The Most Balanced Rosetta Stone Review You'll Ever Read

Despite some faults, Rosetta Stone is a unique course and a very effective tool and after many years.
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Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone
Pricing: Starts at $6.99 per month or a $199 one-time payment
Positives
  • Truly innovative and unique approach
  • No explicit grammar
  • TruAccent™ voice recognition
  • Research-based
Negatives
  • Overpriced
  • Inappropriate formality in some languages
  • Culturally irrelevant images
  • Lack of explanations may bother some

Summary

The price for Rosetta Stone is still unjustifiably expensive. However, Rosetta Stone remains after many years one of the most innovative, research-backed products on the language market. The intuition over explicit grammar aspect is still a point of contention for many users.

I decided to write this Rosetta Stone review because one of the most frequently asked questions in language learning discussions is whether or not Rosetta Stone is worth the money.

Does it work or is it just a well-marketed waste of time?

A quick online search for “Rosetta Stone review” yields many pages of reviews, nearly all of which are either extremely negative (directing you to an alternative product) or deceitfully positive (trying to earn a hefty commission on an expensive product).

Because of this it can be a challenge for fence-sitters to find reliable feedback.

Today I’m going to offer you some balanced insight on the method and content of Rosetta Stone, and whether or not it can be regarded as an effective learning tool.

Table of contents:

Although there are some affiliate links here there are no Rosetta Stone commission links in this article and no links to my own product.

I should also add that this review has been updated to cover the latest version (from my original review of Version 3, not including the games, mobile apps and inflexible, teacher-directed lessons). What really matters at the end of the day is whether or not the core product is effective or not (and how much it’s changed over recent years).

As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and experience in the comment section below! 🙂


Note: I’ve recommended a far better, more comprehensive (and less expensive) alternative to Rosetta Stone below. Here are the Spanish and French editions. For other language editions, select them here:

Choose a language...

Also be sure to check out the Essential Language Learning Tools page for recommendations on the best resources for getting started learning another language.

For lots of language learning content and helpful advice, make sure to stay “Join the Guild” by signing up below this article.


What gives Rosetta Stone a notorious reputation

A lot of the criticism of Rosetta Stone in online reviews stems from its biblically-proportioned price tag but not enough is actually said about how the software is intended to work.

I’ll attempt to do that here.

I will state from the outset however that I agree with most that the program is indeed outrageously expensive. At the time of this writing, I’ve seen the complete packages of Version 4 (all levels) selling for up around $250 USD through various vendors online like Amazon.

For the average home user this is unjustifiably expensive.


BIG UPDATE: The RS pricing on its website has improved enormously since this review was first written.


With the rise and popularity of subscription payment options for many products and services online, RS has made a move in the same direction.

There are now 4 purchase options (all of which depend on the length of time you subscribe) for Rosetta Stone:

Lifetime: $299 $199

24 months: $249 $167.76

12 months: $179 $119.88

3 months: $35.97

NOTE: I’ve listed the actual prices here you have to pay at checkout (they show a much lower “monthly” amount which is a little confusing/deceptive).

There’s also a CD/Physical package available on Amazon: Price can vary but right now it’s: $244.98

The price remains steep.

Now, I’m sure that their “world’s best” speech recognition technology (TruAccent™), research and expensive marketing campaigns account for most of this cost but for the average home user looking for a foreign language solution that’s well and truly beyond their means.

Just to give you an idea, these are just a few other things this kind of money could get you:

  • Approximately 20 – 30 personalised, student-directed, one-on-one lessons with a native speaker via italki (approx. $10-12 an hour).
  • Roughly 10 in-person, private lessons with a language instructor in your own area (approx. $25-30 an hour)
  • For those living in Europe, several return flights to another European destination on a low-budget airline and a week or two of accommodation in an inner-city hostel to practise the language with the locals.
  • For those in the US or Australia, it’s a large chunk of the cost for a budget trip to Latin America or South East Asia to immerse yourself in the local language.
  • Almost any book or audio course on the market which are usually priced anywhere between $30 to $100 (save the rest or combine it with italki lessons).

I praise italki a lot on this blog (check it out here if you haven’t already).

One extremely good and affordable alternative that’s similar to Rosetta Stone for learning languages is Mondly which sells for less than $15 a month, and is one of the most innovative language products I’ve ever seen.

Or at a slightly higher price (though much lower than Rosetta Stone) the audio component of the Rocket Languages series (mentioned above) is outstanding. I’ve personally used it for several languages and I can’t emphasize enough just how comprehensive and good it is (see my review here).

You can select a language here to sample it and compare the pricing with Rosetta Stone:

Choose a language...

I’ve also listed some other excellent alternatives on my Essential Language Learning Tools page.

There are just so many better alternatives to spend money on!

It’s true that some people have no problem affording Rosetta Stone and there is of course the option of buying an older version or a second-hand copy which is a significantly cheaper option.

For those of you who do have RS or are planning to get it anyway despite the cost, keep reading! 🙂

The Rosetta Stone online subscription has the potential to be a financial trap

I mentioned that Rosetta Stone has gone in the direction of online subscription-based services.

There’s one important thing to consider here:

As I said in my Living Language review, it makes little sense to sign up for a limited online subscription to the exact same content as the physical product.

With the Rosetta Stone online subscription, you’re getting a limited 24 months access to the full software for the same price as you would if you bought the CD’s or downloadable product which would give you lifetime access.

If you buy the CD or downloadable version, you own it for life.

BTW: Contrast this with other programs like Innovative or Rocket which allow you to download the entire course for offline use (in other words, you own it forever even if you cancel).

So don’t make the mistake of buying an online subscription that will lock you out after a period of time is over. It’s just not worth it (UNLESS: it’s important to you to be able to access the content across multiple devices in which case I would argue otherwise).

Now… on to the content review.

Most common Rosetta Stone review complaint: “I don’t know what it means if it’s not explained!”

The major criticism of the RS method is that no explicit explanations or translations are given.

Rosetta Stone prides itself on being an immersion tool that never uses L1 translations or explanations, forcing the user to rely solely on their own intuition while gradually acquiring the language content necessary for the next level.

In order to do this successfully it’s expected that you move through the program in a linear progression, expanding on the initial one or two word building blocks at the beginning of level 1 to some long, grammatically complex sentences in the higher levels.

People who enjoy the convenience of looking up grammatical explanations and always having the answer at their fingertips simply won’t appreciate this approach however.

I recently wrote about how living in the Google era where information is so easy to obtain means we’re no longer training our problem solving skills the way we used to – we’re all becoming increasingly stupider as our technology addiction grows.

Why do I need to figure stuff out when I can just Google it?

People treat information the same way they treat food these days. I**f it can’t be cooked in the microwave or bought in a drive-thru then it’s too much effort!**

There are plenty of Rosetta Stone reviews out there but I wanted to embed one video review here that was put up recently about the Arabic version as the no explanation issue was one of the main criticisms that the reviewer had (and also to share her other points for the sake of balance).

She explains how she drove across town to get a translation for something that she almost certainly would have inferred on her own with a little patience.

I understand this initial frustration because I’ve just sampled a review copy of Rosetta Stone Korean myself and there were times where the images and sentences didn’t make any sense but I just accepted that I didn’t know and moved forward anyway knowing that the answer would eventually come.

Just to give you an example, I can recall one lesson where vocabulary for death, birth and marriage were introduced along with sentence structures to describe how long ago a person was born, got married, died, etc.

