Inupiaq Rosetta Stone Software

Shortly after finishing their Navajo Rosetta Stone software (and numerous software for Native languages in the past: Mohawk, Inuktitut, Chitimacha), Anchorage News reported the Rosetta Stone (Endangered Language Program) founded in 2004 is currently working on Inupiaq language learning software. Their strategy is to send people to record sound files, then a team of three applied linguists (some professors) in Virginia with the help of one intern, write and finalize the software in collaboration with other departments of the company (personal communication with Marion Bittinger).

There are rumors they might do a Lakota Language version for Rosebud speakers at some point, however, though they started offering a corporate grant program in 2007 to make their lessons more affordable, they would charge the Lakota $215,000 for Level I, $115,000 for Level 2 and the same for Level 3. One 2009 article in Lakota Country Times stressed “by any measure that is a costly purchase and affordable to only the wealthiest businesses or tribal nations.” The Pine Ridge Indian reservation has long since been the poorest place in the United States. Some tribes are poorer than others; Alaskan nations have drawn in revenue from oil and other natural resources (Rosetta Stone just got a $370,000 donation from Shell Oil), Southwestern tribes from uranium, and various tribes from casinos. So far, no Native language software they’ve developed have gone past level 2 (which includes levels 3-5 and an audio companion), and the majority have not gone past level 1.

There has been some debate as to the effectiveness of Rosetta Software versus more culturally traditional methods of language instruction such as pairing elder speakers with younger speakers, as is performed in immersion schools and other classroom settings. Jan Ullrich of the Lakota Language Consortium prefers the later strategy over Rosetta Stone software, and I partially agree.

“Web-sites and electronic tools (such as the Rosetta Stone software) often give people a false impression of progress in their learning. Moreover such tools often distract the learner from more effective learning strategies and take away his/her own responsibility for learning (“I have bought Rosetta Stone or I am a member of an e-group so I have done enough”).” (personal communication with Jan Ullrich)

However, I believe digital language learning software can at least be a vital accessory to learners who don’t have more effective means of learning languages.

Rosetta Stone is contracted by existing Native language organizations (in this case, NANA Regional Corp.) that usually restrict marketing to their tribe.

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One Response to “Inupiaq Rosetta Stone Software”

  1. Bo Belfi says:

    Good article. I definitely appreciate this website. Continue the good work!|

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