Rosetta Stone is a giant in the language learning industry, with practically anyone who has ever tried to learn a new language having heard of it. The company’s been around since 1992 and has well over 1,000 employees and revenue somewhere in the ~$250 million per year range. But is Rosetta Stone actually effective? To find out, I put out this simple query:
For people who have used Rosetta Stone to learn a language, what did you think of it and would you recommend it to others? All comments welcome.
This article is a compilation of all the best comments I got back. To summarize, here’s how Rosetta Stone stacks up: while several people have said good things about Rosetta Stone and benefited from it, there is a significant amount of criticism for it as well, and it seems that for many people there would be better resources to use. Rosetta Stone is quite simple (just a “fancy flash card sort of setup” according to this comment), there is “no human being to explain why certain things are the way they are” (see this comment), it can be unclear what pictures shown are supposed to mean, their speech recognition feature is “highly ineffective” (see this comment) and “it’s almost laughable how inaccurate some of the phrases they teach are” (see this comment). That’s a lot of negative feedback in only 9 comments submitted so far!
With that said, though, Rosetta Stone still offers value to some people (e.g. see this comment), mainly those who are learning a language as a hobby (it may not be suitable if you’re learning for professional or academic reasons) and don’t want to be too stressed out. You may enjoy it and feel it’s worth the money if that’s you. But even still, you’ll almost certainly need additional resources and practice with real humans to ever reach anything close to fluency in your target language. That’s when you’ll want to try something like Italki.
If you’ve tried Rosetta Stone yourself and have something you’d like to add to this article, please make a contribution here. I’d definitely like to get more comments on it.
I started using Rosetta Stone 2 months ago. I had seen an advertisement, and seen that they were offering the unlimited membership for €299. This means I get full access to all their language courses for an unlimited amount of time i.e. forever.
It seemed like a great deal, and I was in need of taking up a hobby during lockdown.
Dutch was my chosen language, as I was told it is one of the easier languages to learn for English speakers (lol).
After 2 months, here are some of the reasons why I would recommend RS:
- You only use, read and hear the new language. Pictures are what is used to explain the new words, along with plenty of repetition so that you will understand the words meaning. This is really helpful as then you become immersed in the language with no distractions.
- It encourages you to think on the spot, trying to produce the language under a time pressure makes it very good practice for the real world.
- You speak a lot of the language, it helps you especially with the correct pronunciation, the software listens and makes you repeat it if you make a mistake.
- They have a playback feature for when you can record yourself reading a paragraph and listen to how you sound. Really eye opening and pretty cool to listen back to yourself speaking a new language!
- It is expensive
- You need to use other language learning apps and other methods to ensure progress in learning any language. RS alone won't make you fluent, but it is a fun and engaging way to start learning your new language.
RS is super fun and immersive, with lots of speaking practice. It is pricey but if you are serious about learning a new language, or you simply want a fun new hobby, I think it is definitely worth it!
--Niamh Jordan, Kind Beauty Buys
I own a Rosetta Stone CD course, and it is currently sitting in my closet. I'm already fluent, but my husband wanted to learn. Unfortunately, it was ineffective for a few reasons: it's mainly a fancy flash card sort of set up. Simply showing pictures of things and teaching vocabulary. It was also too pricey to warrant such a simple, and ultimately a no lasting results option for learning. My short experience with them even as a subscription service was pretty much the same.
--Jennifer Raper, ABC Spanish Now
I have used Rosetta Stone extensively for two different languages. I am a former Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher who now stays home with my two young boys and have a blog for parents raising Spanish-bilingual kids called Small World Spanish (https://smallworldspanish.com).
My first experience with Rosetta Stone was when I was teaching elementary school English as a Second Language. The school district I worked for had a Rosetta Stone license where we had unlimited access to any language on Rosetta Stone. I took advantage of that and started learning Hindi, which is one of my husband's native languages.
