Internet Friends:

I’d appreciate some help from the Feministe commentariat.

I’m trying to buy language software. I have heard wonderful things about Rosetta Stone, but they are fucking expensive. Can anybody out there speak to whether they give good value for the money? Or recommend a cheaper alternative? I’m looking for French and/or (standard) Arabic. I need to start with the basics–I’ve never studied French and have forgotten every word I ever learned in Arabic–but would like to move up to intermediate. I want a language-learning program that teaches grammar and broad vocabulary instead of conversation and business/tourist vocabulary. I like tables and digitized flashcards.

Any online resources for conversational practice, etc., are much appreciated.

Thanks!

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51 Responses

  1. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil June 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm |

    Try your local library–they usually have a variety of language learning programs available. I can’t recommend anything in particular other than Rosetta Stone (my sister used it to learn Portuguese for Peace Corps and had good success), but at least with the library you can try things out before buying.

    Also, if you get French or Arabic tv channels, those can be a good supplement. When I took Spanish, we often watched soap operas because people tend to speak slowly and not use really big words. :)

  2. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil June 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm |

    Also, not sure what your budget is, but I found Rosetta Stone, French, levels 1 and 2 for $157 online, which is much better than the $300+ list price.

  3. TexBetsy
    TexBetsy June 27, 2009 at 6:04 pm |

    Rosetta stone is by far the best, but we have all of the disks for TMM’s French Pro. Have you checked if your local library has software you can borrow and try out? A local university or school system might be another source. We have borrowed the oral language disks and videos that go with my son’s HS French textbook.

  4. lau
    lau June 27, 2009 at 6:06 pm |

    just download rosetta stone from the pirate bay or get it from the library for free!

  5. jess
    jess June 27, 2009 at 6:10 pm |

    This isn’t a language software, but livemocha.com is a great place to practice a new language. It’s basically just a giant online community of people from around the world, and you learn from the native speakers and online lessons. It’s not very grammatical, and I suppose it wouldn’t substitute for an actual learning software, but it is a good place to practice and learn new vocabulary. Just a suggestion.

    Good luck. :)

  6. Lizzy
    Lizzy June 27, 2009 at 6:14 pm |

    I am an Arabic Student at Tulane University, and we use Al Kitab, which is what the State Department and almost every college Arabic course uses. It is a fantastic book with DVDs which are super-useful. It is supposed to be used in a classroom setting, but I have found that it could be used on it’s own and still be extremely helpful. I got through 13 Chapters in a year and can write simple letters and conduct basic conversations in Arabic. Also, if you use Al Kitab with this website (http://arabicwithoutwalls.ucdavis.edu/aww/coursecontent.html), which has almost all the answers to the questions, you can teach yourself a tremendous amount of the language. I hope this helps.

  7. Sarah the Librarian
    Sarah the Librarian June 27, 2009 at 6:21 pm |

    I would second what FashionablyEvil says about your local library. At my library we buy access to the Rosetta Stone database, where you can do all the Rosetta Stone classes (with audio and interactive elements) and we offer it as a service to our patrons for free. Your library might subscribe to something similar.

  8. MissMarmelstein
    MissMarmelstein June 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm |

    I just started using the Rosetta Stone French and it’s pretty fantastic. I have to learn French to a conversational degree by fall, and I think this is going to work. That being said, you can find it used online for quite a bit cheaper than you will new….and Amazon often puts it on sale.

  9. Danielle
    Danielle June 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm |

    I second livemocha. I’m currently using it, and it’s really great.

  10. Amadan
    Amadan June 27, 2009 at 7:36 pm |

    I’m a low/intermediate-level Arabic speaker (former military linguist, years out of practice).

    Rosetta Stone is good for what it does — lots of drills to get vocabulary and grammatical structures into your head. You could find other resources to do the same thing as effectively, but you’ll have to comb the Internet for them. Lots of sites have resources for practicing your Arabic (reading and listening), but their organization, quality, and user-friendliness varies widely.

    As others have said, an online subscription to Rosetta Stone is cheaper than buying the software, unless you are sure you’re going to want to use it for months and months (or you can’t use it online).

    “Teaches grammar and broad vocabulary instead of conversation and business/tourist vocabulary. I like tables and digitized flashcards.” – that is a pretty good description of Rosetta Stone, so it probably is what you are looking for. It can bring you up to intermediate level, if you work your way through it and supplement it with a few books.

