The Most Balanced Rosetta Stone Review You'll Ever Read
- Written byDonovan Nagel
- Read time23 mins
- Truly innovative and unique approach
- No explicit grammar
- TruAccent™ voice recognition
- Inappropriate formality in some languages
- Culturally irrelevant images
- Lack of explanations may bother some
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:
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:
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 1_0 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:
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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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Rosetta Stone is a sleazy company. I own the complete set of language CD’s. They are no longer compatible with my new Apple laptop. The only compensation Rosetta Stone offered me is a free 3 month subscription to their online site. I paid a lot of money for the complete set ($400 - $500 years ago and I shouldn’t have to pay for a subscription because it’s not compatible now. I should be allowed free lifetime access.
I also purchased a complete Spanish set for my grandchildren (their in 2nd year of college now and I purchased when they were in 3rd or 4th grade, again a lot of money. I don’t even care about that , but considering how much I paid for the 2 sets, I would be treated better .
I’m really upset by Rosetta Stone’s corporate practices and lack of customer support. I purchased a full CD set French Totale for $450, and now it is no longer supported or compatible with computers that don’t run Adobe Flash because Rosetta Stone decided to abandon that platform. Worse, they will not offer any compensation (such as free access to the online platform]. When I originally purchased the set, they said that it would be a lifetime purchase, but now they do not honor that. Stay away from Rosetta Stone!
WORST Customer service and totally overpriced
I really like voice recognition software as I am alone. What with covid and the death of my husband (non-covid related), my age and lack of travel / immersion options, I need to SPEAK french - I have been silently vocalising for some 20 years. The very first program that made me speak was Rosetta Stone. I even bought it in Swahili as we had African friends. Living in a 2-bedroom flat with 2 kids didn’t help and the youngest made fun of me at every turn. So, I stopped speaking aloud - I had no private space to do so.
Last Black Friday sales, I purchased the French Today audio series which is EXCELLENT!
i also purchased Rocket French based on your review. Wow, was I disappointed. The “host” is condescending and patronising - I’m not 12! But I could have coped with that if the voice recognition wasn’t so glitchy. Every second or third spoken entry glitched out. I quickly returned it for a refund.
Say what you will about Rosetta Stone, at least it doesn’t glitch on pronunciation. Also, it doesn’t talk to you in English like you were a child.
Yes, it has some cons but ATM it is USD 179 for unlimited access to unlimited languages.
Sounds pretty good to me.
If you buy the CD or downloadable version, you own it for life. ONLY IF THEY KEEP SUPPORTING THE CD’S!!!
I bought the CD’s many years ago and had them on my Mac. My Mac crashed and I have a new MacBook Air. When I emailed support on Rosetta Stone, they sent this reply:
In order to provide the most up-to-date and effective language-learning solutions, we are recommending all learners switch to our online platforms as we no longer support CD-ROM and Digital Download programs. These were built on technology that is not compatible with the latest operating systems.
Would you like to check out our online experience? Rosetta Stone Online has all of the benefits of our traditional program, along with exclusive new features and mobility to take it on the go!
If you purchased a CD or downloadable version of Rosetta Stone, request a 3-month Free Trial here today! All you need is the activation code from your old product or your email address to get started.
So my purchase price of approximately $600. Has gone up in smoke according to Rosetta Stone!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of my to burn.
I’m 70 years old and cannot afford to REPURCHASE their program or subscribe to a monthly/yearly Fee!!!
I also purchased Spanish for my grandchildren shortly after I bought the Italian. I was working back then, so I saved up to buy these programs.
Thanks for listening!
PETER J WEBERG
Is there another language program besides RS that has Intuition Learning with Pictures that is better in Korean, looking for something similar in intuition but if you get discouraged you can reveal the English Translation to get over the hump and get the understanding, I recently found out that Korean Language focuses on Object first then Verb afterwards and I found that on a Korean101 online course and that tidbit of information help me unlock a lot of grey area in the Rosseta Stone instantly, only if i know that at the beginning of using RS I would have a much better learning experience from the early start on RS, I have been taking Hapkido for 23 years and know the lingo for the class and want to go to Korea to meet my Masters Teachers and hometown next year in 2022 but want to be able to converse with some confidence in Korean when I do, Could you let me know what would be a close second to RS with English Translations & Intuitive Style Learning when needed? Thanks Pete
ROSETTA STONE IS A COMPLETE FRAUD THAT FALSELY ADVERTISES A LEARNING PROGRAM THAT INCLUDES NO TRANSLATION ONLY PICTURES TO LEARN A LANGUAGE. THEY DONT ADVERTISE THIS AT ALL & THEY DECIEVE YOU ALSO BY TELLING YO U THAT YOU HAVE 6 MONTHS TO ACTIVATE THE PROGRAM RFOM THE PURCHASE DATE. BUT ONCE YOU WAIT TO ACTIVATE IT THEY TELL YOU HAD ONLY 30 DAYS TO GET A REFUND FROM THE PURCHASE DATE. THERE ARE A LARGE NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS AGAINST THEM. HOPEFULLY THE AUTHORITIES WILL PENALIZE THEM TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW FOR VIOLATING CONSUMERS RIGHTS.
I read in your review about Native American languages. I already have my languages I study and I have no plans to add anything else, but it would be really cool to learn Navajo!
Thanks. I’m curious that I don’t see Pimsleur mentioned anywhere. I borrowed 36 cd’s from the library - for free - over a period of a year or so, and found it to mega excellent.
I love rosetta stone and I am very happy with it. I’ve tried duolingo and other free software but rosetta is the most complete and convenient to me.
It is worth noting, I dunno if anyone has already done so, that currently the $200 one time payment for Rosetta stone does include all of the languages Rosetta stone offers, which I’m not sure how other programs work, but I felt that this was a reasonable price for a product that should I choose to, I could use to learn other languages and that will keep on being update to become better and better should I feel the need to go back to review a language I already learned.
I bought the 5 levels of Rosetta Stone hard copy which I believed was for lifetime at Indigo/coles bookstore in Canada and went to use and now am told it is obsolete after paying $500 plus tax.
I contacted Rosetta Stone and Indigo book store and am told I have to buy it again if I want to use it.
I bought the 5 levels of Rosetta Stone hard copy which I believed was for lifetime at Indigo/coles bookstore in Canada and went to use and now am told it is obsolete after paying $500 plus tax.
I contacted Rosetta Stone and Indigo book store and am told I have to buy it again if I want to use it.
Excellent review! It’s refreshing and insightful to have someone with SLA expertise give a detailed and balanced overview of Rosetta Stone. I’ve used Rosetta Stone for several years as a learner and teacher. As a teacher, I’ve seen many learners struggle with it for the reasons you so clearly and accurately explained in your review. I won’t rehash them here as you’ve already done a great job.
One suggestion I would add for the future is to look at Fluency Builder, a newer Rosetta Stone’s product. It’s meant for intermediate and advanced learners (B1 and above in CEFR’s language proficiency scale). It’s laid out quite differently from Foundations. You don’t need to follow in order but can pick and choose lessons appropriate to your language goals. Also, there are videos and increased contextualization. The videos are staged and can be very dry and groan-inducing, but they are effective.
I should add that as a learner of languages (6 to varying degrees of proficiency), I absolutely love Rosetta Stone. When I used it for the first time, I was blown away. Here was a language learning software that ACTUALLY strives to immerse you; no translations to filter the target language through, no time wasted on preaching wordy and dubious grammar rules, picture support with intuitive ways of building your own language knowledge bit by bit, immense amounts of content and thoughtfully arranged progression from one lesson to another.
There are parts I don’t like, many of which you mention in your review, so I just skip over them - such as the voice recognition exercises. Others I tolerate (like Rosetta Stone’s obsession with teaching me “juice” for every language or a fairly obscure Chinese measure word for horses), so I can progress; on the whole, small issues.
So few other language programs that I would otherwise use for some of their features (like Babbel’s dialogues and more relevant real-world language content or Duolingo’s fun and engaging sentence builder) are no-go’s because they depend on translation which I can’t stand.
There’s an endless amount of free resources for language learning and I use these to supplement Rosetta Stone (especially authentic materials like YouTube or a Google image search for new vocabulary) – but a collection of resources aren’t a course. Rosetta Stone provides structure in a system that, while imperfect, is by far the best program I’ve ever used.
For me Rosetta Stone has been worth every cent – I actually thought the price you quoted was for access to one language not all of them – so it seems an absolute steal to me.
Your main objection to Rosetta Stone is it’s not worth the money, that other programs you mention are more economical. But the figures you give don’t bear this out. For $200, I could get 15 hours or so of italki, which is probably no more than a month’s worth of chatting. The same buys a LIFETIME of Rosetta Stone, in dozens of languages. Sure, some people will have to dig deep, and others won’t be able to afford it at all, but those folks can’t afford a monthly subscription to other software--OVER THE TERM it would take to learn a language. When Rosetta Stone was limited to one language for $175 on CD, with no updates, I would have agreed with you. Presuming we can once again travel (I’m writing during covid lockdown), getting a smattering of a dozen different languages over a period of 10-15 years seems like a reasonable goal, and $200 to do it is much less that the cost of even one week of time spent in country. The program surely has other shortcomings, but price is not really one of them. Any language learning process or program is going to be incremental, over an extended period of time, and therefore anyone that pays a monthly or hourly rate will rack up charges far greater than Rosetta Stone.
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.
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.
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.
I think $199 for the lifetime access is a very good deal.
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
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Actually I found that when I was about to pay there was an option for a ‘code’, so I looked it up and found a 40% off code online which allowed me to buy the “lifetime all languages access” for a mere £175...
I got a lifetime membership for 179 USD in early 2021. After 8 months or so, it seems like a great value. This price gives me access to all 25 languages. So far, I’ve been working through the Italian and German courses.
What would be your recommendation if I am already quite strong in the language (French) but would like to improve (Especially conversationally)?
italki.com is very good - it’s a brokerage for (paid) teachers, but also many ppl offer language swap conversation options for free.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!):
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a Rosseta Stone CEFR list that might help.
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!
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...
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.
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.
Curious if you had anything else to add about the Greek.
I’m currently learning Greek myself and considering sampling the Greek edition.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Rosetta Stone Latin America Spanish works very good for me .
Just do it .
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.
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.
I’ll take a look and update that part then. Thanks.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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..
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!
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.”
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”.
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.
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.
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.
That’s hilarious, Richard!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
How has your experience with RS been so far, Shawn?
here is a suggestion, a translate for those who don’t speak or read certain languages
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.
I see they have a sale on all languages right now for $199.00. I may just have to take the plunge.
Thanks for your feedback, Carrie.
use audio n image editors combine with anki
That’s a lot of work but I’m sure it would be useful for creating flashcards.
I found your article very helpful
You left social icons block the reading of your article. Change that please. Thanks.
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????
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.
I know of it of course but haven’t yet sampled it so I can’t comment unfortunately.
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.
Thanks for your feedback on Russian RS, Hans.
I’m curious to sample it myself.
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
Apples and oranges really. Pimsleur and RS are too totally products but both supplement each other well in my opinion.
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.
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... if they don’t offer a free trial then more likely than not it’s not worth the paper it printed on, disk it’s burnt to, or digital space it occupies. Once you get the free trials then sit back and try them all out. If one works better than the others get that one, if they all work about the same then go for the best value.
I had a friend who was from Germany and had asked him to teach me the language. I learned by going to his house and his family would speak in German to me, and only if I was really lost I’d ask for translation. But it was all about intuition and repetition. I also picked up Rosetta Stone German Volume 1 from a friend, and how 6 years later I haven’t spoke a lick of German but I remember everything from that volume 1 and only some of what I learned from my friend. Although, what I learned wasn’t particularly useful (it was family stuff, started boy, girl, bread, water, drink, eat, then sentences the boy ate bread, the girl drank water, the man read the newspaper etc) but I bet if I completed all the sessions, it would get more practical and a good way to learn. But the important thing is to practice.
I have to say this was the most balanced review I found of the software. I do also agree that it is probably best as one part of a whole for learning. I am currently learning Japanese using it, but I am not learning with only Rosetta stone. I also watch a large amount of Japanese Anime, and sporting events like Sumo wrestling so I have developed an ear for the language and I have started turning off the subtitles and am finding it easier to follow and know what is being said.
My biggest issue with Rosetta stone is that there are a number of languages that are not offered that are still spoken by a large number of people. Also that there are more than just Native American languages that are dying. Yiddish, one very colorful and culturally relevant language to many people is dying out and that would be another good one for them to attempt to create a program for.
*cough cough* Torrent *cough cough*
Just remember that people work hard to produce these products and you’re robbing them by using torrents.
I used to be okay with it long ago until I realized how much work goes into production.
Here is an inconsiderate comment about endangered language programs...they should be “FREE” to anyone willing to donate $1 or more. PERIOD.
Well that’d be perfect for us but it wouldn’t cover the costs of hiring people to make it I’m sure.
I would like to learn French. What program do you suggest?
Rocket French as I mentioned above.
Thanks for the review. I am right now learning spanish (latin america) with Rosetta Stone. I started two weeks ago and I’m already very good. I speak better Spanish than in 7 years french at school lol. I gotta say that I’m fluent in Croatian, German and Croatian. I can manage French as well.. This may be an advantage for me using Rosetta Stone as I already have a feeling for languages. For me the whole school system never worked. What I like about RS is that they don’t just force you to learn conjugation at the beginning. They just throw random sentences and words at you and day by day you just get a feeling for the language. I can imagine learning Mandarin or Arabic is very difficult with a software but lets be honest, why would you do that? I would never try to learn any asian language with a software. Simply because it’s a total different world to me :) What I really enjoy is the voice recognition, the games with other people and the live sessions. A big dislike for me are the countless repetitions. I often skip steps because its a bit annoying (at least the spanish one). I recommend this program to everybody who is easy going with languages and who already speaks a second language :)
p.s. I wish they would offer higher levels than B2 in their languages. I am at a C1 or C2 level in French, and I would love to work with their software at that level. Otherwise, I think the French Rosetta is probably useless for me.
Hi everybody! Great review, I really enjoyed how thorough you were. I am using Rosetta Stone to study persian, a language which, though not obscure, probably boasts fewer resources in English than the more popular languages like French, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese, etc. The first Rosetta stone product I tried was Arabic, and I found it very difficult, probably because I wasn’t used to the Rosetta stone process. I think if you are trying to learn a language with a different alphabet (cyrillic, arabic script, korean), I personally found it essential to study the alphabet on my own before using the Persian Rosetta Stone. Without any explanations I think its a bit of a stretch to figure out that each letter has three or four different forms depending on their position in a word. Having at least some familiarity with the alphabet really helped me hit the ground running with Rosetta Stone, although I am pretty much still at the point of illiteracy. I also think Rosetta Stone is a good tool if you already know how languages function, I wouldn’t recommend it for someone learning their first second language. It becomes much easier to figure out the “rule” you are supposed to learn, if you know that different subjects take different endings for example. Then you can focus on looking at the picture and you know exactly what you are listening for. So far it seems to me like the Persian Rosetta is doing a good job of using the culturally appropriate forms (using the formal you when addressing an elder for example), but since I am still a beginner, I am not as aware of mistakes as I would be otherwise. I think your idea of including culturally appropriate food is really important, and I hope that Rosetta stone person who commented here takes note and tells the developers. I can’t imagine how annoying it must be to be living in a foreign country and not now how to order the actual food they have on the menu. It seems to me that the content is pretty universal from language to language, which is a bit disappointing. But, I think its a pretty great supplemental resource (as long as you don’t pay full price!!)
I’m just finishing RS Mandarin. It’s my only exposure to Mandarin. I went to China two years ago after I’d done 2 levels, and got by somewhat and was also understood. I’m finishing level 5 now, with a few days left to go before I go to China for a month to study there. I’ve found the program to be as described, but I haven’t had trouble figuring out the grammar patterns. The one thing I did since day one, lesson one, was to take the online Studio class with a teacher once a week. It also gives me access to the games, and costs about $10 a month if you buy a year at a time I love the audio and listen to the lessons when I jog every day.
If you are patient, and willing and able to figure things out, and listen over and over, and repeat things, then take the online class a week to see where your skills are weak, you’ll get a great foundation. I did try iTalki, but you need to have a certain skill level with both speakers if you’re doing the free talking.
I’ll also add that I’m studying Chinese characters with the New Practical Chinese Reader books and Skritter. After about 6 months of that (and 2 years into my RS lessons) I was able to switch from the pin yin of Rosetta Stone to the characters. I use the characters for all but the newest of lessons now.
I have learned many many practical phrases and went to China after one years of RS and finished only level 2 at that time (I study several times a week), with a Chinese speaking tour group to sight see for 10 days, but couldn’t read much. Now, 2 1/2 years later, I’m going back for a month to study Mandarin in a private school, 6 hours a day of private lessons and living with a family. I’ve used Rosetta Stone for speaking, and books and Skitter for characters. I think it’s an amazing program. I reviewed the Russian level 3, as I speak Russian as well, and was impressed with it. My once a week RS teacher often goes off script and we can have conversational Chinese. I’ve had her for years but she’ll only do this if I’m the only one in the class, which is most of the time. I’m very confident in my speaking ability, and consider myself an early intermediate (maybe HSK 3 or 4 (but I’m not too familiar with that system).
I had some tech issues and also had to switch from the CD’s to the new version a couple of years ago. I spent about $600 as I had to buy the first three levels, then level 4 when it came out, then level 5 when it came out So, after 3 1/2 years and lots of money on RS, it’s been well worth it and being a full course has a lot of built in structure that I needed, but found lacking in Sergei’s lessons, and the Mandarin podcasts. Personally, I like the no English parts, but have bought two grammar books to help me to confirm or reinforce what I think
RS is trying to teach me.
I Purchased the Italian version on Friday for $219. Three days later it went down to 189. I tried to get a credit but here is the problem... they will not help you with it online, they give you a number to call. I have tried calling it twice. The first time I waited an hour before I hung up, I am still trying to get through and have been on hold for almost 45 minutes. So here is the kicker... you have a 30 day money back guarantee, but you can only cancel it by calling the number, when you try calling the number, you are placed on a lengthy hold to where you will eventually hang up. The “money back guarantee is a scam. They wont answer the phone, so how do you cancel it??? I
$500+ is the listed “retail price” but no one pays it, at least not now. I just got an offer for all of levels 1-5 for $189. If it is a useful tool to help learning a language, less than $200 seems pretty reasonable where as $500 or more seems way too pricey.
There are....ways....dark ways of acquiring Rosetta Stone...for free...if you go far enough into the internet.
Thank you very much for this review Donovan and for posting this content.
was searching a long time about this
I must admit that I agree very much with this article. Rosetta can be good for the kind of person it will work with, and who will work with it.
It is not magically going to teach you effortlessly...
I had been learning a language with various sources over the past 10 years, and even though I got an idea about the grammar and structure, and some rules, etc, I never got around to properly learning it for lack of motivation, structure, and support.
Rosetta may not have worked for me when I started from scratch, because I like (and do need) the grammar. But it has provided me with the catalyst I needed to put it all together and finally progress: I progressed more in a month than in 10 years!
And I use all the other resources to confirm the grammar, etc.
This being said, I found the 4 teacher-led sessions a month very very beneficial and flexible. But it has a lot to do with the fact that I usually get the same teacher, and am alone in the class. And having 1 session a week is more than enough: it forces me to progress daily and review two lessons and get a bit head in “previewing” the next ones.
Finally, the iPad apps, and the Livemocha addtions, make it richer than I could want it to be. The Apps make it easy to preview a lesson, or review it without interaction, for instance while driving. (Don’t do it, it is dangerous!) And the reading gives me the feeling of my childhood “dictées”...
I purchased Rosetta Stone to learn to speak German after moving to Munich. After many hours of working through the lessons, I gave up in frustration.
Firstly, as someone living here, I was impatiently trying to acquire vocabulary that I needed every day. Rosetta Stone was teaching me: “the girl, the boy, the bike, the cup” rather than expressions which were immediately useful interacting with other adults such as “How are you?” and “Can I please have the bill”.
Secondly, I am already fluent in 2 languages and functional in two more. Rosetta Stone does not leverage my existing knowledge. I was diligently having to convert the lessons into extensive notes of verb conjugations, and to attempt to reverse engineer the intricate german grammar rules.
I have friends here who take german classes and use Rosetta Stone as a supplement to help them build their vocabulary. The extensive repetition enables them to naturally pick up on the gender of words and sentence structure. But, the classroom lessons are still a necessity.
My husband wants to learn some german. I have suggested he use babbel.com.
Speaking for Japan, it is considered very rude to speak casually to people who are not in your inner-most circle. People have enough trouble trying to get past the “Ugly American” stereotype (because, at least if you’re Caucasian, you’re automatically seen as American) without going and proving people right by speaking to them as though you’re a close friend when you are not. It takes a lot to get to that level in Japanese society, and even then there can be restraint. So, you might likewise consider the cultural aspect. RS isn’t perfect, and I believe the BEST way to learn is by living in the country of origin for the language you want to learn, but it is definitely a great supplement, or a great basis. What’s more, children learn language based on context, and that’s something I like about RS. As a child you’re faced with situations where someone is telling you something and you can’t make sense of what they’re saying or what they’re trying to illustrate to get their point across, so I think RS is right on with that. And as someone who has done both “standard” college classroom instruction and full immersion (no English, PERIOD, not even in textbooks) in Japan, I can say that the latter is much better for retention. Also, as someone who has spent thousands of dollars both in the U.S. and abroad to learn a language, I can say that RS is actually more of a budget item, especially considering they’re always having deals (as outlined by different people here).
I agree with some of the people who said that it’s too difficult or not useful for some people because they’re either not the type of person who can learn with visuals and audio, or because some people are too lazy and want results now. Some people are obsessed with price and think that they need to have some results A.S.A.P. or they’ve wasted their money, but if they focused more on what they were trying to accomplish, they might get more done. Price is not an indication of possible success. It takes dedication and diversification of learning methods. I think RS is a great tool, but it needs people going into to use it with the right mindset and realistic expectations, as well as materials to supplement their learning. You don’t go into a classroom without books.
I purchased Rosetta Stone to learn French. The software never worked properly; I had quite a “run-around” trying to get technical support; then, all but one of the technical support personnel were not helpful; and the software has never functioned correctly. I have nearly ten years of experience teaching languages and have to say that the parts of the software that did function did not seem especially effective (for reasons already noted in your article). When I sought a refund, I was informed that it was outside the 30 day refund window and the company refuses to provide a refund - despite the horrible experience I had with the software and their personnel. So in addition to substantive flaws, the technical and customer support for the product is awful. I strongly caution folks to be very careful about purchasing Rosetta Stone products. I know I will never do so again.
This was a helpful review. My only note is that you wrote that it made more since to learn casual speech prior to honorific. Wouldn’t it make more sense to err on the side of being too polite/formal rather than potentially appearing rude/ignorant?
Cool to see such a well-balanced review of a truly outrageously marketed product!
I especially enjoyed the bit about what $550 could get you using other methods of learning a language.
Also - nice job mentioning the fact that you can get these second hand or slightly dated versions, this is quite true and they are not hard to find.
What do you think of the Rosetta Stone Shared Talk website? Any experience with this?
I am going to be reviewing your website very soon on my own, keep up the great work, truly a gem of a site you have Donovan.
Great. Look forward to reading your review.
I’ve never tried RS Shared Talk no but I’ve heard some good reports about it.
There was a lot of information given in the review however none of it really answered the only question that I was interested to find out. I currently have the RS Latin Spanish installed on my computer so I don’t need a lot of talk about whether I should spend the money. After all, I already have and am working my way through the program. The ONLY thing that I wanted to find out is whether completing the series will enable me to speak Spanish? More specifically how fluent should I expect to be when I finish the series. Having read what seems like 5 pages of review never seemed to answer this most obvious question. What am I missing?
Jonathan, the simple answer to your question is no.
The reason I say this is that no single program or resource on its own is enough to make you a speaker of a language. I thought I made it pretty clear here that Rosetta Stone is good as a ‘supplement’ to other things - most importantly speaking with native speakers.
Let’s put the cost in a little better perspective. Start with the actual price tag. As of today, you can buy levels 1-5 of French, Italian, German, Spanish, etc., for $249 on the web site. And you will own it forever and can share it with whomever you want. You can also subscribe for one year for $200. Let’s round to $250.
Each level includes 4 units of 4 lessons each. Each lesson has about 2 hours of varied content, for about 160 hours of computer-based instruction and practice, or about $1.75 per hour. Of course, if you own it, you would repeat any lessons you want and if there are two people in your family, you cut the per-hour cost in half. But let’s stick with $250 per person and $1.75 per hour.
I agree that $250 is a lot of money in some contexts. For something that gives you pleasure for a short period of time, $250 is a lot. Or if you buy something and don’t fully get the most out of it, $250 is also a lot. Or if you give up on things easily, etc.
But if you are serious about learning a language, which is something that can deliver returns for a lifetime, then you would have a hard time getting more use out of $250 than 160 hours of computer instruction.
Yes, you can fly to a country that speaks your target language. But who in this country would teach you the difference between masculine and feminine words? The subjunctive? How to use the conditional or imperfect? If you don’t have a base, going to a target country is fun and you pick up things, but this is not a learning strategy. You can’t learn a language on vacation for a week; the best you can hope is to make some progress if you already have a good start.
Yes, you can get 15 hours (less than one-tenth the hourly content of Rosetta Stone) of in-person instruction. But how much better is a person going to be teaching you how to say “apple” or “red” or “twelve” or “I’m hungry” than a computer is? I would argue the live tutor would be worse because they don’t have the stock of images to illustrate all these basics. Even if the person is just as good, you get one-tenth the value; and if the person, somehow, is twice as good, you still only get one-fifth the value.
Many of the complaints people have are valid, especially that they don’t tell you things. But there is no rule inside Rosetta Stone prohibiting you from using a dictionary, looking something up on Google, or asking a native speaker. The woman who melodramatically drove across town illustrates the point: sometimes you have to go to certain lengths to figure something out, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I bet after all that effort and fussing, she won’t forget what she learned.
The thing to keep in mind is that this is one tool in your toolbox. It can and should be one of the most useful tools for a beginner, but (like a hammer) you still have to use it properly in order to derive any benefit. Using it properly means: studying the content, not just breezing through it; repeating what you don’t absorb the first time; being curious about the content and why things are true; and -- perish the thought -- going outside the program for an answer if you don’t immediately get it.
Other tools you can use concurrently or after you finish include reading children’s books, watching cartoons and movies, going on vacation to a target country, subscribing to other learning tools, getting private lessons, or -- if you’re really serious! -- just marrying someone who speaks your target language.
That was a perfect explanation and review, Jeff. I completely agree with you. Thank you!
I use the Duolingo app for French and think that combined with writing exercises and member community corrections on iTalki these are a good pairing. I really like the Coffee Break French free podcasts that I can listen to anytime and there are lots of idiomatic expressions that are taught(although perhaps a little old fashioned perhaps) in season 3 but a little too much spoken English. The only product that I have purchased is News in Slow French and it is relatively inexpensive and if you like news, it is also informative and the two broadcasters have good chemistry. Rosetta Stone is on sale today so that is what made me look for reviews. I like what you have suggested in terms of iTalki lessons with tutors and the 30 to 50 sessions would totally outweigh the benefit of the price of the Rosetta Stone package. I have decided to spend the money on iTalki tutoring after reading this! Thanks.
Great and correctly titled Balanced review of Rosetta Stone! I am pleased that someone actually appreciates that cultural relevance in the image content delivery by Rosetta Stone should not be the focus as some people like to stress. The currency is something that can be researched later on, but it is introduced in the content as well, so again not a drawback.
Now I strongly disagree with you in the area about learning first the informal, everyday (and in some languages even rude) way to address someone. The formal way to speak should be taught first since no one would be offended if they are spoken to this way. However, you may come into a world of trouble should you use the informal way to speak to an elder or political figure if you find them out and all you know is how to say “What’s up dude?!!” for example. To put things in perspective, it is always better to speak to someone using “Usted” in Spanish than “Tu” since a lot of people you interact with at any place if you have never met or been introduced to might completely dislike you, dismiss you, or in rare cases hit you should you address them using “Tu”.
When you are growing up, and someone’s parents have any inkling of decency and responsibility, they will teach a child to always use the word combinations May I and Please as in “May I have a banana please?” rather than encourage and let slip the oh so rude “Give me a banana”, “Pass me a banana” or “I want a banana”. Now do you use the expression “May I” that often and everyday? Probably not, but at least you will not come out as an uncaring rude individual if you always use it because that is the only way you know how to speak AND everyone will understand what you are communicating.
Also, the most effecient way as adults to learn a language is through classes offered by a native speaker, and frankly the cost of enrolling at colleges or institutions for 2 or 3 years of tuition comes out as far more expensive than Rosetta Stone to achieve the same level of fluency and understanding, and the electronic alternatives to Rosetta Stone are far more inferior in my opinion.
I completed Level 1 of Portugues in 1 month, and after visiting Brazil for the World Cup, I was able to engage in basic conversations with natives if they spoke to me slowly just out of this first level. I am continuing the next levels and am delighted with it. So yes, it works and I think it’s worth it to get you to be able to read and understand quick provided the alphabet is one you have used most of your life. For languages using a different alphabet, more time AND a solid strategy are very important in order to save into long term memory all the content, such as Russian which I am also learning.
I viewed the demo of the French version just to get an insight into how the system works. Once Rosetta Stone has your email (required), you will receive offers every day with an average price of $250.00 for Levels 1-5. When taking a look at the value of the program, prospective buyers would be advised to use this as a base price.
Thank you for a great review. I was given a Spanish edition of RS and could not use it. I gave up after 1 hour. I tried other learning material but nothing really worked but using Spanish tutoring books helped more. Because I at least have near perfect pronunciation for Spanish and Italian, it was more of an exercise in building vocabulary. Native speakers I meet have always told me that my Spanish pronunciation is perfect. Why don’t some of these courses work? Because many of us learn material in different ways and I found that not having a translation at the bottom of the Spanish material in RS ruined it for me. I have to see the words in the new language, hear it and see the translation. I then write the new language on paper as I use it. That combination works for me. I am also now in an environment where I work with 30 Spanish speaking people. I look up words and phrases on line. I am one that never shied away from trying to create a sentence the way I think it should be. I had 4+ years of Latin in high school and college. That helps. I read and write Spanish better than I speak because I can figure out the words in context in a sentence. I had lived in Spain for a year, 30 years ago and became fairly fluent but lost it when I did not use it. Immersion with native speakers is a great add on to using structured material. Being personally tutored by a native speaker that knows how to teach is great in addition to using structured material. I realized this year that I started thinking in Spanish with no mental translation. I would be in the warehouse speaking Spanish and the next English I heard, I automatically answered in Spanish. To make learning a language work for you, you must be determined and keep at it and try to have fun with it. Never be afraid to try it.
I think this is a really decent, thorough review. One counterpoint I would mention, though, is that in East Asian languages where there are levels of honorific language used, it is *generally* much more socially acceptable to speak to others in a higher-than-necessary honorific level than it is a lower one, which is probably why both Rosetta Stone and language classes start with the polite forms.
Thanks for all of your insight and research! Very useful information here.
Rosetta Stone is a swamp!! Had started with a purchase of a 4CD set two years ago. Am able to get back into it, now, and tried to access it on my Android. Silly me. When you call “customer service” they are of little help. Their “chat” is worthless. Found myself with their “created” e-mail address for me and a different password ...Yes it was as crazy as it sounds. I stopped the on-line service (at $10/month) , and then found that my laptop application - the CDs I had paid for in the beginning - didn’t work. So, yet another confused phone-call with someone who struggles with the English language. What was a very good company and product has gone downhill very quickly!!!!! I don’t get paid for fixing their broken service. Will go with a competitor...
Hi, Thanks for the review. It was one of the most indepth one I have read regarding Rosetta Stone. I am currently learning Korean, having started on and off about 2 weeks ago. To put it into perspective, I already speak 4 languages fluently, some French and very little Welsh and can understand some Spanish. I can pronounce some Korean having learnt it 2 Sundays ago when I was in bed for a day with a bad cold but have no idea what it says. ( I did it using a free phone apps). I borrowed a copy of Rosetta Stone about 2 days ago and am on lesson 2. I find it quite tedious and am getting quite sick of having to guess all the time. I had a week of Welsh lessons where I was the only non native speaker with zero knowledge and ended the week by being near the top of the class. The Welsh teacher thought that it was due to my already being able to speak a few languages. I do not think that there is any great secret to learning languages. I think there is some truth in that children learnt by guessing a lot of the time and that it pays not to question too much at first, just memorise what you are taught.
However, you do need to understand and remember what things mean which I find irritatingly missing in Rosetta Stone. You have to guess a lot of time which would be fine for a child but not for an adult. Thus far, I have not learnt anything useful after the first short lesson except that it has become tedious. I have already learnt most of the words taught thus far by watching Korean dramas with mandarin subtitles. I had to do it by guessing and so do not expect lessons to be further guesswork.
I have seen the French version which I thought was quite good. It might be that not all languages can be learnt this way or that it will be most helpful when you are already familiar with the language and is using it to brush up your knowledge.
I think that Rosetta Stone will be vastly improved by having at least a 5 minute lesson where the meanings of the words are explained at the end of every lesson, As it is, it is a hefty sum for learning a language which I feel could be put to better use. There is no substitute for putting time into studying a language and those who think that they can get away with that by spending this amount on RS will be sadly disappointed.
hi, folks anyone knows if the rosetta stone for learn english american is good, i’m doing the first lesson and the problem with voice recognition maybe you should try expand decibel levels for better recognition, thats all i want to say , i hope more people share their experience with this.
pd; sorry for write terrible LOL
I bought my R.S (Portuguese) in 2012 at the cost of £256. I didn’t download it until 6 months
ago and had no problems until 2 days ago when I was suddenly unable to access it. I telephoned the help-line and was informed that my version of the R.S was out of date and that I would not be able to use it unless I downloaded the up-dated version. They sent me a link to up-date my version but after 5 hours of following their very confusing instructions
and getting nowhere, I gave up. I am 62yrs old and a computer ‘newbe’ but I don’t understand how I can be refused access to a product I have bought because it has been
up-dated by the retailer.
Hello. I just finished all 5 levels of French and I can say I agree with most points of the review. I had good success with RS, but I do think it depends on your circumstances and learning style. In my case, I started about a month before being relocated to Lyon for a work assignment. The company covered the cost, so that wasn’t an issue. I also had studied Spanish in school and lived in Madrid for a semester of college. So I had a lot of the foundations of romance language grammar such that I could recognize it when it showed up in French. I also began living in France when I was early in the program, so it’s hard to say how much French I learned on RS and how much in real life. I have examples of seeing things on RS after I ran into them in the real-world and the other way around. I would also say that I am a visual learner, and matching what I’m reading and hearing to the pictures worked well for me. Finally, I also worked at it. I did lessons almost every day, did the live chat sessions as I qualified for them and spent some time with the games and such. LIke anything you’re learning you have to do the work.
On the point of other aides, on occasion I did refer to french.about.com to supplement the lessons: usually when I really needed verb conjugations or was confused on a topic.
I wish everyone all the best in their language learning efforts!
One point is clear; there is no magic bullet or shortcut to learning language. One must practice frequently for a long time and ideally start at a young age. Unfortunately, there is not enough second language instruction in place in elementary/primary schools. Some schools rely on video or software only thus shortchanging the children. The children instructed through video or software miss out on the natural interactions of interpersonal communication between real humans.
Use technology as a tool or supplement, but not as a replacement for the teacher.
I’m in Unit 2 of Level 1 of Rosetta Stone, Spanish (Latin America) and I purchased it on Amazon for $299.40, brand new. The set has all five levels. Having grown up in Texas, I’m familiar with Spanish already - pronunciation and some basic words and sentence structure. I’ve always been mystified at how to conjugate verbs (I eat, they are eating) - it makes perfect sense to me now.
What you say about the program forcing you to quickly and accurately speak a response is spot on. What I find most helpful and fun are the stories I can read using what I’ve learned. Much like a first grader discovers the joy of reading “See Dick. See Jane. Run, Jane, run” - it’s a thrill to read and comprehend something entirely in Spanish without even pictures to put it in context.
This was $299.40 very well invested. At night in my dreams, I am reviewing what I learned. I can only imagine how fluent I’ll be by level 5. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is a very, very good program.
”뭐 생각하세요?” sounds very stupid. If you are older than 5, you don’t talk like that.
They should develop the curricula separately according to the languages.
The correct expression is “무슨 생각하세요?” by the way.
I have been practicing French using rosetta stone ..and at first I thought hmm I wonder if this actually works? so I checked out the Spanish, and English courses..and I can honestly say they do a pretty great job. My native language is Spanish. When I came to the United States when I was 6yrs old I couldn’t understand anything most of the teachers, students, at school would say...I would just hear people speak and see...I would watch pokemon..about a year later I can honestly say I could speak English pretty good.. I could easily understand other people and with the little things I did know I learned more :) and well I think Rosetta Stone does just that..they don’t go telling you girl in french is fille boy in french is garçon with the c that has a little thing on the bottom NO you just learn it :D is amazing what the human mind can do.. I think the people that do not like this program are just ..kind of lazy and give up too fast. If you are a visual learner..Rosetta stone takes care of that..if you are an auditory learner..then it does so too..and what is even better is that you won’t pass until you pronounce it correctly :) so when you say it right after many times its engraved onto your memory...and if you have trouble with it you can put an option that says the word/phrase slowly..and well if you keep failing your mind will remember is not the right way to say it..and when you get it right ta-da (most classes or reading books can’t do that) most people I find nowadays however are just lazy and expect everything to just be handed to them..they expect with just some few classes they will be fluent -_- but as some people mention here it takes dedication and patience!:) I’m barely in level one in french and there is this part where the person just says something and they put me a picture...and I have to type what the person said :D and I actually knew without hesitation I would write..they passed me a horse and the person said un cheval...i typed it and I was right:) then it would go telling me Le garçon ne conduit pas. Not only did I understand what the person was saying but I could type it just by listening :D and the first week of trying the french course I could not say cafe right i would say it over and over until i finally got it right T_T i would struggle so much with that one word but now I can do it on the first try du cafe :) sorry for rambling on but if you are a person with dedication and really want to learn the language (whichever one u want) then I recommend Rosetta Stone...now if you are the type that just gives up on the first try, or get easily irritated right away...and can’t figure stuff out and needs someone else to solve issues for you..then yea Rosetta Stone is not for you...
Mireya: I completely agree with everything you said. I’m learning French in college (had French 101 & 102). I’ve learned the grammar, conjugations, direct & indirect object pronouns, etc. But, we don’t really do much “conversation” in the college classes. My husband bought the downloadable RS for French, with 5 levels and several units within each level. So, we can log on when we want to & spend as much time as we want. I am learning a lot with RS! It is great practice & I’m not self-conscious when I muddle a pronunciation with RS...as I am in class in front of other people. I’m moving on the Intermediate French in the fall at school but in the meantime, I’m getting the practice I need and enjoy with RS. I think the cost was between $200-250, but we own it. Also, we can add learners - I have my own sessions and my husband has his. I’m further ahead than he is because I started earlier. One of the best things is that both of us are getting the pronunciations and accents down. Thank you, Mireya!
Thanks for your review. I thought I would put my 2 cents into the ring. For the record, I am learning Swedish and have been using Rosetta Stone on and off for a few months. Sometimes I forget, other times I have mad sessions lasting 4+ hours.
I found RS great for an absolute beginner because it gave me simple sentences to guess and helped with building up my vocabulary from zero (we can debate the merit of learning ´the man is running´as first thing you learn in RS another time). It is fun, interactive and plays like a game. Of course not everyone learns the same way, but I think some people are too caught up on being perfectionists. Some people need to understand every single word in a sentence and can´t allow themselves to move on if they don´t. In this case RS is not suitable, since there will be a lot of times where you won´t really know what is going on but have trust that you will, soon. RS has its own schedule. I´ve read comments where some say RS doesn´t spoonfeed you because it doesn´t give you words and sentences in English, but in many ways, I think RS does baby you once you get past that point. You can fight it and think this program is crap, or accept it and get over the fact that you will be asked the same questions many, many times over, hidden in different units. I get impatient but then I realise, yes actually I REALLY know that word or phrase now.
What I found really hard is trying to decipher the grammar using pictures. It may well be, that eventually I would pick up the grammar but I RS does try to actively teach you grammar (as per pictures in review) but I simply didn´t find it an effective method. This was when I started flailing (prior to that, I was a super enthusiastic student). After starting Swedish classes where the bulk of the lesson is about grammar and syntax, I went back to RS and found that I finally understood, and could see in hindsight what it was TRYING to teach me, grammar-wise. Immersion techniques to teach grammar is definitely possible, I am not sold that RS´s method is the most time effective one.
Of course a software program no matter how advanced and expensive will ever replace the value of human interaction. But it is a good place to start and as the reviewer said, a good companion to your language learning. No one who ever learnt a language from a textbook can go to a country and expect to be fluent. Language is a living thing and there will always be a divide between ´Street Language´and textbook language. I want to be taught the correct way of saying something, not the slang. That can come later when I have mastered the basics.
In all, I would say RS is great for a beginner, great for building vocabulary (flash card style), practicing your listening but not great for grammar, reading or writing extended text.
Pretty fair review. As a former employee at Rosetta Stone I can safely say that the system is stagnant and just doesn’t work. The strongest aspect of the system was the ability to schedule studio time with a native speaker when you complete a unit, but last year they cut the studio time from an hour to 30 minutes, and you are only allowed to attend a handful of sessions a month. Their Reflex program, released in South Korea and Japan, focuses on teaching by rout and basically making the students memorize role play scenarios and not natural speech. The CEO has even stated that Rosetta Stone continually is non profitable despite their name brand recognition, and the fact that the system hasn’t updated in years is very telling.
I purchased Chinese (Mandarin) one year prior to my travel to China.
I found that this is/was a very difficult way to learn Mandarin.
This site is right on time regarding the difficulty and expense of Rosetta Stone.
Had I read this review prior to my purchase, I would have had $500 more to spend in China.
Hello! I’ve finished all levels of Rosetta Stone and posted a video of me speaking (or trying to speak) my new language.
I’ve used Rosetta Stone while taking Italian 101 (introductory level course in a college campus). It’s useful, but I see why some people may become “frustrated” when they believe everything should be spoon fed to them when learning a language. When you start from ground zero, you want to learn the very basics. And when people don’t hear a translated version of English first, they frequently forget and can’t match a “vague” picture to what they learn. So...I believe in order to succeed using RS you should be very alert and active while studying vocabulary and should also try having a basic Spanish, Italian or whatever language book handy in order to look up conjugations of present form, preterit form, etc etc if needed. Another thing that would help is if you have general basic knowledge of a language. Vocab knowledge would be a biggie!
I think Ethan’s comment is a good one -- in the end, the best language learning method is the one that you actually use. I took classroom Russian for four years in college and did NOT become fluent. The teachers were almost all American grad students who spent a huge amount of time speaking in English about Russian grammar. As a result, I know a lot of Russian grammar and not a lot of Russian. :) In my fourth year we had a “Russian” Russian teacher (an older guy) and he would come in and just start speaking to us in (what seemed to us like) rapid-fire Russian and nobody could understand him! I remember him yelling at us that it was disgraceful that we were in fourth year Russian and couldn’t understand what he was saying, but it was true! With Rosetta Stone, I automatically know when they’re sneaking in a grammatical point (“ah! Now they’re showing us that nouns being used as objects have to be converted to the accusative case”) which gives me an advantage,, but the fact is you can go out and buy the Penguin Russian language book and all the rules are right there and you could look them up as you went along. But it would be darn hard to sit with the Penguin book by yourself and learn to actually speak Russian!
Its almost comical to read all the focus on the cost of the program. Even the reviewer is guilty of this - “$550 could get you roughly 20 in-person, private lessons with a language instructor in your own area (approx. $25-30 an hour)”. What does this statement mean, I can learn the same amount of language skill from 20 hours of in-person as I would from owning and practicing with Rosetta Stone??? Since I don’t own RS I can’t verify, but my intuition has me doubting that. Once your 20 hours are over, they are over. Owning something gives you the option to go back and repeat, reference and share. Enough of the pricing banter, not everyone looking to learn a language is a $20/day backpacker.
Some good points in the post to consider before purchasing. Thanks for the time it took to put it together.
Very good review, thank you very much! I just wanted to add that right now the complete Rosetta Stone core course sells at 249 € here in Germany. The online subscription sells for 275 € a year. As for the online sessions, apart from the included live group sessions, you can also buy additional one-on-one sessions. If you purchase these in a bundle, they will charge you in the 10-15 € range. The online subscription also includes Rosetta World, which encompasses culturally relevant stories. I hope this is is helpful information.
I feel completely BETRAYED by this company. I saved up my measly minimum wage paychecks so I could try to learn Russian for someone I love very much. 500$ isn’t just chump change! The sales person said that was all I’d ever have to pay so very reluctantly I purchased it. So why are asking me for MORE money to access things I’ve ALREADY BOUGHT!?
This seems so sleazy and intentionally malicious and after putting such a high price on your product it seems completely unreasonable. I now view it as almost a personal goal or vendetta to make sure as many potential buyers of your product are aware of this as possible because there is no logical economic explanation for this greed after such a high initial product price.
Rosetta stone and affiliates, you have lost all of my respect.
You’re not explaining what exactly they wanted more money for?
Does anyone know how useful Rosetta Stone is if you’ve already studied the language?
I took 6 years of Spanish in high school and college, so the vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure are already familiar with me. I just need high level refreshers and conversation practice since I have forgotten a lot of it and will be traveling in South America.
Do you know if levels 4-5 are worthwhile for someone who already has a decent base in a language, but hasn’t really spoken it in 10+ years?
Foreigner in Japan
Yes. I’ve found it useful as a refresher for Japanese, especially if you’re living outside of Japan and don’t have anyone to practice with. It gives you the opportunity to reaffirm what you already know, and to practice speaking, etc.
At least in my experience.
I liked this review. I just spent a couple of intensive weeks trying RS French and thought I’d add to the review with my opinion of RS. Currently I looking for alternative French teaching tools.
Firstly, the price I paid was discounted, but still high. However, if it taught me French, then it’s worth every penny. In any case, when I indicated to RS that the software was not suitable for me, they quickly and efficiently returned the money as per their 30 day policy. I though the software was good at teaching reading/ writing and some basics of grammar. The part of determining the exact meaning of a word can almost be determined after a few pictures. In my case, being inpatient or if I had doubts, I looked it up on an online dictionary. I’m using it to learn, so I don’t mind using supplemental material. Overall the style and way RS reinforces words I think is good.
The reason I eventually returned it, was the pronunciation and to a lesser extent the speech recognition. The pronunciation is performed by native french speakers, pronounced very fast, with accents and the habit of missing or running words together. Two of the speakers were intelligible, the third barely Repeating the sentence as I heard it was a complete miss on the speech recognition software, but speaking as it was written was more successful, but not always. While this is probably good for understanding local speakers, I don’t believe its good for teaching beginners..bad habits can take a lot more effort to correct once engrained.After 2 weeks of heavy use, this frustration grew to the point of returning the software.
So, in my opinion its worth trying for yourself, if its a style that works for you great, if not, return it. I think many of the very negative reviews are written by people that think it (or other software) will magically teach them French. All of these tools will require lots of work, patience and probably some boredom. Regrettably, I am not one of those people that appear to be a natural at languages.
It is a very good review. However, the price issue is over emphasized. I bought at least 2 RS languages Version 3, and 2 of Version 4, all brand new 1-5 levels, and never paid more than $280-$300 depending on the language and current discount. The RS program is not ideal, but it is the best of all similar products.
Nice review! So hard to find any that aren’t motivated by money.
I agree with Ethan on a major factor that is: it is fun. It makes me want to come back day after day and learn more. Not to say RS doesn’t have its pitfalls, but it keeps me motivated to keep learning.
I tend to disagree as to whether informal or formal language should be taught first (Japanese/Korean). I learned formal Japanese first and, when I went to Japan and stayed with a family, I was told my Japanese was very “polite”. I quickly picked up casual speech from listening to the family but I would not have wanted to wander around on my own, speaking rudely to clerks and train personnel. I would rather be too polite than not polite enough. If I were teaching very young children (up through 6th grade), I would concentrate on casual speech but anyone above that age should be speaking at the average level of speech which is what you speak with people outside your ‘in-group’ in Japan.
Foreigner in Japan
I also think it is important to learn polite Japanese first because you’re not going to arrive in Japan and instantly be friends with someone to the degree that you can speak casually with them. Japanese people themselves do not do this--they speak politely to anyone they don’t know or don’t know well, and with people who are their superiors/out of respect. So if you, a foreigner, go to Japan and speak casual Japanese to everyone, they will think you are rude. Speaking casually, considering honne/tatemae, IS considered rude. Also, if you know the polite forms it makes learning the casual forms much quicker and easier.
Have you reviewed other online language learning systems - or just RS? What about Mango Languages?
Really liked this review, I felt like a lot of reviews online are unfairly against it and as someone who started Rosetta Stone Mandarin a month ago but had previous experience with the language (studied abroad in college for a semester and ended up taking 15 hours of Mandarin by graduation), I find a lot of the complaints laughable, particularly the “no explanation” complaints. As someone who has used Rocket French and Pimsleur Mandarin, I was SO relieved to not be hearing so much stinkin English banter the whole time. There have been a few times where a word seems unclear to me, and yes, if you wanted to you could probably get through the whole course without learning much (for example, not understand why you’re clicking a picture except you heard the word for “man” and there is only one picture with a man.) However, if you’re going to spend the money on Rosetta Stone (I bought all 5 levels of Totale Mandarin for 264 as part of their Christmas special), I would assume you would WANT to know what was actually being said and it wouldn’t take too much inquisitiveness on your own part to either use google or a chinese dictionary app to clear up any confusion. The Totale components are a bit gimmicky, particularly the online games because nobody is ever online available to compete against, but the live tutoring sessions are pretty useful in my opinion even though they are a bit too-structured (I’ve found that if I’m the only one in the session, the teacher will go off script pretty often which is nice). If nothing else, you are being forced to comprehend a native speaker and produce a response on your own. There is no substitute for that besides living in the country of the language you are learning. I’ve also felt a bit of a boost in motivation after finishing a session, regardless of how useful the session might have been. Not too be a Rosetta Stone ad, I do find some things rather annoying. For example, the order at which they decide to teach you some of the words or phrases doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes. This is definitely a program aimed at someone who is in it for the long haul and has a lot of time to devote to the language, not for someone wanting to quickly learn some useful phrases for a vacation (you may never get too them!). I also think the speech recognition is quite faulty, particularly on Chinese where tones are so important. All in all, Rosetta Stone is my favorite purchase so far (Rocket French, Pimsleur Mandarin) if nothing else because it is fun and makes me want to come back and keep “playing” if you will, because it does feel a bit like a game. And after all, if you aren’t motivated or sticking with it, it doesn’t matter how scientifically effective your program is.
To me rote memorization is the hardest learning, and the slowest. Avoiding teaching grammar makes things tedious. I guess if they give you enough sentences to memorize, eventually you MAY figure out that the pattern is “<subject> -nun <object> -o <verb>-ida”. Then again, if it is only vocal and not written input, you might not even figure out where words start and end and that -o and -nun were endings.
But if you first teach me the above structure (in 1 minute) then have me memorize 15 nouns and 10 verbs, I will know how to make thousands of sentences. And when I hear sentences, I’ll be looking for “nun, o, ida” which will help me separate out the other words, both ones I know and new ones.
Learning vocabulary require memorization, so is a great place for interactive repetitive games like selecting pictures to match. Just now I tried RE’s free demo of the learning process. I always got the answer right (I picked which student is drinking tea) but had no clue what part of each 13-syllable phrase I was picking was “tea”, “drink” so couldn’t memorize individual words, and had no interest in memorizing whole sentences that meant vaguely “child drinking tea” without knowing which words are what. But the intro claimed that after each lesson I’d be practicing the things I’d learned with live other folks online. Huh?
Hi folks and thank you Donovan for your unbiased assessment of the Rosetta Stone program.
My problem with RS is it’s games policy. After 3 months the games are deactivated and you have to pay for reactivation. The games enhance the learning experience and should be a permanent fixture to a very expensive program especially if one has paid full price for all 5 levels. I’ve sent in my concerns to RS a few times but have yet to receive a reply though it’s stated on website that someone would contact me within 72 hours.....it’s been weeks.....Wes.
Thanks Donovan. Your review came across as both unbiased and comprehensive. The few hours I spent looking into reviews for a quality language learning program for my wife & I brought me to a clearer sound decision--glad to see your dedication to your passion seems to write through you. Like mentioned, being that we have limited time (both in doctorate & medical programs) the Rosetta program seems to make sense w/ its convenient learning methods & its recent price drop as mentioned (below $300).
Paul G., PhD-class of 2018
I have tried my friend’s Rosetta Stone to review my French and Spanish. The Rosetta Stone language programs lack verb conjucations. Had I not studied French and Spanish before, I would not learn much with RS. There are pluses with Rosetta Stone, but I would NEVER spend that much money for any language program.
I found RS to be rather poor in learning Japanese. I actually got up to level 3 before moving to Japan but once I came here, I realized that it was almost completely useless. It definitely does not explain the differences in politeness as mentioned in the article. As I found out, most people do not speak in the way RS teaches you. Also, grammatical intricacies like habitual action versus non-habitual is not explained and is a very important part of Japanese. All in all, RS falls short in my opinion.
I think that’s similar to the problem I’m having now, which led me here.
I have four pictures of people drinking various things, but there is a strange modifier I’m supplying at the end of each of the drinks. There are two different sounds which sound very similar, but subtly different. There is absolutely no intuitive (based on an Latin grammatical background) distinction between how or by whom these drinks are being consumed that would necessitate... what seems to be of noun conjugation (weird enough in the first place). So irritating.
They should really produce each language package from the point of view of every language. Leaning Korean for native English speakers, for example. That exponential increase in work-load, along with justifying the price, would undoubtedly improve quality.
How can they claim to appeal to intuition when they’re completely ignoring their user’s perspective. Definite room for improvement there.
In your opinion, what will be the best way to learn Japanese,
Well I am one of those learners that has done really great with Rosetta Stone. I do know that learning a new language takes commitment of time and practice practice practice. The other thing learning a language takes is some responsibility to do some extra activities in conjunction with the primary program. I purchased a grammar book to hone in on the rules for example. I joined a chat program where I speak with native speakers at least once a week. I utilize all the perks of Rosetta Stone Totale, the group Studio lessons, the games, the reading exercises and private Studio sessions. I am 53 years old and I can carry on a decent conversation in Italian which is my new second language and only after using Rosetta Stone for one year. My speaking is considered an A2, which is pretty good having no prior experience in Italian. This is the one thing that I know. There are many types of learning styles and everyone has a unique style. If you are visual and enjoy figuring things out then Rosetta Stone is a great choice. If you are lazy and don’t want to commit to speaking, practicing, doing exercises then yeah, Rosetta Stone is not a good investment for you. For me, it is the best program and I have tried many.....
Rosetta Stone also offers sales and the program has become much more affordable, one of the last deals I saw was 200.00 off the regular price. I had levels 1-3 and picked up 1-5 with a total exchange/refund because it was in the 6 month window and got the whole enchilada for 299.00. I have taken several 8 week classes at private schools for only one level for 335.00.
I found the review open and considered. I am personally studying to teach ESL, and thought that the least I could do was attempt to learn a second language myself. Let me say that I chose Spanish, since it is prevalent in my area, and I found that those years of high school Latin I took so long ago helped make the program more relevant to me. The grammar and conjugations of the verbs started to fall into place, clearly displaying their reliance on Latin roots. Sometimes I have to think more than others to understand the meaning of the sentence or conversation, but that actually seems fair to me. I believe that there is probably a place for learning some vocabulary in addition to the program, to be able to get more out of the training in a shorter amount of time, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that this form of immersion is very like going to a country without learning the language, and trying to pick up the key vocabulary based on need. My only criticism of Rosetta Stone is that there is not way to prioritize the vocabulary that YOU feel is important. I consider that a mild aggravation, not a condemnation of the program.
As for the cost, I took the first year for a modest $120 through a local university online, which got me through all of level one, and about half of the way through level two. Not too bad. I am now looking at a seller of software that would be very similar to the university offering, but without the time limit, all for about $100. At that price, I can play around with it for quite a while and get my money’s worth. I am hoping to get good enough to be able to converse with the students I tutor, sharing the difficulties of learning a second language and creating a rapport - it is no easier for me than for them. I just have the advantage of not being totally dependent on learning the second language to function in every day life.
Thanks for a very interesting article - you are right in your analysis of the strengths of RS and, as a languages teacher, I agree with your recommendation to use a variety of resources.
Personally, I use Skype with native speaker friends, originally contacted through the excellent old LiveMocha.
I’d be very interested to read your comments on the “new” LiveMocha which is encountering widespread hostility from LM users because of its limited options, design, instability, quality of lessons and pay-to-learn model. There appears to be an exodus from the site.
I think your balanced approach is just what’s needed on this new product. I’d be interested in discussing some of the features which caused me to leave after 3 great, productive years.
I learned German the old fashioned way, immersion in Germany, with a state sponsored class, 5 days a week, 9-2pm everyday. For 2.5 years I worked my way up becoming almost fluent at TELC B2-C1 level.
The foundation of my course was GRAMMAR. Drills EVERYDAY. As an adult learner, you are fighting your mother tongue - the intuitive understanding of grammar, we saw and heard this day after day in our class. Learning about the process and how our brain translates provides a very valuable insight into how a fluent mother-tongue speaker absorbs a new language. I cannot understand how you can pick up a foreign language without the cornerstone of grammar. Understanding the fundamentals, (UNLESS you are a small child say 2?) is essential, and this is where I see this product failing to fill an important gap, you see images, but you are never shown anything at all about the nuts and bolts of grammatical underpinnings. Therefore I have a mixed opinion about Rosetta Stone’s methodology.
Thank you very much for this review Donovan!
I was curious about the Rosetta Stone process but wouldn’t dare to buy it mainly because of the price. I have heard that they use images and speech recognition system to correct the learner pronunciation, - just like a little child would learn their first language. So, I thought the focus was on the spoken language only leaving the reading and writing part out of the learning process. But based on the images you posted I can see now that reading and writing are also part of their method.
I’ve been using RS Russian for about 3 months now. One thing is that I’ve tried several times in the past to learn a language (Spanish/German) and failed miserably. So far, I’ve done better w/ the RS process than going through traditional classes although it is still tough. Most of the time I can figure out what the pictures mean and have mostly have had good luck w/ the language recognition. Bicycle and one of the speakers’ accents being the only two negatives on that. I also like the shorter, step by step sections.
My biggest issue is w/ Grammar. I’ve had to use numerous outside sources to figure it out. The cost I balanced out by going in on it w/ a friend since the license offers multiple users.
I wanted to reach out to you from Rosetta Stone. We appreciate the enthusiasm about our product. The current price for TOTALe Version 4 currently ranges from $179-$499, depending on which level set you are interested in. We also have a free traveler app, offered in several languages, which we’d like you to try, review, and incorporate into your post. This mobile app includes the option to include translation if you would like. We appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you. Listening to bloggers and customers is important to us. If you’re interested in reaching out to me, I can be contacted directly at email@example.com.
I am going to be getting German for my 17 yr old grandson. I am far from rich and I will probably call to see what there is to offer. Thanks for the reply
He said - I cannot understand when it is word or sentence, just all kinds of shch, sch, czch, ...
After month - I can diferenciate words. I do not understand things at all but suddenly I hear language
After two months - I can sometimes understand the topic “what is going on” and probably meaning of some words.
Than with little practice on alphabet and pronounciation i told him to keep going + I joined him with Czech lady practicing English the same way (once a week). At the beginning thay barely understood each other :).
After a year - the guy was reading / understadning everyting necessary for daily life. He could nicely order meal in restaurant answering confirmation questions etc. All with near to perfect gramary - some folks will know that Czech gram is very tough to learn
After two years he speaks very good - and this is the point when I would recommend him to go and learn how to write by looking a bit to grammar. Not vice versa like many other classes, softwares, books, etc.
And this is what I think RS is aiming at. Just let it flow into your head and it will come.
I will probably belong to the group of those who like the RS style. I enjoy the fact that without learning grammar you somehow start understand what and how to use it. Like my 2 years old son who is now correctly using past, conditional and future without knowing the “math” behind. When my american friend started learning Czech I told him - “ forgot books and grammar”. Just start watching TV whith repetitive content (news, forecast, stupig tivoli games, things for kids, etc.)
Thanks for your very detailed review :)
Great review Donovan. I’ve tried Rosetta Stone myself and wrote a review on it myself and I found that there were definitely advantages and disadvantages to the Rosetta Stone system. Unfortunately the lack of choice (in chosing relevant content) and reading made me move to other systems.
I did however like the voice recognition technology and they are doing a lot of new things like introducing 1-on-1 conversation practice and the ability to study on a mobile device. It’ll be great to see how Rosetta Stone progresses given all the new competition out there - maybe a drop in prices?
Thanks for a nice review, it is always refreshing to read something other than an obvious marketing attack :-).
I have only tried their demo and disliked the no explanation approach. I am the kind of learner who benefits from a good explanation much more than from trying to reinvent the wheel. Of course I use lots of examples and input but the explanation is the core. I am learning my fourth foreign language now so I don’t need (or want) to be handhold for that long before things finally start to make sense.
So from my point of view, RS is just an overpriced SRS with audio. Sure, getting a list of sentences with audio is a great thing, especially when learning a smaller language with few resources. But for much lower price. And that endangered language program for the same prices, that is just part of their marketing and perhaps an attempt to give the US governement more reasons to pay.
Have you noticed that RS spends six times more money on marketing than development every year? There is certainly a lot of space either for catching the bugs or for lowering the price.
Another thing I find disturbing is the lack of information on what to expect from the course on the official website:
1.They don’t use the CEFR scale to describe their levels even though they are clearly interested in the european market as well. Every serious course published in the EU after a certain year does have a note with the desired end level on its cover. And many courses published elsewhere and sold here have it too. The RS doesn’t.
2.The content description is too vague. I’d expect to be told much more about a product I am asked to pay over 500 dollars for.
3.No true success stories. None of those excited people in the promotional video is shown speaking the language. And they are very vague when describing their results.
I’m glad I found your review on Rosetta. I have heard so many commercials for it and wondered if it’s all it’s portrayed to be. Your suggestions of using it as a supplemental resource and getting it second-hand rather than buying it new are good ones.
Adalberto da Silva
Nice article. I say The best time/age to learn a langues Is Now! The 2 most important things: To start and To keep going. Any method is good. No method is near enough. I agrre with you on using different alternatives. Live in that language. You can live in different languages. Rosetta Stone exagerates its importance, is all. All them do. But usually for a lot less $,€,£,etc. $€££. The best. Beto (who lives in 4 languages (+ un pò d’italiano) und möchte deutsch lernen. Tchau.
It’s interesting to hear how Rosetta Stone is being used to revitalize endangered languages, I’m curious to see how this works out... I have tried Rosetta Stone (for Japanese) but I think it suffers from many of its problems you mentioned for Korean as well. Just not my thing I’m afraid, and the fact that it costs so much is another reason to deter people from using it. I also know that they recently lost their contract with the U.S. government, perhaps because of a lack of good results? Anyways, great (and balanced) review, it’s nice to get a clear analysis of a somewhat controversial program like this so thanks for taking the time to review it in such detail.
It is my understanding that the contract was lost with the US Government (at least in terms of the DoD) is based upon the fact that they just stopped paying the bill (I never found out why).
So far the best Rosetta Stone review I’ve seen.
I recently used Rosetta Stone to dabble with Japanese before I felt like I was spreading myself too thin and decided to just focus on Mandarin. I think it is outrageously expensive but yet what most reviews fail to mention is that the core product is essentially quite good. It gives you several similar sentences save for one bit of different vocabulary and also allows you to listen to the sentences ad nauseum with the click of a button. Essentially it is just allowing you to drill yourself on the fundamental building blocks of the language. If you know how to do that. I found that in order to really get the language to sink in I would have to read the example sentences and click the listen button a lot more than I think most people are doing. I did find the lack of explanation annoying sometimes but if its important its quite easy just to google it. After all you are already sitting at a computer.
So yeah, not worth the money but still a good product.
I find myself doing that as well, however I took the complete opposite viewpoint, that of it being a bad habit. I find myself actively trying not to get hung up on any one point and just keep moving, whether I understand it completely or not.
The whole strength of the program is supposedly its natural immersion, simulating a more authentic, or organic, learning process than standard rote method.
A relevant lesson I remember from my high-school music teacher, which I’ve found valuable in many areas, was never to stop playing a song you’re practicing when you miss a note, just move on. If you stop and repeat the section over and over until you get it right, you end up with a fragmented, lopsided understanding and experience of the song as a whole, as well as a mental block of anxiety for that specific space.
So, the whole benefit to having this more organic system is the fact that it does allow you to keep going, whether you necessarily understand it completely or not. The idea being that with many concepts overlapping, if you miss something here, it should get filled in over there. The important thing isn’t so much building concrete steps to walk up one at a time, but rather to slowly and unevenly shake off a thick layer of dust covering the final picture of familiarity.
If you’re going to be stopping at every sentence to repeat it a million times until you feel you have 100% retention, you’re using a broom stick to hammer in a nail. Why not just use a different (cheaper also, jesus) system based in rote. Or heck, get a Korean (or whatever) dictionary for thirty cents.
It just seems to be going against the grain here. If we do have to resort to using rote anyways, then where is this products value compared against its many competitors which focus on rote methods.
The way I like to put it is this:
If you’ve got a lot of money and very little time to spend trying to find out what works for you (researching, trying different things, etc.) then Rosetta Stone might be a good choice for you. Otherwise, no.
It’s good for people who are really busy and who can easily afford it, that’s about it. That’s a very specific, relatively small, niche.
Good review, good work.