The Rosetta Stone Language Program Increase Second Language Acquisition

The process of acquisition English as the second language may be complicated by the ethnic diversity of the learners, depriving the educators of the opportunity to use the method of translation into the child’s mother tongue. Chomksy’s theory of Universal Grammar proved that disregarding the native language of the learner, teachers may use the general principles of language acquisition innate in all humans (Cook & Newson, 2007). The effectiveness of the Rosetta Stone Language Program hinges on its ability to implement these theories in the program (RosettaStone, 2010). There were positive feed backs on the Rosetta Stone Language software increasing the language proficiency of children (APS, 2009) and adult learners (Helfand, 2010). My research tested the changes in the learners’ language proficiency and self-evaluation of one’s language skills among 15 high school students of different ethnical origin from Dekalb County, GA and their parents. Data retrieved from each participant’s WIDA test scores and pre- and post-surveys, demonstrated the improvements in the learners’ language proficiency and self-evaluation of the language skills. These results proved the effectiveness of the Rosetta Stone Language Program methodology, imitating the manner in which the learners’ first language was acquired.

Introduction

Learning a second language for most of us is a requirement that others have placed on us, usually in the academic realm. Our grades are based on our ability to regurgitate the sounds and information that the teacher has instructed us to repeat or remember. Generally our level of proficiency in the said language is based on the importance we have set on learning the language. However, for a vast majority of people, the ability to learn a second language determines how successful they will be in school, the work place and in life.

As an ESOL Specialist, and a person who has had to acquire not only a second language but another culture, I feel the pain of those who have been thrust into such a predicament.

Imagine what it must be like for a child or young adult to be forced to relocate from a country where you have family, friends and a common language to a country that is foreign to you. The new culture, people, and language are unfamiliar, yet you are expected to acculturate, in a short period of time to the rules of the foreign country. Imagine if you were in this situation what it would be like to be viewed as a person with little intelligence, only because you do not speak a language that is unknown to you.

Many different strategies can be used by language learners such as metacognitive techniques for organizing, focusing, and evaluating one’s own learning; affective strategies for handling emotions or attitudes; social strategies for cooperating with others in the learning process; cognitive strategies for linking new information with existing schemata and for analyzing and classifying it; memory strategies for entering new information into memory storage and for retrieving it when needed; and compensation strategies (such as guessing or using gestures) to overcome deficiencies and gaps in one’s current language knowledge (see Oxford, 1990).

Language learning strategies are the often-conscious steps or behaviors used by language learners to enhance the acquisition, storage, retention, recall, and use of new information (Rigney, 1978; Oxford, 1990). Strategies can be assessed in a variety of ways, such as diaries, think-aloud procedures, observations, and surveys.Research both outside the language field (e.g., Brown, Bransford, Ferrara, &Campione, 1983) and investigations with language learners (see reviews by Skehan, 1989; Oxford 1989; Oxford &Crookall, 1989) frequently show that the most successful learners tend to use learning strategies that are appropriate to the material, to the task, and to their own goals, needs, and stage of learning. More proficient learners appear to use a wider range of strategies in a greater number of situations than do less proficient learners, but the relationship between strategy use and proficiency is complex. Research indicates that language learners at all levels use strategies (Chamot&Kupper, 1989), but that some or most learners are not fully aware of the strategies they use or the strategies that might be most beneficial to employ.The effective use of strategies has been shown to be critical to successful language learning, so much so that Canale and Swain (1980) included “strategic competence” among the four components of communicative competence.

In this study I investigate the research question: How might the use of the Rosetta Stone Language Program assist Second Language Acquisition for ELL students in Dekalb County high school? The Rosetta Stone Language Program will assist second language learners to acquire a new language in the same manner in which the first language was acquired. This study is significant because it will assist educators in understanding how to effectively facilitate second language acquisition.

