Title Rosetta Stone online French course
Reviewer Tina Postalian
   

This is an accessible and interactive programme comprising nineteen units in total. Each unit has forty to fifty assignments split across each of the four skill areas, and all units include both single and mixed-skill assignments. The topic areas covered within the units are very comprehensive, ranging from Descriptions of people to School and Careers.

Within each unit, the Reading & Listening tasks are particularly good at testing recognition of specific vocabulary. The assignments achieve this by playing words or phrases shown on screen which the learner must find and click on the appropriate image. Some assignments are sequenced so the following activity may take away the written word and focus on the listening skill. Yet within the assignments themselves, the vocabulary can be rapidly replaced with long sentences or even questions, which seems inappropriate given the level of vocabulary to begin with.

The Speech Comparison assignments are a fun way of encouraging the learner to focus on his/her pronunciation and intonation. The activity offers a mini language-lab whereby the graphics of a native speaker uttering chosen words can be seen (and the pronunciation heard at three different speeds) after which the learner can attempt recording and playing back his/her own version as many times as they like. This exercise, however, is not a consolidation exercise and will feature new vocabulary. As a result, the words encountered here may not be learnt and retained (correctly) especially as the written form is not available.

The Writing & Dictation assignments include listening to short and long sentences and looking at the pictures they represent in order to recompose the phrases from a selection of words or by typing in the phrases. This activity offers good listening practice and can strengthen the learnerís ability to listen carefully and repeat phrases to him/herself until the individual words become clear. The actual writing skill, however, is not practised and the focus remains on the recognition of language as opposed to its production.

There are regular tests in each unit and also timed tests towards the end of each unit. The site is set out clearly and a progress bar allows the learner to keep track of completed assignments and scores, which can be repeated as desired.

Overall, the course provides an insight into the different aspects of language learning but due to an unspecified audience, the course may not be guided enough for an enthusiastic beginner and may be too repetitive for an intermediate level learner. The vocabulary is very specific as opposed to being taken from a broad word bank and the phrases chosen can seem quite arbitrary. Prior grammar knowledge is assumed, with no explanations or revision notes to refer to. I would consequently like to see a vocabulary list within each unit together with some acknowledgement of grammar to complement the variety of expression.

An ideal use for this programme would be to use some assignments as starters or plenaries in class to introduce or revise some basic vocabulary. The contents of each assignment, however, must be researched before use to ensure that it is tailored to the needs of the learners. Above all, this course should be used alongside a more comprehensive programme with grammar and more opportunity for language production.