Rosetta Stone recently launched a new application on the Xbox One game console, which allows users to engage with English and Spanish from the comfort of their own couch. Using text, speech, pictures, and live recordings of actors, the app takes advantage of the gaming platform to expose players to the language they want to learn. Since Rosetta Stone is now available on a game console, it seemed relevant to, at least, touch on it here.
In the first five minutes of play, it becomes apparent the Xbox version is not really a game. As a result, we decided not to do a full game review, but rather briefly summarize our experience.
The application does offer the same features as many other Rosetta Stone products. We summarize a few here:
- The ‘Discovery Center‘ allows players to visit some generic locations such as an airport, a hotel, and a restaurant, using the controller to interact with various objects in the environment. Clicking on an object that has crosshairs on it will give the player the Spanish spelling of the word along with the English translation, along with the Spanish pronunciation (if the player chose to learn Spanish). Ultimately, this is exploration via word translation.
- The player can engage in controlled dialogues with certain characters in the game. When clicked on, the camera zooms into the still image of the character who is replaced with a live actor who speaks in the target language. A transcript of the conversation scrolls along the left side of the screen, allowing the player to go back and read the conversation so far, and can even click on individual items to hear them repeated. When giving a response, the player is given a sentence with a piece missing and chooses the appropriate item(s) to fill in the blank. If it is correct, the player receives positive feedback from the game, with the correct response turning green followed by a pleasant chiming sound and the oral recitation of the sentence. If it is incorrect, the player gets negative feedback, with the item turning red and an off-key chime signaling the player to try again. If an item is missed too many times, the game provides a rather abundant hint, highlighting the correct response for a brief moment so that the player can continue.
- Several resources that target specific language features are at the player’s disposal. At any time, the player can go to the ‘phrase book’ to look up definitions and spellings of words, with a complementary picture and oral recitation to assist different kinds of learner preferences.
- The ‘Training Zone’ offers grammar explanations to aid the player in understanding conjugations and word order, as well as some games focusing on listening discrimination and identification of vocabulary items.
- The player can also access the ‘Journal,’ which will show the player’s progress through the game by showing an overall percentage of items completed as well as a list of completed items (e.g.. places, conversations, objects, etc.).
Much like products for other platforms, the pedagogical focus of the application remains grammar translation, dictation, and structural accuracy, Two major omissions are a focus on strategic language use or cultural authenticity. The scenes feel generic, and relatively void of, or explicitly lacking, cultural accuracy. For example, the airport does not look, feel, or sound like an airport in the majority of the Spanish-speaking world. While not possible all the time, a release on the Xbox One would benefit a great deal from attention to the possibilities of such a robust gaming platform.
The free version takes about one hour to complete, but the player can return to the previous locations at any time to revisit conversations and interact with everything to reach 100% completion. In terms of the product itself, the point-and-click style of gameplay is more comfortable with a mouse and keyboard, and I found myself trying to scroll over some items and becoming frustrated when I could not. Also, a few noticeable bugs cropped up on my play-through, such as a live actor not showing up on screen for certain lines of dialogue and the player character’s voice uttering a line of dialogue in a feminine voice when it should have been masculine. Minor glitches, but unexpected on the platform.
If you are interested in the new Rosetta Stone app and what it has to offer, you can check out the link to their blog website is here.
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