Review of Rosetta Stone
This review of Rosetta Stone is based on my evaluation of Rosetta Stone Spanish V3 Levels 1-3, along with Rosetta Stone Japanese Level 1 and Dutch Level 2.
When it comes to language learning software, two things impress me - lots of content and a personal approach. Content because the software medium provides an opportunity for a massive amount of it - audio, video, text, interactivity etc. A personal approach because that is difficult to achieve with educational software. Rosetta Stone has neither of these two qualities. Consequently, it just doesn't impress me. The short of it - not nearly enough content for the price. I prefer as an alternative. Continue reading for more on why I feel this way about Rosetta Stone and how it compares to other language methods.
Overview of Rosetta Stone
This is just a basic rundown of how it works and what features it has. I have made some comparisons to Version 2 of the software, as well.
My Review of Rosetta Stone and Why I Can't Recommend it.
This is only my opinion, of course (everybody has one), so if you don't want to hear it then please don't read it.
Alternatives to Rosetta Stone
Here are a few other language learning software products that I think are better options for most people.
Visitor Rosetta Stone Reviews
Everybody seems to have an opinion of Rosetta Stone, whether they love it or hate it!
Write Your Own Review
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Overview of Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is now the 800 pound gorilla of language learning software and a marvel of marketing success. Their ads are all over the internet, magazines and TV. It's a household brand name and is probably the biggest selling language product. But does Rosetta Stone really work?
How Does Rosetta Stone Work?
Rosetta Stone claims to teach you a language the way you learned as a child. The way it does this is by immersing you completely in the target language - there is no translation. Words and concepts are presented to you in a series of pictures with the associated audio and with the text, all at the same time. You learn by trial and error.
In the activities, you will hear the sound of a word and see the text and you must select which picture is associated with that word or phrase. You may already have a clue as to which one it is or not. If you get it right, you move on. If not, you try again until you get it. These mistakes are actually essential to the learning process in Rosetta Stone.
In time, words become phrases, then full sentences. Ideas and concepts begin to replace simple objects and actions. New vocabulary and structures are integrated into what you have already learned. Through pattern recognition, more and more of the language is understandable. Slowly, but surely, you develop a foundation in your new language.
Features of Rosetta Stone Software
Rosetta Stone includes many of the same features common to other language learning software products - native-speaker audio, text, a voice recognition feature to aid in learning proper pronunciation etc. There are some activities like filling in incomplete sentences and some limited role-playing.
The software teaches the main four skills of language learning - speaking, listening, reading and writing. There are a number of basic exercises that focus on a combination of skills such as reading and writing over listening and speaking or vice versa, or focus on just one of the skills.
You can choose which units and exercises you want to study, or you can just let the software take you on its guided tour through the whole course. It's really pretty flexible. This means the student can focus more on weak points to improve them, and you can work at your own pace.
They've included a spaced repetition algorithm called Adaptive Recall. This is just a fancy name for spacing out repetitions of new material in order to optimize the memorization process. It's similar to processes used by other language products such as BYKI, Anki and Pimsleurs Graduated Interval Recall.
They also offer a Rosetta Stone online subscription. Rather than buy the software, you can have a monthly subscription and access the software from any internet-capable computer. It is a more flexible option that might appeal to some.
The best way to know for sure if Rosetta Stone is right for you is to try their online demo. Try it for yourself so you can see if it fits your learning style.
Improvements Over Version 2
They have spent most of their efforts improving the interface and graphics. It is better-looking and smoother. Instead of staring at four picture panels for activity after activity, they have varied the number of panels from three to eight. Also, there is often some movement as panels slide out of the way in order to make some room for text bubbles. It works well and makes it easier to look at. The Milestone is an interactive slideshow and provides a little bit more variation.
A new feature added since Version 2 is the Audio Companion. This is audio material you can use away from the computer. It presents the same material you have been studying in a slightly different way and does help to bring it all together.
They have improved some of the amibiguity in what was being asked and also increased the variety of the picture sets, in some cases to be more culture-specific. They have changed the content a little bit to include more conversational elements like greetings and introductions. Overall, it is an improvement over Rosetta Stone Version 2 but read the next section for why it's just not enough.