  11. Annie
    Annie June 27, 2009 at 7:47 pm |

    My public library doesn’t just have Rosetta Stone software to borrow — they have a subscription to it online! I used my library card # to sign up for an account and now I can use it whenever.

  12. Saskia
    Saskia June 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm |

    I am trying to learn some arabic, and I looked at rosetta for that, but I found the interface a bit puzzling. I saw they have different systems of doing things for different languages, so maybe Arabic is not that ideal with rosetta.
    I also have to learn the script, which is tricky, but I found a tool that is cheap (US$ 36) and which has helped me a lot so far and it also has flashcards to learn vocab. You can find that here http://www.declan-software.com/arabic
    I now see they have French too, but I learned that at school, so didn’t look at that.

  13. Turbopixie
    Turbopixie June 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm |

    Not language software per se, but if you are just starting out, try the BBC. They’ve been doing language learning for ages, and have a relationship with the Open Univeristy (very old and distinguished distance-learning organisation here in the UK).

    French here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/quickfix/

    Arabic here:
    http://www.bbcactive.com/languages/other/75.asp

    Those are both good places to start. If you are planning to do more than touristy conversationals, I recommend MeetUp.com, where you can join a language group and put what you’ve learned so far into practice, along with getting to pick up tips from (some of them) native speakers.

    I’m a translator (French and Swahili) who is trying to pick up Spanish and German. One of the free ways that has worked best for me is to get an RSS feed of daily newspaper headlines from the foreign press.

    I don’t have any experience with the Rosetta Stone system, but I do trawl the ‘net on a regular basis looking for free language resources. Luckily you are looking to learn two major languages, so searching for “free [insert language here] lessons” is probably a fairly safe bet.

  14. Tia
    Tia June 27, 2009 at 8:20 pm |

    I’d say Pimsleur. You can often download them onto your IPID from your library. Which makes them free, and you get to own them.

  15. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses June 27, 2009 at 8:21 pm |

    Definitely check the local library, as a couple have already suggested.

    I’ve used the French Rosetta Stone, and I really liked it a lot. They really drill the language in your head, and it only takes a half hour to complete each lesson. It’s very easy. I think even though you don’t know any French, you’d be able to use it easily. I took two semesters of elementary French in college, and I learned much more from Rosetta Stone. I’m saving my money so I can actually buy it.

    I also found this link on my Facebook page for a free French software download. I didn’t download the software, but there are some other cool things on the site. They have a word-a-day thing that sends a French (or other language) word to your e-mail, Twitter, or RSS feed. And they have games that help with vocabulary. It’s pretty neat.

    http://www.byki.com/fls/FLS_ffr1.html?l=french

  16. Hackwrench
    Hackwrench June 27, 2009 at 8:28 pm |

    I didn’t care much for Rosetta Stone, personally, but I may have been a little too distracted by other life issues at the time I tried it out to give it the full patience it deserved.

    I’ll join the pro-library camp. If your library is anything like my local library system, they’re likely to have a wealth of resources. Mine seems to have a lot of those Teach Yourself ______ series. They’re alright. They also tend to carry a lot of those audio CDs, like the “In Flight _____” series. Which were pretty spiffy for the bare boned basics.

    I’ve also found the little Lonely Planet phrasebooks available at the local Chapters/Indigo for about 10-12 bucks [CDN] a pop. They’re pretty fantastic

    For basic starters of several languages, and as a jumping off point to other resources, you might try visiting Omniglot: http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/index.htm
    I also thought the quick podcast crash-courses over at One Minute Languages were pretty neat too: http://rlnvault.com/rln09/ They’ve got premium purchase materials, but the free downloadable podcasts weren’t bad for a bare boned crash course.

    The Before You Know It program was also interesting, again, it has premium content for purchase, but the basic core program is a free download, and you can grab all kinds of custom user-made word lists. It works kinda like flash cards, some with just flash cards, others with accompanying audio clips.
    http://www.byki.com/

    Just a few things I found to be of some usefulness.
    As always, your mileage may vary.

  17. Ted
    Ted June 27, 2009 at 8:43 pm |

    skip the software and get a tutor. A good tutor gets you much further much faster.

  18. marian
    marian June 27, 2009 at 8:53 pm |

    Try livemocha.com for the French; I don’t know what they have for Arabic.

  19. Ben
    Ben June 27, 2009 at 9:19 pm |

    You might want to look at podcasts and video downloads (such as news programs) for purposes of practice. I know there are some in French, and I suspect there are also ones available in Arabic.

