287 of 312 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Okay, I do actually own this product, and I have also been a student of Arabic for some years now. I really would not recommend Rosetta Stone products for non-European languages for several reasons, but I focus on the Arabic here (and I assume the learner is a native English speaker):
-The type of Arabic this teaches you is called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Fusha. This is the "higher register" of Arabic which is used in formal settings by the educated class: the news, academics, some clerics, most literature. Generally, Arabic speakers use a local dialect of Arabic, which is very, very different from this version of the language. For instance: imagine reading a work of Medieval "Middle" English. The language would be mostly quasi-familiar English words, but most of the usage, pronunciation, and grammar would seem tricky, overly complex, or old-fashioned. You would be able to understand some of it, but would miss a bit, too. "The sky is blue" would be like "de heofon ist hewn bleu." MSA is like that to 90% of Arabic speakers: not totally gibberish, but not approachable either. Don't misunderstand me though, all Arabic learners should learn MSA, but know that you won't be speaking it much.
-The reverse is also a problem. You can speak all the MSA you want (from Rosetta Stone or elsewhere) but almost no one will speak it back to you, and some people will literally laugh in your face for speaking that way. None of the living dialects of Arabic are that close to MSA, so even if you memorized every word of Rosetta Stone Arabic, you would not be able to understand almost anyone who didn't go to university.
-To make matters even weirder, Rosetta Stone Arabic included the highly complicated case endings (called Iraab) on all the words. That is to say, there are certain changes to the last vowels of most words in the most formal of formal Arabic literature, like the Qur'an, the Bible, and poetry. These case endings mark what part of speech is being used, so for example "kitaab" is "book," "kitaabun" is "book" if it is the subject of the sentence, "kitaabi" is "book" if it is direct object, "kitaaba" is "book" if it is in a prepositional phrase, etc. It is very complex and NO ONE EVER, EVER SPEAKS THAT WAY, even in MSA. Iraab use is technically correct, but even native speakers get confused by it (and rightly so). Not only does it not reflect any normal Arabic speech, because Rosetta Stone does not explain any grammar directly, I seriously doubt anyone would be able to sort out the meanings of the case endings just from context. This one was a major blunder that is mind-boggling for such an expensive product.
-More on the grammar bit: it is great that Rosetta Stone wants to avoid speaking English, but Arabic grammar is not intuitive for English speakers. Therefore, unless you already have a fair bit of Arabic grammar, you will be completely confused. For example, in Arabic there is a system of root letters that make up most words. The pattern of these roots changes depending on meaning, so if a book is "green" it is "akhdar," but if a car is "green" it is "khadr'." Unless you already know that Arabic has a masculine/feminine gender system, and a root for greeness based on the letters kh-d-r, you would not be able to deduce what was happening (I really, really doubt it anyway.) Arabic has lots of grammar that throws English speakers for a loop and needs to be explained directly and in detail: there are tons of ways to pluralize, a "dual" case between singular and plural, a very different sentence structure, and on and on.
-There is no cultural context provided, which is really strange. Why would I need to know the word for "sandwich" in the formal register of Arabic? Why does it teach how to say someone is "Russian" or "Japanese" and not how to say they are "Jordanian," "Saudi Arabian," or "Moroccan"?
I could only imagine two reasons someone would find Rosetta Stone Arabic useful:
1. If they already spoke some Arabic and wanted a refresher course in the more formal parts of the language, which I guess could happen.
2. They wanted to focus specifically on Arabic literature of some sort and already had some familiarity with Arabic grammar and syntax.
Do not buy this product if:
1. You want to learn Arabic from scratch on your own. You will learn nothing at all, I swear.
2. You are traveling to the Arab world and want some basic speaking skills.
3. You want to learn about Arab culture or the language's use and history.
I didn't intend to rant but this is a very expensive product and it really is not worth the cd its copied on. If you want to learn MSA or one of the many dialects (or better yet, both), get a dictionary, a class, and a plane ticket.
