There are many things that irk me in this world. I'm sure I could start spewing forth a general list if I gave myself half a chance.
But one thing that really bothers me? Issues with curricula.
Now, as a State Department family, we have (free) access to the Rosetta Stone program online, because James is in language training. We can access the website of something somewhere because James has a login for it, and all four of us can use the Rosetta Stone software. Which the boys do. Because I force them.
Let me introduce you to Rosetta Stone, dear Reader.
With Rosetta Stone, it's just you and some interactive software. And the people who created this program were fiscal, business GENIUSES. They figured out a way to created a language program that could (ostensibly) be used by all humans, regardless of the language they already speak. What does this mean? Let me explain.
Rosetta Stone wanted to be able to sell this program to anyone, anywhere. You speak English? You can use Rosetta Stone to (try to) learn Chinese. You speak Japanese? You can use the same exact Rosetta Stone software to (try to) learn Chinese. You speak French? You can use the EXACT SAME Rosetta Stone software to (try to) learn Chinese. The Rosetta Stone software doesn't care WHAT language you speak right now...because it's not going to explain anything to you in your own language!
Like I said- fiscal geniuses. Market the exact same software to the entire universe and tell them all that they can learn Chinese!
Only, crap. Everyone looks on their Rosetta Stone computer screen and sees:
Whether you speak English, Italian, or Japanese, you stare at THIS picture on your computer screen and you think... hmmmm. Let me think. What is that farmer saying?
In fact, let's play a fun little game, shall we? What is this farmer in this picture saying in Mandarin?
1.) "I'm a farmer on a tractor."
2.) "My tractor is red and my pants are blue."
3.) "I like to grow corn in the rich soil."
4.) "I'm really glad I'm wearing gloves."
5.) "I'll bet you have no freaking clue what I'm saying!"
6.) None of the above.
Right, none of the above. In fact, what the farmer is actually saying, and I'm not making this up, is, "I am not a teacher."
And I think: "I AM NOT A TEACHER?!?!?" HOW IN THE NAME OF EVERYTHING HOLY AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT THE FARMER IS SAYING "I AM NOT A TEACHER?!"
It's not like Rosetta Stone comes with any form of translation into English... or whatever language the person using it already comfortably speaks. Stop and think about this one: THERE IS NO ANWER KEY/TRANSLATION BACK INTO YOUR LANGUAGE. So you're forced to stare at that picture (and many others like it) and try to figure out what the farmer is saying. And then learn Chinese that way. AS. IF.
You know what else ticks me off? That Rosetta Stone constantly tells people in their advertisements that the State Department uses them to teach their employees foreign languages. Which is a total lie from hell. It's made available to James/us, absolutely, but no one at FSI uses it to teach.
Am I going to have corporate lawyers come at me with pitchforks over this one?
Maybe, but can we all just tell the truth?
So here's why I'm all riled up: Rosetta Stone markets aggressively to homeschoolers. Homeschoolers! Who probably have an almost zero percent chance of having a native speaker of these languages in their home. What on EARTH am I supposed to do if my kid gets that picture up on his screen and can't understand that the farmer is saying, "I am not a teacher?" I sure wouldn't understand it, either. And there's no translation key in English that I can use to tell me what the farmer is saying (unless there's some random part of the $250 Rosetta Stone homeschool curriculum package that I don't know anything about. Which I suppose is a possibility, since I haven't bought that. And I'm sure someone will tell me in my comments section if there is.).
Also, homeschoolers are easily lured into flawed curricula. This is because we are all so desperate to give our children a great education that we will buy whatever we've heard is good. (And Rosetta Stone is EXPENSIVE! For homeschoolers, the first level of the Mandarin Program is $250!) And also- we want our children to have exposure to languages. And it's not like there's a really easy way to do this as a homeschooler.
I wonder how many homeschoolers have bought Rosetta Stone and wanted to flush it down the toilet? Seriously. I'll tell you this: if James and I had used a HUGE part of our homeschooling budget in order to drop $250 on Rosetta Stone in the dear hope that it could help teach our boys Chinese, I would be one TOTALLY FURIOUS INDIVIDUAL. For how in the WORLD can one learn a language if one doesn't have any of that language translated for them back into their native tongue?
I'm sure I'm going to get angry comments about how I just don't understand how wonderful Rosetta Stone is - how people bought it and used it and now scored a 3/3 in Farsi or whatever - and how I'm just a very bad person for being so mean. But gosh darn it, none of the four of us could exclusively use this curriculum to learn Chinese if our lives depended upon it. AND IT'S FREE.
I'm not complaining that State has made it available to us. I'm grateful to have it. I force my children to use it every day. But it's a review for Matthew, added on to his nearly two hours each day of accelerated Mandarin Chinese, taught by a native-speaking teacher from China. And for Zachary, it's easier because other family members now know enough Chinese to pitch in. But for a homeschool family with no one around who speaks the language to help with Rosetta Stone? Don't waste your money on this program, thinking it will deliver something it doesn't.
Anyone looking to purchase this program, ask yourself this: Would you or anyone in your family have been able to help your child and explain to them that the farmer is saying, "I am not a teacher?" in whatever language of Rosetta Stone you're considering purchasing? If not, don't buy this program. The End.