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Can You Really Learn A Language With An App? Here's What I Found

For me, learning a new language is about more than asking for directions on my next vacation (although that's important, too!). Technology is helping industries globalize quickly, creating business opportunities for people who are conversational in multiple languages. Not to mention that from a social perspective, social media and the internet helps connect all 6 billion people around the world, speaking more than 6 thousand different languages, so that the culture, art, and music that influences our lives is more international than ever. In today's modern world, you need to be able to speak multiple languages to keep up. So, when I got a chance to go on a business trip to Spain for an international conference, I figured I should seize the opportunity to finally learn a second language.

One of my coworkers said he was using Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish before the trip, but I wasn't sure a language learning app would work for me. I was skeptical because from what I remember in school, learning a language takes a lot of time and energy. I remember trying to memorize lists of vocabulary words with flashcards, and after hours of boring studying, I still forgot some of the words. I hated it. But my coworker said that after using Rosetta Stone's app on his phone for 2 weeks, he was already able to use Spanish phrases naturally in conversation. He told me that the lessons are only 15-30 minutes long, so it doesn't take up very much of his time. Even though I'm really busy, I figured I have some time to spare if it will help me learn a language. Plus, there is a 3-day free trial in the app, and subscriptions started as low as $7 per month, so I decided to give it a chance.

I downloaded the app and decided to do the short lessons on my lunch break at the office. They really only took 15 to 30 minutes, and it was a nice little break from work. Unlike the classes I had hated at school, Rosetta Stone's app focused on conversational learning, meaning I was learning how to speak using phrases I actually say every day. To my surprise, after a few days, I found I was really absorbing and remembering the lessons. Plus, I noticed my accent and pronunciation were getting better every single day. After a month, I went to a Spanish restaurant in my city and struck up a conversation with the owner, talking a little about his family and favorite dishes to cook. I was impressed that I could understand what he was saying and more impressed that I had natural confidence when speaking Spanish -- I never felt nervous that I was saying something wrong or sounded silly.

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I was surprised to discover how many cool features come with the app. There's Phrasebook, which tells you how to pronounce the most useful phrases for traveling, like, "Where am I?" and "How do I get to the bus?" But my favorite feature is Seek & Speak, a program that uses object recognition and machine learning to teach you words for the objects around you. It works like this: you're sitting at your desk, and you want to know how to say "pen" in the language you are learning. You start a challenge (like "Ready for Class") and take a picture of a random pen, and the app will recognize the object and show you the word in Spanish for pen (bolígrafo!). The features made me feel really confident about going to Spain, knowing I have a tool in my pocket that will help me speak to locals, even if I get flustered and can't remember the right words.

I didn't think that an app could help me learn to speak a language, but after two months using Rosetta Stone, I went on our business trip to Spain and was the most confident speaker of all my coworkers. I've kept up learning Spanish even after my trip, because Rosetta Stone made it so convenient, and now I'm always the person our company chooses to help negotiate deals in Spanish speaking countries. Between the professional development, and being able to keep up with friends from traveling, learning to speak a second language has helped me live a rich and happy life.

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