Learning Spanish with the Rosetta Stone TOTALe System


I have always wanted to learn a foreign language, to be able to converse fluently with people from other cultures, and to basically not feel like a total tool tourist when traveling. I’ve also always heard that the best time to easily learn a second (or third) language is during one’s formative years, and that even by high-school or college it gets much more difficult.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I am well past formative, and I’ve been out of high school for 24 years. While I have never believed that one could ever reach a point where learning something new would be impossible, I do think that there is a point where it might seem so; which is basically what the idea of learning a new language has become to me.

For years I’ve seen the Rosetta Stone carts loaded with smart yellow boxes in airports, and I’ve wondered wistfully whether the system really worked. But more importantly, I’ve wondered whether or not it would work for me.

I was recently offered the chance to find out.

There are 30 different language courses offered on the Rosetta Stone site, but there is only one that really matters in my neck of the woods: Spanish, specifically the Latin American variety. The system I have been invited to try is TOTALe, down at the bottom of the Spanish (Latin American) page, and at $1200 it is easily the most expensive set of lessons. The sale price of $1000 is still daunting…unless it actually works.

Think about what learning a second language could mean for you, both personally and professionally: it would be the difference between pantomiming and then staring blankly when trying to communicate while traveling, or being able to confidently ask a local to direct your to the best place to grab a snack, get a drink, find a bathroom – or whatever. It would mean being able to venture out of your all-inclusive resort and really experience the local flavor. It would mean being able to order confidently in restaurants, understanding what is being said when a salesman asks you a question, being able to ask for and give directions; it would mean independence.

Professionally, a second language absolutely adds to your hirability. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard of people who scored extremely competitive jobs – edging out others who might have been perceived as “more qualified” – because they were bilingual.

Today the tools arrived for me to begin my journey into language learning, and I am eager to get started. But first, a bit more about the program I’ll be starting…


Included in the box are levels one through three of the Audio Companion CDs, a headset with built-in microphone, a set of black and white Spanish Keyboard stickers, a Rosetta Stone logo sticker, a headset setup guide, and a Global End User License Agreement booklet.  I was also sent a link to the Rosetta Stone TOTALe site, where I entered a preset user name and password I had been given.


The Hype:

TOTALe™ is a comprehensive online language-learning solution. Speak, read, listen and write with Rosetta Course™, participate in guided sessions with a native-speaking Coach in Rosetta Studio™, and practice your skills in our online community, Rosetta World™.

Learn a language—all without translation or memorization.

  • Learn naturally and easily with our Dynamic Immersion® method.
  • Connect words to meaning in a carefully designed sequence of activities.
  • Speak like a native with our exclusive Speech Recognition technology.
  • Reinforce your learning with the included Audio Companion™ CDs.

Practice with other learners and build confidence in our online, real-time interactive environment.

  • Participate in our online Rosetta Studio sessions.
  • Get feedback with guidance from our native-speaking Studio Coaches.
  • Interact with other learners at your level to strengthen your skills.
  • Sessions are approximately one hour each.

Play in our exclusive online community dedicated to language and discovery.

  • Explore language through games, chats and other structured activities.
  • Engage with other language learners at your level.
  • Participate in a real-time language exchange with a native speaker.

According to the website:

With Rosetta Stone TOTALe, you set your own pace. Progress as quickly as you’d like through each Course lesson, Studio session or Rosetta World activity. It’s up to you.

TOTALe will help you to:

  • Start speaking immediately.
  • Learn to think in your new language.
  • Gain the confidence to engage in real-world conversations.
  • Build your vocabulary and language abilities.
  • Spell and write accurately.
  • Speak correctly.
  • Retain what you’ve learned.
  • Read and understand your new language.
  • Share ideas and opinions, express feelings and talk about everyday life.

Sample topics include:

  • The basics, such as age and family relations.
  • Questions, greetings, introductions.
  • Times of day, calendar terms, the weather.
  • Directions, locations, telling time.
  • Present, past and future tense.
  • Apologies and polite requests.
  • How to order at a restaurant and give and receive directions.
  • Emotions, opinions and ideas.
  • Political, media, business and religious terms.

If this is all true, I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it will be…and what a sense of accomplishment I will feel. Tomorrow I start, and I will document my journey weekly as I (hopefully) begin to learn Spanish…

Update 09/20/10: I found out today that my online access to TOTALe had expired; in order to continue, I will have to purchase Rosetta Stone version 4. According to the Rosetta Stone site, purchasing a new version comes with 15 months online access.

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct smaller.com; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

11 Comments on "Learning Spanish with the Rosetta Stone TOTALe System"

  1. I would so like to see this be something that works. I’d love to think I could learn another language easily like this. Can’t wait to read about the results!!

  2. Travis Ehrlich | August 24, 2009 at 8:14 pm |

    I took it in high school and 2 semesters in college and can only loosely follow along. Of course I know all the cuss words! (I can cuss in Polish too! LOL) Good luck!

  3. Vanessa Knight | August 24, 2009 at 8:28 pm |

    Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Learning Spanish with the RosettaStone TOTALe System http://bit.ly/2xrMN (via @GearDiarySite)

  4. Doing the first lesson now…and ripping the CD’s so I can listen to them on my iPhone. Fingers crossed! 🙂

  5. Sassine Mazraani | August 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm |

    Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Learning Spanish with the … http://bit.ly/8NdN0

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  9. A journalist at GearDiary.com is trying out Rosetta Stone TOTALe – first impressions here: http://bit.ly/K1qdu

  10. RT @rosettastone: A journalist at GearDiary.com is trying out Rosetta Stone TOTALe – first impressions here: http://bit.ly/K1qdu

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