I was pretty confused here when I was hearing for the first time sentences about a child being already born, the grandparents being married for x amount of years and the grandfather passing away in the 1900’s. The pictures gave a good enough indication of what was going on but there was quite a lot of unfamiliar content too.

However I just put impatience aside and kept moving forward with the lessons, and it didn’t take long for everything to start coming together.

Through repetition and the various images it almost always becomes clear as it’s intended to (I have to say almost because there have been a total of 2 times where I resorted to a dictionary for clarification).

I learned Arabic as a teenager living in an Egyptian village surrounded by people who didn’t speak my language and a lot of my learning came about from essentially the same kind of process – repetition, visual cues and my own intuition.

There was never the option of driving across town for a translation.

Critics call Rosetta Stone’s natural immersion approach unnatural but for a piece of computer software I have to say it does a pretty good job at imitating a lot of the natural acquisition process – if you allow it to.

Inappropriate or unnatural speech styles for some languages

I can’t review every language version of Rosetta Stone but for some of them there’s definitely one area where it performs badly:

Speech styles and honorifics.

Languages like Korean and Japanese use various levels of politeness and honorific vocabulary depending on who you are and who you’re talking to. A child speaking to or about their grandparents would use a respectful style of speech that they would never use to their friends in the playground for example.

The problem with Rosetta Stone Korean (and I suspect the same is true of Japanese) is that it does a poor job at demonstrating this.

It is there but it’s just not clear enough.

There are also images throughout the program of people using honorific styles in a way that simply wouldn’t be seen in reality and there’s no casual speech used in the dialogues at all (e.g. in one lesson there’s a picture of a mother using a polite honorific form to address her daughter which is a little strange).

Korean Rosetta Stone

The Arabic edition also teaches conversational MSA (the dialect used for formal and written occasions) rather than a spoken dialect which would be far more practical and realistic.

Rosetta Stone isn’t alone in doing this though as most of the resources out there are just as guilty.

It’s not to say that you can’t learn polite, formal forms now and pick up the casual stuff later on but in my opinion it should always be the other way round.

If you have experience with another language version, please share whether or not you found similar issues with formality and inappropriate styles of speech when you used it.

Culturally irrelevant images and content

Two other frequent concerns with Rosetta Stone are that the images are culturally irrelevant and that essential language content is introduced too late or not at all.

Now, I have to say that it is a bit annoying to see photos that are set in a North American context when you’re learning a language of East Asia but I don’t think it’s a major problem.

A man is a man and a woman is a woman after all, regardless of what clothes they’re wearing or what context they’re standing in.

What would be nice however is if each language contained units with food, etiquette, cash and cultural expressions that are unique to each specific language.

Korean 1 introduces a lot of food and money content that aren’t really relevant to South Korea.

For example, South Korean currency is in the 10,000’s and it takes quite a bit of getting used to when counting cash amounts but I don’t think that Rosetta Stone adequately prepares learners for this.

Rosetta Stone content

I also believe that it’s essential to have an extra unit in each language package that deals specifically with local cuisine.

Learning how to say words like carrot and juice won’t benefit me much where I’m currently living so a good section on the kinds of meals I’d find in a Korean restaurant would be very handy.

Despite the irrelevance of some of the content, I have to say that you’re still getting good exposure to a whole range of vital sentence structures, vocabulary and numbers so at the end of the day I don’t think it’s that big of an issue.

Speaking units and the speech recognition system

Rosetta Stone prides itself on having “the world’s best speech recognition technology” called TruAccent™.

Speech recognition technology has come a LONG way in recent years but it’s still true that a computer is never going to be a substitute for another human being.

I don’t doubt that an enormous amount of work has gone into developing the TruAccent speech recognition technology behind the Rosetta Stone speaking component but it’s still miles away from complete accuracy.

Numerous times while putting together this Rosetta Stone review, I’ve deliberately spoken incorrectly into the microphone and had the software tell me I’m right.

I’ve also been told I’m wrong when I know I’m speaking accurately.

This would have been a very expensive thing for the company to develop, ultimately driving the cost way up for the consumer and yet it still doesn’t always work the way it should.

However!

What I think is absolutely brilliant about the speaking component is the way in which it forces the user to attempt to accurately recall the language while under pressure.

Output is vital in successful language acquisition and yet many people shy away from it until they’re “ready” which I believe is disastrously neglectful.

The Rosetta Stone speaking component does a decent job at breaking people out of that habit.

While it certainly isn’t the same as talking to a native speaker, the way that it places you under pressure to quickly recall and reproduce accurate sentence structures and vocabulary makes an enormous difference to your ability to do it in a real conversation.

The speech recognition software is far from perfect but the role it plays in forcing you to recall dialogue is really beneficial.

It’s a lot easier to recognize and identify something when you see or hear it but actually reproducing it spontaneously with a time constraint requires lots of practise.

Rosetta Stone deserves credit as it’s still one of the few products on the market that provides a much-needed feature like this.

No explicit grammar!

This is one area where I believe Rosetta Stone is spot on the mark.

As I said above, sentence structures are introduced gradually by the program in a linear progression, beginning with very clear structures (e.g. copula expressions and basic phrases) and working up to complex patterns in the higher levels.

Occasionally the program will highlight the grammar point to make clear what the user should be focused on:

Rosetta Stone grammar

This is where intuition and a bit of common sense make the world of difference.

The pictures above for example introduce a conditional sentence structure or the equivalent of “I wish/hope” in Korean (if it is ____, it would be good / I hope it’s _____).

There are about 3 or 4 other sequences of images that follow this one with a similar scenario – a picture of a person looking expectant followed by them looking either delighted or disappointed. You might be completely baffled the first time round but if you consider for a moment what’s happening in each set of images, you can infer at the very least that the first picture is one of hopefulness or expectation.

As I’ve said many times in the past, research (and experience) prove that you don’t need to study grammar to learn to speak a foreign language.

It often does more harm than good.

The part highlighted in red in that picture (-으면 좋겠어요) is what I and other SLA researchers call a language chunk – it’s a set formula that you learn as a whole and there is no need whatsoever as a new learner to break it down and dissect its grammatical constituents.

Nearly all of the expressions we use every day in our mother tongues are completely unoriginal, recycled language patterns/chunks that we’ve been exposed to constantly since the day we were born – just like the one in that picture.

Rosetta Stone does a very good job at progressively introducing these patterns with images that clearly reflect their meaning.

NEW: Rosetta Stone responses to my review questions

Rosetta Stone kindly took the time to respond in detail to some of my important questions for this review.

It’s always important to me to make sure I give the product creators or publishers a chance to respond to my tough questions.

Here they are:

1. Was the RS “immersion” method ever based on research? Is that research available to be read?

The Rosetta Stone approach to language learning is based on established language-teaching approaches from second-language acquisition and applied linguistics, and proprietary Rosetta Stone research on learners’ experiences with language learning.

Our approach is immersive in the sense that we use the target language as much as possible to encourage an immersive experience for the learner and to maximize input.

We focus on teaching all four skills (reading, writing, listening & speaking), but place an emphasis on listening and speaking. Our focus on production distinguishes us from our competitors, and recent research shows that production is critical to language learning.

Here are some recent examples from research that highlight the importance of production:

Producing a language during learning can improve comprehension (Hopman & MacDonald, 2018).

