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


Oh this week was harrrrrrrd. Let’s see…when we last left off my goal was to get through four more lessons this week, and be up to number seven. Well guess what? There is no seven, and it basically took me all week to get through lesson four.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to the way the TOTALe program is set up, but better late than never. Evidently the lessons are broken into Units, and Unit One (at least) is broken into four major sections, each composed of separate lessons. The sections start off easily enough, and I got through the first three relatively painlessly. But section four was a total killer.

It started off well enough. I was using Kev’s MacBook Pro, and I progressed through the lesson as usual. It seemed like it was taking longer than any of the others had, so I had already decided that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t meet my entire goal, but then I came to realize how ridiculous I was being.


Here I am learning a new language, and I am behaving like it is no big deal and it should just come to me…like a gift in the middle of the night or something.


And okay, in some ways it does feel like it’s that easy.



Every now and then I would hit a sour note in my learning process, but for every high B, I was making plenty of As.


With every upper 90s or 100% I made, I got a little bit more confident…



Kevin and I went for a bike ride, and for the first time I was calling out colors and names in Spanish: “vacas rojas…vacas negro…” I was ticking off two of the few colors I know (rojo – red, negro – black, blanco – white, amarillo – yellow, verde – green, and azul – blue), and throwing in an animal that hadn’t yet been covered. Look at me go!

The best part was when I started to feel like I was really starting to “get it”. Bear in mind that there is no English written or spoken at any time, so I have had to go along learning words based on pictures or people “talking” to me – pretty much like a child would learn a new language, I guess.

So without any proper translation, and based on the way the pictures play out, I have figured out for myself that the following goes something like this: “I have red flowers, You have red flowers, he has red flowers, she has red flowers, we have red flowers…” and on it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚


I was pretty much feeling like a bad-ass. Yeah; I said it!

And then came the milestone before the end of section One.

I got dropped in the woods, wandering around until I found a couple at their campsite.

ยกHola! I said at the proper time…and then all hell broke loose.

I got asked questions that required specific answers, and I needed to ask specific questions based on the picture I was seeing…and I just wasn’t getting it! I just wasn’t ready. I was panicking…

mmmm, did someone say cafe con leche? Si! Si!


Do you like manzanas (apples)?

Oh yeah?

Well how do you like these apples?


I haven’t seen a grade that awful since…never? Thankfully I could take the Milestone again. I did a little bit better, but still failed.


So I did it again, and I did even worse. Hmm.

That was earlier tonight, and that’s when I decided it was time to take a break.


Tomorrow I will redo the milestone, and try to see what’s up with the two boxes in the progress line that don’t have check marks. See how many boxes there are in section four? It wasn’t just my imagination that section four was taking much longer to complete than the others!

I really don’t want to start Unit Two until I can get through the conversational milestone with at least a passing grade. As I told Kevin tonight, flunking the conversational part so badly makes me think I should just start over and do it ALL again…but that makes no sense, and I am not even sure if it is possible.

Hopefully a fresh day and another try will get better results! I’ll let you know how it went next week. ๐Ÿ™‚

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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.

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

  1. Drew Guttadore | September 8, 2009 at 1:37 am |

    He he and you live in Texas!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love this review so far Judie. Keep it up!

  3. I’m sure it will be better today. If you do well with this, it just might provide me with the missing inspiration to finally learn Hungarian. Unforunately, Rosetta Stone doesn’t have software for that language, so I’ll have to find another source. Keep it up!

  4. Jessica Fritsche | September 8, 2009 at 8:51 am |

    This is awesome Judie! Seriously, it can be very difficult to learn a new language, especially with our fully formed adult brains! ๐Ÿ™‚ You are inspiring me to pull out my French lessons (for a review, since I took it for 6 years) and Italian, which I have ALWAYS wanted to learn.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement! Getting a score like that woke me up to the fact that I should probably be working with the CDs more often. I will do that this week. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hey Judie – I am learning Italian with Rosetta Stone right now and I am in exactly the same spot you are. Getting 100’s and 96’s and then I get to the milestone and I botch the entire conversation. I went back and did it 3x before I scraped out of it with an 82%. I started to think that I was in over my head, but it gets better. I am on Unit 2 now and doing better. I would suggest using the CD’s in your car – I have been doing that and it does help.

  7. Stephanie, thank you for the encouragement, and I am going to take your advice. :-))

  8. So I actually work for RS, and do so largely because I used it first and learned more Mandarin Chinese more effectively than I did in school, and used it while working for the company to polish my French.

    Here’s my advice about Milestones, as a fellow learner: don’t take it too seriously. It’s a good way to get a feel for improvising in the language, but it’s not a test to see if you can use what you learned in the rest of the unit. I look at it as just a nice way to see some of the structures and concepts that were taught in the preceding unit are used in different contexts. Later in the program, you’ll start to see new structures and phrases in milestones. The key though, is :YOU DON’T NEED TO GO BACK AND RE-DO THE UNIT! You can if you want to, but it’s not really necessary, and could be unnecessarily frustrating.

    I speak French comfortably enough that lately people have been mistaking me for a native speaker, and even I get low scores on Milestones.

    Just go through it, if there are new structures you want to learn, go back and take another look at them, and then on to the next unit!

    Have fun, and know that there are a few of us RSers out there keeping up with the blog on our own time because we’re all really excited to see you succeed.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement, luohan,

    If I reach a point where I speak Spanish like a native, then I will be one happy camper. I would honestly just like to get to a point where I don’t get that helpless “ack what next?!!”panicky feeling when someone actually speaks to me. I *know* that comes with time and practice, though. I will get there.

    I spoke with Sydney (from RS) on the phone the other day, so I got a lot of great tips and info for the next installment.

    I do want to mention that I think it’s awesome that the people who work at RS, at least the ones I have seen so far, are all people who have used or who are using the system. They know exactly what’s going on when you have a question, and they offer great support. More later… :-))

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