Literature Review

Diversity is an issue for almost all schools in the United States today. As the country has become a true melting pot for families from around the world, in order to be able to settle into one’s new home in the US, one would have to learn English in terms of the four macro-skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. While children are said to act like sponges and easily learn a new language, the support of the educational system is necessary for the child to make a comprehensive adjustment to his new surroundings. This is done in the American public school system today by means of English Language Learner (ELL) programs. The method and manner of delivery and monitoring of these ELL programs varies by school system. The literature review for this study therefore centers on several main issues: second language acquisition, the Rosetta Stone Language Program and the DeKalbCountyELL program.

One major theoretical concern of this paper would be to look at several theories of second language acquisition (SLA) This is necessary because the effectiveness of the Rosetta Stone Language Program hinges on its ability to implement these theories in the program (RosettaStone, 2010). The first theory related to SLA is that of Universal Grammar (UG). UG is defined as “the guiding force of child language acquisition that is applied to SLA” (Gass & Selinker, 2001, 169). The assumption of UG is that language is made up of many abstract guidelines and principles that define the core grammars of all the languages present today (Gas & Selinker, 2001, 160 ). G also recognizes that not all aspects of language are supported by it (Cook and Newson, 2007, 203). These guidelines and principles function in all languages, and are thought to be innate in all humans, because all languages are structured according to these rules and the process of language acquisition inevitably follows them. (Cook & Newson, 2007, 11).That is, speakers know when they mention something that is acceptable, and when they mention expressions that are not acceptable to their listeners. The implication in this theory therefore is that as an individual learns a second language, he will try to grasp the grammar rules of that particular language to guide him in the learning of this second language (White, 2003).

Another interesting SLA theory is the SLA Theory of Stephen Krashen. His main theory consists of five theories: first is the natural order hypothesis, which states that individuals obtain the language rules in a certain order that is quite conventional. The second theory is the acquisition or learning hypothesis that states that adults have two specific way of expanding or enlarging their expertise and competence in a second language: by acquisition and by using the language itself. The next hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis states that one’s learning system serves as a “monitor” for what is “produced”. This learned system is thus used to check on the language material used by the learner speaking in the new tongue. The use of the monitor system is successful when the learner knows the rules, is focused on the accuracy of the speech, and knows how to make use of the monitor itself. The fourth hypothesis is the input hypothesis wherein people acquire input that is comprehensible. The learner thus is said to be competent to go to the next learning step when he is provided with adequate comprehensible input. The teaching implication of this hypothesis is that teachers are responsible for presenting their inputs in a way that learners can absorb them easily, and that the time in class is well-planned when the student receives the most oral comprehensible inputs (Krashen, 1981). The last hypothesis is the affective filter hypothesis. The theory in this last hypothesis is that each one has an affective filter that is an obstruction to learning. Negative emotions trigger this affective filter. This part of Krashen’s work is said to account for most of the reasons why not all individuals learn a second language easily (Gass, 1997).

The Rosetta Stone Language Program is a language learning program that was created by Rosetta Stone Limited. This program makes use of combinations of pictures, words, and sounds. As the student progresses, he has to graduate from laddered difficulty levels to proceed to the next level. The goal of the program is to teach the second language learner in the way that a first language is taught. In the third version of the program, there are five levels and the emphasis is on conversational skills and not on the more difficult grammatical.

The first two levels are composed of several 30 minutes lessons wherein the basic language structure and the slow building of vocabulary are centered upon. In the second level, the past and future tenses of verbs are taught, including the imperative form of the verb. In the third level, more conversational skills are taught, and the teaching context is in terms of the world – more scientific and specific terms are taught – such as botanical and culinary terms. In the last two levels, 4 and 5, more complex structures and more vocabularies are taught, as well as irregular verbs and phrases (Rosetta Stone, 2010).

There are positive reviews of the program as it has been used not only privately but by schools as well. One such review is given in the publication of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS, 2009). One kindergarten teacher in the BoltonAcademy in Atlanta mentioned that in her class of 15 students, all the students are English Language Learners (ELLs). For most of the students, coming to this class is their first step in formal education. In the entire school, out of 473 students, 118 are ELLs. This also gives an indication of the changing make-up of the students in terms of ethnicity. The teacher stated that the Rosetta Stone Language Program is used in her class, and she gave positive reviews of the software as the students are able to work independently with the program, and they are able to hear from their viewpoint how the language actually sounds. They can learn immediately how the words are used in sentences and in conversations.

