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


As you will recall, this week started with me being quite frustrated when I had miserably failed the Milestone at the end of Unit One. I was also concerned about the empty checkboxes that I was seeing on my Unit 1 progress bar, but I figured I would get things straightened out — eventually.

Tuesday morning, I received quite a bit of encouragement from an unexpected source…

Sydney, a “customer success agent” from Rosetta Stone surprised me by calling out of the blue. She asked if I had any questions, and after I got over my shock that a human was checking in on me, I admitted how poorly I had done on the Milestone, and how it was making me question my progress.

Now before you think that I was getting special treatment because I am reviewing the system, I found out that I was actually getting less hands-on attention than a regular user would.

Sydney explained that the agents get a list of new users who’ve signed on daily, and usually by the following day one of them will call each new member to answer questions, talk about goals, offer encouragement, and help the user get started.

I guess I got missed because I went through a different channel than usual, but Sydney still found me. She told me that everyone seems to have a hard time with the end of Unit milestones. The best part was that she told me how to do better on them, and then encouraged me not to get disheartened and to move on.

I was taking notes as fast and furiously as I could while on the phone with her, and here are some of the things that we talked about, based upon her answers to my questions…

1. You can click the green button to pause a lesson; you can also click the speaker button hear the answer – without having it dock points from your score.


There is nowhere that this could have possibly come in more handy than in the end of Unit 1 milestone, the camping scenario, which I did again this week for the fifth time.

No, it was not exactly any easier to do – even after having done it so many times before, but being able to punch the green speaker button to hear what I was supposed to be saying in each scenario said slowly and distinctly, and then having the opportunity to repeat it back a few times before doing it “for real” made a huge difference to my score. Yay – a passing grade!


2. Sydney encouraged me to sign up for a Studio Session, which is basically a one-on-one practice session with another Rosetta user, but that’s where I balked. After doing so poorly on the Unit 1 milestone, I just don’t yet feel confident about conversing with a live human. She was very sympathetic and encouraging, telling me that the Studio Sessions are much easier than the milestones; I told her maybe I’ll be ready next week.

I’m not sure why, but the thought of conversing with another person puts me into a cold panicky sweat at the moment… I am sure that I will eventually get over it!

3. Sydney explained that the TOTALe system is broken into three levels. Each level has four units, and each unit has four core lessons. Each of the four core lessons will have multiple focus activities, which are the short lessons that you get graded on as you work through. That’s why it takes about a year to get through the full system, and this is one of the things I was all messed up at the end of week one; me of the famous “my goal is to get through lessons 4, 5, 6 and 7…even if I have to do them all from Kevin’s Mac!” quote. Whatever, Judie!

Did you catch that? Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was finding out that this course usually takes about a year to complete. Look, I have no idea what I expected, but for some reason I thought that it would take less time – maybe six month’s max. I realize in hindsight that I was being completely unrealistic.

I look at it this way, though: I can take a year to learn a language, and in a year I will hopefully be more or less fluent and infinitely more confident. Or I could blow off the lessons, and in a year I would simply be a year older. The correct course of action seems like the obvious choice to me. 😉

I’ll admit that knowing that this isn’t supposed to be completed in a few months actually took quite a bit of self-imposed pressure off of me, as I now feel that slow and steady work will serve me best in the end.


4. Sydney said that it is normal for a Rosetta agent to call when you complete a unit, or if you haven’t logged in for a while. Far from feeling like this would be an unwelcome intrusion, I like the idea that there is someone out there to hold users somewhat accountable.

Let’s face it; we are all busy people, and it is really easy to get caught up in the things that happen every week. Finding time to practice can wind up being less and less of a priority when procrastinating is soooo much easier. Knowing that Sydney (or another agent) is watching my progress makes me feel less inclined to slack.

Of course, I also have you all watching to make sure that I don’t start slacking, too… right? 😉


5. Sydney figured out that the reason some of my diamonds were not showing check marks was because I had not scored high enough on the particular activities to close out the activity. How so when my grades were generally really good?

Here’s the breakdown: you must score a 90% or better to close down all grammar, listening / reading and vocabulary activities. It turns out that my high 80s in various grammar activities was coming back to bite me. You can pass with a 75% in the speaking, pronunciation, writing and milestone activities, and it takes an 85% to pass a core lesson review.

6. The reason lesson four seemed to take forever is that it threw in review items from the previous three lessons while also teaching me new things; it honestly wasn’t my imagination that it really did take so much longer.


On thing that I noticed this week was that I had three new games showing on my console: Janga, Conta, and Denti, although only the first two were unlocked for me.


Janga is described as “You and a partner will see slightly different scenes. Use the language you’ve learned in Rosetta Course™ to help fill in the partial scene until it matches the complete scene.”

Conta is where you “Discover the differences between your scene and your partner’s. Both scenes will be very similar, so you’ll both need to use the language you’ve learned in Rosetta Course™ to compare what you see. Click items in your scene that differ from what your partner describes.”

I was a little bit apprehensive about doing anything with a partner, especially since it was obvious that speaking would be involved, but I figured it couldn’t be too bad. I clicked the “find a partner” button, and one was matched to me.

I wasn’t sure if I should be relived or disappointed that neither game loaded properly for me today. I guess I’ll have to give them both another try later this week.

Score-wise, I think I did very well on my lessons – take a look at some of my grades:







I completed Unit 2, Lesson 1 this week, during which I learned how to count to twelve, and all about immediate family members (madre – mother, padre – father, hijo – son, hija – daughter, padres – parents), and possessive words that I believe include mi (my) and nuestro (our) for instance. I need much more practice with these.


Tomorrow I will start Unit 2, Lesson 2. I am not sure if it would be realistic to try to get through Lessons 2, 3 and 4 in a single week, so I am just going to continue on at my own pace, and keep going…


View Rosetta Stone Week Three

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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.

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

  1. Ok so this is very cool but seems like a huge time commitment. I wonder what percent of people actually finish and become fluent?

  2. That’s a really good question Wayne, and I am not sure about statistics. I know that this week (week 4) I really struggled to find time to do it, but there are other weeks where it’s been much easier. I’ll keep you posted… 😉

  3. Hi Judie,

    You probably don’t even check this post anymore (but, in case you do:) How did Rosetta Stone end working for you? (or rather, did it work?) I’m considering either RS or Pimsleur. Thanks in advance.


  4. Hi Jay, I wasn’t able to complete the course, but I have retained much of the knowledge I gained from the RS lessons I did. That’s saying something! I haven’t ever tried Pimsler, so I can’t compare them, but I can recommend Rosetta Stone. =)

  5. Thank you very much, Judie. I will get Rosetta Stone (for Japanese) based on your recommendation. They should give you a commission or something. 😀

    Have a great day and thanks again.


  6. Good luck, and do keep me posted on how it works for you! =)

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