Several years ago, when language learning software was just beginning to become popular, Rosetta Stone was very exciting. It showed great promise. There were other publishers of software around also, but this one seemed like it might make a real breakthrough. Finally it seemed like all the benefits of books and audio, combined with pictures, video and interactivity you can't get any other way (short of a live tutor) was going to be married with a systematic learning method.
But, while computer capacity and capability has increased, multi-media capabilities have improved dramatically, and the internet has innovated some outstanding possibilities, Rosetta Stone has essentially remained the same. I think they have completely failed to take the software to the next level. This recent version represented a huge opportunity and they missed it. Instead of spending their efforts on their product or their service, they spent it on marketing and making more money. Hopefully they will put some of those profits into improving the next version of Rosetta Stone to where it should be.
No language learning method is perfect. And no language learning product can cover every aspect of learning a particular language. Each publisher necessarily chooses where to focus its efforts and which aspects of learning to let go. Rosetta Stone language software is no exception.
This is all just my opinion, of course, and it may work great for you. I encourage everyone to try their demo and find out for themselves how they feel about it. But, for the following reasons I just can't recommend it when there are better software options out there.
No Translations at All
I know this is supposed to be an 'immersion' experience, but a lot of people have complained about the lack of an English translation. This is a deal-breaker for many people. Would it be so difficult to just have a little button on the side to provide the translation for people who wanted it? It would make so many people happy.
No English Instructions
Numerous users have pointed out the amibiguity with some of the activities. Because there is no instruction or directions at all, it can be unclear as to what they are being asked which can lead to frustration. Many people would like to have that. Version 3 has addressed that to some extent (indicating that Rosetta Stone is aware that this is a problem), but it persists. Again, how about a global setting that could turn instructions off or on for people who want it?
Lack of Content
This is the real crux of the problem for me. There is just not enough vocabulary or structures that are useful. By the end of Level 1, the only conversation you could have would consist of "Hello, good afternoon, it's nice to meet you, my name is..., goodbye" and that's about it. And even this small amount wasn't even in Version 2, it's new in this edition. There's just not enough content to use in real life, especially after 25 hours of 'immersion' in Rosetta Stone.
Ok, so let's say that that isn't the focus of the program. The focus is to get a foundation in the language. I can accept that. But I can't really practice it with people which is kind of the point of language. The early content consists of 'the car is red' and 'the boy is running' kinds of things. But this is what you are looking at for activity after activity, it seems, and it feels like it continues on through Level 2 and 3. One of the very first things I see in Level 3 is 'the man is jumping off the ladder.' There were other structures in Level 3 (like past tense and other more complicated concepts) but none of it represents the flow of conversation between two people.
So, after 50+ hours of studying with Rosetta Stone, (through Level 1 and 2, that's nearly two months of studying an hour a day) you still can't really participate in a conversation? Yes, and it seems to just continue on that way. For comparison, the first few chapters of any Living Language or Teach Yourself coursebook (that you could buy for less than $20) would have those conversational elements plus a lot more. Competing software products like Tell Me More, Transparent Language and Fluenz all have extensive conversational elements, as well as additional content.
Rosetta Stone has no grammar reference. So if you want to clarify a grammar point or look something up, you can't. Many people don't want to learn grammar, but some do. What is wrong with having it there for people who do want it?
There is also no dictionary. If you want to look up a word to see what it means, you can't. For comparison, My Tell Me More French has over 9000 words in its glossary, German has about 12000. Rosetta Stone doesn't have a glossary, but in the wordlist at the end of its Contents pdf, there are less than 2000 words combined for levels 1-3. But many of those words are just variations (like hermano, hermanos, hermana, hermanas) so the number of actual different words is considerably less. And it doesn't have the meanings - it's only to refer you to which lessons the word appears in.
Learn Like a Child?
Learn a foreign language like you learned your native language as a child. Great idea. Except, I'm not a child. I'm an adult. Any language acquisition professional will tell you that children and adults learn differently. Adults will always use their native language as a reference point while learning another language, consciously or unconsciously. Adults use a lifetime of reasoning, logic, associations and memory to help acquire a new language.
I'd be overjoyed to be able to speak a foreign language with the skill and proficiency of a seven-year old. Sure, they make mistakes, but they can (and do!) talk about anything all day long. But remember, it took them seven years to get to that point. An adult (learning like an adult) can do it in six months. Would you rather learn like a child or an adult? This 'learn like a child' thing is a marketing ploy.
Fastest Way to Learn a Language?
This is another of Rosetta Stone's marketing slogans. Personally, I think the program moves way too slowly and doesn't cover nearly as much ground as other programs or methods. Maybe it's just because the program doesn't have much variation and doesn't hold my interest that it just seems slow. Let's call it a clash of learning styles. Fine. Apparently, a lot of people share my opinion due to all the similar comments and visitor reviews you can read below.
Invariably, someone else will reply with a comment like "oh, you just have to give the program time to work." Really? Is it fast or not? Granted - "Rosetta Stone - You Have to Give it Some Time to Work" is not quite as impressive a slogan, and it certainly wouldn't sell as well.
I generally like to look at the product as completely separate from the company behind it, but there are some things we need to take into account here.
Starting from before the time Version 3 came out, I began to receive a lot of negative comments and criticisms of Rosetta Stone's customer service and policies. It became a little disturbing to hear horror stories, one after another, of bad customer service - problems with ordering, returning products, ordering the demo, lack of assistance with installation or replacing defective products etc (read many of them below). Every company is capable of making mistakes, but this was beyond what I have seen before.
At the same time, Rosetta Stone was pulling their software from public libraries, enacting a draconian 'licensing' policy, and using some underhanded, nasty or even fraudulent marketing tactics. My own experience with the company was horrendous.
While this doesn't neccessarily have anything to do with the product itself, it does give me pause. If we can't have confidence in the company, our confidence in the product will deteriorate.
In the visitor reviews below, you can read many comments from Rosetta Stone supporters who often recommend other products to learn from to supplement the software. In fact, some of those products include - a dictionary, a grammar book, one of those 501 Verbs books, an audio course, a textbook course etc.
I always recommend to people to learn from several sources. However, for what you are paying for Rosetta Stone, you shouldn't need to buy other products in order for it to be comprehensive. It should be a nearly complete solution by itself. If even its supporters recommend to buy other products to fill in the holes then what does that say about the program?
Just my opinion - I think Rosetta Stone is way overpriced for what it offers.
Alternatives to Rosetta Stone
So, since I can't recommend Rosetta Stone software, is there any other language learning software that I can recommend? Absolutely. Here are three perfectly viable alternatives from reputable companies. I heartily encourage you to do some research, check out demos, read reviews etc. so that you can get a language learning program that you are comfortable with.
Tell Me More has the vast content that Rosetta Stone doesn't have. Here's a comparison - Rosetta Stone equates to about 25 hours spent per level. For the full 5 Level program then, you spend about 125 hours with the program. Tell Me More offers approximately 2000 hours with the full 10 Level program. Tell Me More dwarfs Rosetta Stone on content, interactivity and value for roughly the same price.Tell Me More focuses on dialogues and everyday conversation, the kind of vocabulary and structures that are useful to everyone, everyday. There are extensive activities, videos, all with English translation if you want it, grammar etc. I could go on and on. Tell Me More has moved language learning software on to the next level and is my first choice alternative to Rosetta Stone. Read my review of Tell Me More.
What Fluenz does that really gives a personal feel is teach you with video lessons from a real tutor. Grammar concepts are taught to you in English and there are lots of follow-up activities to begin using what you've learned. The content can't match what Tell Me More has, but the subject matter is relevant and useful, especially for beginners and much more so than Rosetta Stone. Take a look at their demos to see if maybe their approach is what you are looking for.
Summary of Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software
It looks satisfying and gives you a pat on the back, but there just isn't a whole lot of substance. Whether you are a motivated language learner or a casual learner, there are better options.
