Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Week One into the Rosetta Stone TOTALe Program


Today marks one week since I began learning Spanish with the Rosetta Stone TOTALe program, and here comes the part that you all have been waiting for – where I smugly tell you that I am now completely fluent in all things Spanish, that I am totally confident in my foreign language speaking ability, and that I am ready to go to Mexico and take up with the locals…right?

Okay, obviously I’m not. And it would be completely ridiculous for anyone to expect that.

But I am three full lessons closer to being fluent than I was when I started.

So let’s talk about my week, and how it began with a false start.

I was I was all set to do my first lesson, when I discovered this…the gray bar of doom on my load screen. I was perplexed because TOTALe had loaded with no problems for me earlier, but now I could not get it to load any further.


Willing to try nearly anything, I cleared my cache, I deleted cookies, I got out of Firefox and tried opening the site in Windows Explorer, I got off my Windows laptop and tried opening the site on Kevin’s Mac, I cussed…and then I sheepishly wrote to Kim, my contact. She put me in touch with a helpful tech who quizzed me everything I had tried up to that point, and then he thought of something I hadn’t considered. What kind of system was I on? What were my download and upload speeds? Would I mind testing them?

Have I mentioned that I live in the middle of nowhere, and that we don’t even have a phone line much less cable TV out here? Oh I know I must have.

That means my internet and TV come in through Satellite.

I have the top tier business package with Wild Blue which just means I get to download and upload more than the common user – but I don’t necessarily get to do it any faster, and then there are latency issues.

So these are my speeds, and the results are typical.

Rosetta Stone Speed Test

As you can see, download speeds are fairly respectable, but my upload speeds are pretty poor. During a normal day, I usually don’t have any issues regarding speeds up or down, but my tech said that was probably the issue. I was starting to get worried that I wouldn’t be able to do my online lessons at all, but after refreshing for the 655th time…I was in! Yay!


I had no idea what to expect during my first lesson, but any nervousness I felt was quickly dispelled as I was sucked in by the easy to follow, game-like tasks. I’d listen to a male or female voice describing a picture as corresponding words in Spanish would pop up. Then I would be led through a series of tasks and eventually reach a point where I was making choices based only on spoken or written words in Spanish and their corresponding pictures. Not a word of English was ever written or spoken.


One of the more disconcerting things about this method is that I am not sure if what I think the line translates to is exactly what it means, but I’m not sure yet if that even matters. For instance, I can tell you with absolute certainly that in the exercise below, “el hombre bebe” refers to the man drinking.


Does it literally translate to “the man drinking” or “the man drinks”? I’m not quite sure.


But I know it is not indicative of a woman drinking (la mujer bebe), nor is it a man eating (el hombre come), or a woman eating (la mujer come).

Whoa…check me out.

In the end I missed a few questions on that lesson, but I didn’t do too badly!


Of course, being able to read and know the answer is one thing, but I need to eventually be able to speak Spanish without sounding like a total gringa. That’s where the repetitive pronunciation lessons come in, as well as the included CDs – which I have ripped and downloaded to my iPhone, but I’ll admit that I have not yet utilized.

I particularly like how Rosetta Stone isolates words or sounds that look like they might be pronounced similarly, but aren’t – and then they drill it into you that they have different meaning and that in the end they may or may not even sound that similar.


Larger words are broken into syllables, and you practice the syllables and then put them together to properly say the word.


It’s possible to redo lessons when you miss something, but I can handle missing a few. đŸ˜‰


After doing two lessons, I was feeling pretty good about myself and about the program. I gave two of the online Word games, Gambo and Menga, a try.

Gambo is a BINGO style game where you listen to a conversation in Spanish, and every time you hear a word mentioned that’s on your card, you tap it. The first time I played this I totally freaked, because it seemed like the speaker was just randomly spitting out words!


Now that I have played the game several times and progressed a bit, I recognize words much more quickly and I think I can just begin to make out the phrases and their meaning.


Just like in Bingo, once you have five across, you win. đŸ™‚

Menga is a memory game, where you flip cards over in pairs, trying to match written phrases with their corresponding pictures.


This game is not only good for honing your Spanish speaking skills, it’s also a good memory workout.


I was on such a roll by the time I hit Lesson 3 that I thought I could keep up the pace by doing a lesson a day.


But then I got the brilliant idea of upgrading my HP dv6 to Windows 7.

For whatever reason, the USB VoIP headset that came with my kit stopped working.

I was stymied, but not about to admit defeat!

It was rather easy to figure out how to get the VoIP headset to work properly on the Mac, making the headset the default mode of sound in and output when it was plugged in. I am still trying to figure out why it won’t work properly on the PC, as I think I have tried everything. In the meantime, I was able to easily pick up and continue my lessons on Kevin’s Mac, at exactly the same point I had been previously on my PC.

One thing I learned this week that didn’t thrill me is that at least at this time, there is no option to purchase a second discounted license for another user. Think about it – many times when you travel it is with a partner, so it just seems logical that there ought to be a way to share lessons – especially when they are so pricey.

I will say that the convenience of being able to pick up lessons from any internet connected computer’s browser is a huge convenience; I love that you don’t have to purchase disks specifically for a Mac or PC.

I should also mention that even though it can be extremely tough to get into the site sometimes  – which I completely blame on my satellite connection, once I am “in” the program is snappy and responsive.

This week my goal is to get through lessons 4, 5, 6 and 7…even if I have to do them all from Kevin’s Mac!


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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.

4 Comments on "Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Week One into the Rosetta Stone TOTALe Program"

  1. I already commented on your post about week 2, but I reading this made me think of another feature you might not have been aware of: any time you see a speaking screen, in the top right corner of the image there will be a voice icon…if you click on it, it will take you to a more thorough voice-comparison screen that automatically slows the native speaker, records you, and then compares the two in graphic form (with both emphasis/intonation, and the rise and fall of the voice). You can also play both back and compare. This way, you start to get confident that you aren’t sounding “like a total gringa.”

  2. Hi!
    Like you were I am extremely frustrated by not being able to do my online training due to allegedly poor upload speeds. Like you my download is very good 6152 in fact however, my upload speed is a mere 372. The techies at Rosetta stone are extremely helpful and patient but…. I cannot join any studio sessions due to my figures, so I was surprised to see that you managed it [well done sir!] with your figure being half of my results!! how on earth did you do it??Help!!!! Regards

  3. Hi daisy — I was able to do do the lessons and the games, but I was never able to get online to do a lesson with another student; my satellite speeds were just too poor. Good luck in your studies! =)

  4. HI Judie!!
    Thanks for your response! Yeah it is a bit of a problem. Although the techies at Rosetta are brilliant and very helpful I do find it frustrating that their setup is so speed critical, especially where in the UK, not many of the ISP’s can offer such speeds to private home users! however,I will keep trying! Thanks again for responding.

    Best Regards

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