Production demands more attention than comprehension (Boiteau et al., 2014).

Recalling information from memory and using it leads to information retention, aka the “testing effect” (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).

Boiteau, T. W., Malone, P. S., Peters, S. A., & Almor, A. (2014). Interference between conversation and a concurrent visuomotor task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143 (1), 295–311. doi: 10.1037/a0031858.

Hopman, E. W. M. & MacDonald, M. C. (2018). Production practice during language learning improves comprehension. Psychological Science, 29(6): 961-971. Available at:10.1177/0956797618754486.

Roediger, H. L., III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255.

2. The RS software is now an online, subscription-based web app rather than boxed software. Has the Rosetta Stone method itself been changed, improved or updated in any way since my first review? Or is the lesson content *identical* to the original boxed software?

We have added translation to English glosses for the earliest course content in our most popular languages and are continuing to expand translation availability across learning and languages.

These translations can be accessed at-will during study as a way for learners to confirm what they’re learning as they progress through the course. By design, translations are not available in the Grammar or Review activities.

Also, tutoring content was modified to support shorter and more frequent sessions so learners can have more regular exposure to a live native speaker.

3. If so, what specifically has changed in the online subscription edition vs. the old boxed versions?

Our mobile app features:

Seek & Speak — Using object-recognition technology that leverages augmented reality, Seek & Speak turns everyday objects into conversation practice with scavenger hunt-style challenges. Seek & Speak enables users to point their phone’s camera at an object and receive a translation in their language of choice, and then practice conversation using the newly obtained vocabulary with TrueAccent. The feature is now in beta for English, French, Spanish, Italian and German and will expand to include more scavenger hunt challenges and languages throughout 2019 & 2020.

Embedded Translations — In response to user feedback, Rosetta Stone has added embedded translations. At any point in the immersive experience, customers seeking clarity on vocabulary can “long-press” on a word to reveal its translation.

Phrasebook — Rosetta Stone’s Phrasebook teaches language learners how to say useful phrases, with over 164 phrases across 8 categories. Perfect for travelers, Phrasebook features native speakers saying everyday phrases that are useful in common situations, such as meeting people, dining out, and staying in a hotel. Phrasebook uses translation to provide meaning and speech recognition to provide speaking practice, in order to provide a quick-start for learners looking to engage in some real world situations quickly before devoting time to more extended study. Phrasebook works offline, so users don’t need an international data plan to speak confidently while traveling abroad.

Additionally, the online application makes it easier to schedule tutoring sessions (on web, with mobile to follow soon) and to access the longer form texts in Stories.

4. What sets TruAccent apart from, say, Google Web Speech API or Babbel’s speech recognition in terms of pronunciation accuracy? It’s a patented technology – what makes it superior?

Rosetta Stone gives feedback on a user’s pronunciation and cadence, which most others do not.

For example, Rosetta Stone teaches normalized business English for U.S. English, which TruAccent can measure, and TruAccent can distinguish Spanish from Spain vs. South America.

The regionalisms are even more pronounced for some indigenous languages.

5. One of the main problems I experienced writing my review is that Rosetta Stone uses very formal speech samples (unnatural). Are there any informal patterns used now in any of the languages?

In all of our language solutions, we try to teach conversational language that real people use in real situations.

We choose to teach the formal register first and primarily, believing that this will provide our learners with a foundation that will serve them well over their language-learning journey. We know that there’s even more we can teach, in every language, and we’re always considering ways to improve and expand on what we already offer.

As we continue to add new, situational content, we are focusing on practical language using whatever register is appropriate for those interactions.

Rosetta Stone review summary: is it worth the investment?

As I’ve already written above in my review, the price for a brand new copy of the latest version of Rosetta Stone is unjustifiably expensive.

For nearly all of the languages that Rosetta Stone provides, there are excellent free and inexpensive alternative materials available online. I’ve also given you some ideas on what you could otherwise afford if you have that kind of money at your disposal, including inexpensive quality options like italki and Mondly.

However…

I would have no hesitation recommending an older or second-hand version to supplement a person’s learning.

The key word here though is supplement.

I always say that variety is key and you should never rely solely on any program or book. Even though Rosetta Stone is designed to work on its own, I suggest using it in conjunction with other listening and reading material, and most importantly regular practise with native speakers.

Despite its faults, it can be a very effective piece of software.

One thing that has caught my attention recently is the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program which according to the website currently covers 6 Native American languages.

I know from my experience back home that the Australian aboriginal communities in particular would benefit from a project like this given the lack of resources available for most of them.

Sadly, as I mentioned a while back, the software still has its astronomical price tag even for the endangered language programs which is just going to create another deterrent for indigenous people wanting to help their own language. It’s a challenge getting newer generations of indigenous people to take an interest in keeping their languages alive and most of them would probably struggle to afford such an expensive piece of software.

It’d be great if there was some attempt to subsidise this in future!

I hope you’ve found this review useful.

Please share your thoughts and experience (positive or negative) about Rosetta Stone in the comment section below and make sure to visit my Essential Language Learning Tools page for more useful resources.

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Pricing: Starts at $6.99 per month or a $199 one-time payment
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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

COMMENTS

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HR

What do you think of the $199 Rosetta Stone Unlimited Languages for Life Time For desktop and mobile? With a kid who will likely be stuck at home with me during the Covids indefinitely, it seems like a good addition to our curriculum. I used to speak a few languages and it seems, along with some free programs, like it might be kinda awesome.

Alex P

there are MAJOR linguistic errors in Rosetta Stone. For example I am on the French one and the speaker pronounces "..ent" at the end of regular verbs. This is WRONG. Singular vs plural regular conjugated verbs are pronounced the same but spelt differently. I've raised this with their support but to have this type of error doesn't instil confidence. It's an absolutely unforgivable mistake. How could it have passed UAT testing and quality control? And if they are capable of making this level of error it implies there are going to be plenty other mistakes lurking about it there.

Tony

On top of all the money you will spend on this learning tool, there will be yearly fees that are upwards of $200. Be very careful as to what you agree to.

Chris

I think $199 for the lifetime access is a very good deal.

Sam Sultan

I just have to say that while I agree with everything, i just got the lifetime subscription to ALL their languages for $199. It was a limited time offer that I had seen as an ad... and sure enough, it works. I’d say that makes it totally worth it because for years I’ve avoided Rosetta Stone because of the exorbitant price tag

Kim

Caveat: My experience was with an older, boxed version.

I bought RS Korean (full version). I was really dissatisfied and wrote to get my money back, per statement on the box. I never got a response.