My second experience with Rosetta Stone was just prior to moving to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I purchased an individual license in order to learn French, the official language of Quebec.
I was much more successful learning French with Rosetta Stone than Hindi, and there a couple of reasons why I think that is.
First of all, my motivation to learn French was much stronger than my motivation to learn Hindi. I was learning French because of a move, and I knew I would have to learn it in order to get a job or make friends in Montreal. I started learning Hindi more out of curiosity and because it was made available to us, not out of necessity.
Secondly, my individual French license included live video lessons with a native French speaker and other students who were on the same lesson. Those live lessons, where I had to answer questions in a foreign language on the spot, were incredibly beneficial. I remember one specific instance when, even though I had been repeatedly exposed to the word throughout the prior lessons, I forgot the French word for to buy during my live lesson. I completely froze and mumbled something about not remembering the word. As embarrassing as that was, I never forgot the word acheter again. Our school district license was only for individual study, and did not include access to the live video chat.
I would highly recommend Rosetta Stone for students who are highly motivated, consistent, and can access native speakers to practice their listening and speaking in a live video chat. The one frustration I had with it was the program not recognizing what word I was saying into the microphone during the speaking lessons, and having to repeat the same word over and over until it finally recognized it. However, that may have been more a problem with my accent than with the software itself.
--Rachel Kamath, Small World Spanish
I’m a full time dialect coach, so I use rosetta stone to help understand the sounds my foreign clients might have trouble making.
So far I’ve used Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, and Latin American spanish..
I would say the pros of Rosetta Stone would be that since it incorporates sight, sound, writing and speaking, at least 4 senses are engaged, which helps learning from scratch.
The biggest downside to Rosetta Stone, however besides cost of the box set, would be that there is no human being to explain why certain things are the way they are. Furthermore, now that I’ve studied multiple languages, i can now tell you that each language in Rosetta Stone has the same format to build on: Hello, boy, girl, bread, milk, man, woman, etc.
--Jordan Yanco, jordanyanco.com
In short, Rosetta Stone is an amazing language learning resource but only if you fall under their target market persay. There's many different kinds of people that want to learn English for different reasons. Two prominent examples are academic learning and conversational learning. Academic learning would be learning a foreign language to be able to study in another country's academic institutions. For that, Rosetta Stone isn't a good resource and other language learning resources would be recommended. Conversely, for people learning another language for fun or to be conversational and don't mind paying small amounts are perfect for Rosetta Stone. This is because learning using Rosetta Stone isn't particularly stressful and is perfect for situations where not knowing the language perfectly is going to be punishing. Additionally, while it's an amazing language learning resource, it does require a subscription and is therefore not the best resource for those who want to learn for free and alternatives like DuoLingo could get the job done as well.
--Edward Chang, LingoThyme
To make a long story short, I do not recommend their software for learning a language. I have used their product twice. The first time I used their product was around 17 years ago (computer software). My first impressions were good, as I liked the interface and interactivity of the program.
However, there were two major issues that I faced:
1. Rosetta Stone's method of total immersion can be very confusing at times. When you are just learning simple things like vocabulary words, their program works well, as there is little room for interpretation (i.e. a picture of an apple and the corresponding word for apple is easy to understand). However, when you start to learn more complex material like full sentences, there are times where you can't be 100% sure what the picture shown means. For example (not an actual image from their program), if you are shown a picture of three people with different facial expressions, and the one of them is holding an ice cream cone, there could be a few ways to describe this scenario. It is There are three men talking? Or maybe, The man in the middle is holding an ice cream cone? A textbook that shows you the same image with a written explanation is much more efficient for learning in my opinion.
