self-teaching course might get me further, or _Taking Dutch Further_ might also. But I probably won't tackle any of those this week.

Nu ga ik op televisie kijken, waarschijnlijk NCIS. In Engels.

ETA: Why is there a single syllable word for "elephant" in Russian? This isn't just something NCIS:LA made up. I checked it out. It appears to be for real.
walkitout: (Default)
So, the bummer is that Dutch only has three levels. But the good news is, that means I'm done way sooner than if it had five! Feelings of accomplishment are imminent!

The two EuroTalk levels arrived today as did the Prisma self-study book with CDs. That actually looks pretty amazing.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I ordered from eBay UK Hugo Dutch in Three Months with CDs (I don't think they've done Taking Dutch Further with CDs yet or whether they ever intend to do so). That'll give me a chance to compare its content to Rosetta Stone for at least a high-level comparison review. And then of course at some point I'll xfer the tapes from Taking Dutch Further to mp3 and work through that for a while.

I think I have enough to keep me busy for the next few months.
walkitout: (Default)
I've been moving faster through the Units as I go along; I have a spare Milestone that I am saving for tomorrow morning and then two units and I'm done with the three levels. I'm getting through a Unit a day (which makes sense -- it's about 6 hours of material, which is what you'd get if you were taking an intensive, and you can get through it faster than the estimate).

Because my memories of the earlier version of Rosetta Stone are limited, and my recollection of what was actually in Dutch in 3 Months even more so, it's hard to know just how much vocabulary I've picked up. It sure _seems_ like there are words in this thing that I learned while in country -- that is, I didn't know them from the Hugo Course; I'm sure the flip is true as well (that lots of words were covered in Hugo's course that aren't in Rosetta).

I think the best part of this process for me has been re-learning the grammar in a completely different way. I'm familiar with German grammar and Dutch grammar in the way that you learn it in a textbook-driven course where the grammar is explained in the native language and the examples given in the target language. Rosetta Stone, however, buries the grammar in the examples -- there's no discussion of well, exactly _when_ do you use die vs. dat or al vs. gelegd or any of a large number of other things. Some of the forms I got purely by "ear" at first and then worked out the rule from the examples (I _still_ haven't had to break out a grammar to puzzle anything out, which I find astonishing, and grammar has NOT been the problem I have with the newspaper, either, which continues to be a combination of vocabulary and unfamiliarity with governmental institutions). But most of the forms caused the old grammar rule or trick or whatever to surface very quickly.

I have no idea what it would be like to use Rosetta Stone to learn a language that one had no (real) familiarity with. But I'm increasingly curious. Maybe in July, I'll pick a different language and try Rosetta on that.
walkitout: (Default)
J. and his mother L. came over for another very pleasant playdate. We didn't do anything special: they played on the scooters for a bit in the driveway then came inside and played for a long while with lots of stuff. L. and I got to chat for awhile, including a little bit about the military's use of Rosetta Stone.

R. painted the two remaining samples in the living room. One is really too dark; the other looks great but R. is worried about the room feeling really dark at night. I hate the overhead lights. We should probably get a couple more pole lights; it is a big room.

I got through Level 2 yesterday, and got through the first Unit of Level 3 today, so (since there are only 3 levels of Rosetta Stone Dutch currently) the End is in Sight. I've set up a meeting with someone to practice speaking next Thursday; that should be interesting. What I probably should be doing is watching Dutch TV, but while it has been easy to switch from reading English language news to laboriously puzzling out an article or two from NRC Handelsblad, I have not managed to actually sit down and watch _anything_ on http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl. Maybe on Monday. I hope.

By "The End is in Sight", of course, I do not mean my efforts to learn this language; I just mean my use of this particular course. EuroTalk (I bought two sections worth, IIRC) should be arriving next week, and I'm planning on transferring _Taking Dutch Further_ to mp3 (the copy I have has tapes).