92 of 97 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Please read this before investing in this product.
I've studied Arabic for 3 years. I started my Arabic studies with a brief stint using Rosetta Stone, and I'm afraid that the glowing reviews on Amazon are clearly written by people who haven't spent any time in an Arabic-speaking country. The Arabic taught in Rosetta Stone is Al-FusHa, which roughly means "Elegant Arabic". That may sound like a pleasant way to start your studies, but if you wish to actually speak with Arabs, I strongly recommend that you refrain from investing in this product. Let's say you manage to finish the full three-level course. If you were to try and engage someone in conversation on the streets of Cairo or Dubai, you would sound something like this:
O Sir! Hast thou the hour?
(Translation: What time is it?)
Here's the kicker: they will barely, if at all, understand you. If they do understand, they giggle hysterically.
Here's the double kicker: You won't understand anyone. At all.
The problem is that learning a language requires active use of acquired knowledge by speaking, and the Arabic taught in Rosetta Stone is not spoken ANYWHERE in the Arab world except in prepared news reports by Al-Jazeera. It is a contrived spoken form that is based on the writing system. Rosetta Stone incorporates all the "case endings" which essentially are vowels at the end of each word that denote whether it is the subject, indirect object, direct object, adverb, etc. Case endings are archaic and very rarely spoken. You will spend months un-learning the case endings. Even the vocabulary is outdated. If you want to read the Qur'an, then by all means go for it. However, if communicating with Arabs, rather than translating old texts, is your goal, you should go down the other routes available:
1.) When starting from scratch, you can't do better than the book w/ DVD's Alif-Baa, which teaches the alphabet, basic vocabulary, and verbs.
2.) Pimsleur has good audio courses for Egyptian and Eastern Arabic. Michel Thomas Method Arabic is absolutely excellent but focuses exclusively on Egyptian Arabic (which is the most widely understood dialect), and doesn't teach the writing system.
3.) Google "GLOSS" by the Defense Language Institute. It's totally free and has more Arabic material by dialect than any resource I've found yet. However, it assumes that the learner is at a lower-intermediate level of study.
4.) Sign up for a free account at [...] (by Rosetta Stone) or [...], where you can find Arabs who will be happy to help you if you just help them with their English a little (75% of the users will speak English almost fluently). Plus, they can help answer some of the pesky questions you will come across. Talking via skype is one of the best ways to learn the language without a visa, and it's free.
5.) Al-kitaab fii ta'allum al-'Arabiyya is the best series for learning enough Arabic so that you can effectively communicate with most Arab people. They focus on Formal Spoken Arabic and they have plenty of good information on how the spoken dialects (especially Egyptians) differ from what they're teaching you. It's a classroom textbook, so you MUST buy the Answer Key that is also available on Amazon. Otherwise, you won't know if you're right or wrong about anything.
6.) Buy the Hans Wehr Arabic-English dictionary. There is no getting around this.
7.) Check out the free podcasts on iTunes for Arabic Students. They're pretty good, especially for learning how to phrase thing more naturally and understanding flow-of-speech discourse.
And finally, the best advice ANYONE can give you about learning Arabic... drum-roll, please...
8.) If you are intent on learning Arabic, the best approach is some combination of the above recommendations that suits your specific goals. Arabic has a vast vocabulary and has some grammatical conventions according to region, so think about how you want to use it. Any combination of the resources listed above will get you further along than RS Arabic at about half the cost or less. In my experience, the reward of learning a new language is the ability to communicate with new people, which no amount of RS Arabic will enable you to do.
Lastly, don't shell out about a thousand dollars based on the review of a 19 year old kid who is getting a minor in Arabic. He's going to realize sooner or later that when it comes to communication, the Arabic taught in Rosetta Stone is to Spoken Arabic as a Shakespearean Comedy is to 30 Rock: One is something that is taught in classrooms as funny, whereas the other is something that actually is.