If you want to learn another language and you've heard about Rosetta Stone or seen it on tv, do your due diligence before you plunk down the money for it. Do some research, try some demos, read reviews, find out what other language programs and methods there are out there first. Figure out what your learning goals are, what your learning style may be and what your expectations are. Rosetta Stone may not be the solution for you.
Rosetta Stone language learning software is available for the following languages for Levels 1 - 5 : Chinese (Mandarin), English (American), French, German, Italian, Spanish (Latin American), Spanish (Castilian)
Rosetta Stone language learning software is available for the following languages for Levels 1 - 3 only : Arabic, Dutch, English (British), Farsi, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Swedish, Tagalog, Turkish, Vietnamese
Rosetta Stone language learning software is available for the following languages for Level 1 only and has not yet been updated to Version 3 : Danish, Indonesian, Pashto, Swahili, Thai, Welsh
Write Your Rosetta Stone Review!
If you have ever used Rosetta Stone language learning software, tell us about your experience! Please try to include the language you studied, the levels and version of the software.
What Other Visitors Have Said About Rosetta Stone
Click below to see Rosetta Stone reviews from other visitors to this page...
After 6 months I question how good it is.
Product activation nightmare
How to enhance the Rosetta Stone Experience!
Why would you throw away $500 software?!
No Support- DO NOT BUY Rosetta Stone
Not disappointed BUT Rosetta stone has weaknesses
Just a terrible company, whether you learn or not.
Buyer beware - you will not own your software!
Rosetta stone - a good supplement
Korean Level 1
Rosetta Stone Rip-Off
Rosetta in Greek
Never buy this product
An Easy and Fun way to learn Spanish
A Medley of Rosetta Stone Rants
learn language through real life experience not a $500 program
So Far Not So Good
no results from Rosetta Stone
Still checking it out
from a language learn, 2 thumbs up
Using it for my 3rd Language
Rosetta Stone French
Rosetta Stone is overrated...
Answers to the criticisms of Rosetta Stone
Be aware if you need to access from more than one computer.
Rosetta Stone is Over Rated
Good software, Bad company
Rosetta Stone: Good and Bad
Used by NASA?
Did Rosetta Stone version 3 NOT correct the flaws in version 2 ?
Rosetta Stone Is Terrible
¿Como se dice "Buyer's Remorse"?
Rosetta Stone: a disappointing experience!
I worry that this is teaching way too slow.
For the $25 I paid, Rosetta Stone is worth it
Not worth the money, but good for beginners....
Tried it and not worth it
The Real World
RS is a great foundation
Rosetta Stone- Arabic
Not what it's cracked up to be
Worst piece of software ever!
Rosetta's Dynamic Immersion Lost On Certain Languages!!
Beware of Rosetta Stone Scams
Rosetta Stone works well. But whatever software you choose, have a friend to speak with!
Rosetta Stone and a native speaker
Various Rosetta Stone Comments
Rosetta Stone Spanish
So far so Good
Too many bugs and questionable service
Demo Bait and Switch
Rosetta Stone V3 Russian
French Levels 1, 2 and 3 (Completely useless)
Learning arabic with rosetta stone
Rosetta Stone Greek Level 1
Good learning experience
Rosetta Stone Japanese - A good tool
Rosetta Stone (Mandarin) no good
Horrible company, but great product
Not particularly pleased with product.
Better Than Traditional Classroom Instruction
No Easy Way to Learn a Language
I want to learn what each word means
Rosetta Stone Japanese
Perhaps unreasonable expectations?
Great program but has its flaws
student of language
Customer Service is Terrible.
BEWARE - you return it or sell it
a weak overhyped product
Learner. Completed Levels 1 and 2
Marketing Genusis Software Idiots
RS isn't all that bad
A good start, but no substitute for a brain, a teacher, and live communication.
Works for me...Spanish (LA V3).. online
From a different perspective
Questionable At Best
A Waste of Money - Made for Children only
Korean Rosetta Stone
So Far this best but still falls short
Happy with Rosetta Stone, but it could be better.
Not Really Working For Me
Why I am no longer considering buying this.
Korean Level 1
Living in Japan using Rosetta stone
Very disappointed so far in Version 3
An honest, detailed review