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I really want to learn Hebrew, my goal is to write my PhD thesis on Israel, possibly on Objectivist views on the matter. I have looked at the RosettaStone software, it seems very impressive, especially the fact that it can help you to perfect the correct pronunciation and tone with speech recognition and voice print matching. I have used it briefly in-store, and have to say that it seems like a great product. However, I am wary about making a purchase, as it is very expensive (£360, around $520). Has anyone used this software before?

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I really want to learn Hebrew, my goal is to write my PhD thesis on Israel, possibly on Objectivist views on the matter. I have looked at the RosettaStone software, it seems very impressive, especially the fact that it can help you to perfect the correct pronunciation and tone with speech recognition and voice print matching. I have used it briefly in-store, and have to say that it seems like a great product. However, I am wary about making a purchase, as it is very expensive (£360, around $520). Has anyone used this software before?

I've begun using the Latin version and I like it very much. Its basic idea is to learn learn language organically through immersion in the same way you learned your first language. It's a little frustrating at times because you are sort of guessing at the meaning of things through context, so you make a lot of those silly mistakes that children make when learning a language. So, you are not, for example, given a list of a conjugated verbs or nouns to memorize, you just suddenly see a new word in the activity that looks a little like a word you kinda remember from before. It may depend on the person, and I've only done it for a little bit, but so far, I'm very impressed.

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From what I know, all of their language learning software is really slow going. For those prices, you could buy tonnes of Herbrew books and other media that would keep you occupied for years.

I recommend you go to the How To Learn Any Language forums and digest some of the techniques from the successful polyglots there. You might also want to check out the blog All Japanese All The Time, which is more about language learning in general than the Japanese language specifically.

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From what I know, all of their language learning software is really slow going. For those prices, you could buy tonnes of Herbrew books and other media that would keep you occupied for years.

I recommend you go to the How To Learn Any Language forums and digest some of the techniques from the successful polyglots there. You might also want to check out the blog All Japanese All The Time, which is more about language learning in general than the Japanese language specifically.

Language study is a big interest of mine, and I can only recommend and have only heard against Rosetta Stone for these exact reasons. Get the books and watch videos from free Israeli news sites, or even YouTube videos perhaps.

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OK, don't use Rosetta Stone. Simply put, adult brains are nothing like a child's brain. Really young kids have all of their neurons active and firing constantly; their brains are more powerful than the smartest genius who ever lived. Thus they can absorb multiple languages at once and very easily. Learning a language as an adult or even a teenager is hard work, period. And for the price of one Rosetta Stone program you can buy dozens of books and all kinds of other materials to learn any language. There is no quick way to learn a language as an adult unless you're just really good with languages.

I learned Japanese by immersing myself: I watched movies, TV shows, listened to music, read websites, books, and magazines in Japanese, translated, made note cards, etc. I even changed put my email and facebook accounts in Japanese, and my operating system. I highly suggest making note cards of vocabulary and grammar points and quizzing yourself any time all the time. Carry a couple around in your pocket so you can quiz yourself while waiting at the Dentist's office.

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Simply put, adult brains are nothing like a child's brain. Really young kids have all of their neurons active and firing constantly; their brains are more powerful than the smartest genius who ever lived. Thus they can absorb multiple languages at once and very easily.

I don't think it's really true that a child's brain is more powerful than an adult's brain. I'd suspect that more *needs* to be processed as a baby in order to function independently, so it would seem that babies are just better at it. An adult's brain is only unlike a baby's brain to the extent I baby has almost nothing automatized. You are older and wiser now, so if anything, if you develop a rational method, you'll be able to become fluent in a language much faster than a kid. An immersion type process is good I think, because it *requires* you to learn what's going on, unless you are alright with simply hearing gibberish all day. Even then, a focused effort at grammar would help things a lot.

(Japanese is the language I've put my effort towards studying)

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I don't think it's really true that a child's brain is more powerful than an adult's brain.