Right now, I'm putting the laptop away and I'm going to bring _The Tiger_ (about Tammany Hall) upstairs and probably not actually read it before going to bed.
walkitout: (Default)

Yeah, kind of a funny choice there for the headline, but let's not get into that. Obvs, I'm reading NRC Handelsblad in a desperate attempt to improve my Dutch. I don't know if it's going well or not, but I'm basically reading this thing on the iPad with my laptop open to google translate where I can type in the sentences and phrases that I have no mortal clue about. Good news: I'm getting through longer stretches in the third article I'm reading and ALSO the articles are kinda cool (the one about Meavita and its attempts to develop a set-top box for TVs to provide tele-care/tele-medicine was particularly interesting -- alas, it's critical because the company went under a few years ago and they are still post-morteming it).

But I think I've found a very odd perspective difference that I do not believe to be an artifact of translation issues. Guus Valk is quoted as saying the sequester is the biggest cut in recent American history, a result of the continuing stalemate "tussen regering en Republikeinen" over how to deal with the deficit.

Or, between the government and Republicans. That's a different way to think about it than the way we usually think about it (that is, the powers in various branches struggling with each other).

There's a subhead later on which I am fairly certain is an idiom: "een stok achter de deur". Google translate says "big stick" but that is _not_ what those words are. That is "a stick behind the door", which sounds like something you might keep by your door to beat up bad guys who try to break in (or, conversely, threaten mis-behaving children with, as the case may be). Dutch people trying to translate this into English come up with the same thing Google translate uses. The phrase is a term of art in Dutch policy and they are not unfamiliar with sticks behind the door failing to work as hoped.

I liked this subhead: "De Politici Nemen Een "Gecalculeerd Risico". I bet you, too, can figure out exactly what it means: The politicians take a calculated risk.

I'm having a helluva time with the article about Rutte's proposal for the Dutch budget, which is only partly a language problem (what is the 3% thing that Brussels cares about for the deficit? I feel like I ought to know this and yet I find that I do not; also, what are "social partners"?).

ETA: I just adore some of these words. The future is "de toekomst", which is of course _exactly_ what the future is.
walkitout: (Default)
If you googled in to here, you should know that when I say "a few remarks" it tends to mean two things: (1) a very long post that (2) keeps getting edited to be longer.

I don't know when I first bought Rosetta Stone, but I do know that I have two editions of it (one for my old laptop and one for my current, less old laptop), or possibly three (because I got an update link from support when I was having trouble with my current version. The second version I bought January 2011; the first version I bought in March of 2007 (am I that organized? Oh, dear goddess no; Amazon remembered it for me).

The last time I was in the Netherlands was in spring 2004. My previous efforts to learn Dutch involved Dorling Kindersley's Hugo Dutch in Three Months and Taking Dutch Further. I was so cheap at the time (I was dating a grad student who was uncomfortable with the amount I spent on things and thus constantly looking for less expensive/free ways to do what I wanted to do -- ISLAGIATT) that I got Dutch in Three Months from the library (which an _excellent_ way to teach yourself Dutch and I've seen reviews that suggest the rest in that series are also good), and I went through it so fast and demand for it was so low that I didn't even have to return it/pay a fine -- I was able to renew enough times to finish. I bought Taking Dutch Further in 2004 for the 2004 trip because I wasn't able to get what I wanted through the library that time.

I've bought dictionaries (Dutch/English and also a child's woordenboek), books, a Dutch grammar in English, one of those collections of verbs, etc. I tried to take a class in Dutch, but even when I was in Seattle I failed. I'm currently attempting to connect with a teacher here (there's a Dutch school in Boston aimed at Dutch and Belgian kids who hope to re-integrate in the Dutch school system when they return home), but I'm not optimistic. I'm not currently willing to give up a half dozen Saturdays to a language class.

When I was last in Seattle, I took a couple rounds of German at a place then located in Pioneer Square. I do not recall how much I paid for the classes, but I remember it being hundreds of dollars. When I look at what is charged for classes from the same operation now (Washington Academy of Languages, and it has apparently moved and is now attached a university), they now want $405 (more if you want the college credit). The 3 level Dutch course through Rosetta Stone is $399 whether you get it from them directly or via Amazon.