2. Their Speech Recognition feature is highly ineffective. While this feature sounds cool, it actually doesn't work...at all. I tried their cloud based software a few years ago to see if anything changed from when I used it previously. Nothing did. They added new features like playing games with other users (which is also useless, since I could never even find other users online to play with), but very little else. I tested their Speech Recognition software by first saying a sentence correctly, and then just humming or mumbling the words, but keeping the correction intonation. I could get them all to register as correct answers. I wrote a in-depth review of this where I even got an answer to register correctly with the sound of me washing my hands. In addition, I also had native speakers use the Speech Recognition, and they couldn't get a correct answer a lot of the time.
If their software was at a cheaper price point, I would recommend it to people who just want a fun app to do on their iPads or smartphones. But if you're serious about learning a language, there are much, much better options out there.
--Dallen Nakamura, The True Japan
For many years, I was interested in taking a look at Rosetta Stone. However, I felt that the price was very prohibitive. As I understand it, Rosetta Stone was adapted from a program teaching foreign languages to high school students at home, but this may just be an urban myth. Fast forward about a decade later, and I see the prices for Rosetta Stone are far more reasonable.
I'm currently working on my Italian. I decided to give it a try several months ago when they offered a special for their Total E-course. I work on my languages in five-week intervals. It began with my summers when I wasn't teaching to improve my language skills for my life abroad as a teacher of multiple languages. With technology, it's evolved to be a year-round thing that easily fits into my daily life.
There were several things I found really interesting about Rosetta Stone. If you have little experience or knowledge in languages, with these now-reasonable prices, I would recommend this. The lessons are about half an hour. You learn through input, which is research-based. Basically, you learn by understanding with grammar patterns that are repeated over and over again in context. This is how you learned your first language. There's definitely some merit here.
30 minutes is also very reasonable. As a beginner, more than that can feel mentally exhausting, so the lessons are a really good length. It also presents a lot of information in the order we learn our first language. You first hear, then speak. You read, and then you write. That is well thought out as well.
For my next language, I probably won't spend much time exploring Rosetta Stone since I have my own bag of tricks. More importantly, it doesn't fit into my life. I have to do a lot of my language learning in my car and my commute because it's simply the only time I have. With that said, if I were in a situation that easily allowed me to set aside about a half an hour a day to sit in front of a computer to study a language, I would definitely consider Rosetta Stone to get started.
Rosetta Stone also offers some speaking practice, allowing students to pay to be part of group lessons. I would forego this and go on italki where you can buy lesson packages and schedule them for whenever and wherever you want.
--Janina Klimas, reallifelanguage.com
The main advantage of Rosetta Stone is the native learning approach, where the application aims to simulate the learning process of a child learning its native language, paying special attention to speaking. As far as I know, no other app has come as close to simulating this process as Rosetta Stone has. I have also discovered that this approach makes learning faster - respondent have found it helpful that the app partially eliminates the urge to translate everything inside one's mind, instead focusing on connecting ideas to foreign words directly.
The main disadvantage is the fact that the demo (free) version of Rosetta Stone does not fully convey its advantages. Users in our research have noted that they have been unsure whether buying the full version is worth it. Nevertheless, most of those who bought it were satisfied.
--Artjoms Kuricins, Tilti Multilingual
I used Rosetta Stone for Hindi and found it to be lacking. My guess is that Rosetta Stone developed a cookie-cutter approach that worked very well for the romance languages. However, it's almost laughable how inaccurate some of the phrases they teach are--they are simply archaic, and nobody uses them in regular conversation or writing. If Rosetta Stone's Hindi course were an English course, it would teach you to say, Dost thou..?
That said, it's certainly better than nothing. It can give you a basis of understanding from which to learn more. It's worth going through in order to gain that foundation, but don't expect to speak fluent Hindi by the time you're done.
--Nicholas Tippins, Beyond PhD Coaching
RELATED: For great advice on learning a foreign language, I recommend checking out our community discussion on that here:
Also, have a look at the reviews of other services for language learning that we’ve published here (see our Preply review and Babbel review). Duolingo (mentioned in a comment above) and Mondly (see our Mondly review) are the closest services to Rosetta Stone.