In 2009 I purchased the Rosetta Stone software in an attempt to learn Polish, the language of my ancestors. I’ll tell you this much, it is probably easier to learn Nuclear Physics, Quantum Mechanics or host a dinner party with carnivores, vegetarians, a vegan, and a lactose intolerant pescatarian than to train my adult brain to command my tongue to speak one of the hardest languages on the planet.

I bought all three levels figuring I might as well go all in especially since they had a guarantee that if you don’t learn the language after 6 months you can return it. My plan was to spend an hour an evening pushing through the exercises. Unfortunately, it was also summer, I just met Nightingale and let’s just say I didn’t use the program much. I could have been a D-Bag and asked for my money back, but the problem was my lack of effort and I owned that. So the Rosetta Stone has sat pretty dormant though I fire it up from time to time. In fact this year as a pseudo New Year’s Resolution I made a concerted effort to practice at least one hour a week during my work from home day. I got off to a good start but alas, I missed most of March and all of April.


In case you don’t know, Rosetta Stone never uses your native language. It only uses pictures and words in the language you are trying to learn.

First, the learner gets a few nouns: a man, a woman, an apple, an egg. You hear the word, see the word written and see the picture at the same time. Soon you start practicing them: you see the picture of the apple and have to click on one of four words, only one of which is jabłko, apple. Or you’ll see and hear Jajko, and have to pick which of the four pictures has an egg in it.

I mentioned apple and egg, Jajko i jabłko. That’s right!  Right out of the gate the first thing Rosetta Stone throws at you are two words in Polish that are spelled and sound very similar, at least to American eyes and ears.

Soon, you move to pairs: a boy and a girl, a man and a boy, a man and a car. Then basic verbs: the man eats. The boy eats. The women eats.

Gradually, things get more complex: the girl drinks juice, the girl drinks water, the man reads a newspaper. All of this builds block by block. The learner is solving the language like a puzzle. Only one new element appears at a time. If you see, in Polish, the man is reading a [unfamiliar word], you will have already learned “The man is reading…” and the picture will make clear that the new word is “book”. Then you get to the book is [unfamiliar word] the chair, with the book on the chair. So the new word is on.

In theory, you should never struggle too hard to figure out what’s going on. In reality, well let’s just say there are some challenges of not having an instructor to guide you.

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Polish Culture, Tech Thursday

Rosetta Stone: Learning a new language is not easy for adults