While I can't speak to the current WAL offerings, and I took German rather than Dutch through WAL, I think you would learn _at least_ as much Dutch for $399 from Rosetta Stone as you would for $405 from WAL (if they offered it, which they do not). I would argue, actually, that the amount of Dutch you learn through the 3 levels is roughly equivalent to between two and three classes at a place like WAL -- potentially a significant savings, however, you might want to discount for the fact that the humans teaching a course at WAL or elsewhere can insist on you getting the accent correct whereas you really can game the voice recognition through Rosetta (but then, CD and tape courses _never_ had any kind of voice feedback either). Also, the instructor would hopefully get the meaning and usage of things like A.U.B. correct, which, alas, Rosetta Stone totally fs up.

I conclude from these experiences that while, obviously, there are a lot of ways to learn to use a language at a level above please-thank-you-how-much, Rosetta Stone is _not_ an unusually expensive way to do it and it _is_ an unusually enjoyable way to do it.

I've also done some googling around on not-in-English websites which sell books/kits/software/etc. to learn languages (mostly Dutch ones, because, hey), and have ordered two of the EuroTalk levels through Amazon, also a Prisma self-study book + CD. While it may well be the case that learning Spanish through Rosetta is a terrible decision (I wouldn't know), because there are so very, very, very many alternatives, with a language like Dutch, there just are not that many choices and most of them enjoy widespread agreement that they are not as good as Rosetta Stone.

Even on Dutch websites oriented towards learning other languages.
walkitout: (Default)
"zoologisk have"

Those are the ones I have found so far. I have been to a "dierenpark", and I thought that was the extent of the "words for zoo". Ha. Ha. Ha. It's entirely possible zoo is a legit Dutch word as well, I'm just not sure.
walkitout: (Default)
I figured I might as well get out some of the other language resources to sample in between Rosetta Stone sessions. I did not actually lose my copy of the (increasingly difficult and expensive to acquire) _Taking Dutch Further_ (I even have the tapes! Why, oh why, Hugo/DK hasn't put this out in CD form is beyond me), and I also have _Levend Nederlands_, which has thus far proved completely impenetrable for me, however, hope springs erratically.

I thought I had a Routledge grammar ...

ETA: Yup, mixed in with the Frys dictionaries, books, a history of the low countries not written in English, etc.

ETAYA: R. has carefully kept a Sony cassette deck and has the appropriate cables to hook it up to my Macbook's line-in. I believe Audacity will let me turn those cassettes into much more usable files on my computer. Hmmmm.
walkitout: (Default)
"Hij neemt de bus." Picture of a guy in blue tights, red boots, red cape, no logo. Funny! Less funny: the transport depicted is bus, taxi, metro. Is there a tram? Is there a train? No, there is no tram. No, there is no train. *sigh*

Boy in theater -- but wearing a suit, unattended and with a ticket -- asks the usher where his seat is. Usher says, to your right. Boy says "Dank U" and gets back, "Alsjeblieft". Two errors in a single photo! First, I question whether an usher in a Dutch theater would _ever_ je versus U a customer who was independent and in an appropriate location. A lost/separated child would be different. But I'm less sure about this than about other things I've noted, and the boy is adorable and the usher is perhaps just being nice to the sweet kid (altho to be honest, I've never heard alsjeblieft anyway so I'm knee-jerk suspicious of it). But saying AUB in any form in response to Dank U in this context is dead wrong. Graag gedaan is actually completely appropriate in this context.

Man on bus offers seat to older woman standing (he says mijn stoel -- a minor error, it should probably be _this_ seat rather than _my_ seat). She says thank you, he says AUB. Again, graag gedaan would be far more appropriate.

I'm not going to give any further examples of AUB vs. graag gedaan (or any of a few similar meaning phrases) from Level 2. There are many.

I will, however, note that having taken formal classes in two languages other than my native language (French and German) and having done numerous CD, book, web, tape etc. courses in other languages, the Rosetta Stone teach-giving-and-understanding-directions section is so much better than anything I've ever seen before that it seems wrong to use it as a comparator. _This_ is how you should teach people turn right/turn left/go straight/to the nth whatever/it's on your right/left/in front of you, etc. Just, wow. Super, super, super amazing, and almost worth the price of the whole package just to finally be able to understand. I never had trouble _asking_ for directions, but I _never_ understood them when people gave them to me, even when they spoke really slowly.

