Rosetta Stone: taking language learning to the public

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Rosetta Stone: taking language to the public

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April 20, 2009 The Rosetta Stone is a famous ancient Egyptian artifact discovered in 1799 that helped linguists unlock the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphics because it carries the same text in 3 different languages - Egyptian hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts, along with classical Greek. It's therefore an apt name for the company which has developed products designed to teach millions of people worldwide the secret of learning languages using interactive, computer based technology. It is the largest language software company in the world providing technology based language learning solutions consisting of software, online services and audio practice tools, offering self-study learning solutions in 31 languages. The company has come a long way from humble origins, and has now taken the plunge and gone public, the first language software company to do so.

After its successful Initial Public Offering (IPO) in which it raised $112.5 million in gross proceeds, the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange on April 17 under the ticker symbol “RST.” Rosetta Stone Chief Executive Officer Tom Adams rang the opening bell, while outside of The Exchange passers-by were presented with a 7-day Free Trial offer of the product.

The original concept for Rosetta stone is the brain child of Allen Stoltzfus, who became frustrated while studying Russian and envisioned a more effective, natural, interactive way to learn languages through immersion techniques, similar to the way first language is acquired, naturally and without translation. Not until 1992 did the idea come to fruition as technology caught up with the concept and Fairfield Language Technologies was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In 2006, the company was sold to investment firms ABS Capital Partners and Norwest Equity Partners, and was renamed after the signature product - Rosetta Stone.

So how does it work?

The Rosetta Stone approach uses pictures and sounds in context, with no translation, similar to the way a child communicates when developing and learning. Words and phrases are taught by association-linking to a photograph, with a verbal pronunciation making it easy to figure out what each phrase means. The program trains the brain to figure out the language concept by marrying together both the visual and spoken aspects, which, according to Rosetta Stone, makes learning the language easy and fun.

Prices for the 31 courses on offer - see Rosetta Stone for details.

Anne Hanrahan

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