  20. Judith
    Judith June 27, 2009 at 9:22 pm |

    Along with the library, you might consider using the (Language) Now! series. They’re very similar to Rosetta Stone, but with less effort on being “pretty.” They have the talk back to your computer feature like RS, and fairly extensive grammar. You can pick different learning styles, including a more traditional-style version and conversation-based approaches. Pimsleur is great for pronunciation but it does tend to focus on touristy vocabulary. The Teach Yourself series is a fabulous program that combines conversations with grammar and other elements, and they have somewhat more advanced versions along with beginning. Busuu.com is another good free online language community that I really like for broad vocabulary and talking with native speakers.

  21. Angela
    Angela June 27, 2009 at 10:23 pm |

    http://www.thepiratebay.org

    Dont bother paying for such an expensive thing…

  22. Melinda
    Melinda June 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm |

    Hi,

    Having studied Arabic both on my own and in a course setting, here are my recommendations.

    Rosetta Stone is very expensive, and I’ve heard it’s problematic for Arabic. I’d recommend building up a collection of books, as well as using CDs and Internet resources. Definitely check out libraries — you can copy CDs on to your computer and check out books you’re considering buying.

    Here are some books to consider:

    The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read & Write It by Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano. Worth reading through. Gives a thorough introduction to the alphabet and writing, but don’t expect to learn from this book alone. The introduction at the beginning gives a good overview of the language. This you could just check out from the library (it’s quite old).

    Read and Speak Arabic for Beginners by Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar. I highly recommend you buy this book. It’s quite short, but it’s very useful. It comes with an audio CD and cut-out flashcards and games, which makes it interactive and fun. It really helps in learning the alphabet, because it eases you into it, and the CD is great for pronunciation. The best thing about it is that it’s easy and fun. Also, almost anything by these authors is great, so keep that in mind when browsing for books.

    Wightwick & Gaafar have a grammar book I highly recommend (especially if you have to suffer through Al Kitaab, the rather terrible textbook most courses use). It’s Arabic Verbs & Essentials of Grammar, and it explains all important grammar concepts very clearly, with English terms and translations of Arabic examples. It’s very useful and very straightforward.

    I used this book to learn handwriting: Teach Yourself Beginner’s Arabic Script by John Mace. It might be useful as reference along with other books, because sitting down and doing handwriting by itself isn’t too fun. It also teaches you some vocabulary, which is nice, and has a cool cut-out card at the back with the alphabet, to put in your wallet.

    Also potentially useful: Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds by Kristen Brustad, Mahmoud Al-Batal, and Abbas Al-Tonsi. It comes with very useful DVDs, but it might be expensive for a book that doesn’t cover that much material. It teaches you the alphabet, handwriting, and basic vocabulary. It’s very thorough. This is the intro book for Al Kitaab, a book I wouldn’t recommend, especially if you want to focus on grammar and useful vocab. It does have useful DVDs, but the book is a bit too expensive for its usefulness, especially compared to other books.

    I recommend against buying one book, DVD, or CD set as a one-item solution. Use a variety of materials, because no one item fulfills everything. Also stay away from learn-Arabic CD-ROMs… They usually cost a lot and aren’t very useful, especially if they’re in a series designed for Latin-based or European languages. (Which I have heard about Rosetta Stone.)

    A really great program is Before You Know It (byki.com). You can download the free version of the program and it gives ready-made flashcards on basic topics. You can also download flashcards that are made by other users and uploaded to the site. You can buy the deluxe version for $50 (I did this, and it was definitely worth it), in which you can edit and create your own flashcards (this is where having audio files is very useful). This program is amazing — it tests you at different levels of understanding (recognition (speech, typing) and production (speech, typing)) and it reviews the words you have trouble with and the words you get mixed up. It’s especially helpful with audio.

    And if you want to learn to type (very useful skill, because then you can utilize the Internet, including Google Translate), check out this site: http://aktub.com/

    Hope this helps! I don’t have any specific advice for French, but I’d echo the “use different media” and “browse libraries and bookstores” tips. Good luck! =)

  23. Lindsey
    Lindsey June 27, 2009 at 11:19 pm |

    I’ve done a lot of language study on my own, I have bachelors degrees in linguistics and arabic, so hopefully I can help a bit.