Why did I ask for my money back? I was spending two to four hours a day on the program and learning next to no Korean. There were pictures that made no sense to me ("Intuitive" for one person is not necessarily at all meaningful to another.). I got to the point where I was getting all the answers right despite not knowing what the meaning was: I had just seen the same questions so many times that I knew that picture a meant answer X, etc. I remember one case in which there were different shapes and colors that were shown in different relationships (behind, next to). I never did figure out what was being taught though if I went back to the exercises today, some years later, I could probably get the right answers . At the time, I asked a Korean about some of the sentences (not the shape exercises, unfortunately), and she told me that many of them were unnatural. As already mentioned in the review or earlier comments, Korean has various registers, and these are not differentiated in RS Korean. Some other problems were dealing with plurals, numbers and the review system. While Korean does have a (simple) system for forming plurals, in actual use, the pluralization is only used where necessary to point out that the object is plural. But RS spends lots of time repeating plurals,which I almost never heard in years of living in Korea. Korean has two number systems, Sino-Korean and pure Korean. Each one is used for different purposes. While irritating to someone first learning Korean, the advantages become apparent as soon as one goes shopping. Anyway, where to use which system is not made clear in RS (nor does it even tell you that there are two systems, given its rigid TL-only approach; it wasn't clear to me at all what was going on). This led to lost hours until I found out that there were two systems and read the about the basic distinction. I never figured out what algorithm was used for review:
The program kept recycling some questions that I was getting right every time, while covering only some of the ones I was having trouble with. At one point, I was sent down a dark hole that I couldn't get out of without simply breaking off. This is against learning theory: some sort of positive reinforcement (other than the sound of a harp) is needed. Another problem I had was with the pictures. I couldn't tell if foot or leg (or table!!) was being taught because the "deductive" system was not rigorously deductive and the pictures were not clear enough. There was also a series of rodeo pictures, with so many differences in the pictures that I never did figure out what was being taught.

Now, here's a funny thing. With my boxed set, I got free samplers for other languages. I tried these out for languages that I knew (e.g., German), and my gut reaction was that it was so simple and obvious. This also worked for a language that I had only taken a couple of semesters of one-hour/week courses (Indonesian) and even a non-IE language that I had no background in (I've forgotten which one). The fact that the RS program "taught" me the beginning of a language in which I had no interest and no background but not one (Korean) in which I had an extreme interest and no background indicates to me that RS's one-size-fits-all approach is wrong.

I have also read that the Russian RS does not distinguish between the gender of the speaker, even though Russian is one of a number of languages where the gender of the speaker affects the form of modifying adjectives or other grammatical aspects.

Bill Old Bill

Immersion was used in my Peace Corps language acquisition in 1980 and worked wonderfully. That said, it was total immersion in a village with native speaking teachers who just happened to also have a pretty good grasp of English. Just keep listening and repeating and hearing it in the village with the host family and in 4 weeks I tested out at 3 out of 5 on some academic test.
I did Rosetta for a month (too scotch to go past the 30 day money back period) to try it out. Not having the grammar was initially frustrating but then I settled down and just went with the flow. Yea, there were times I swore I was pronouncing correct or incorrect and RS gave me the wrong cue, but these were pretty rare and some I am sure was the connection being pesky and the capability of my computer.
I am able to get Mango free from my library and have continued with it and I am quite amazed at how much I understand from my 3 1/2 weeks using RS. Mango does a great job giving the phonetic spelling of the language that would have helped a bit with RS on some of the tricky words I had to try over and over again. Mango also spends time with culture and grammar notes but it is more work to retain the language even with the additional cultural and grammar understanding.
I now think I will go for the current deal on the lifetime languages at RS as I think 24 or so for that price is pretty good and as they break it down to 3 monthly payments it's less than a cup of coffee anywhere in the world for those 3 months. I can also supplement this with Mango. In my search for online Tagalog learning, none of them were really cheap as a package and Babel and Duo did not even have Tagalog. That is why I ended up at RS. This was before I found out my library had Mango.
I will say this... it certainly is an even handed and balanced review. Salamat!

Frank Taylor

I just recently cancelled my RS subscription (as in 47 min ago). I had bought the 3-pay lifetime subscription plan, and I had been using it at least five days a week for a month to learn Japanese (and some Spanish). I was initially drawn to RS because of the endless marketing and that I could learn multiple languages for life for one fee.

I was fairly satisfied with what I was learning, but something changed immediately once I tried a sample of Pimsleur (not advocating for Pimsleur). While Pimsleur has its own drawbacks, after a free 30-min lesson I tried there, I felt that I had covered an equitable amount of everything I had managed to learn in a month using RS. I felt like RS was taking eons and my hard work was going mostly into trying to decipher hiragana for myself and working out what all the nuances of the basic grammatical structure entailed. While I remember what I taught and discovered on my own, it was proving to be drudgery - especially when a brief audio lesson was able to offer needed and useful insight that I could not receive through RS. After searching this blog more thoroughly I think I am going to give Rocket Japanese a try. Its sample material already piques my interest and seems to be more charismatic and enjoyable than what I have been seeing with supplements like Duolingo etc. or programs like RS or Primsleur. Let's hope this works!

(P.S. I admire your faith, Donovan. Always nice to meet a member of the family.)

KELLY MARIE REID

Bonjour!

Thank you so much for this in depth analysis. I would like to share my comments as a nobody with an opinion lol

First does your opinion about cost change now that you can get lifetime access to every language for 200$? And you can pay ot over 3 month. For me this was a selling point. I love RS and used It for Mandarin years ago but paid 200$ for 2 years and didn't renew because of cost. Now I'm learning french and mandarin and i use it every day so i find it a great investment.

I agree with you it is important to learn without direct translation. For me again this is a huge selling point. It is frustrating sometimes but i go with it and usually i have it by the review.

I also agree you should use multiple avenues of learning. I do rs, pimsleur, duolingo, and i have a textbook and a workbook. Each gives their own take on education and i find it very helpful. I also use index card to study vocab.

The one thing I came here for which I didnt hey was, theoretically, if you complete the whole program with 100% understanding what level of fluency will you reach? That's my ultimate question.

Thank you again for your time!

Aaron

You talk about the price tag, but as of this writing Rocket Spanish 1-3 is $259 and Rosetta Stone Spanish 1-5 is $199 lifetime. How would you say they compare in amount and difficulty of content?

I'm particularly interested in the "level cap", so to speak, of each program. In my experience, there are loads of resources to help with the very basics, but (especially with free stuff) the tutorial ends with the student at a mid-beginner level, leaving the student to continue independently even though they're still struggling to read a newspaper.

Aaron

In an attempt to answer my own question, I went through the Hebrew course and added up Rosetta's estimate of how long it would take to complete every section: 78 hours*. That's not a whole lot; a dedicated student could burn through that in three months, and a casual in six.
(In contrast, Rocket says that Level 1 alone of their Spanish course has 134 hours of content, and levels 1-3 have a combined 370 hours.)

That actually kind of helps with the cost issue if you're a dedicated learner: sign up for three months, hit it hard, and cancel, and you can do the whole program for $36.

* I specify "every section" because Rosetta also offers learning tracks which skip over certain sections based on your motivation, so even a more casual student (say, 30 minutes a day 5 days a week) could get learn each lesson (but not as rigorously) in three months.

** Credit where it's due, Rosetta's review feed appears to pull automatically from other sites, as opposed to managing it so it only shows glowing reviews.

Pat McGibbon

They are offering lifetime access to all 24 languages for 300 GBP at the moment.

At 12 and a half quid a language, that feels like pretty good value.

Jay B

What would be your recommendation if I am already quite strong in the language (French) but would like to improve (Especially conversationally)?

Pat McGibbon

italki.com is very good - it's a brokerage for (paid) teachers, but also many ppl offer language swap conversation options for free.

R.l.

Using the RS free trias l or 1st level was the first time i ever thought in spanish. Having taken 2 yrs of spanish in high school, and 4 semesters in university, earning As and Bs, but i not once thought in spanish. Id think in english and translate internally to spanish.

