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Review CornerSoftware
Rosetta Stone Spanish Explorer/Rosetta Stone French Explorer
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This easy-to-use, straightforward program carefully builds confidence in learning a foreign language through lessons supported by vibrant photos and clear speech. This program is unique in that it is appropriate for many different ages and skill levels.
Ages: 6-Adult   Subject: Foreign Language   Brand: Fairfield Language Technologies
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
image Product Overview
This foreign language program features a pleasing presentation and an excellent set of learning styles. For the purposes of this review, we tested both French Explorer and Spanish Explorer titles (many languages are available).

The software is divided into two units, each containing eleven lessons. Each lesson can be attempted using the five main skill sets—listening and reading (combined), listening only, reading only, speaking, and writing. Each skill set contains a preview of the lesson (designed for users to explore the lesson before proceeding to the exercises), one or more exercises, and one or more tests.

For example, Unit One, Lesson Four in the French Explorer program teaches cardinal numbers from 1-10. In most cases, users will probably begin with the Listening and Reading skill set. In this lesson, users can move through the lesson contents in an open-ended fashion by selecting "preview". There are four exercise sets for this option. Here, users are presented with a set of four photographs, and they must select the picture that best describes the given phrase (in both text and audio), such as "six, sept, huit". Some exercises require matching audio with text (no visual). There are four tests in this study, best attempted after the exercises.

Writing exercises involve listening to a phrase, typing what is heard, and checking the answers. If incorrect, the first error in the text is highlighted. Users can continue to attempt to correct their work, and if they are totally stumped, they can resort to the toggle feature that shows the answers. Speaking exercises require the use of a microphone, and Reading Only exercises involve looking at a picture and choosing one of four text phrases that best describes the photo.

Users can select any units and lessons, but these are organized nicely so that working through them in order makes sense. The photographs are vibrant and exceptionally clear. There is little of the confusion that is sometimes found in other programs that results from lack of clarity in terms of what the pictures are meant to represent. The exercises are repetitive, but very effective.

Although many useful phrases are taught in this program, missing are a number of basic phrases that are present in most travel foreign language software programs. As such, this program is more suited as a supplement to a student's foreign language courses. In fact, this is a refreshing feature from the perspective of children taking foreign language courses. Lots of reinforcement of vocabulary and sentence structure is featured — ideal for the student!

This program is effective because the immersion approach matches most children's natural learning styles. Instead of explicit grammar lessons and translations, users absorb vocabulary and sentence structure in a manner that is natural and unforced. Most users will improve their listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in the featured foreign language. Advanced students of the language are unlikely to find much challenge in the program, and very beginners might struggle a little. Rosetta Stone Explorer titles are best for intermediate students.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/XP/NT 4.0/2000, 166 MHz or equivalent, 32 MB RAM (96 MB for 2000 or XP), 16-bit Windows compatible sound card, and 4X CD-ROM. Mac users require a PowerPC 120 MHz processor, OS 8.1 or later (including OS X), 32 MB RAM (64 MB for OS X), 4X CD-ROM. The program requires 35 MB of hard drive space. The speech recognition feature requires a microphone.

Skills Covered
Children are exposed to numerous vocabulary words, phrases, and sentences in the featured foreign language.

Educational Value
This program does not rely on translations or explicit grammar lessons. Instead, it immerses the learner in the language and effectively combines listening, visual, oral, and written components. The pace is very comfortable — starting simple and advancing gradually. This is a very effective program that can be used by virtually all ages (at a beginner to intermediate level).

Entertainment Value
Users will need to be self-motivated in order to find entertainment in the program, simply because it is repetitive in format. The photographs used are vibrant and easy on the eyes, however, and the program is considerably less of a chore than many foreign language titles simply because the program makes learning easy.

This program supports multiple users—a sign-in feature bookmarks the study and tracks performance for each user.

There are two units of lessons, each including 11 lessons that can be worked through in 5 different skill sets. Each skill set, in turn, includes exercises and tests. All of this adds up to sizable content.

Dollar Value
Each CD-ROM edition carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.

Released: 2002
Reviewed: February 2003