    Rosetta stone is really helpful for getting used to listening to things, but you may or may not like it depending on your learning style. Also, if you want to learn the arabic script, it’s going to be really hard to do so via RS. I know you said you were looking for software, but you might also try finding a class at a CC or some kind of language school. Or maybe try to find a native speaker conversation buddy.
    Myself, I am the sort of person who likes to learn from books. For Arabic, the Al-Kitaab series is what most people are using now, largely because it comes with DVDs that speak the vocab words outloud plus put them in sentences and there are little videos, etc. The first (of 3) book in the series is somewhat frustrating for its lack of vocabulary, but it works out okayish.
    Some other useful things to try are:
    -BBC podcasts. I think someone mentioned it earlier, but I know they have an Arabic podcast and there might be a French news one as well.
    -wikipedia, once you get a little bit of grammar, it’s helpful to look up topics you know on english wiki and then click over to the Arabic version of the article. That way you know what sort of things they would be talking about.
    -a handy book for learning the arabic alphabet (if you go with rosetta stone, I’d recommend this or something like it so you can read) http://www.amazon.com/Arabic-Alphabet-How-Read-Write/dp/0818404302/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246162596&sr=8-1
    -the first al-kitaab book http://www.amazon.com/Al-Kitaab-fii-Taallum-al-Arabiyya-DVDs/dp/158901104X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246162665&sr=8-1

    This got a little rambley, but hopefully it gives you some ideas and gets you going in the right direction.

  24. Rebecca
    Rebecca June 27, 2009 at 11:32 pm |

    I have no recommendations for software (have never used any), but the best advice I can give is to get a bunch of books – start with kids’ books and work up – in English and in the languages you’re trying to learn, and read them concurrently.

  25. carrie
    carrie June 28, 2009 at 7:17 am |

    Ha, good luck. Learning a language without interacting with anyone else who knows that language/is also learning that language is extremely difficult. Especially if you’re learning a language as hard as Arabic.

  26. Ellid
    Ellid June 28, 2009 at 7:50 am |

    I just clicked on that piratebay.org link and was attacked by malware. I’d go with Rosetta Stone.

  27. Cactus Wren
    Cactus Wren June 28, 2009 at 8:37 am |

    I know this is a digression, but frankly I’m a bit disturbed at the posters to this thread who are saying, essentially, “The time and effort put into creating something are insignificant: if you want something, steal it.”

  28. Dan
    Dan June 28, 2009 at 8:43 am |

    Is this website the right forum for this question and discussion?

  29. lly
    lly June 28, 2009 at 9:58 am |

    my partner speaks roughly four languages thanks to Michel Thomas (and some time spent in Mexico). his software is reasonably priced and found in many libraries, and i’ve even learned a good deal of spanish from his method — he’s very focused on getting learners prepared for basic conversation almost immediately. i believe the arabic was recorded in his method after his death, but it’s the friendliest language learning material i’ve ever encountered.

    http://www.amazon.com/Arabic-BeginnersThe-Michel-Beginners-Program/dp/0071547258 is around $60, but cheaper and way more effective (from all reports i’ve heard) than rosetta stone. i’m also biased against rosetta because they pulled their product from a few libraries i’ve worked in when they realized they could make more money by charging individuals extortionate prices. :-\

    as for the reading/writing aspect, i’d second the library and children’s book suggestions. good luck!

  30. Dori
    Dori June 28, 2009 at 11:11 am |

    I work for Rosetta Stone, I stand in the airport selling it, and I only started working for them because I was looking for something to help with my Arabic and I couldn’t afford the software myself, so I got job with them. Been there for two years now, and I can say that I am conversational in Arabic.

    Seriously, I know the program is expensive, but we are the only program that does full immersion besides moving there yourself. Don’t try to find it cheaper online, and don’t download it. Secondary sales of the software are illegal for the most recent version, so the person who talked about finding two levels for half of the official list price actually found an older and less comprehensive copy of the program that may or may not include all the components. The pirated copies come with the risk of being loaded with viruses. One of my employees found one that has a trigger built in to blue screen your computer after 30 days. Besides, some of us depend on the sales of this stuff to feed our families, and the people who think they are “screwing the man” by downloading are actually only screwing those of us near the bottom of the company ladder.

    If you get it directly from the company, you get a six month return policy, lifetime assistance and the guarantee that you are getting the actual program and that it won’t fry your hard drive.

    I’m willing to give you info about the program beyond what I have said here, if you want to email me.

  31. Dori
    Dori June 28, 2009 at 11:14 am |

    My longer comment went into moderation, but I will just say this, I work for rosetta stone, and am willing to give you info without a sales pitch. Just go ahead and email me: dadams at rosettastone dot com, and let me know that its you.