Because RS makes you "work" to figure out each translation intuitively like people got impatient about, you wind up thinking in the language... ie the word for apples is las mazanas so this new word, juevos, must be refering to the picture of eggs. only its not slow as reading that, it feels almost instantaneous ... and later when i opendd my fridge to eat and saw juevos, i got a pan and ....catch that? I didnt open the fridge and see eggs and *call* them juevos. I SAW juevos in my fridge. The spanish word came immediately. For the first time. This was maybe the 2nd lesson -definitely within the first hour-, and by the end i was thinking in their spanish vocabulary as if immersed.
Maybe it helped i already passed intermiate college spanish and therefore could already write a several paragraph story using the infinitivo or preterit tense, or play a role in a 10 min quasi-improv sketch en espanol. Maybe it helped that i quickly "got" the missing words.

Thomas McFarland

This review highlights faults in Rosetta Stone without significantly comparing it to other products... and you spend a lot of time speaking of cost.

I feel that other products struggle with many of the same challenges as Rosetta Stone. You could improve this by highlighting the differences vs. competition... with and without cost. i.e. What's the best value vs. what's the best overall? Second, you tend to focus on how it teaches languages that are more difficult for native english speakers to learn (arabic, japanese, korean). Some treatment of easier languages that have larger population of learners would be nice.

My thoughts...

Anthony Bent

Thank you for all the reviews you've taken the time to put together. I found your site today while looking for real reviews of the best language learning tool available. I have signed up to be in the "guild" and look forward to reading more here on the site. I wanted to share with you and your readers that The black Friday sales are great depending on which one you choose. A quick example is RS lifetime is US$189 but if you call the sales department to make the purchase, you get a second language lifetime subscription for free. By the way, I do not work for them and I am a real person who's taking a family trip to France next year so we are trying to learn the language before we go. I am curious to know which system you think would work best for us. We are a family of 5 with the youngest being 11 years old. Thanks.

Expat Forum

This is the defenitive Roseta stone review, thank you very much for this, I would like to learn a bit of Esperanto and might start that way, of course that it would just be a hobby in a sense it is a dead language but again I am more than happy to do my bit to help the language survive. It is expensive no doubt, I will look into the alternatives and might do a routine to learn 2 or more languages.

T

Rosetta Stone and other language apps are now available to use from home if you belong to a local library that has it. Through my family and their local libraries (in many US states) I have found Rosetta Stone, Mango language, And transparent language (including a kids version). I saw my library also offers some romance languages through a tutoring app for students, and foreign language books, movies, music and magazines. AND depending on your state, there might be statewide resources available.

MeX

The best approach to lean a language is with the natural immersive way, WITHOUT translation, which is OBNOXIOUS. When done that way, it may seem harder initially, but that is a misleading perception, and eventually the learner will start THINKING in such new language. It is noticed because at such time, the learning may know how to say something in the NEW language but NOT in the native one for a particular word or idea. Amazing!

That moment represents an inflexion point, from which learning explodes in a positive exponential way. Then, learning the new language accelerates very significantly and even becomes a joy! It is really amazing! That is also the natural way in which kids learn their mother language, and my own experience when I started learning English (non native for me) as a 19-year-old adult.

The best language course that I have found is this. It is a real pedagogic jewel, and probably the best ever produced, since it uses no translation to other language and a natural approach to learn, including humorous stories, fantastic songs that could be considered as commercial and drills in which the students listen, speak and correct themselves. It is even better than having a personal English teacher! , albeit it is no longer published; note that there are two versions of this, and I mean the first one, which is the best because it is more fun to use, corresponding to the cover).

Currently, the best that I have found working that way is Rosetta Stone. Is it expensive? Maybe for some people, but not for me, taking into account what if offers, as explained above. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with them in any way.

MeX

Why was part of my post deleted? After "The best language course that I have found is this" I indicated such course, which is the following (please, do not delete it; thanks!):

Salvat Ingles
BBC London - English Course
by Doug Case, John Milne
Published 1981 by Salvat Editores in Barcelona, Spain.
Written in English.
SALVAT INGLES is an audiovisual course devised for foreign speakers, namely Spanish-speaking people. It is presented in 8 volumes and 24 cassettes. The course is based upon the BBC series Let's Speak English.
Other Titles: BBC London English - Course - Copyright Date 1980
https://openlibrary.org/books/OL24329673M/Salvat_Ingles

d maynard

Bought the Rosett Stone download version. (Or did I buy the marketing? YES) Worked great for about 6 months. Took a break. A year later it crashed. RS sent another serial number and rather involved instructions for getting it off my machine. A year later it crashed again an wouldn't reboot. Tried yet another install. Worked for a day and crashed. Contacted the company. Crickets.

What a waste of money.

Nat

I have a subscription for Dutch to Rosetta Stone. It turns out there are only 12 units and this covers a tiny proportion of what would be needed for even basic conversation. I did all the units and associated activities... When I enquired about the fact that I had done everything, Rosetta Stone told me I could just do the games from now on (until the end of my subscription in several months!!!). I agree with you that it is extremely expensive for what it offers, and not exactly honest about the product!

Aaron

That's a good point. I went through the Hebrew course (also 12 units) and added up the estimated time to complete every section. It came to 78 hours. A dedicated student could knock that out in three months.

Allan Achi

My native language is French , I’ve been speaking it since my childhood. Then when I was around 16 I used Rosetta Stone American English and it worked for me . Today I’m pretty fluent ☺️ , in addition to this software I used to watch a lot of movies , listen to music in English , talk to native people at the end without noticing I was able to conversate in any kind of situations with such an ease.

Lance

Thank you for your review. I find it to be balanced, and it's pretty accurate. I have NINE Rosetta Stone languages (plus, studied the on-line version of Indonesian, since they did not have the CD or download course). I haven't studied all yet, but I hoarded them when prices go on sale. My first course was Latin American Spanish. That was a little difficult because it was hard to figure out the point that RS was trying to make.

HOWEVER, the other languages I've studied (French, Portuguese, and now Filipino) are much easier because I know what to expect. While the use of the same pictures and formats might cause boredom for some people, I think this speeds things up since I'm not puzzled about the point they're trying to get across.

bee

Thank you, this review was the first I found to go beyond the question, "Is it worth it?". I already purchased it and I am 2 lessons into unit 4 of RS Spanish. What I wanted to know was is it worth the time I'm investing in it. I wasn't sure if it was working or if my additional side work of reading articles. I think I'll stick with the RS. If nothing else it's good practice.

Elisa

Are there programs you recommend for learning Welsh? Rosetta Stone discontinued it and I can't even seem to find a used copy to purchase. Not finding much online.

Claire

For Japanese (and Korean), I find that none of the big names cover that well. I think it’s because of the insistence on making them fit into the same system/program as Western languages.

totally agree on grammar. It doesn’t need to be taught so much as practiced. I studied French through to university, and I know way more about French technicalities than English, which proves to me that it’s not necessary for fluency.

Also loving idea that you should wait until you understand. I find that in the school system there is a big focus on understanding immediately. I think it actually hurts us in the long run, because we end up THINKING the language through logically, which means we produce and produce much more slowly.

Finally, I like the picture use because it doesn’t rely on L1. Every linguist is different, but for me, I feel in control of a language when I can leave English at the door. For me, the way to get good at foreign languages is to separate them from your native language. With RS, you can do that from the start.

It’s a good program and it fits my learning style and language ideology. Sadly, it’s never been in my budget.

Abu Sulaimaan

Here's a Rosseta Stone CEFR list that might help.

