UI offers Rosetta Stone to help international, study abroad students

By Samantha Jones Toal

Mareesa Nosalik, sophomore in FAA, is required to study Italian, French and German as a vocal performance major.

When she found out the University offers free use of the language software program Rosetta Stone, she said she was thrilled.

“I’m very excited to use this software because it’s difficult to find people with whom to practice with such a crazy, hectic schedule,” she said. “This will help me practice whenever I have free time and it will supplement my learning.”

The University purchased the software a few weeks ago after beginning negotiations with the company in August.

Students can access the program for through the library webpage by logging in with their netID and then selecting the language they wish to learn.

“The Library recognizes that the campus is international,” said Paula Carns, head of the Literatures and Languages Library. “We not only have international students and faculty but also our students and faculty go abroad. Thus, having strong language learning materials is extremely important to prepare them for academic work and research on campus and abroad.”

Several libraries, such as the Communications Library and the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library, combined their funding to purchase the program.

“As with many large purchases, we signed a nondisclosure agreement to not publicize the cost, which was negotiated,” Carns said.

While the program is too new to assess its use, the library will gauge its popularity over the next couple of months.

Carns said the benefit of the program is that it is multimedia, an online system and can aid faculty and students in their pursuit of a language.

Still, Silvina Montrul, linguistics professor, said the program can never replace actual language classes.

“Rosetta Stone tries to teach languages to a lot of people and they use a set algorithm that they use for every single language. This presents numerous problems,” Montrul said.

She said different languages have numerous properties that aren’t always properly conveyed through the software.

“It could be good to get started with something, learn some words, but there’s no way you can develop linguistic confidence just by doing the program,” Montrul said.

She said that the program could be used as a supporting tool but couldn’t replace a class because most people don’t properly abide by an online program.

“What happens with these programs is people get bored and they drop out,” she said.

She said it’s also difficult to measure the effectiveness of online learning programs and that a study should be conducted that compares learners that fully and properly complete Rosetta Stone to a classroom of learners.

Rebecca Foote, Arabic professor, said she is not entirely familiar with the program but also believes it may assist in students learning vocabulary.

“I think that their premise is that Rosetta Stone allows you to learn the language as you did your native language, by just hearing words and phrases and matching them to pictures,” Foote said. “However, nobody actually learns their native language by just hearing words and phrases and clicking on matching pictures.”

Mylissa Zelechowski, sophomore in LAS, said she intends to use the software regularly as a French minor.

“I want to use it to keep up and practice,” she said. “It’s a very expensive software, I’m going to use it as much as I can.”

Ultimately though, Carns said the main reason for its purchase is to aid students in their pursuit of a non-native language.

“An advantage of Rosetta Stone is that it offers English for non-native speakers and thus, international students coming to UIUC can use it to hone their English skills,” Carns said.

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