First saw Rosetta Stone at the mall couple years ago (the kiosk). More recently saw its Ads on the TV. Today comes a monumental day for the company (bloomberg news, IPOHome, Yahoo Finance), the IPO (as old Warren says IPO stands for its probably overpriced).
Fun and emotion aside, I think this language thing may stick. Before Rosetta Stone, the other public company does language training I know of is New Oriental (NYSE: EDU). New Oriental has harnessed the Chinese market in a very unique way, and it’s now the un-disputed leader in English test training in China. The main reason? Basically without the training from New Oriental, normal Chinese students can not score high in the TOEFL and GRE (notice I said normal, certainly I understand there are some exceptional Chinese students, and I happened to meet a few back in college). At the time I took TOEFL and GRE, New Oriental school has not existed in my city, so I took training from the best alternative: Qianjing college. Anyway, they serve similar purposes.
I have not used Rosetta Stone service yet. Nor do I plan to learn another foreign language (English is hard enough for me). But I know there is huge demand in this area. Chinese (mandarin) and Spanish are two popular ones. As matter of fact, my wife has been teaching madarin to some college students and little kids, and she has been enthusiatically studying Spanish and Cantonese these days. I joked with her why not learn Cantonese while at Hongkong (she studied there for one year).
Learning and grasping a foreign language well is hard. I mean, things beyond “good morning”, “thank you” (if you count that, I know at least 2 more languages). Any tools making this process easier will be welcome by eager learners. From business perspective “cannot pour foreign language into human’s brain” is a good thing (hint: look at fitness club). Also it appears to me, bi-lingual people are in increasing demand in both the business and non-for-profit world. The recent worldwide economy slowdown won’t affect that. On the contary, the recession shows the imbalance of world economy (too much consumption in the US, too much export from Asia). In the next 10 to 20 years we should see China, Brazil, India and other emerging economies produce and consume more, while US and Western Europe lose some share of world GDP. Hopefully this will also better balancing the world economy and prevent world economy from meltdown like this one.
So, for the sake of world economy, maybe I should learn Spanish with my wife 🙂