ETA: Also, hey that's the same root that we have in slalom (which I do understand is a borrowed word and not from Dutch).
walkitout: (Default)
There are some limitations to this review. First, and by far the most important, I haven't been using any of the Rosetta Studio, Rosetta World, etc. features. This is partly because I bought Rosetta, then failed to use it for a year (two years?). I had owned an earlier version of Rosetta Stone that didn't work on my new laptop, replaced it, but then didn't have the time. Also, I had some trouble figuring out whether I should start at the beginning or drop in somewhere in the middle. My subscription to those features has expired and I haven't renewed yet.

Because we are going to the Netherlands this summer, and because the only Dutch I've read for years has been genealogy related, and because I haven't listened to or spoken any in most of a decade, I figured I'd better just restart at the beginning. Alas, I got stuck in a weird update loop, however, Rosetta Stone support sent me a link after a few days delay that work beautifully and even remembers where I was when I left off year(s) ago (more than I remembered!). I've now completed Level 1 and thought I'd post a review.

You almost don't need any motivation to learn a language this way, beyond sitting down in front of the computer at regular intervals and leaving your ass in the seat and your headset hooked up and just grinding it out. It is not taxing. However, YMMV, because (a) I've already done a bunch of different Dutch courses (mostly on CD with book exercises, but some web stuff, too) and (b) I've spent a few weeks in the Netherlands actually using the resulting language knowledge. I'm a pretty unlikely candidate for this software. But it's enough like a game to hook me and to keep me hooked. The best part is, the repetition, while leaving you with enough time to critique the quality of the photoshopping of the images, ensures you will actually end with a "feel" for the right way to conjugate verbs, adjust endings of adjectives, where to place the helper verb, etc.

I've complained in earlier posts about the ridiculousness of the payment choices in the shopping section. There is _a lot_ of ridiculousness associated with vocabulary -- you wind up knowing a lot of words, but it is far from clear that they will be useful words to know. On the other hand, if you have a good feel for how to create a sentence, learning more words, in principle, should not be that difficult. I don't think the ridiculousness of some of the vocabulary is inherently problematic, even tho it may leave you in a pickle as you try to figure out how to pay for things in a world that doesn't much like credit cards, or magnetic stripped payment cards at all, for that matter. You can get into trouble believing credit cards can be used everywhere right here in the United States; it shouldn't be that much of a surprise that can happen somewhere else, too.

Other reviewers have other complaints. This contains some of them:


It's an interesting review, mostly because I cannot help but wonder if the technical issues the reviewer experienced had more of an impact on his ability to experience how Rosetta Stones works than he realized. If it wasn't the technical issues, I cannot for the life of me explain why that reviewer did not mention the problems associated with A.U.B. which are endemic in the last lessons of Level 1. The "Shopping" lessons are all kinds of weird. I think Rosetta knows this, because in one dialogue, a woman goes to a shop to buy plates for a picnic, wanting something light. The shop sells wooden, metal and paper plates. The customer decides to buy ten paper plates (loose!) for a dollar, and pays with a credit card. No one writes that kind of dialogue if they aren't feeling frustrated about the constraints they are operating in.

More serious are the exchanges where Rosetta is teaching shopping "etiquette", the classic back and forth of commerce, please and thank you and how much and I'd like that one and so forth. Dutch transactional etiquette is unusual, in that it goes like this:

A: I want to buy that.
B: It costs this.
A: [Offers money] Alstublieft.
B: [Gives thing, if making change says Alstublieft when offering change back]
A: Dank u.

If there's a long pause before moving along, there might be a good bye exchange.

This is in sharp contrast to my other experience of transactional etiquette, which is like this.

A: I want to buy that.
B: It costs this.
A: [Offers money]
B: [Gives thing]
A: Thank you!
B: You're welcome!

It's easy to think that you can somehow, just using words, turn the American/English/French/German/blah blah blah version into the Dutch version. You can't. If you try, the Dutch/Flemish/Belgian person Will Find You Rude and Experience Anger/Frustration/Irritation.

English speakers attempting to learn Dutch are constantly trying to figure out how to say "You're welcome". There isn't really a "You're welcome", at least not in the mandatory sense it is in American transactions. You can force a Dutch transaction into English by saying "Here you go", and you can force an American "You're Welcome" on a Dutch person by saying Graag gedaan, and no one is going to complain because it's a nice thing to say. But that doesn't change the fact that the transaction is fundamentally structured differently, and if you speak the language but don't adopt the transactional style, it will be far more irritating that if you didn't speak the language at all. A Dutch person expects an English speaker to use English transaction styles.

You can find thousands of cultural or wtfery wrongness in Rosetta Stone, but for the most part, I don't think it really matters, because a lot of that stuff doesn't involve language and Rosetta Stone is there to teach you the language. But there are places where actions and language become so intricately intertwined that you really cannot separate them, and efforts to translate the words literally without showing the matching behaviors are going to get people into trouble.

I've contacted Support. They've escalated the issue and said they'll get back to me. I'm curious to know what they're going to do about this. It's quite easy to figure out how to fix the problem on a screen by screen basis (sometimes moving a caption does it, or switching captions, but sometimes a slightly different picture would be needed), however there are _many_ screens involved and the final Milestone for Level 1 is a man going to a series of shops and engaging in a series of commercial transactions ... and getting them gratingly wrong over and over and over again.

Rosetta Stone remains an enormously useful tool for (re)learning the basic components of a language. I know a lot of people who believe in just-go-there-and-figure-it-out and it has never turned out well by my standards altho they seem happy and we all have to live with our own choices. I need to have flexible access to language wherever I am in order to communicate dietary constraints (I am allergic to milk products, some shellfish and a few other things) -- if I can't read labels and ask questions and solicit assistance in getting what I need, I will get really sick and I might die. I _don't_ need to be fluent: I need to get across something fairly tangible that results in other people taking actions or directing me to someone else who can help or shrugging and giving up. Rosetta Stone is like an escalator. You get on. You stand. You try not to fall off at the end. And you're one floor higher when you're done. But as an escalator won't train you to run stairs, this isn't the (only) tool you'll need if you want to become meaningfully fluent.
walkitout: (Default)
So I got this thing working again about a week ago. It remembered where I was the last time I worked on it, about a year ago -- I hadn't made it very far, because I had been having trouble getting the headset to work properly (d'oh -- had to go into system preferences and adjust things. And then adjust them some more). And I haven't been able to work on it every day for the last week, however, I'm up to Level 1 Unit 4, done with Lesson 3 and the Core Lesson for Unit 4 but not the subsidiary parts (under 2 hours, even if it takes the estimated time for each component, which they rarely if ever do). I think I'm one lesson and a Milestone away from the end of Level 1.

I've been surfing around trying to figure out how long it takes to get through all three levels, and I keep hearing people sort of hammer through it in [insert widely variant time here] and then learn (I'm betting through talking to someone in support) it usually takes a year. Which I have to say I'm a little skeptical of.

Anyone ever work through _any_ language in Rosetta? The one other person I know who has, is currently working on Italian, so I'm going to have to wait until he's done to ask him how long it took to get through.
walkitout: (Default)
I know Rosetta Stone has its haters: how the photos are repetitive and how they don't accurately represent the culture and so forth. However, this is the first time I've felt motivated to really whine. The "shopping" section includes words and sentences for paying for things, and even tho this is the most current edition, the payment methods include "contant geld" (really? why not just say "cash"?), "cheque", "creditcard" -- and so far at least, that is the extent of it.

Which _even in 2004_, the last time I was there, was by no means the right mix of payment types, even in Amsterdam, never mind any time you left the city. 10 years later, payment types have evolved somewhat, but not in a direction that makes this list _more_ representative.

Here's what Dutch wikipedia has to say about checks:

"In Nederland en Belgiƫ zijn cheques niet of nauwelijks meer in gebruik. In andere landen, zoals de Verenigde Staten, worden cheques nog wel veel gebruikt."

Roughly, "We don't use them any more, but they still do in the USA." This isn't a recent development, either.

Where's "chipknip"? Or at least "debetkaart"? Or the probably too general "betaalkaart"?

And not to be too blunt, but how can you present payment words in Dutch and include "creditcard" but NOT include "giro"?


Rosetta Stone still has its merits, but geez. This is really, really basic stuff. Getting it wrong is ... wrong.

