Yesterday Rosetta Stone launched their TOTALe HD app for the iPad device, another platform which Rosetta Stone included in trying to create a total immersion process for learning a new language. I was excited to try and get my hands on the app as soon as I managed to get an opportunity.
The app was a welcome addition because now I finally have another reason to use my iPad instead of sit in the corner as a photo frame, which is where the device spends most of the time now. Rosetta Stone released their app as a free download from the Apple App Store. In order to use the application, you need to have an active TOTALe subscription to take advantage of the app. This is included with any purchase of any Rosetta Stone language product as well as if you purchase an online subscription through Rosetta Stone’s website which can even be purchased at three month increments for as little as $199 which would give you access to all levels of the language.
The app itself is great. While it does not include many of the additional you would get on a PC such as the Studio sessions with instructors or the online games and stories, but the course does include all of the courseware as well as the previous scores that you might have had from taking a lesson. The courses themselves don’t appear to be stored on the iPad device but downloaded as a stream. This can lead to the application dragging from time to time if you have a weak internet connection, but in general the app is far less drag on a connection than streaming video and doesn’t have to be as responsive as VoIP or online gaming.
Some of the positive things that I did enjoy with the iPad app for Rosetta Stone is the freedom and portability of the iPad with the functionality of the application. I can take learning on the iPad outside to my porch where I can enjoy the spring weather and learn a new language. Many times the PC version would almost seem better on a touch screen where the iPad app makes that fully available for you and actually allows some portions of the lessons to proceed a split second faster. The app takes up little room on the iPad and so even the lowest end 16GB model shouldn’t have any problem with storage capacity. The installation of the application is only 12.6 MB and has to be done through the iTunes App store.
The downsides to the app are that the courses aren’t stored on the iPad which is unfortunate because I really would like to use the device without having to be connected to a WiFi or 3G connection. On the positive side, 3G coverage is enough for you to use the courses although I don’t know what the data plan usage would be. Other problems with the app include the fact that some minor data points are missing yet from the Rosetta App including one of the features that I use to study which would be the date the last time a lesson was completed. One other feature that I find frustrating is when you have languages in a different character set such as Chinese or Arabic, the app resets the character set after every lesson. This was very annoying for me because I try and make my learning process just a bit more difficult by learning the advanced characters. Generally on the PC side, the character set is somewhat static unless you completely close out of Rosetta Stone.
The application is clearly a first release and has a number of issues. Performance appears to be there, while occasionally response just does not seem to be there. However, this also can be experienced with a weak internet connection on the PC variant of Rosetta Stone. One of the clear bugs happened to be how some of the courses would have completion of over 100% for the score. Clearly this is a bug that will probably be fixed in an update. I don’t feel the that any of the bugs are detrimental to the learning process. However I did have the application crash during a lesson. I was able to pick up right where I left off when the application failed though and within a few seconds. While working on the application I spent two hours studying Japanese while working through three core lessons.
Overall, I would recommend this application to any iPad owner as well as I would say that Rosetta Stone is definitely a great opportunity to learn another language and worth the expense, especially compared to taking college level courses. I think that the only way to learn a language faster would be to move to a country where the language to be learned is native to the area. My hopes are that Rosetta Stone will allow the application to download lessons similarly as downloading movies from iTunes because I would really like to be able to use this in areas where 3G just is not available.
UPDATE: June 7th, 2011. After further investigation I have discovered that portions of the course where are missing from the iPad version. Ths would include any lesson that would require typing such as the grammar, and the writing portions of the application. Hopefully Rosetta Stone will realize that the iPad is also capable of text input with the onscreen keyboard at some point in time.