Rosetta Stone has been a major name in the language learning world longer than most. This Rosetta Stone review will help you decide if it’s the language app for you.
Can you really get fluent using Rosetta Stone? Is it worth the money? Should you be considering it? In this Rosetta Stone review, I’ll touch base on all these questions, so you can make an educated decision on whether to take the plunge.
First things first, though, is to make sure Rosetta Stone actually teaches the language you’re interested in learning. Rosetta Stone offers the following languages:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- English (American)
- English (British)
- Farsi (Persian)
- Portuguese (Brazil)
- Spanish (Latin America)
- Spanish (Spain)
Rosetta Stone review: what works
First off, let’s talk about how exactly Rosetta Stone accomplishes what it says it will accomplish. I’m very particular about making sure I’m practicing all of my language skills and knowing exactly what my goal is with any language.
That being said, how does Rosetta Stone work, and what does it teach you?
The closest thing to immersion
Rosetta Stone’s claim to fame is that it teaches you the language by immersion, which is great! And it’s true – you will never see or hear a single English word using this program. Using Rosetta Stone as an ultimate beginner is great because you’re learning to think using the language right off the bat; compared to other programs, where you’re translating between languages in order to learn, this is undoubtedly the best way to take in a language.
And Rosetta Stone is great for this very reason: it makes you think. With every round of questions, the way it’s designed forces you to actually think in the language. This is the first step in learning a new language authentically and efficiently.
So, if you’re starting out with the language fresh and new, the Rosetta Stone method is incredibly challenging, but in the best way.
The lessons may not go by as quickly and painlessly as Duolingo’s 5-minute lessons – you’ll spend a significant amount of time really using your brain, just like you would in real-life immersion. In fact, I had to take a break after the first 2 lessons because my brain hurt like it does when I’m in actual language exchanges!
Multiple-choice questions that you can’t fake
Another thing about Rosetta Stone that I really love is that you can’t really BS it. The program depends heavily on multiple-choice questions, but they switch it up. For example, you’re given a phrase, and then you’re given 4 pictures – your job is to match the phrase to the correct picture.
Once you’ve done that, not only is the text taken off the picture (so you still have four images to choose from for the next phrase), but the order of the pictures is flipped around. It’s just another level at which you actually have to think, as opposed to “well I’ve already matched up 3 pictures, so I don’t even have to look at the last phrase to know which picture it belongs to”.
It’s a simple thing, but it really makes a world of difference when it comes to making you actually think in the language, which, again, is one of the most important parts of effectively learning a new language.
Speaking from the beginning
Another thing that Rosetta Stone does really well is making you speak from day one. At the beginning levels, this is really helpful, as a lot of newbie language learners don’t realize that getting used to forming the words correctly is a skill in itself.
Foreign languages use different sounds, and just recognizing them by ear isn’t enough – you need to build muscle memory, and Rosetta Stone helps with that.
Rosetta Stone makes very large claims about speech recognition. I personally tend to take this with a grain of salt, because this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that, and it’s usually pretty useless. Most of the time, speech recognition is either easy to fake or says you’re wrong even when you’re right.
In my experience…Rosetta Stone’s speech recognition is about 50/50, as well. In some ways it has alerted me to how I’m pronouncing incorrectly, but whether or not it’s been a convenient fluke…who knows. I say that because after saying the same word with the same exact pronunciation four times and being told it was wrong the first three and right the fourth…it’s still not 100%.
So, take what it tells you with a grain of salt. Listen carefully, and absolutely practice your speaking, but I feel like there are better ways to go about that one.
…and all the other language skills
Yes, speaking is the big thing that most newbie language learners might avoid. Besides speaking, Rosetta Stone is surprisingly good at hitting the other language skills: reading, writing, and listening. Once you get through your core lesson, where you’ll learn all the things you need to learn about that unit, you’re also taken through lessons for each individual skill, which is amazing.
You get all of your language skills, appropriate to your level of learning, right in one go. Honestly, no other independent language learning resource does that, so in this way, Rosetta Stone is way ahead of the game (and has been for more than 20 years now).
That being said, this is a big deal. From the very very beginning, you get in the habit of practicing the language in every way necessary. Pretty good for beginners!
