Babbel vs Rosetta Stone: If I Had To Choose, I Would Pick RS

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Babbel vs Rosetta Stone: If I Had To Choose, I Would Pick RS

Babbel and Rosetta Stone are two of the most popular and well-known platforms/courses for language learning.

Rosetta Stone has been around for decades and absolutely dominated the language learning market, whereas Babbel has become known for its viral marketing campaigns and TV ads.

I’ll get into the main similarities and differences (and why I prefer Rosetta Stone personally) in just a moment.

But I need to preface this by stating that I’m usually not a fan of writing these kinds of comparisons (see my Rosetta Stone vs Duolingo article for example). It’s often like comparing apples and oranges when you take two different platforms with different methodologies and aims, and then try to draw comparisons.

I’ll do it anyway today since so many people ask.

Summary of the main differences between Rosetta Stone vs Babbel

Rosetta Stone

  1. The Rosetta Stone method is based on intuition and inference, rather than explicit explanations.
  2. Rosetta Stone has its own patented TruAccent™ speech recognition technology that has been heavily invested in for many years.
  3. Boxed set, physical course software is still available from some outlets (older version of Rosetta Stone).
  4. Rosetta Stone covers a lot of different languages (25 at the time of this writing).
  5. Expensive.

Babbel

  1. Explicit explanations of grammar.
  2. It covers less languages than Rosetta Stone (14 at the time of this writing).
  3. Wider variety of lesson excercise types.
  4. Lower quality audio compared to Rosetta Stone.
  5. Inferior speech recognition.
  6. Babbel would be on nobody’s radar if it wasn’t for the enormous advertising investment they’ve made in recent years.

Babbel also includes some elements that are reminiscent of (and likely derived from) Rosetta Stone (although Rosetta Stone does a better job at it).

I should state from the outset that I don’t personally use either Rosetta Stone or Babbel, and wouldn’t rely on either to learn a language.

There are much better quality language learning resources in my opinion.

Babbel owes much of its success to its incredible marketing campaigns

The issue I have with Babbel is that it is a mediocre platform.

That means it’s not bad but it’s also far from remarkable.


See my Babbel review if you haven’t already where I explain this in great detail.


But the reason it’s becoming more and more of a household name is because of the advertising it runs – it’s visible everywhere.

I see it all over Google and social media (relevant ads because I research language content so much), other language learning blogs and all over TV.

So much so that my wife who knows very little about language learning trends asked me recently:

“Hey, have you used this Babbel app?”

Why?

She’d seen it on TV so much that it stuck with her!

So the advertising works – they’ve done wonders for Babbel’s brand recognition.

But what’s important is this:

Is Babbel well-known because it’s a great platform or because of its effective ads?

Has Babbel achieved recognition based on its own merit?

This was one of my primary complaints about Michel Thomas which is frankly a terrible product that had the advantage of Hollywood celebrity endorsements.

It’s not that Babbel’s a bad app.

It’s just not great.

Of course you could say something similar about Rosetta Stone, which has advertised itself extremely prominently over the decades (remember the airport stands?). 😄

But the difference between Babbel and Rosetta Stone here is that RS brought a brand new, innovative idea to the table, and then went on to influence/inspire many other language startups (including Babbel).

Languages available for Babbel and Rosetta Stone

Babbel offers the following languages currently: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Indonesian, Russian, Danish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Norwegian, and English.

Rosetta Stone offers these languages currently: Spanish (Latin American), Chinese, French, Italian, German, English (American), Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dutch, English (UK), Tagalog, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (EU), Swedish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

As you can see, RS is the clear winner in the number of languages (and dialect variations) offered.

Lesson methodology differences between Babbel and Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone relies on intuition to progress through lessons.

This means that you see images (it’s a very visual product) and scenarios, and have to “infer” meaning without anything being explained. In the beginning, it’s intimidating and extremely challenging, but if you persist, it all comes together and starts making sense.

This aligns with my own method for learning languages which is why I prefer it.

Babbel on the other hand is more geared toward grammar explanations, translations, fill-in-the-blanks - your typical run-of-the-mill language app.

It does these things well and comprehensively, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea.

A lot of people get frustrated with Rosetta Stone because it doesn’t explain anything but this is where impatience kills their results.

You simply cannot succeed with RS if you’re an impatient person.

Is Babbel better than Rosetta Stone?

Rosetta Stone vs Babbel presents a stark difference in style and methodology.

Personally, I don’t use Babbel or Rosetta Stone but my personal preference between the two is definitely Rosetta Stone.

They’ve both derived success in two different ways:

  1. Rosetta Stone has been a market leader for decades and even after all these years, still provides one of the most innovative and unique approaches to learning.
  2. Babbel has also become an advertising juggernaut with outside investment that has enabled it to get widespread attention to what I regard as an unremarkable (but not bad) product.

Rosetta Stone still enjoys what I call the “trust factor”, in that people just know and assume it’s the best.

The language (and dialect) coverage of Rosetta Stone is impressive, but the images and scenarios are also inappropriate at times (I mentioned this in my Rosetta Stone review when talking about the Korean edition).

Babbel has less languages but they’ve put a lot of effort into hiring language experts to craft solid lessons which I like. It’s definitely a professional product.

The problem is, the platform is bland and feels uninspiring.

On a personal level, I just don’t get much value out of either Rosetta Stone or Babbel and would get further booking a few cheap sessions on italki. If I had to choose one, it’d be Rosetta Stone for sure, as it aligns closely with my own language learning method.

Check out some better language resources that I’ve shared before as well.


What are your thoughts on Rosetta Stone and Babbel?

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Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Icelandic

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