Elizabeth W

I'm not sure if every library offers this, but through San Diego Library we have access to Rosetta Stone online for free. Just click on the Education and Languages Databases link and sign up and voila there you go! Totally free.

Thanks for a great review of its features. I am enjoying it, but also learned a lot in the past with a CD-based program called Behind the Wheel *Language of Choice* that worked completely aurally/orally with repetition of phrases in Target Language with Native Language equivalents. It worked very well for me and I'm curious to see if Rosetta works as well.

There is definitely nothing like immersion in the local culture for language learning, but most of us don't have that option before we land somewhere!

JensPeter

I am german and got the RS French course as download software last Christmas (5 weeks ago). I have started to learn french 4 weeks before by meeting a french teacher one hour a week.
I did 6 Units (out of 20 total) in that time spending 1hour a day. So I am able to complete a Unit in a week, perhaps the full course in 20 weeks.
I am sometime unhappy with the simple image->click interaction that makes it often very easy to 'cheat' by simple pattern matching. Lessons that drive me to speak french are much more usefull and the writing lessons are the hardest, here I need 2 or 3 repetitions to accomplish the lesson.
I complement the RS by hearing to french audio books every day and still continuing the real life teacher sessions once a week. That feels very efficient. Doing only the RS course would be far too less to grasp the language for real communication. At the bottom line, I am happy with the RS course as one component of learning french.
I am happy with 'unclear' sentences and can accept to understand it later, but my partner cannot learn in that way and is unhappy with the lack of grammar and translations... so it depends...

Debbie

My daughter and son in law bought Rosetta Stone for me to continue my French study after completing the DuoLingo tree (free!). I wanted to progress further with French but instead I feel I have gone into remedial education and it is moving very slowly. I had assumed I could move quickly to the place where I need more work. It is moving very slowly with repetition of what I already know, yet I get dinged in pronunciation that makes no sense at all. It seems to not be able to consistently pick up my voice, using a microphone headset I purchased just for this. I can say the exact same thing several times when it counts it wrong. There is no explanation to show what it sees as wrong so I keep saying the same thing in exactly the same way and after a couple of tries, nearly shouting into the mic it counts it as correct. I swear there is no change at all because I know I am saying it correctly, so there is no reason to change it. I feel very badly that my kids, who really can't afford this, gave a well-meaning gift with the best of intentions. I consider it a waste of money and I have gone far enough in the program to see this is going to be a long, tedious year - not the best use of time and resources but I feel I must for the sake of their sacrifice. I must say, I thought for the price, it would do more than free language programs. I hope I get to new material sooner than it appears it will happen; otherwise it is really a waste.

D. Masana

Thank you for your review. I completed Rosetta Stone’s free introduction to Greek, which I truly enjoyed and was able to retain the vocabulary, but was wondering if it was worth the $119. I will check out the other options you mentioned before I commit.

Donovan Nagel

Curious if you had anything else to add about the Greek.

I'm currently learning Greek myself and considering sampling the Greek edition.

Adrienne Oliver

I had already taught myself some Dutch years ago. I bought textbooks, phrase books, cassette courses, and a great dictionary. For teaching myself, I learned a great deal. The only thing is that I didn't have anyone to speak Dutch with. I like the idea of being taught by a native speaker and repeating phrases back. I also like the feature of reading and recording a story and getting immediate feedback. There are some instances where there will be something thrown at me and I have to figure out what I am supposed to do.

Mike

Donovan - Thank you for your very balanced and thought out review of RS. I've been using German RS for 8 months and test "B1" intermediate on CEFR, so I think it has been useful.

You asked if other RS languages have an issue with "honorifics." The German RS uses "du" (2nd person familiar) much more than "Sie" (2nd person formal), which is not the case speaking the language in Switzerland and Germany. I think get away with using "du" syntax because I am an American, but is has taken some older people by surprise. It is generally not ideal to walk up to someone you don't know and address them with "du;" something RS doesn't address.

Mark

I have been at it for 8 months (RS Spanish) and I am no closer to speaking Spanish than I was at the start.
I work at it 5 days a week. All I can do is recognize certain words but have no idea how to put them together into sentences
I am a college graduate, but this program has made me feel like the worlds biggest idiot

Benjamin Tepolt

Where Rosetta Stone fails: inaccurate (and boring!) images, poor follow-through with grammar (partially because of its "total immersion"), and an obscene price. That being said, as long as its not used alone, it's not totally worthless in its educational value.

That's a good summary -- but pretty much any 15-year old can write up software that does pretty much the exact same thing in about a couple of hours. Those lesson packs should be $5, not $500.

Dominick

I have been using Rosetta Stone for a couple of weeks not to learn Swedish and have found it very helpful. However, I would like to point out a couple of things that have changed since the article was written or was not available at the time.

The subscription pricing as dropped significantly. The 6-month online subscription is now only $89 for new users (and $74 if upgrading; they even offer a 1 month/$14 plan). The instant download (for Level 1-3) are still a little expensive though at $154 for all three levels.

However, with their Rosetta Stone Language Learning program now, the program remains active even after the online subscription expires. So if you choose not to renew the online subscription, you still have access to the regular program on your computer along with all the standard lessons; you just no longer have access to the online tutoring, games, mobile app, etc. So even after purchasing the online subscription, you still have the product for a lifetime.

One other thing that I think is useful with their Rosetta Stone Language Learning program is that the license allows you to install it on two computers. I find this helpful as I have installed on my desktop at home and my work compute (to do some lesson on my work break at lunch). The computer software also allows up to 5 learns per computer, so if my wife, or son, wanted to start using it, I wouldn't need to purchase additional licenses. They can use the software already installed. The also have the option of deactivating it on an installed computer so you can install it on a different one (e.g. when purchasing an upgraded laptop). I am not sure if the other products you mentioned offer similar options, but I did find these to be very appealing.

I would like to point out that I am in no way affiliated with Rosetta Stone. I did find your article very fair and balanced and have started checking out some of your other articles (all of which I have liked so far). Keep up the great work!

Matthew

Rosetta Stone Latin America Spanish works very good for me .
Just do it .

Layarion

I recently started teaching myself Japanese, using YouTube, Flash Games, and just some written articles on the subject.

I haven't spent much more than a few days on it yet, but I wanted to "try" rosetta stone out because I know someone who has the version I want.

In short I really like the lack of explanation. I haven't gone more than a few minutes in yet but I really like what I'm learning.

To clarify, I'm more interested in spoken Japanese than the written for anime.

Jonathan

You should be updating your review, because the online subscription now includes up to 4 Video chat group lessons (25min each) with a native speaker per month, which is a total of 20 hours of (!) lessons in a year. Although they are supposed to be group lessons, most of the times I was alone with the teacher and they are very well trained and I felt like really learning something.
I bought the subscription for 120eur during a christmas time offer, so alltogether this is a huge value for that money.

Donovan Nagel

I'll take a look and update that part then. Thanks.

Michelle Diehl

Thank you, this is VERY helpful and thorough. I have wondered if I am missing something by not using RS, and am relieved to see that this is not necessarily the case.

