Rosetta Stone Language Software

Dr. Blair's Magical Mystery CDs

Japanese and Mandarin

Dr. Blair's programs are based on the premise that you'll learn more and faster if the language you're learning is presented in an interesting context. To that end, Dr. Blair offers up scenarios in which you're in a foreign country when some cataclysmic event arises and a hero is needed to save the day. The hero is you. The problem is, you don't speak the language. But by working with a local helper, you pick up the snippets you need to get through a series of challenges until, before you know it, you're using the language on your own. already took a look at the Spanish version of this program. It was a quick and easy adventure, but Spanish is an easy language. The question was, can this be applied to more difficult - and more innately foreign - languages?

Running through the first disc of the Japanese program, it appears that the answer is yes, this does work for difficult languages too. It is definitely more challenging than Spanish, and you may need to repeat some of the exercises. Nonetheless, by the end of that first disc you'll be able to introduce yourself, make the barest of small talk, ask a few simple questions and even find the restroom! Two discs later, you may not be fluent, but you'll have a good headstart on using the language and be able to navigate any number of everyday situations.

Impressed by the Japanese program, I ordered the Chinese program through the local Borders. I was especially eager to see how the program dealt with a tonal language. Miraculously, the program arrived in two days. I say miraculously because it had been on back order since its release in March and had apparently only arrived at the regional warehouse a few weeks before. The copies the store had on order came in at the same time as the special order. So, how's the program? We don't know.

All five copies that the store received were defective. I know from waiting half an hour while the staff tried them on one of the store's players, just to make sure it wasn't my CD player that was the problem.

It is not clear whether Dr. Blair/Power-Glide sent out an entire run that was defective or how widespread the problem may be. But it appears that in a fair number of the Mandarin Chinese packages, disc one does not contain the actual tracks indicated on the program sheet, just an admonition to pop the disc in a CD-ROM drive. Where the actual content of disc one went is a mystery. will be contacting the company to find out what has happened and will let you know what we find out. At this time, unfortunately, we cannot offer a review, and based on the Borders experience, we're leery of going out hunting for a working copy or ordering online.

Bottom line: Dr. Blair's programs are well conceived and well executed from the point of view of educational methodology: they work. But weaknesses in the production and distribution channels make us wary of giving too enthusiastic a review. These things do happen, of course, but until the problem is taken care of, can't recommend purchasing the product in a venue where it can't be easily returned if defective. We hope this changes soon, as the Dr. Blair programs fill a real need and fill it well.


Update: The publisher, GildanMedia, writes:
[We are] aware on the defective CD#1. If you need a replacement, please forward me your address and within a week, we will send you a replacement.

The replacement arrived in just under a week and proved to be very similar to the program for Spanish, though the learning tricks are trickier since there are very few word connections to build on for English speakers learning Chinese. Still, for all-audio Mandarin, Dr. Blair's program is one of the better ones out there.