  32. chava
    chava June 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm |

    *deep breath in*

    I am a grad student in Arabic and French lit, so I’ve had a fair amount of (good and bad) experience dealing with learning the languages. Here’s some of what I’ve gleaned re: books, etc:

    For Arabic:

    –I highly recommend you learn a dialect as you learn MSA. Egyptian is the most useful, Moroccan the least (trust me, I speak Moroccan and wish I spoke Egyptian). You will need this to talk to anyone in “Arabic” about anything not very upper-class. No one will understand if you order food in MSA. Ok, they might, but they will make fun of you mercilessly.

    –al-Kitaab is fine, but it is actually not the best grammar textbook out there, it is more for conversation (about politics, etc) and active use (such as reading the paper) and you NEED to at least have a native speaker or a competent student to drill your pronounciation with you. It is a book designed for a classroom environment. There is a website, linguastep.com, which will for a fee set you up with electronic flash cards of all the vocabulary in the al-kitaab series. Very useful.

    –as far as dictionaries: get yourself a Hans Wehr, obviously (you may have one if you studied before), and perhaps an al-Mawrid. This one is also helpful as you progress: Ashtiany, Julia (1993), “Media Arabic,” Edinburgh University, UK.

    –If you want a hard core, somewhat impenetrable grammar book, go with Wright. It was published in the late 1800s and it is still the authority on classical grammar. For a more streamlined modern version, you can try Elementary Modern Standard Arabic.

    –I don’t know how much success you will have trying to learn MSA on your own unless you have a genius level IQ and a freakish ability to intuit non-native phonemes. But good luck all the same, I’m 4 years in and still non-fluent despite the best efforts of State and DOD. It takes 6-8 years to fluency on average.

    French:

    –Ah, la langue de Molière. Je t’adore. OK, I do love French, but what I am not so in love with are French *students.* Prissy bunch of perfectionists. So you might be happier just not bothering with a classroom, anyway.

    –I’d get a native speaking friend to chat with you to work on your “ear” and pronunciation. Try to find someone from Paris since they are the fastest speakers and if you can understand them, you can understand anyone. I have a much easier time with my Moroccan friends’ French than Parisians’

    –As far as books: You have a HUGE wealth of choices. Get a Harper Collins English-French dictionary and a Becherelle verb conjugation dictionary. This will save your life. Invest as well in a hardback Petit Robert (French-French) for when you become more advanced.

    –For grammar, etc–like I said, many good options, but it has been so long since I was an elementary student I can’t really recall. This is a good online site:

    http://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/

    Hope that helps, I’ll put up more if I think of it.

  33. chava
    chava June 28, 2009 at 1:32 pm |

    Also to add–

    Read read read. Le Monde, Aljazeera in Arabic, Alsharq-alawset in Arabic, etc, etc. All of these are online. Print out an article where you know sort of what it is about and give it a shot, even if you only get through the headline.

  34. Jill
    Jill June 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm | *

    Is this website the right forum for this question and discussion?

    That’s it, Piny, you’re fired.

  35. chava
    chava June 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm |

    Are you going to North Africa, Piny? That’s the only place I know besides the banlieues where those coincide…

  36. guachi
    guachi June 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm |

    I joined the military to learn Arabic. We will ignore that as a possibility for you. We have Rosetta Stone in the military. It’s pretty simplistic but not bad for something without a teacher.

    I highly recommend anything that will teach you the basics of Arabic script and grammar. The military spends three weeks just teaching us the alphabet. You will get nowhere reading if you can’t decipher the letters and grammar.

    Also, do what someone else has recommended – GET A HANS WEHR DICTIONARY! It’s the best Arabic-English dictionary out there. And, sadly, it was originally a post WWII Arabic-German dictionary. Also, you can’t use the Hans Wehr without knowing Arabic grammar, so you MUST get a grammar book.

    With a grammar book and Hans Wehr, you can tackle the headlines on BBC.com Arabic in a few months.

  37. 22state
    22state June 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm |

    I suggest Rocket Languages.

    They have an audio and a written component. They have both Arabic and French. I don’t know how good the Arabic one is, but I found the French one to be very helpful.

    And the price beats Rosetta Stone – cold.

    Go to http://www.rocketlanguages.com.

