Take note that Rosetta Stone, a language-software company, has done well in its launch as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange. A Washington Post article published this month says the “company appears to be a bright spot in the economic drudgery.” (Hat tip to Colorin colorado.)
The success of the company, which sells software to the U.S. Army and State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, as well as schools, indicates that many people in this country desire to learn a foreign language (of course, we really don’t know how much they are actually using the software they are purchasing). But at the same time, the Center for Applied Linguistics has documented that the proportion of elementary schools in this country providing foreign-language classes declined over the past decade, which I reported on this year in Education Week.
Could it be that Americans are turning to tools like Rosetta Stone software as adults to learn a foreign language and compensate for something that was missing from their K-12 school curricula?
I’ve personally used the software for improving my Spanish, and I’ve found it helpful, but my experiences of being immersed in Spanish during summer study stints in Latin American countries were much more valuable. I also find that my English-Spanish conversation exchanges with Spanish-speakers here in the Washington area have been a better teaching tool than any software.
The software is used as supplementary material in a lot of schools for teaching foreign languages and English as a second language. The lessons use photos to illustrate words and ideas in the target language and don’t provide translation into English. Thus, they’re based on the concept of immersion.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.