290 of 300 people found the following review helpful
Benjamin R. Greene
- Published on Amazon.com
I almost didn't buy this product due to the highly negative review on this site that I read that discusses the issue of it teaching a very "formal" version of the language and said it was totally worthless. However, after trying some other approaches, I purchased it anyway and gave it a shot. I am so happy I did. It is by far the most effective Arabic teaching tool I have discovered. It has been a joy to learn from Rosetta Stone Arabic.
Let me just begin by saying that George's very negative review makes some valid observations. I think a little explanation of the Arabic language is in order. The Arabic spoken in the street, unlike in English, is very different than the Arabic spoken in formal situations like religious sermons or on television by news reporters. Formal Arabic, known as "fusaha", and also commonly called Modern Standard Arabic, is similar to the classical Arabic used in the Quran and is very different than the type of Arabic used by everyday people in comon situations. Morever, the street dialects of Arabic vary from region to region and are mutually unintelligible. A Lebanese and a Yemeni will not be able to talk together unless they use the formal Arabic, and neither will a Moroccan and a Syrian. But if both are educated, they can use Modern Standard Arabic to communicate.
The questions are really two-fold: One, for what purpose are you learning the language and two, what are the resources at your disposal? If I knew I wanted to learn a specific dialect, say, the type used in Beirut, and that dialect only, perhaps for family reasons, and I had the money to move there and take classes in that dialect, I would absolutely go there and do so. But it is unfair to denigrate Rosetta Stone for not offering such specific courses. Rosetta Stone will never be able to teach all the different dialects in the Arab world. There just simply isn't the demand to make it worthwhile for them. If your purpose is that specific, George is absolutely correct: Save the money you would have spent on Rosetta Stone and just fly there and take classes.
I am studying Arabic to speak to people from different regions, to watch the news, and to read books. For that pupose, the Arabic taught by Rosetta Stone is perfect. And the method they use is incredibly effective. I am learning lots of Arabic every day. And I simply do not have the time, money, or even the interest to spend the next two years overseas learning to speak Arabic like a local. True, I will never fool the next guy over at the cafe in Cairo into asking where in Egypt I grew up. But that isn't my goal.
And believe me, you could do a lot worse. I first tried learning Arabic on my own. Impossible. The grammar is so complex you will absolutely never figure it out on your own. Books can't explain it. And then I invested in an extremely expensive online course taught by an "expert" which cost approximately double Rosetta Stone. Worthless. It was so complex it made Arabic sound like nuclear physics. And the instructor teaches using Arabic words and terms much of the time, so unless you know already lots of complex Arabic grammatical terms, forget it. I will not dignify that program by mentioning the name here so as to deprive it of undeserved publicity.
I swear on my sacred honor I am not affiliated with Rosetta Stone. I don't have any investment in their company, I don't work for them, I just bought their product and am using it. My only purpose in writing this review is to guide other people interested in learning Arabic to a really effective and fun product and away from other paths that are much less useful.
280 of 304 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.
86 of 91 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.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I completed all three levels of this course. Then Rosetta Stone upgraded to V4 TOTALe which is even better. I learned French in College and this is 10x better, easier and more fun. The immersion approach, not getting any translations, is hard to adjust to but I recomend simply "let the tool do the work" and you will start to "get it". As it all starts to sink in, you will find that it "sticks". If you just cannot stand not knowing, I recommend the "Visual Arabic English Dictonary" as a supplement. Also, if you look around at Rosetta Stone, they have the curricula in PDF form for all their languages including English. So that course is very similar to the Arabic and you can use the two PDF documents as a "Cheat sheet" but try not to.
I would say that each of the levels takes about 40-50 hours to complete. You should then expect to review these levels periodically, using the review feature, every few weeks for a few hours. To be really effective, I think you should be ready to spend at least 5-6 hours, preferably 7+ per week. If life intervenes, at least use the review feature to keep your mind on what you learned. Stick with it and you will be rewarded. I suggest getting all three levels. If you enjoy it, you will want all levels. If you don't, Rosetta Stone has a no questions asked return policy in the first six months.
For soldiers preparing for overseas duty, know that you are more likely to encounter Pashto and Urdu in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Arabic is spoken in Iraq and essentially all Muslim countries west of there except Turkey. This course is useful none-the-less as it is he core language of this culture. You will, for example, be able to understand Arabic news and web sites.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought this course some time ago, hoping to learn Arabic, and at first I felt like it was going well. Then I met my future wife, who is from Iraq and is a native Arabic speaker, and discovered that some of what I thought I had learned was virtually useless, and some was simply wrong. Let me explain.
First, neither the course nor the Rosetta Stone company explain that there are many versions of Arabic; in fact, each Arabic-speaking country has its own. For example, Iraqi Arabic is my wife's first language, but she can understand very little of the Arabic spoken in Morocco. In addition to the colloquial versions, there is classical Arabic (the language of the Quran), and a somewhat simplified version of classical Arabic called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). This last version is what the Rosetta Stone course attempts to teach.
The problem is, almost no one actually speaks MSA. When I met my wife, my attempts to use the little bit of Arabic I had learned from Rosetta Stone elicited laughter but no conversation. In MSA, most words have unnecessary endings that no one uses in speaking. For example, Rosetta Stone teaches the Arabic word for "girl" as something like 'bintoon', and the Arabic word for "boy" like 'waladoon'. Real Arabs simply say 'bint' and 'walad'. To make matters worse, I found that I was getting pronunciation wrong in many cases, because all I had to go on was what I heard from the software. For example, the Arabic word for "this" sounded something like 'hava' to me, but I later found out that the sound of the English letter 'v' doesn't exist in Arabic, and it was really pronounced more like 'hatha'.
I would guess that Rosetta Stone courses for European languages like Spanish, German, or Italian would work better. The sounds are more familiar and the same alphabet is used as in English. Arabic uses a completely different alphabet, and of the 29 letters in Arabic, 9 of them represent sounds with no English equivalent at all. In my opinion, the Rosetta Stone method just can't work very well for learning Arabic, which is a much different proposition for native English speakers.
In fact, I've learned far more Arabic from a $6 paperback book I bought from Amazon, "The Arabic Alphabet - How to Read & Write It" by Nicolas Awde and Putros Samano. The authors of this book believe that, "Genuine mastery of the alphabet ought to be a prerequisite to learning Arabic...", and after heading down that road for a while I tend to agree. Having a native Arabic speaker to help is also an absolute necessity, in my opinion. I'm by no means fluent yet, but I'm making significant progress, at least. The Rosetta Stone course did teach me a little vocabulary that helped me get started; sometimes my wife says something to me that I recognize from the course, even if the form is a bit different.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that Rosetta Stone is not the way to learn Arabic.