  38. chava
    chava June 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm |

    If you are planning on North Africa as your next stop, I would concentrate more heavily on the French. You can get by very, very well on French and some traditional greetings and phrases in Arabic. MSA is nearly useless in day to day interactions, although a basic grasp of the structure is helpful in leaning CMA (colloquial moroccan arabic). Most Algerians are illiterate in basic MSA, many speak only French. Few Moroccans speak MSA either. I don’t know about Tunisia.

    My advice would be to hire a darijaa tutor when you arrive. If you are in Fes or Rabat, there are some very good organized centers for that in Tangiers, Rabat, and Fes that I know of.

    As for Khmer, I can’t help you ;-) But it all sounds very exciting!

  39. chava
    chava June 28, 2009 at 5:07 pm |

    OK, that last sentance made NO sense! Should have read:
    If you are in Fes, Rabat, or Tangiers, there are some very good centers for language learning I could point you towards.

    Also, I don’t know what kind of volunteering you are planning on, but for rural communities you really want to learn the local dialect of Tamazight, not CMA. French will get you around in any urban center, though.

  40. chava
    chava June 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm |

    Oh, one more thing—

    You were saying you wanted to brush off your MSA for the “structure” to build on. Well, if you end up in N. Africa, the structure of the local language is not really that related. I mean, it’s about a third Indo-European, a third Semitic, and a third Tamazight (Berber). So knowledge of classical Arabic won’t HURT you, but it isn’t totally necessary.

    /shutting up now

  41. Kirstente
    Kirstente June 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm |

    I recommend the University if Texas website for French as a good free starting point – http://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/

  42. Michael
    Michael June 28, 2009 at 5:13 pm |

    Funnily enough the linguist Karen Stolznow from Skepchick did a review of Rosetta Stone just yesterday I think:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=7924

    (Sorry if someone else has suggested this already, I searched for Skepchick in the comments and didn’t find anything).

  43. k-for-cali
    k-for-cali June 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm |

    Lots of awesome suggestions here, so just to add to the bunch (at least re: French, Arabic I know nothing) — http://french.about.com/ has a TON of free resources and links, including lots of sound files for listening to pronunciation &c. It’s a little illogical to navigate, but I’ve done well just wandering around. I used it to supplement French classes and found it at least as helpful than the in-person work, if not more so.

  44. Sara
    Sara June 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm |

    I am currently attempting to learn French (my partner is French Canadian) and apart from being very lucky to have my very own tutor, I have a few comments.

    I *highly* recommend the Michel Thomas French series. It is eight CDs and it actually gets you into proper sentences that are useful.

    I have tried Rosetta Stone but I found it was memory based in the context of what you were or were not seeing – memory in the context of what was on the screen. I also didn’t like how it taught you sentences and things you will barely need – the boy caught the red ball. Sure, they are important but I enjoy how Michel Thomas actually teaches you proper sentences, for example, after less than half an hour, I actually understand the parts and structure of the French in good ol’ Lady Marmalade song!

  45. Lindsey
    Lindsey June 28, 2009 at 11:05 pm |

    I forgot about this website! I saw someone mention university of Texas and I remembered Aswaat Arabiyya. It has video clips from beginning to advanced level. Very useful
    http://www.laits.utexas.edu/aswaat/

  46. narcissistic.claptrap
    narcissistic.claptrap June 29, 2009 at 6:54 am |

    I recommend that you try the Fluenz http://www.fluenz.com and Tell Me More http://www.tellmemore.com demos. I have found both to have a more comprehensive and practical approach to language learning than Rosetta, but your mileage may vary according to your own learning style.

    Both programs I mention have fun exercises that allow you to practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Both give you ample opportunity to test your skills, including your prononciation via the use of speech recognition software. Tell Me More has unparalleled depth, and Fluenz is a bit more user friendly (with some small but annoying exceptions).

    Good luck!

  47. Sunday News Round-Up, Monday Style « Women’s Health News

    […] Whee! Thanks to @liltree for putting my question through. -I was pleased to see how many commenters in this thread at Shakesville suggested the original poster check the local library (for language learning resources). -Via […]

  48. Helen
    Helen June 30, 2009 at 6:58 am |

    Again, not a software, but this is an original approach

    http://www.publishingcupboard.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2

  49. Mara Goldwyn
    Mara Goldwyn July 5, 2009 at 11:24 am |

    You should check out Babbel —

    http://www.babbel.com

    for the French. So far there isn’t a complete French course for English speakers but what you can learn for free is a lot — and I think a full course a la Rosetta Stone is coming soon. There are interactive exercises and the chance to meet and exchange with native speakers. It’s also really accessibly designed.

    Good luck!

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