I'm not even going to take it back if they add reasonable payment terms later, because this is the wrong order to present it in.

ETA: I feel like whoever put this together _knew_ it was messed up, because a little bit further on there is a dialogue where a woman goes to buy some plates and wants light ones for a picnic. She buys 10 paper plates (loose! Where the hell is this place that sells metal, wooden and paper plates?), and when asked if she is paying cash says, nope, credit card. !!!

This is some other planet.

ETAYA: Okay, as bad as that was? I have found something way, way, way worse.

A: Want some cake?
B: Yes, tasty! (Hey, lekker is a thing. That's fine.)
A: [Puts plate with cake down on the table in front of B.]
B: Thank you!
A: A.U.B.


Backwards! Backwards! What kind of a barbarian are you!!!!

It's supposed to be A.U.B. WHEN you offer. WHEN!!! Not after.

How do you get this _wrong_? This isn't failing to have a culture note. I just don't get it. There isn't any excuse for this, except the one everyone hates on Rosetta Stone for. Which is this:

There is ONE way to do things and that is the American Way. In the US, A.'s final remark would be, "You're welcome!" But A.U.B. does _NOT_ mean you're welcome. At all! Gaaaa!

And gaaaa! again!

They repeat this in another sequence involving a woman asking an employee if the supermarket is open, then the guy comes out and loads her car (!!!!! Actually, this is so freaky I'm just not sure what to do with it. At all. Roche Bros loads groceries into my car and I am grateful, but I'm at a loss to imagine this ever happening in the Netherlands.), she says thank you, he _responds_ A.U.B. Imagine me running around in circles doing a you-are-making-me-crazy dance.

And then ANOTHER screen, just to rub it in how to use this incorrectly: two pairs of thank you/A.U.B.

And more! More more more! There's a whole thing at the bakery with the biggest cake or the blue cake or the biggest blue cake (I'd mock the blue cake only I _bought_ a blue cake with a rainbow on it for the kids today so I'm in no position to make fun of blue cakes).

Look, if you don't believe me what A.U.B. means, believe this:


There are two ways to use it. The first is emphasis when asking for something, roughly, "If you please, here is your bill." The second is The Thing You Say When You Offer Something. "Here's my payment, please." You can use it in all the instances that Rosetta Stone uses it -- but you don't say it _after_ the person says thank you -- it does not mean "You're welcome" or "De rien" or whatever. It's closer to, "Here you go" (which Dutch people who cannot force themselves to stop saying something when they offer will sometimes resort to, but they'll also use other things as well).

This is really important. If you do this part wrong, and you speak convincing enough Dutch and you look Dutch, people will _lecture_ you on your manners. It is embarrassing. I know this the hard way, and attempting to evade the lecture on the basis of, hey, I'm American, just converts the lecture to, if you know enough Dutch to speak it at all, you should be getting this right.

I did. After the second lecture. I cannot believe Rosetta Stone screwed this up. Transactional Etiquette Matters.

Altho I really should just give up. I heard an old guy on Bloomberg arguing in favor of being long the Polish currency and short I-forget, and he said, "zloty". *sigh* Really? You're making currency bets on things you cannot even pronounce correctly? This is right up there with that bit in _The Big Short_ where the Very Smart Guys anticipated a coup in Thailand (not actually that hard to do) and attempted to make money off of it by shorting the baht (had to check the spelling on that; I usually flip the h and the a). Stupid. Thai coups never impact the baht negatively; usually they happen because whoever was in charge is perceived as being about to do something that might impact the baht negatively and the coup is an effort to prevent that. They are also not all that disruptive to the rest of life in Thailand, at least as near as I can tell, never having been there (I'm sure it's awful for some people).
walkitout: (Default)
I don't know if I ever learned the/any Dutch words for sink, but at least one cropped up in Rosetta today: gootsteen. _Gootsteen_? Two words? WTF?

Goot = gutter
Steen = stone

Dutch wikipedia thinks spoelbak is a better work. _Spoelbak_?!? A springbox. Which sort of makes sense, if you think of a faucet as sort of an artificial spring (the water kind).

Weird, tho, for something that is so monosyllabic in English to be a composed word in Dutch.

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