Roseta Stone: Redux

A. Katz amnfn at
Wed Feb 9 13:35:10 UTC 2011


I don't think that is a valid viewpoint with regard to Athabaskan or any 
other language family.

Victor Golla earlier had a much better phrasing when he wrote:

"Let that read: "A language that is not for amateurs is not for
ADULT people.""

But in fact no language is easy for adults to learn who have not already 
learned a language with a similar typology. If your native language works 
similarly to the one you are learning, then you have an enormous advantage 
as an adult second language learner.

The remark about how Navajo is not for amateurs was made in the context of 
people who have no experience with languages of a similar typology. 
To make this a universal statement about the difficulty of Navajo without 
qualification is to suggest that some languages are "easy" and others are 
"impossible". Not only is this not true from an objective standpoint, it 
also perpetuates the prejudice that English (or IE) is a "normal" language 
and that every language should be measured against this norm.



On Tue, 8 Feb 2011, Tom Givon wrote:

> Before you actually tried to learn an Athabaskan language, or at the very 
> least worked on one, maybe you had better refrain from asserting that "a 
> language that is not for amateurs is not for people".  TG
> =========
> On 2/8/2011 6:33 AM, A. Katz wrote:
>> 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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