Rosetta Stone review: what doesn’t work
Now that I’m done raving on and on about how wonderful Rosetta Stone is, let’s talk about its failings. Now, keep in mind that it’s not that this program does things wrong necessarily – Rosetta Stone knows who its target audience is, and if these faults are a big deal, it’s not meant for you anyway.
I say this because I’ve seen plenty of reviews talking about how Rosetta Stone is heavily flawed, but so is every other language learning resource. Nothing is one-size-fits-all; if it were, there wouldn’t be a reason for all of these products. Know what you’re looking for in your language learning journey, and that will help you to make the right choice.
Right off the bat, Rosetta Stone can get infuriatingly repetitive. If you’re used to learning languages, and it’s easy for you to grasp linguistic patterns, Rosetta Stone is horribly boring and slow. The most basic words and grammatical patterns don’t need to be drilled so incessantly for learners who have already learned these same exact patterns in other languages.
If you’re an ultra-newbie this is great, because you’ll learn the basics and you’ll learn them well. However, if you’ve already done the legwork to recognize and be familiar with these basic patterns, you’re gonna get real bored real quick, which means you’ll give up.
Even with more advanced-level content, this was too slow. I tried to go into the settings real quick to speed it up, but no-go.
Rosetta Stone will provide you with a great base level to build on, which is great if you need it. If you don’t need it, don’t bother with it.
Rosetta Stone has 5 units of lessons for languages that are related to English, but only 3 or 4 for other unrelated languages. There is a lot of content, and the content is very thoroughly broken down into all of the language skills. It involves a lot of drilling and a lot of basic hand-holding.
However, the amount of drilling and hand-holding involved means that the content doesn’t get you very far. If you’re planning a trip abroad and want to feel comfortable understanding and communicating at a basic level, it’s very thorough and efficient. However, you won’t get much farther than that. And if you’re a seasoned language learner, you’re gonna get bored real quick, even if you’re still learning things.
You will not be learning intermediate or advanced words or concepts with Rosetta Stone. If you’re just starting out with the language, you’ll be fine, but there is no real building on the basics using this program. You’ll get a very solid root to the language, and you’ll be at a good place to push onward, but you can’t get onward depending solely on this program.
This has been a major sore spot for Rosetta Stone since the beginning. Especially since the internet became a thing, and a variety of cheap or even free resources have become available, the steep price tag (think $200 for a single-level CD-set!) has turned a lot of people off.
As time has gone on, Rosetta Stone’s prices have become a bit more palatable by switching to a monthly model like a majority of the industry. The caveat is that you cannot invest month-by-month. You can see current prices here.
Fortunately, they do offer a 30-day guarantee.
Rosetta Stone review: stories
With stories, you get 3 different options for practice: read the story, read and listen, or read and read aloud. These stories are very on-level, and offer you another resource to practice both input and output.
I’m a big fan of listening to text while you read it, plus highlighting each individual word as it’s read? Two thumbs up!
When reading aloud with the story, the concept is exactly the same – the highlight tries to follow along with you word-by-word. It’s not exactly 100%, but it does the job enough.
Use this tool to listen to how you’re pronouncing the words, and then switch back to listening to compare.
My only complaint here is that I wish you had the option to download your recording. That way you could send it to a tutor or language exchange partner for feedback, or even just keep track of your progress for yourself.
Rosetta Stone’s audio companion
Then we have the audio companion. With each lesson, Rosetta Stone offers audio tracks of vocab pronounced correctly and slowly, with a beat after each word for you to repeat.
On mobile, you have the option to rewind, pause, and fast-forward; on desktop (as pictured), you just get the audio tracks downloaded straight to your device. In this case, it’s up to you to have a program that offers these options.
This first lesson had 18 audio clips (including the intro), by the way, not just the 3 shown here.
Rosetta Stone review: is it for you?
Rosetta Stone is a great language learning program that satisfies every language skill (that in itself is hard to come by), meaning you don’t have to look elsewhere for practice. If you’re a total beginner looking for a very confident base in the language, click here to get started with Rosetta Stone.
However, if you’re not a beginner or find the pace to be much too slow, I’d skip it. Instead, I’d recommend these comparisons if you’re interested in something similar: