On July 19, 1799, in the town of Rosetta, just miles north of Alexandria, Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte’s army stumbled upon a black, oblong stone with grand historical significance. Soon dubbed the “Rosetta Stone,” it helped scholars unlock the long-dead language of hieroglyphics.
In 1992, Allen and Eugene Stolzfus and John Fairfield founded Fairfield Language Technologies, and created an immersion-based language training computer program inspired by the Rosetta Stone.
The company boasts 30 “language-learning solutions” in over 150 countries, with programs for learning Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Dari, Dutch, English (American and British dialects), Tagalog, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Pashto, Farsi, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian dialect), Russian, Spanish (dialects from Latin America and Spain), Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
The program exposes you to the spoken and written language you are studying, without any interpretation in your native tongue. You develop grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary through word/image association, and practice with technology that listens to your voice and compares it to that of native speakers. The company claims that with diligent study and help from online tutors, you can become as fluent in your new language as any native speaker.
If you buy the program when there is no discount available, you will most likely pay $499, plus tax. That includes the full series of CDs and the accessories that come with it—for example, a headset for voice recognition and access to eLearning resources.
However, there is a range of specials you can get online. My cost for the entire set (Spanish, Latin American dialect) was $219 for all five CDs, the headset, and access codes for iPad/iPod/Android companion material, as well as three months of web access and chat credits for live language assistants. Their Thanksgiving sale price was only $249 and their Christmas special may be even cheaper than what I paid.
The company also offers a software download or a 36-month online membership, both without the headset. If you can live with standard shipping (typically five to seven business days), shipping is free for the CDs, and this may be the best deal.
The other methods are of equal price, but do not include the same amount of features. For example, if you order the CDs, you get the headset, too. You have to wait for it to be shipped, but if you opt to just download the program online, then you have the same online access restrictions—i.e. three months only and no headset. Plus, the downloading time will put a strain on your patience and your Internet provider.
Because I talked to a service rep, I was given the link to download the program, even though I ordered the CDs, and they gave me the Activation ID along with the final confirmation. The ID is good for all five levels of the program, but the download took nearly three hours with high-speed cable access.
In order for the software to work, you need at least 2GB of space available on your computer. If that is all the space you have, chances are your system will act sluggish, lock up, and shut down at odd intervals.
The CD and downloaded software versions are available for up to five users per household. They can be installed and registered on two computers, so if you give this as a gift, it would be available for the entire household (recommended for ages 13+).
The online membership has certain perks and drawbacks. You do not have to download anything on your computer. You can access the software from any computer with Internet access. You have three years of chatting with tutors and the online community of native speakers to help you.
However, after 36 months, you have to renew at full price or lose the service. It is dependent on Internet access. It costs as much as the CDs and downloaded software, but you do not get the headset. The online membership is for one person only, so if you have five people in your household who all want to learn the language online, you have to pay full price for each user.
With the CD offer, you get to download it anyway if you are too eager to wait the five days for shipping, but have the patience to sit through a three-hour download. You have three months of online access with the option to buy cheap extensions you can resume at any time, even if they have previously expired. And if you can’t get through the five-CD program in 12 months, you may want to ask yourself if it is worth the expense.
Adrian Miller is a Field Service Technician with extensive electro-mechanical training and experience. He is the Zenith’s web and graphic designer.