World Language Opportunity Through Rosetta Stone

By Aurora Blanchard

Students take notes in German teacher Anne McPartland’s classroom. German is one of the three languages offered in the District, along with French and Spanish. With the discounted Rosetta Stone license, students have the ability to learn any of Rosetta Stone’s 30 languages that range from Arabic to Korean to Swahili. (photo by kendrick gaussoin)
Students take notes in German teacher Anne McPartland’s classroom. German is one of the three languages offered in the District, along with French and Spanish. With the discounted Rosetta Stone license, students have the ability to learn any of Rosetta Stone’s 30 languages that range from Arabic to Korean to Swahili. (photo by kendrick gaussoin)

For the second year, FHSD took advantage of Rosetta Stone’s offer of discounted language packages to schools nationwide. FHSD contacted Rosetta Stone this school year to continue providing the $100 year-long license to students, employees or the families of either. This program offers five levels of a language that are normally priced at $500 if purchased off the Rosetta Stone website by an individual.

“I think it’s great to provide a discounted rate for the families,” Chris Greiner, director of student learning for FHSD, said. “There’s a number of options. It’s for families who want to give themselves exposure to languages other than French, Spanish or German.”

During fall of 2011, Rosetta Stone contacted FHSD with their offer. The District partnered with them then to provide the online license for any of Rosetta Stone’s 30 languages.

“Families and students seem to be satisfied,” Greiner said. “It’s an opportunity for families to get it at a discounted rate for a product that has a popular name.”

To advertise for this license this school year, FHSD put advertisements in the District’s e-news and on the District website. This is a change from last year, however, when FHSD put ads in the Mid Rivers magazine and the Suburban Journals not knowing of Rosetta Stone’s policy of only advertising internally.

“It’s not something Rosetta Stone wanted us to do,” Greiner said.

FHSD neither profits nor has a deficit due to this partnership. Last year, FHSD had over 100 purchased licenses and this year, when the window closed on Feb. 8, 116 were purchased. Those interested in obtaining a license filled out an order form online where their payment was processed by the District and then sent to Rosetta Stone.

“That’s kind of sweet,” senior Amber Rollins said. “Sometimes being in a class like Spanish where you have more than one teacher per level, it’s hard to transfer from teacher to teacher.”

If purchased, the licenses offer five levels of education on the vocabulary, pronunciation and culture of that certain language. Users go through the program unit by unit, needing to pass each activity before being able to move on to the next unit.

“I don’t think someone can truly learn the mechanics of a language with Rosetta Stone,” French teacher Dave Fritz said. “They need to take a class, have a tutor to learn the language more complete.”

One thing that has come up since the adoption of this program is the possibility of incorporating Rosetta Stone into the curriculum of foreign languages. Though this would not be able to happen until the 2014-15 school year for the IV and V language levels and 2015-16 school year for levels I through III, the District and world language department chairs are still discussing the idea with budget being a large factor.

“We have that conversation every year,” Greiner said. “But if we buy Rosetta Stone, we can’t buy the other things we need.”

After hearing about the idea of bringing the program into the classrooms, German teacher and owner of the online German license Anne McPartland brought up her concern to Greiner about the decrease in enrollment for world languages. According to McPartland, Rosetta Stone could be used as a tool for extra practice on the side, but she believes it would not be able to take the place of a classroom setting with a teacher.

“When I saw the District promotion of Rosetta Stone, I thought ‘Oh that’s great,’” McPartland said. “But why don’t we promote the language department we currently have? If we’re going to support Rosetta Stone, let’s support the programs in our schools.”

According to Spanish teacher Ryan Johnson, Rosetta Stone could be looked at as a tool for middle school students to test out of level one foreign languages to be able to take the higher level and AP foreign language classes once in high school. Both he and McPartland, however, see incorporation of the program into the world language classes as a potential problem due to Rosetta Stone not corresponding with the classes’ curriculum.

“That’s the idea, use it to replace lower levels,” Johnson said. “My concern is you’re going to do this, come in and take our Spanish I final. They won’t do well, get discouraged and not like the language. It’s just a wait and see.”

A meeting held Jan. 31 between McPartland, Greiner and the heads of world language departments in the District addressed the lack of enrollment in the world language departments. The main focus was on FHSD middle schools, improving communication between high school and middle school teachers and promoting the world language programs to the students.

“It could be integrated into the middle schools, but we’ve got a good thing going,” McPartland said. “We’ve got good people in the District. I’m excited to see what’s going to come next.”

For now, Greiner says the District plans to offer the discounted Rosetta Stone license to FHSD each year. Before any curriculum integration, FHSD will survey parents, teachers and students on their thoughts about it.