Rosetta Stone acquires the rights to endangered languages

Luke Kundl Pinette lkpinette at
Fri Jan 21 04:09:16 UTC 2011

The question is, why is the Rosetta Stone doing this anyways?  According 
to the article, Rosetta doesn't actually distribute the programs, just 
makes them.  It doesn't say if it's turning a profit, a loss or selling 
them at cost (though the last is what one would infer from the article). 
  If they're doing it for the PR, they'll probably try not to screw over 
native communities too badly, though of course you know what they say 
about the pavement used on the road to hell.

If they're in it for the money, I wouldn't put it past them to add a 
clause like that. Then we've got a legal question on our hands.  It's 
essentially monopolistic practice, particularly if they make a pattern 
of deliberately blocking competition for language programs in endangered 
languages.  I suspect that if they were to try it, it would be possible 
to find some lawyer willing to pursue the issue, and when taken to court 
they would lose.   It would certainly cause a lot of trouble in the 
meantime though.

It sounds like nobody on this list has any illusions about the company. 
  It's depressing to see that a linguist like Krauss, and one in such an 
important position has bought into Rosetta Stone's marketing, but again, 
unless another company steps up it doesn't sound like there's any 
options other than no language program.  If Rosetta is not in fact 
inserting insidious clauses into the agreements with their informants, 
it's still probably better than nothing.


On 1/21/11 10:48 AM, John Du Bois wrote:
> I agree with Tom's assessment. One should not underestimate the damage
> that a company with Rosetta Stone's tendencies to mislead could do in
> an endangered language community.
> For example, they could insert a legal clause binding speakers that
> work with them to work with nobody else in the future. If that's the
> last speaker of the language, that's the end of the language, as far
> as indigenous language revitalization efforts, language documentation,
> and linguistic fieldwork go. Even if Rosetta Stone doesn't use this
> specific legal tactic, if speakers end up feeling abused by them for
> whatever reason, they may feel leery about working with anyone else on
> their language. When there are few speakers in an endangered language
> community, this can have a big negative impact.
> It may be worthwhile for some people involved in work with endangered
> language communities to monitor Rosetta Stone's actions closely, and
> to work with representatives of those communities to devise strategies
> for mitigating any negative  effects.
> Jack Du Bois
> On 1/20/2011 10:16 AM, Tom Givon wrote:
>> Rosetta Stone is a f---ing fraud. I certainly won't recommend to my
>> Ute friends that they do anything with them--if they asked me.
>> However, preying on innocent customers is RS's specialty, and the
>> Natives are just as gullible as the rest of us, an in many way more
>> vulnerable. I hope they don't create more damage than history already
>> has.  TG
>> ==============
>> On 1/20/2011 9:50 AM, Keith Johnson wrote:
>>> Hi Funksters,
>>> My subject heading is intentionally provocative, but this article
>>> raises a couple of
>>> issues.  Is it a good thing for Rosetta Stone to have an endangered
>>> languages
>>> unit?
>>> Keith Johnson

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