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Test Drive: TOTALe from Rosetta Stone

I work in  T+L’s Research Department, which requires fluency in a minimum of one foreign language (I speak French), but heading to a preview last Thursday for the new TOTALe product from Rosetta Stone, one of the leaders in foreign langage instruction, my aim was to brush up on my Portuguese, which I had picked up in bits and pieces on a trip to Rio. Though I remember being able to communicate with the locals (it’s hard not to), today, eight months later, I recall only one word: guarana, the name of a fruit, and also the base of a popular soft drink. How far could I get, in 30 minutes, with TOTALe? Would I be able to order more than a Guarana?

But when I arrived at the preview, I discovered my station was set to Spanish instead of Portuguese, much to my disappointment. Which goes to show that you don’t need to speak different languages for misunderstandings to occur.

Nevertheless, the demo smartly showcased Rosetta’s two new components to its traditional course: Rosetta Studio, live online instruction with a small group of fellow students, and Rosetta World, a global community that partners learners with native speakers for activities, games or just chatting.

So much for the traditional teaching methods—vocab lists, flash cards, audio tapes—that put people to Zzzzz in the classroom. Rosetta’s course matches sights and sounds with words—the same way babies acquire language. And World is the motivating bonus.  Connecting to real, live people at the end your coursework (in my case, Brazilians, once they set me up in the right language) would have anyone sitting up straight in their chairs.

Rosetta Stone’s TOTALe is now available in 24 languages from Arabic to Italian for $999 a year.

Lisa Cheng is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.

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