It depends on what you mean by "more powerful" They have far more neurons than an adult brain and I believe somewhere on the order of 90% of what we are born with are lost through pruning by the age of 5. Because formations are set and capacities are lost, full fluency (without an accent) can be extremely difficult and often impossible to achieve in a second language if they are not learned early. This is particularly true of drastic differences like from a phonic to a tonal language.

With regard to Rosetta stone, however, I believe it to be as useful for adults as children. The idea is that if you learning by pairing words with their foreign counter part, you learn by translation and tend not to think well in the other language. With Rosetta, you learn vocabulary through pictures primarily, not just of objects but of actions and characteristics as well. This allows you to directly think in the terms on interacting with the things. So for example, if you were learning spanish, you would see a dog...remember that dog was perro and say "perro." By learning through direct identification you lose that middle step which slows you down considerably in conversation. Plus, it is a more enjoyable way to learn.

That said, it is really expensive software, so I wouldn't fault anyone for wanting to save a few bucks on it.

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It depends on what you mean by "more powerful" They have far more neurons than an adult brain and I believe somewhere on the order of 90% of what we are born with are lost through pruning by the age of 5. Because formations are set and capacities are lost, full fluency (without an accent) can be extremely difficult and often impossible to achieve in a second language if they are not learned early. This is particularly true of drastic differences like from a phonic to a tonal language.

I understand what you mean, but what sorts of capacities are actually lost? Would pruning of neurons necessarily mean the loss of capacity rather than an increase in efficiency? I would be curious as to any sorts of studies there are regarding how long it takes an adult or teenager to become fluent in a language in comparison to a child. I would suspect many people have not developed great methods of learning language. The experience most people seem to have with languages is in high school, where it is required and there are plenty of bad teachers, so it would seem that kids are simply better at learning language before they've even gone to school.

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I would be curious as to any sorts of studies there are regarding how long it takes an adult or teenager to become fluent in a language in comparison to a child.
One of the foundational sources on this area is Eric Lenneberg's book Biological Foundations of Language. All non-retarded children have an absolute ability to learn any language from the environment, without any instruction, and this ability exists up to puberty, when the ability starts to decline. After a certain point (somewhere in your 20's), people lose the ability to acquire a language "natively" (that is, so that they are indistinguishable from a person who has always spoken the language), though some people can learn languages "very well" throughout their lives. Starting in your mid-teen years, it becomes necessary to actively study a new language even when immersed (like, if you move) -- whereas the process is automatic for children, as long as the language is required in the environment. (And thus, attempts to teach Spanish to grade-school children usually fails since they only use Spanish for a couple hours per week).

What is lost is the particular automatic mode of learning. The reason for this is not clear. However, language is unique among our cognitive faculties in being much more "behind the scenes" -- knowing how to speak a language is more like knowing how to walk. It's something that you don't have to give a moment's thought to, you just do it, but you can't explain how you do it (just as you can't really explain in detail how you catch a baseball or how you walk). I would presume that the decline in ability to learn a language as you get older is connected to the fact that as adults, reasoning is more conscious and deliberate.

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I understand what you mean, but what sorts of capacities are actually lost?

Learning language, initially, is a subconscious process, which makes the first superior to learning second languages. Language literally defines the way we think about things so going after a second language is a little backwards. To acquire a second language, say Spanish, we think about each new word or phrase as a sort of synonym for English. Trabajo means "I work," and "I work," means that actual thing that you do at your job every day. This translation process essentially forces a subconscious activity(speaking) to be conscious. This necessarily causes a loss of efficiency because the signals have to go so much further, neurologically speaking. With Ayn Rand as an example, it is clear that she had an excellent conceptual mastery of the language but was still unable to speak fluently with proper pronunciation. So she was using a Russian mind to understand an English language rather than having an English mind.

In early child hood the axons(pathways) between cells is myelinating(a fatty insulation that speeds transmission on a route). This effectually means that parts of the brain are "assigned" activities, and sections that are not used are either utilized by some other part or disconnected from the rest of the brain altogether which causes these clumps to atrophy.

Would pruning of neurons necessarily mean the loss of capacity rather than an increase in efficiency?

