Roseta Stone: Redux

john at john at
Tue Feb 8 15:23:22 UTC 2011

Since moving to Israel I've dabbled in Circassian (there are two
Circassian-speaking villages here) and I think it can give Navajo
a run for its money. It's harder in terms of phonetics/phonology and
not far behind morphophonemically.

Quoting Victor.Golla at

> Aya--
> > A language that is not for amateurs is not for people.
> Let that read: "A language that is not for amateurs is not for
> ADULT people."
> Whatever the neurological reality of the Critical Period, it is an
> empirical fact that non-native speakers past puberty experience great
> difficulty in acquiring anything resembling fluency in an Athabaskan
> language.  (That Ken Hale did so only proves the rule.  The astoundingly
> low incidence of true polyglotism deserves its own serious study.)
> Sapir called the Athabaskan languages the "son-of-a-bitchingest"
> ever devised by humankind.  No doubt, every ordinary Navajo child
> who wants to can pick up Navajo as fast as your or my or Sapir's did
> English, but God only knows how they do it.  With Muriel Saville-Troike
> the one, brave exception, acquisition researchers have largely
> avoided Navajo, despite its obvious theoretical potential.  (One suspects
> that part of the problem is that such research requires some degree
> of competence in the language of study.  See above.)
> I must admit that it's been a while since I took a look at acquisition
> studies (or the lack thereof) for Navajo or Athabaskan generally.
> I would be delighted to hear that some well-designed studies have gotten
> under way in the last decade.  If not, they'd better hurry.  Fewer than
> 10% of Navajo kids *on the reservation* were speaking the language
> the last time someone looked.
> --Victor Golla
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "A. Katz" <amnfn at>
> To: john at
> Cc: "s.t. bischoff" < at>, funknet at
> Sent: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 5:33:53 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
> Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] Roseta Stone: Redux
> A language that is not for amateurs is not for people.
> This has nothing to do with RS or computer language teaching. As others
> have stated, the technologically based systems are not a panacea.
> But a language that ordinary people can't pick by talking to their parents
> in childhood is either dead already or not a human language.
>     --Aya
> On Tue, 8 Feb 2011, john at wrote:
> > I would be amazed if a single person actually learns to speak Navajo
> > using Rosetta Stone. This is not a language for amateurs.
> > John
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Quoting "s.t. bischoff" < at>:
> >
> >> 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.
> >>
> >> Cheers,
> >> Shannon
> >>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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> >
> >

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