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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — With U.S. servicemembers stationed throughout the world, military commanders have realized that troops who can speak the local language are a valuable tactical asset.

Computer-learning tools, such as Rosetta Stone, are becoming a popular way for servicemembers to learn another language. However, for many servicemembers stationed in Japan, access to the program may prove to be more difficult.

Rosetta Stone offers courses in 30 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Farsi and Spanish. Using a combination of pictures and sounds, the program teaches language skills using an immersion method, similar to how babies learn a language.

Recently, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe libraries began offering 28 Rosetta Stone language programs on their computers. With more than 700 people signing up, the program has proved to be immensely popular, said Melinda Moseley, USAFE command librarian.

Many of Japan’s American base libraries currently don’t carry the program in an online form or as CD-ROMs that can be checked out.

Of the base libraries contacted, only Misawa said they had a copy of the Japanese language program available for check out. The Camp Zama library said they didn’t carry the program; however, since Rosetta Stone is available through Army Knowledge Online (AKO), soldiers can access it on the library’s computers.

The Army recently renewed its $4.2 million contract with Rosetta Stone to provide the online language courses free to all its soldiers and civilians.

The contract allows Army personnel with an AKO account to sign up for the courses. The Army has offered the courses since November 2005.

“It’s a wonderful program,” said Tami Rosado, the Misawa library director. “I would love to have more copies of it.”

Yokota library’s Jun Sekino said they had received inquiries about the program; however, they were not carrying it at the moment. The Yokosuka library provided a similar response.

The main reason why the program or others like it are so hard to find is the cost. According to the Rosetta Stone Web site, a CD-ROM copy of one language course costs about $200. For the software to be licensed on just 10 computers on a network the total cost is over $1,500.

Whether future plans are being made to make the program more readily available to Pacific servicemembers is unclear. At press time, Pacific Air Forces had not responded to inquiries about plans to purchase the program.

For Army personnel interested in finding out more about the Rosetta Stone program, log in to Army Knowledge Online.

For more information on the Rosetta Stone software go to www.rosettastone.com.

Stars and Stripes reporters Ben Murray and Mark St. Clair contributed to this report.

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