Both, actually. The brain increases efficiency at certain activities(the activities the child performs) and loses much of the ability to form newer ones. A child born blind, for example might have their hearing input utilize parts of the visual cortex allowing for more precise differentiation of sounds.

I would be curious as to any sorts of studies there are regarding how long it takes an adult or teenager to become fluent in a language in comparison to a child

I don't know of any off the top of my head. Generally a child has a 200 word vocabulary by the age of 2 and uses two word sentences. This blossoms to 6000 words by the age of 4 with basically full fluency in pronunciation and syntax. By 12 they are typically speaking with error rates at below .1% using 15-20lk words. I would guess that with age the amount of time to learn that much and the error rate would continually increase. With friends that I have that have emigrated to the US it is easy to see a marked difference between siblings depending on the age of each upon arrival, in their pronunciation.

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It depends on what you mean by "more powerful" They have far more neurons than an adult brain and I believe somewhere on the order of 90% of what we are born with are lost through pruning by the age of 5. Because formations are set and capacities are lost, full fluency (without an accent) can be extremely difficult and often impossible to achieve in a second language if they are not learned early. This is particularly true of drastic differences like from a phonic to a tonal language.

Nope, if anything we learn many times faster than children do. All evidence points to this. I've heard a statistic based on some research that said children at their fastest vocabulary expanding period (somewhere like 2-4 years old) are learning 1-2 words per hour, every waking hour.

To that I say, "Woopdi doodle doo." You and I both know as adults that we can study and learn more than 1-2 words per hour. It's just that children are heroic in their study--their attention is constantly focussed on making sense of what's around them, and that includes the language they are being inundated with. They are being exposed to their native language for 16 hours per day and are actively trying to decode it. You put an adult in that situation and provided he exerts the same honest effort as the child, and he will be able to talk circles around the child.

I'd estimate that us adults are at least 5x more efficient than children at learning languages, many more times so if we know some basic memory techniques. If an adult exposes himself and spends all day trying to understand a language, every day for a year, he will be able to read, write, speak, and listen at a level that surpasses an 10 year old native speaker in almost all respects. 1 year vs 10 years.

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One of the foundational sources on this area is Eric Lenneberg's book Biological Foundations of Language. All non-retarded children have an absolute ability to learn any language from the environment, without any instruction, and this ability exists up to puberty, when the ability starts to decline. After a certain point (somewhere in your 20's), people lose the ability to acquire a language "natively" (that is, so that they are indistinguishable from a person who has always spoken the language),

What is the evidence of this? I don't see how they can prove an impossibility. And doesn't the existence of people such as actors who can perform in different accents flawlessly offer a direct contradiction?

though some people can learn languages "very well" throughout their lives. Starting in your mid-teen years, it becomes necessary to actively study a new language even when immersed (like, if you move) -- whereas the process is automatic for children, as long as the language is required in the environment.

Children are studying too. They don't have a mystical automatic consciousness like some kind of window. Are you saying they're not exerting effort and learning from context? It seems like both groups have to actively study and there is no difference between them.

I would presume that the decline in ability to learn a language as you get older is connected to the fact that as adults, reasoning is more conscious and deliberate.
If anything, we get better and more efficient at learning languages as we gain greater abstractive powers.
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Nope, if anything we learn many times faster than children do. All evidence points to this. I've heard a statistic based on some research that said children at their fastest vocabulary expanding period (somewhere like 2-4 years old) are learning 1-2 words per hour, every waking hour.

To that I say, "Woopdi doodle doo." You and I both know as adults that we can study and learn more than 1-2 words per hour.

I think we are using two different concepts of what it means to "learn" a word word. An adult could probably learn the meaning of 1-2 words an hour, more or less, but I am doubtful that a 35 year old could learn the meanings of 2 words in all their contexts with perfect pronunciation that could not be differentiated by a native speaker and maintain permanent near perfect recall of that meaning for the remainder of their lives. It is an extremely different activity.