David Esdaile

I wish I had read this review before I bought Rosetta Stone. Fortunately I didn't pay full price. Thanks very much. It really is an excellent, balanced review.
I used Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish as a beginner and then I returned to it more recently for revision. There are different kinds of learners and Rosetta Stone suits some. I can't learn vocabulary unless I can see or visualise the words. Rosetta Stone is helpful to me because it allows me to see the spelling of the words I'm learning. (I have used Pimsleur and that was its main limitation for me.) My main problem with RS is its inflexibility. I can't pause to think and process what I'm learning and I have to continue at the pace of the program to the end of the lesson without knowing how long it will take. Other problems include the failure of the headset soon after I started using RS and my difficulty in working out what some of the diagrams are supposed to show. It's not a program that I would recommend.

Nancy Medl

The recurring cost every 6 months $$$$ too high and useless for the same information is not stated on the sign up - you are auto charged it is a HUGE rip off!! i would never recommend this product ever to anyone i want the costs all reversed it is not stated on the signing up agreement so they are tricking people!

Nancy Medl

The 6 moth auto renewal is not stated at the time of purchase it is in fine print on the followup email confirmation I was ripped off and cant get my first 6 moth charge reversed you have to catch it at the time!!
I would NEVER recommend the too expensive product for a this reason i don't like being TRICKED and therefore feel that they are legally stealing from people

Frank

Donovan,

As always great review. I have been studying Arabic (Iraqi dialect) and French with Rosetta Stone and it's really a great product. In my opinion also a great supplement...probably the best on the market. Prior to Rosetta Stone or during my studies I have completed or continue to us Egyptian Rocket Language, Pimsleur Arabic Pimsleur French, Assimil, LingQ. There is no one source solution for language learning except to always study, listen and speak when you get the chance. I also highly recommend glossika. Again, great review because it is really the most balanced I read.

carlos

First I want to say thank you for your honest review, it really helps.

I have a simple question, I hope you can help me. I need to improve my vocabulary in english, I understand many words and also conversations but Im really short in my own speaking because of my short vocabulary. Im a visual man, so the best way to learnd for my is by watching, Rosetta Stone is good in that area.

I need to know if the teach vocabulary and how much grammar do they teach. I have others programs to speak and also to listen english but Im looking for one to learnd and improve my vocabulary.

what is your opinion on this, thanks a lot..

Frank

Carlos,

I'm at an advance level in Spanish and I use LingQ to increase my vocabulary. I hate flashcards, word list, marking books and looking up words and it takes too long to build pics. I enjoy reading and I use LingQ at the advance level to increase my vocabulary by reading interesting material. Be advise you have to pay for LingQ. Rosetta Stone may help in the higher levels but depends on the vocabulary you seek (specialized vs daily conversational) Well good luck!

Lex Barringer

If you're going to ding Rosetta Stone for improper grammar, you should look at your own first and correct it.

"I recently wrote about how living in the Google era where information is so easy to obtain means we’re no longer training our problem solving skills the way we used to – we’re all becoming increasingly stupider as our technology addiction grows."

Increasingly stupider?

You mean, "Have become more ignorant". People aren't getting anymore stupid, they conveniently ignore the facts and anything that is difficult, for which is the reason why I used, "ignorant" instead of, "stupid".

Nina

I majored in French and minored in Spanish years ago. I make a major effort to continue to improve. When planning a trip to Italy I went through the whole Pimsleur program and wanted more. A Rosetta Stone offer came up on Craigslist so I jumped on it. When it would not work in my computer I contacted the company and was told that these programs are "leased" not "purchased" so you cannot buy it secondhand. I argued that my box was new, still in shrink wrap, I was told that Rosetta Stone does not use shrink wrap and that someone perhaps out of China, has made tons of fake copies. WOW! So I learned something, I guess, but I would still like to know, if it was a genuine RS product, would it now work on any computer or is it still restricted?
The happy ending to this event was that i found I could use the companion CDs because of my solid language background.
Thanks for you very comprehensive review and suggestions. Still looking for an advanced program to further my French but have found some great podcasts like News in Slow French, that you can speed up to normal speed.

Swarley

I know this is old, but I'm currently working on RS Korean 1-3 in preparation for an internship in Korea in a few weeks. I'm in a TESL MA program and I speak Spanish and Portuguese in addition to English, so I have some language learning and teaching experience. I should mention Levels 1-3 cost me $160.

I have to say I completely disagree with your contention that it is a good thing to completely exclude explicit grammar instruction. It may be true that it is possible to learn grammar inductively, but SLA research indicates that it takes children YEARS to master the grammar of their language. Even if an adult had that much time, adult brains do not function in the same way as those of children.

For example, I'm about halfway through Level 1 of Korean and I was getting frustrated by the lack of explanation so I bought a Korean workbook from Barnes and Noble. I opened it up and the first thing I discovered was an explanation of the -ga and -reul endings, which I wasn't adequately made aware of after the first unit. Things retrospectively made significantly more sense to me and I wondered what I had missed by not understanding that. How long would it have taken for RS to make explicitly clear that -ga is the subject ending and -reul is the object ending? Maybe a minute? The amount of input I would have needed to figure that out myself would be absolutely staggering i.e., FAR more than RS can offer me.

My point is that even though grammar CAN be learned implicitly doesn't mean it SHOULD be done that way, especially when RS is a product clearly designed and marketed with the purpose of providing an efficient program.

In general SLA research indicates that while implicit learning can be effective it should always be supplemented by explicit instruction, especially when there is little transfer between languages (as with Korean and English, or really Korean and any other language). Paul Nation has a lot to say on this subject if you're interested.

You link to your other post where you describe how important it is to make mistakes, but you can't make these mistakes in a program like RS because you have no feedback. That's another important issue in terms of child language acquisition: not only do you not have the same amount of time as a child but you also don't have the resource of someone who knows the language who can give you unlimited amounts of input and correct you when you make a mistake.

In my opinion RS tries to take an "innovative" approach by being immersion-only but in the process makes itself less efficient and less authentic.

Richard Short

Ok so I read this review a couple days ago after having already started a German Rosetta Stone. I had something just happen that I thought was hilarious and made me think about this, so I had to post it.

I was just doing a Core Lesson and eating at the same time. A talky bit came up when I wasn't expecting it and I was slurping spaghetti, and it accepted my spaghetti slurp as a correct answer XD.

Donovan Nagel

That's hilarious, Richard!

Kim

I am one of those people who are strongly dissatisfied with RS. I tried to soldier on through the Korean lessons, ignoring my lack of comprehension. It got to the point where I could give all the right answers but had no idea what I was saying (e.g., is the red triangle behind, smaller than, adjacent to, different from, etc. to the blue square/ What is the rodeo rider doing? Falling, riding, holding on?). There were simply not enough contrastive sets. When I was learning my first language, my mother would guide me when I didn't understand. Linguistic research clearly shows that repetition is only part of the way people learn their first language.

While figuring things out is a good learning strategy, NOT figuring things out is a bad one. Research in second-language learning has found that an affective barrier is a serious problem for many people learning a language. It can lead to not recognizing what is already known, avoiding studying, and other counterproductive behaviors.

Donovan favors speaking early, but teaching a foreign language using a silent period has been found to be quite effective.

Korean has two counting systems. This is not told to the learner. Yes, I realize that figuring something out is a stronger learning method than hearing or reading it. But the program does not make clear which number system is used when/where. Korean does have a plural suffix, but it is normally used only to show contrast. RS drills you on the plural (Oof, was I surprised when I got to Korea and no one used the plural.). There are free online Korean courses that work much better.

A Korean told me that many of the sentences used are not what a Korean would ever use. So what's the point of chunking if the the chunks are never going to be used?

