Roseta Stone: Redux

s.t. bischoff at
Mon Feb 7 20:16:19 UTC 2011

Hi all,

Over the last week I was involved with an event at the American Indian
Language Development Institute and the folks that created the Navajo Rosetta
Stone gave a short talk about the software. What follows is my understanding
of how it came to be.

The Navajo Rosetta Stones was created in collaboration with Rosetta Stone
and the non-profit Navajo Language Renaissance (NLR). NLR is a non-profit
organization that is NOT affiliated with the tribal council or government in
any way, for obvious reasons I think (e.g. getting council approval for the
project). However, it has been endorsed by the school leadership and NLR is
actively trying to get the school district to adopt the software. You can
view the NLR website here A
non-community member started NLR after using Rosetta Stone to learn Russian.
She thought it would be good if Rosetta Stone created a Navajo version. She
contacted Rosetta Stone (RS), and they told her they would provide here with
the software to develop the lessons,  a photographer, and technical
assistants (limited on the ground, mostly by phone) to develop the program
for $300,000. Another option would be for her to apply for a grant from RS
to cover most of the costs. So the NLR was created, a partnership between
community members and one non-community member,  as a non-profit
organization and applied. RS gave two grants the year they applied, one went
to NLR. The grant covered all but $27,000 of the $300,000. So NLR had to pay
RS $27,000 to have access to the software to create the Navajo Rosetta
Stone. This means they had to create the lessons and pay speakers and
informants themselves. RS provided the software, a photographer, and
technical support for the $27,000. NLR now is the only group that can sell
Navajo Rosetta Stone, which they do for $150 per license and $200 for a
personal box set. It is not clear if they have to pay RS a percentage of
those revenues or not. When I asked a clear answer wasn't given. NLR also
has a "training" session for administrators and teachers which costs $1500 a
day and $400 per 3 hours. Needless to say, it is not un-controversial in the
community for many of the usual reasons. Ironically, the speaker after the
Rosetta Stone folks gave a talk that demonstrated how to create nearly
identical language lessons as Rosetta Stone's simply using power point. I
was encouraged to let folks know that they should contact the NLR if they
have any questions at mbittinger at You can try a free
introductory lesson here The folks
at NLR praised RS for their efforts and felt they had really done them a
service. In short, they were very happy with the arrangement and how it was
working out. They were also upset by the controversies surrounding the
Navajo Rosetta Stone and felt they were really the result of a
misunderstanding and misguided assumptions. One finally thing, they did seem
to think that it was not a pancea, but rather another useful tool in
language revitalization efforts.


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