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What is the evidence of this?
I gave you the starting point, so get back to me if you don't understand the literature.
I don't see how they can prove an impossibility.
I don't see how they would need to prove an impossibility. I think the problem is that you don't understand what the fact and scientific theory of age & language acquisition is.
Are you saying they're not exerting effort and learning from context?
Did you see me say "children exert no effort" abd "children don't learn from context"?
It seems like both groups have to actively study and there is no difference between them.
That's just rationalism. There is a clear difference.
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I have been studying Arabic since October, which is similar to Hebrew. The first thing you need to do is learn the alphabet. Rosetta Stone software will be good for vocabulary and such, but to actually learn to speak the language, there is no replacement for practicing with native speakers.

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To acquire a second language, say Spanish, we think about each new word or phrase as a sort of synonym for English. Trabajo means "I work," and "I work," means that actual thing that you do at your job every day.

Jeez, if that is how you try to learn a language, you'll never get anywhere near fluency! You have to map words to concepts, not to English words. You have to learn to think of the actual thing you do at your job every day whenever you hear "trabajo" the same way as you do when you hear "I work."

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Jeez, if that is how you try to learn a language, you'll never get anywhere near fluency! You have to map words to concepts, not to English words. You have to learn to think of the actual thing you do at your job every day whenever you hear "trabajo" the same way as you do when you hear "I work."

That's what Rosetta attempts to avoid for that very reason. As an adult it is nearly impossible to not do that initially though because we are already biased by our primary language. This is why I was saying that children have an advantage. Their lack of bias and full, need-based submersion allows them to achieve a fluency in 2-3 years that adult could barely achieve in 5 and many times, not at all. This is especially true with pronunciation.

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Thank you for the responses, partcularly DavidOdden, that looks like a great resource. Due to my finances, I will use this for the time being :thumbsup:

That's what Rosetta attempts to avoid for that very reason. As an adult it is nearly impossible to not do that initially though because we are already biased by our primary language. This is why I was saying that children have an advantage. Their lack of bias and full, need-based submersion allows them to achieve a fluency in 2-3 years that adult could barely achieve in 5 and many times, not at all. This is especially true with pronunciation.

The aspect of RosettaStone that most attracted me was their speech pattern recognition and pronunciation software. I felt that the rest could be replicated, but that was a stand-out feature. I have now decided that I won't purchase the product, due to the high-cost - I will use the money saved towards a flight to Israel and interact with native speakers there to develop my punctuation!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think we are using two different concepts of what it means to "learn" a word word. An adult could probably learn the meaning of 1-2 words an hour, more or less, but I am doubtful that a 35 year old could learn the meanings of 2 words in all their contexts with perfect pronunciation that could not be differentiated by a native speaker and maintain permanent near perfect recall of that meaning for the remainder of their lives. It is an extremely different activity.

I don't understand what this has to do with anything. My post was comparing a child and an adult. A child may learn up to 1-2 words every waking hour. The child is also not spared from the demands of memory (having perfect recall for the remainder of his life?) or even having perfect pronounciation.

I'm saying that as an adult, I can probably study and retain 30 French words (especially cognates, I have that experience above a child) in an hour while he only learns 1. I am more efficient than that pathetic child because I have a better brain.

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I don't understand what this has to do with anything. My post was comparing a child and an adult. A child may learn up to 1-2 words every waking hour. The child is also not spared from the demands of memory (having perfect recall for the remainder of his life?) or even having perfect pronounciation.

I'm saying that as an adult, I can probably study and retain 30 French words (especially cognates, I have that experience above a child) in an hour while he only learns 1. I am more efficient than that pathetic child because I have a better brain.

A child would(and is) held to the same demands of memory, going from virtually no language capacity to full fluency by the age of 4 with nearly 6000 words in their vocabulary. You would be hard pressed to find any adult who could achieve the same in even twice that time frame. Most people retain their accents(mispronunciations) decades into full immersion in another language.

It's not a question of more or less efficient. The child's brain is functionally different from an adults in they way it acquires information. The adult brain is shaped through experience to do a number of great and different things, but language acquisition, outside of those they were surrounded by before the age of 5, isn't one of them.

I can explain the science to you but you'd be better off reading a book or some articles on early childhood neural development. Your simply mistaken in your views.

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