On the positive side, even though for ease I would have preferred the grammatical forms used with kids since it's easier, starting with the formal is better for learning Korean since using formal to your lover might be funny but using informal or familiar with your boss can be catastrophic. So that aspect of RS I agree with.

I was so upset with my RS Korean course that I tried, within the specified time, to get my money back. I got stonewalled and still have the stuff lying around somewhere.

While we all might learn our first language regardless of what it is pretty much the same way and, unless there is a special problem, succeed in getting the basics in a couple of years after hearing thousands of hours; learning a second language does not always follow the same path or have the same ease. Thus, it can well be that RS is good for certain mixes of some languages and some people. Let me give two short examples to explain.

I bought my Korean RS at full price. Psychologically, this is important; I was quite poor, and the price had am impact on my basic living condition. That meant that I felt the company owed me a good product, but it also meant that I was determined to get my money's worth from it. An acquaintance had a stolen or pirated copy of RS for Portuguese. That is, he had no financial investment in it.
He raved about RS. In addition to the financial-psychological difference, there was a linguistic one. I had had no background in Korean; he spoke Spanish, and his mother tongue was German. That meant that the vocabulary and grammar of his target language were not far from his base, whereas other than European loan words (which, though not rare in Korean, are not common in the RS course), I was totally in the dark. Interestingly, when I looked at RS free snooper course for Indonesian, a language I had had a couple of courses in years earlier, I breezed through material and actually discovered the meaning of one or two Korean pictures that had stumped me.

I have been told that the Russian RS program does not take into consideration the gender of the speaker and other aspects of the language, which means it is either confusing or wrong.

Richard Short

I managed to sneak in on a Barnes & Nobles sale to get the full 1-5 levels for $249, and I'm overall happy with it, but I definitely wouldn't want to pay full price for it.

Donovan Nagel

Sorry to hear about your bad experience, Kim.

I can definitely see how that would cause you so much frustration. Did you end up getting your refund in the end?

Ann

Here's my two cents. I have been using Rosetta Stone French and Korean for a while; while I haven't gotten too far as of yet, I have found that Rosetta Stone actually works very well for me. I am a very visual person, and seeing pictures paired with the words written in the language has helped what I learn stick.

I figured out pretty quickly that it really helps to have a notebook and a pen or pencil nearby while you're using the software. I write down any new words I learn, their definitions, and their gender. I have categorized them by type (basic, food, animals, colors, ect) so that I have to really focus on the word and what it is used for; I have found that writing the word down helps me memorize it, and as soon as you memorize the word and don't have to work so hard to recall it, figuring out the grammar gets pretty easy.

For Korean, I highly recommend watching Korean TV after you get past a certain point. Once you get pretty good at listening for the words, watching Korean TV with subtitles is actually pretty useful because A.) You get to be entertained while you are learning (Korean TV has a certain charm and uniqueness that American TV does not) and B.) You have a plethora of native speakers to listen to, some with different dialects and accents. I would say the same with any of the other languages as well; immerse yourself in their media and you'll pick up on it quicker.

Donovan Nagel

Great, Ann.

I admire the fact that you're proactive in terms of actually writing things down as you go and using media as an additional supplement. It's this kind of proactive dedication that most people miss.

Good on you.

shawn

I downloaded the software from the site (Russian) and payed final price of $210 after tax and such. It was on a holiday special, for Christmas. So I suggest waiting for them to have one of these deals for what I paid was less than half the price. Current price is $499 plus tax (S&H if you have hard copy delivered).I am just beginning my journey so I feel It is a good start speaking for myself anyway. I have downloaded a few podcasts from other sources on I-tunes just for a reinforcement excersizes.

Donovan Nagel

How has your experience with RS been so far, Shawn?

shawn

here is a suggestion, a translate for those who don't speak or read certain languages

Carrie

I don't know if this has been said already, but there is a current sale on RS. I'm using it to learn Filipino (Tagalog) and many of the cheaper options don't have this language. I purchased the latest version total package for 189 USD broken up over 3 months. This was a much more affordable option and still comes with all of the bells and whistles of the new packages.

I love it. I also have friends from the Philippines that I communicate regularly with, but this program is amazing in my opinion. I would never have bought it at full price, but if you catch the sale it's well worth it.

Donovan Nagel

Awesome.

Thanks for your feedback, Carrie.

Joe

I see they have a sale on all languages right now for $199.00. I may just have to take the plunge.

RAON LEE

use audio n image editors combine with anki

Donovan Nagel

That's a lot of work but I'm sure it would be useful for creating flashcards.

Josh Halpern

I found your article very helpful

German

You left social icons block the reading of your article. Change that please. Thanks.

sasha

i have a question does it print a paper at the end of the course saying that i did it??? i need proof that i took it for a college!!!! so does it????
Thank you!!!

Joe

I liked your review. I was wondering have you ever heard of or tried Fluenz? I was wondering if that might be really good to use.

Donovan Nagel

I know of it of course but haven't yet sampled it so I can't comment unfortunately.

hansfredriksen

Just want to toss in my two cents here. I was lucky enough to get to try the Russian edition. To me it has been a great experience. 15 minutes each day, combined with me actually writing down the translations myself for almost each important sentence has caused me to learn russia to the degree where I can keep a conversation both online and in person with someone speaking Russian.

Of course, I haven't met an actual russian in person and spoken with him/her, but I've met polish. german and etc speaking russian. Which I can understand and communicate with since their russian is at about my level (due to them learning russia during soviet union/iron curtain).

I actually recommend the Russian version, if you have a knack for languages, and are good at intuitively figuring out sentence structures and grammar, this product is actually very decent. My friend has tried Japanese, which seemed to be a more bitter experience, so I think the review are very thorough.

However, if I were to buy it as opposed to getting it free from work like I did, I don't think the product is worth more than 100-120 USD. I bet they'd sell like crazy if they dropped the price down to this.

Donovan Nagel

Thanks for your feedback on Russian RS, Hans.

I'm curious to sample it myself.

Brett Ray

Hi I enjoyed reading your review. Very well Put. As for the pricing I got a deal with Rosetta Stone onlin at theire website for $219USD this gives me 36 months of language learning. I got the german. I do believe that Pimsleur is a better programme and gives you better sentence structures and real world country specific situations. Cheers
Brett

Donovan Nagel

Thanks Brett.

Apples and oranges really. Pimsleur and RS are too totally products but both supplement each other well in my opinion.

Roger

I agree about the cost, but there's no need to pay full price. You need a little patience to wait for the sales to come around, but I have bought RS from both their own website and Amazon for $199. I'm not sure if there's any pattern to the sales, but they certainly drop the price around Christmas. Even the regular price is now down to $299, though they still market it as a sale price, $200 off the so-called regular price of $499. Still pricey at $299, IMO.

Doug

I just bought The RS Spanish Latin America version. on their website for 250 with tax. They constantly are having sales. As with all things if you go to a store like B&N to buy language software you are going to pay full retail, if you go to the site you can buy it usually on sale. So my advice is research before you buy. If you don’t need it this minute and the price is 500, wait a month and see if it goes on sale. Also beware of any article that says they are going to give a fair review but starts off in the very first line saying you should buy this other product. They will always undersell (not necessarily be negative) the competition. Every person learns at different rates and through different methods. So look for companies that offer a free trial so you can experience their program before you buy.