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Free way to learn language
Decatur Public Library offering online access to Rosetta Stone program

By Paul Huggins 340-2395

Does an upcoming vacation to Spain or business trip to Germany have you contemplating purchasing a foreign language tutorial?

You can put your money back in your wallet and pull out your Decatur Public Library card instead.

In August, the library began offering free access to an online travelers version of the popular Rosetta Stone computer language programs.

It's the top-selling foreign language tutorial in the world, the company says, and lists the U.S. Army and NASA among its loyal customers.

The programs, which would cost more than $200 for the first disk, uses a computer to mimic the way children learn their first language. It's called the immersion method because it immerses users in the language with photos, spoken phrases and written words. It doesn't require memorization.

Sandra Sherman-McCandless, library director, said she ordered the library edition after ongoing requests from members.

The library installed it the second week of August, and in that first month, the site had 539 hits.

The travelers edition, which offers seven languages, costs $3,000, paid by grants from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 15 and Community Action Partnership of North Alabama.

"I thought I'd see how much use we get before we get the more expensive, full version," McCandless said, noting the full version that covers 29 languages costs about $7,000.

To use the program, users must go to the library's Web page,, and click on the Rosetta Stone box on the left side.

First-time users will have to register, which requires their library card number. You can then choose English, Spanish, German, French, Russian, Italian or Greek. (Computers will need a media player program to access tutorials.)

Users can choose tutorials with a combination of written and spoken words as well as pictures. You answer by either clicking on the right answer or, if you choose, typing the correct words, phrases or sentences.

If your computer has a microphone, it will let you see how your pronunciation compares to the correct way to speak.

"I like it because you can repeat the lesson as often as you want to, until you've got it down pat," McCandless said.

For more information, call 353-2993.

What is the Rosetta Stone?

The Rosetta Stone language program gets its name from the ancient Egyptian stone found by a French soldier at Rosetta Harbor in 1799. The stone contained Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphic and demotic scripts. This fostered the first ever translation of the ancient Egyptian scripts.

The term Rosetta Stone has since come to represent something that is a critical key to deciphering or translating a difficult problem.

Paul Huggins

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