One success story in her class is that of a child from Mexico who has made considerable progress since she began working with the program. The teacher strongly appreciated the program as she observed the sense of empowerment that is developed not only in the child but in the family as well (Atlanta Public Schools, 2009).

Positive feedback was also offered by the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix, Arizona (Rosetta Stone, 2010). The school district turned to the Rosetta Stone Language Program as the program was considered to be the best tool for the promotion of English language learning for its diverse student population. The school district has a diverse student population of 25,000. The program was found to be successful for many ELLs, and furthermore, the program has expanded into school-sponsored extra-curricular activities. The families joined the program as well, and a family literacy class has mushroomed out of the original program (Rosetta Stone Limited, 2010). The involvement of families has only served to strengthen the entire ELL program for the school district to date.

In the state of Florida not only students are using the program. Even police officers used the Rosetta Stone software for learning foreign languages and enhancing the effectiveness of their work. For instance, in Clearwater, FL, many members of the police force are enrolled in the online programs of Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish (Helfand, 2010). This approach has proven to be effective in their work, especially when they are dealing with ELLs or with those who do not speak English at all. Also, as there are many people in town who speak Spanish, the police can dispense with their duties more efficiently (Helfand, 2010). The online programs of Rosetta have also helped make up for teacher shortage in the Port Arthur, Texas area. The online programs have proven to be helpful in this respect (Children’s Partnership, 2009).

A quick look at the extant literature shows that the Rosetta Stone Language Program is being effective for children’s and even adult second language learning. Second language acquisition is similar to that of first language acquisition, and thus one gets the idea that the theories between these two phenomena should be similar. Which elements of the program constitute the rules of Universal Grammar? How are these rules emphasized through the use of the program? The literature does not show at the moment how the program supports the theories of SLA, or if there are program elements that bring in fresh ideas on SLA such that educational experts can also take a look at these new ideas. For instance, a question about what in the curriculum of the program helps contribute to, the affective filter hypothesis of Krashen has not been investigated. Also it would be interesting to look for more literature on the conclusions that have been reported about improvements in second language learning, based on formulating criteria on how it would be possible to conclude that improvements in second language learning have been achieved.

The face of the student population of the Atlanta Public School system is changing. It would be interesting to look at the specifics of the demographics, as these demographic factors could play interesting roles in how the students actually acquire a second language. This ought to be done also for the schools under consideration in the study. There is very little available literature on how the program specifically is being used in ELL classes, and gathering and documenting the particular stories of both children and adults would help make the literature review more comprehensive. My research study begins to address these gaps in the existing literature.

However, the literature that exists is clear at this point in time that the Rosetta Stone Language Program does have plenty potential. My study will explore whether the potential extends to the Atlanta public school system. If this study clearly shows that the program positively influences second language learning, then the findings could help improve the program and perhaps SLA teaching in the district. With the world being a more globalized place, and with people constantly moving from one region to another, schools will always be full of students who need to learn a second language. Consequently, the families of these students will also want to learn the same second language, and thus SLA and programs like the Rosetta Stone Language Program could be very important for these groups.

Methodology

Setting

This research study will be conducted in a Dekalb County Public School English Language Learners (ELL) classroom. There are approximately 2,200 students in this particular school. There are 65 second languages learners, of which 15 receive ELL services and 10 are being monitored. The study will examine whether implementing The Rosetta Stone Language program improves language acquisition for second language learners.

As the study will focus on the effects of using the Rosetta Stone Language Program on students from Dekalb County, GA, it is essential that the profile of the school system be examined. The Dekalb Country public school system is the second largest in the state of Georgia in terms of student population. To date there are over 102,000 students in 143 centers and schools in the county. The school system has its own ELL Studies Program that serves over 11,000 students who speak over 140 languages and who come from 170 different nations around the world. The county has 182 English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, and the delivery of English classes is done via face to face or online classes. The county boasts of an International Registration Center for the “registration, testing and placement” of all new international students who will study in the county (DeKalb County Public Schools, 2010)

Participants

The participants in this research will be students from a high school ESOL/ELL classroom. There are 15 students in the class; of the 15 students 4 are in the 12thgrade, 4 in the 11thgrade, 5in the 10th grade and 2 in the 9th grade. There are 11 boys and 4 girls. There are 8 Spanish speakers, 1 Korean, 3 Africans dialects (Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leon) and 3 Haitians Creole. The length of time in this country ranges from 1 to 5 years. Most of the students have developed Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. Others are in the developing stages of Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency

Researcher Biases and Assumptions

As the ELL teacher and advocate for ESOL students, I have developed a special bond with the potential participants; thus, as theresearcher I may have somedifficultybeing subjective. The researcher believes that an increase in second language acquisition learning opportunities may improve ELL student’s grade and test scores on standardized tests. Consequently, student scores improvement on standardized tests may result in the school achieving satisfactory AYP status for the ESOL subgroup.

Limitations of the Study

One of the potential limitations which may present themselves during this research study could be that some parents may not consent to having their child participate in the study. Another possible limitation to this research study is based on the student’s ability to rate their progress accurately. Therefore, the research will conduct a pre and post evaluation of the student’s speaking proficiency level to ensure a more accurate result.

Consent Procedures and Study Challenges

I have requested permission from the district and campus administration to conduct research. As an employee of the school district in which I will conduct my research study, I will be allowed entry into the school and permission will be granted to work with the students. The researcher has consulted the Jones International University Institutional Review Board Handbook and all protection guidelines were followed as human subjects were involved in this research.

Informedconsent forms were created for the minor student participants (see Appendix A). The consent form described the research project, including a statement of risk and benefit. The form stipulated the non-payment for participation. In addition, the following were also clearly delineated: the procedures used to protect confidentiality,a statement of participant rights todiscontinue participation, the amount of time required for participation and an explanation of how the results were to be used.

The consent form created for the adult teacher participants was very similar to that of the minor participants; however, it differed in that it was custom-made for administrators and teachers.

The consent forms will be hand delivered to each potential participant; I will provide ashort explanation of the motive of the consent form and advisedthat my contact information was provided for parents who needed additional information and/or clarification. I request that all consent forms be returned as soon as possible; the students were given a five day deadline.

A potential challenge that I may face as the researcher is the ability to receive permission to conduct the research. My district has very strict policies regarding getting approval to conduct research.

Methods of Data Collection

Due to time limitations, the data used to evaluate the student’s English proficiency level will be retrieved from each participant’s WIDA test scores. Students will also be required to complete a pre- and post-survey. The majority of the questions were multiple-choice. The others required a short written response. The participants will be asked to rate their level of proficiency in English and effectiveness of the Rosetta Stone Language Program in increasing their second language acquisition skills.

Results

Of the 15 participants in the study, 12 learners demonstrated increase of their English proficiency level, judging by the data retrieved from each participant’s WIDA tests scores. These results were complemented by personal observations of the teachers working with the students and parents supporting their children participating in the project. The completed pre- and post- surveys proved that the learners’ motivation for acquisition of the second language and their self-assessment of language skills were improved. 14 of the 15 participants admitted that the Rosetta Stone Language Program was effective in increasing their second language acquisition skills.

Data Analysis

12 of the 15 participants demonstrated better results of WIDA tests, while the rest 3 learners remained at the same level. Lack of progress of the three learners may be explained by the limitations of the research. It is difficult to control the learners’ activity at home as well as evaluate support of the family members. Teachers’ and parents’ feedbacks concerning the impact of the program on the students’ language proficiency were positive; they observed significant improvement of the students’ listening, speaking and especially reading and writing skills. The results retrieved from the pre- and post-surveys demonstrated that the self-estimation of the learners’ language skills and self-motivation were improved. Answering the last question of the post-survey, concerning the personal evaluation of the impact of the program on the level of the language proficiency, 14 of the 15 participants connected their progress with the participation in the project. It means that the impressions of the learners were positive. The developers of the program managed to combine convenient interface of the software with multimedia devices and implementation of the second language acquisition theories. The structure of the Rosetta Stone Language lessons allowed the students not to be bored and enjoy the process of education.

Discussion

The data retrieved from the research participants’ WIDA tests scores demonstrated improvement of their second language acquisition skills and, consequently, proved the existence of the relationship between using Rosetta Stone Language Software and increase of the learners’ language proficiency. The effectiveness of the Rosetta Stone Language Program depends upon implementation of the theories of the second language acquisition (SLA) (RosettaStone, 2010). The results achieved after the learners’ participating in the program and their doing WIDA tests demonstrated the effectiveness of the software and successful implementation of the main principles of the second language acquisition theories. The Rosetta Stone Language Program is structured according to the principles of Gass & Selinker’s (2001) theory of Universal Grammar (UG) and Krashen’s (1981) hypotheses.

One of the pre-conditions of effectiveness of Rosetta Stone Language Program is the orientation on the principles of the first language acquisition principles and involvement of the learners’ in the verbal environment. The first two levels of the program are focused on building the vocabulary, using the basic language structures. This strategy resembles the process of the child’s acquisition of one’s mother tongue. Children usually do not concentrate on the grammar rules during the first years of life but generally do not make a lot of mistakes choosing the correct forms intuitively. According to the theory of Universal Grammar, the mechanisms of acquiring these skills are innate in all humans (Gass & Selinker’s, 2001). The fact that in the second level the past, future tenses and imperative forms are taught, proves that the program is aimed at involvement the learners in the verbal environment. Krashen’s second theory is focused on two ways of mastering the second language, these are acquisition and using the language itself (Krashen, 1981). Imperative forms are widely used in ordinary every day communication, because satisfying some basic needs is prior to the expression of one’s opinions and participating in debates. Short imperative sentences are the first phrases used by children mastering their first communication skills. This structure proves that the program was aimed at organizing the process of acquisition the second language skills according to the principles guiding the process of mastering their mother tongues.

Focus on the theory of Universal Grammar (Gass & Selinker’s, 2001) was presupposed by the ethnic and age diversity of the participants. The student population of Dekalb County, GA, where the research was conducted, consists of representatives of numerous nationalities and ethnicities. Using pictures, sounds and other multimedia devices, Rosetta Stone Language Program is universal and disregards the ethnic origin of the participants. Based on the general principles characteristic of any human language the materials of the program are acceptable for representatives of different nationalities and age categories.

The results of the pre- and post-research surveys demonstrated the increase of self-evaluation of the learners’ and their parents. Self-motivation and self-evaluation are important factors for acquisition of the second language, because the language barriers often have psychological roots as well. Most of the participants rated their speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills as below than average before participating in the survey. Having used the Rosetta Stone Language Program for about two months, the learners became more confident and rated their skills higher. These results are supported by the data retrieved from the research participants’ WIDA tests scores. Thus, even if the participants overestimated or underestimated their progress, the tests scores demonstrated the real state of affairs, while the improvement of the self-evaluation has positive impact on the development of the communicative skills and using the language material more actively.

The use of the Rosetta Stone Language Program assists Second Language Acquisition for ELL students in Dekalb County high school, imitating the manner in which the first language was acquired, involving the learners in the verbal environment, and improving self-evaluation of the learners.

Implications

This study is significant for its assistance in educators’ understanding of the mechanisms for effective facilitating the second language acquisition. The research was aimed at demonstrating the positive impact of using the Rosetta Stone Language Program on the English Language Learners’ (ELL) language proficiency. Another question illuminated in the research is the principles implemented by the program developers that enhance the effectiveness of the software. The same principles and theories may be used by educators planning ordinary classes for improving the process of acquisition the second language.

References

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