This post was last updated September 2020.
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Rosetta Stone review
Rosetta Stone has been a major name in the language learning world longer than any other. If you go to the Rosetta Stone website, they boast all of these wonderful reviews from important names. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Rosetta Stone already. If you’re like me, you’ve heard of it, but then were quickly turned off by the price tag.
But 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 or not to drop quite a bit of money on your language learning.
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:
- Spanish (Latin America)
- Spanish (Spain)
- English (American)
- English (British)
- Portuguese (Brazil)
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. You shouldn’t be practicing your translating skills, you should be learning to think in a new 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 are 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 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 the muscle memory, and Rosetta Stone helps with that.
Rosetta Stone makes very large claims about their 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 one 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 anyways.
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.
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 turns a lot of people off. I know that’s true for me – nobody wants to spend $200 on much of anything!
As time has gone on, Rosetta Stone’s prices have become a bit more palatable, but it’s still one of the more expensive options out there, making it completely out of the market for language learners with little to no budget.
There are a few options available to you. The most expensive option is getting all the units of your language in one shot, which’ll be a couple hundred dollars. Of course, in the long run it’s cheaper to buy in bulk; you can break that up into $100 increments, but you’ll pay more in the end.
With the advent of the internet, Rosetta Stone does provide some wriggle room…though not as much as I would like to see. They technically offer a monthly subscription, but you pay for 3 months all in one go, which kind of feels unfair. Yes, you can buy a 12 months subscription for $12 a month, but you pay almost $150 upfront. Not really how a monthly membership usually works, but it is what it is.
Fortunately, they do offer a free 3-day trial. It’s much shorter than most other free trials, but they also offer a 30-day guarantee. It’s usually one or the other, not both.
They’ve also recently started offering lifetime access at $300, which puts them right in line with offers from other language learning resources. I’m happy to see them bringing their prices down, even if it’s still kind of skeevy.
Mobile membership or buying the CDs?
By now you’ve probably decided whether or not you want to give Rosetta Stone a shot – either you’ve never ever learned a foreign language before, or you’re an old hand at this and need something a little different. If this is the program for you, modern-day tech has you making another decision: CDs or mobile?
And this isn’t just the difference between old people and new people; it’s not whether or not you understand “how to work this new-fangled internet”. I mean yes, that’s part of it, but that’s not the whole picture. There are a couple of things that are different between the two that can swing this decision for you.
First off, I already mentioned the price. The price you pay will depend completely on how you use Rosetta Stone. If you’re planning to breeze through it, you’ll get a membership online and pay for only a few months’ worth. That way you don’t have to pay $200 and you still get access to all the units. If you want to take your time, you might think about getting the physical CDs. That’s up to you to decide.
Oh yeah, don’t forget to check your computer to see if it can actually read CDs! Some modern computers don’t even have the right drives to read physical CDs, so this can make this decision for you, anyways.
Why mobile membership is best
But wait, there’s more! Rosetta Stone has come up with a sweet deal to get you to keep paying for your membership. Included with your mobile membership is a section called Extended Learning. Extended Learning offers two more ways to learn: stories and audio companion.
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 with highlighting each individual word as its 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 language tutor or even a conversation partner for feedback.
Then we have the audio companion. With each lesson, Rosetta Stone offers an audio track of vocab pronounced correctly and slowly, with a beat after each word for you to repeat.
The rewind, pause, and fast forward buttons are really handy, too, because it’s easy for you to switch between words as necessary. It’s especially handy towards the end, when Rosetta Stone dissects these words and organizes them by sounds, so you can really get a hang of them.
It’s also worth noting that while vintage Rosetta Stone was just the physical CD’s that cost hundreds of dollars, the modern day product is slowly making its way to all digital! You can no longer buy the physical CDs on the Rosetta Stone website – you’ll have to go to a third party retailer for those.
Rosetta Stone review: is it for you?
So, honestly, I think the answer to this is easier than deciding if any other language resource is right for you. It’s a great program that satisfies every language skill (that in itself is hard to come by), meaning you don’t have to look elsewhere for practice. However, it doesn’t go past beginner words and concepts, so if you just want to good, solid base and nothing else, get you some Rosetta Stone by clicking here!
Otherwise, more seasoned language learners should be looking elsewhere. If you’re used to learning new vocab and conquering language patterns, Rosetta Stone will be incredibly monotonous and boring, and you’re not going to be learning very much. Rosetta Stone is digital immersion for those who aren’t used to it. If that sounds like your speed, click here!