Rosetta Stone is undoubtedly one of the most famous language-learning programs. However, is it any good? The answer is an emphatic yes, especially if you are new to a language and want to develop a strong base of vocabulary and grammar. It is well structured, clear, and moves at a deliberate pace. Use Rosetta Stone faithfully for a few months and you will learn to speak, read, write, and understand basic words and phrases. Rosetta Stone is the best full-featured language-learning software, and it is our Editors’ Choice for paid programs.
When learning a language at your own pace with software, it is important to have realistic expectations. While Rosetta Stone will help you build a solid foundation, it will not make you fluent. When you feel like you have maxed out on learning with Rosetta Stone, you might need to push yourself into situations where you are actively using the language instead of reacting to an app. The best way to do that is through conversations with friends or personal tutors. No app or software is proficient in that area yet, though Rosetta Stone does offer tutoring for an extra fee.
What Languages Does Rosetta Stone Teach?
Excluding American and British English, Rosetta Stone has programs for 23 languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Persian (Farsi), Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (Latin American and European), Swedish, Tagalog (Filipino), Turkish, and Vietnamese. Not all languages are available on all platforms. Rosetta Stone no longer offers Indonesian, Dari, Pashto, Swahili, or Urdu in its consumer-grade learning programs.
Previously, when you bought Rosetta Stone, you had to choose one language per purchase. Now, when you buy a one-year, two-year, or lifetime subscription, you get all the languages in the catalog. That is a much better deal.
If you need a language that is not on that list, there are other apps you can try. Duolingo covers more than 30 languages. Some languages that you can get from Duolingo that are not covered by Rosetta Stone are Czech, Danish, Esperanto, Indonesian, Irish, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Navajo, Norwegian, Romanian, Scottish Gaelic, Swahili, Ukranian, and Welsch.
If you still cannot find the language you need, try Simon & Schuster Pimsleur Premium (aka Pimsleur), which has 50 languages. While Pimsleur is one of my personal favorite programs for its content, the catch is it is almost entirely audio-based. If you do not mind learning through listening, give it a whirl.
Rosetta Stone Pricing and Plans
Rosetta Stone’s pricing is on the high end compared with other language-learning programs, although you can usually get a discount. It has subscriptions for three months ($35.97), one year ($170), two years ($249), and a lifetime ($299). The available discounts will have you paying closer to $120 per year, $170 for two years, and $199 for a lifetime. Keep in mind, a one-year or longer subscription now includes access to all the language programs.
A subscription includes all the lessons via web browser and mobile apps for Android and iOS. You can download lessons to the mobile apps to do them offline, too.
Although you used to have a choice of buying Rosetta Stone on CD-ROM or as a digital download, you can only buy it as an online subscription now. Sometimes you can find older physical CD-ROM sets through second-hand sales and online retailers, however.
You also have the option to add online tutoring to your course. A 25-minute group session costs $14 or $19 for two lessons, and private sessions costs $19 or $29 for two lessons. These sessions take place in a webinar-style format with a live instructor.
How Does Rosetta Stone Teach?
We have used Rosetta Stone both personally at home and to test it and write about it for greatofreview. We have tried the programs for Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Turkish, Russian, and even English, just to get a sense of what it contained.
A new angle in Rosetta Stone is that you can choose which type of vocabulary you want to build. The options are Travel, Work, Family, and Basic and Beyond, the last one covering everyday items and activities, colors, sizes, as well as formal and informal situations.
What is the experience like? You learn by doing exercises in the app that often start with deductive reasoning. For example, you might hear the word for cat two or three times, while looking at a picture of a cat; then you hear a new word and see pictures of both a cat and a dog. You can infer that the new word means dog. You click the dog image, and Rosetta Stone plays a harp trill that indicates you got right. If you find that sound irritating, you can disable it. You get this same deductive reasoning no matter which language you study.
There is a lot of drill-and-kill teaching. Once a new word comes into your vocabulary, get ready to engage with it. You hear it, say it, write it, and choose it from a list of options in multiple-choice questions. Drill-and-kill teaching can be effective at making new material stick in the brain, though it feels tedious at times.
If you have ever tried Rosetta Stone for any language, you are in for a familiar experience. It uses the same images—the same goldfish, the same green bicycle, the same bowl of rice—whether you are learning French, Chinese, or any other language. The homepage and lesson landing pages were redesigned within the last few years, however, to look nearly identical across devices.
Rosetta Stone is consistent, predictable, stable, and reliable. Because each program is nearly identical no matter which language you are learning, you do lose out on some cultural context. For example, as universal as the words rice, bread, and milk may seem, there may be languages and cultures where cabbage, potato, and sour cream come in handy more often. Rosetta Stone has addressed this to some extent with additional materials. For example, in the French course, there are Extended Learning resources that cover, among other topics, the bridges of Paris. The Latin American Spanish course has new On Demand videos, too. One series explores language that is specific to Latin American cafe culture. These videos are not available in every language as of now, but its great material and I hope to see more of it.
Despite the fact that some language learning should be specific to a country, region, or culture, we appreciate that Rosetta Stone incorporates inclusivity in its images. In learning the words for man, woman, hello, goodbye, and so forth, you see pictures of people from all corners of the globe.
Rosetta Stone’s Design and Interface
Rosetta Stone’s interface is polished and graceful. Setting up microphones and running sound checks is consistently simple and successful, with or without an external microphone.
The program is extremely intuitive with almost no written instructions. You can work through the lessons in order or jump ahead if they are too easy. From a dashboard, you can see which lessons you have yet to complete, which ones you have finished, and your score for each one.
Landing pages give you more flexibility in choosing how you want to work through the material. Each lesson contains a Core Lesson, followed by additional modules, such as Pronunciation, Speaking, Reading, Listening, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Review. Because of the layout, it is easy to choose the exercises you want to do. For example, you might want to save pronunciation exercises for when you are home alone and focus on listening when you can pop in some earbuds.
Moving from the web app to the mobile apps, and vice versa, your progress is always saved and synced. No matter where you are, it is easy and downright enjoyable to dive in. A sense of play surrounds the interactive experience without being juvenile.
Immerse Yourself in a New Language
Rosetta Stone prides itself on its immersive approach, meaning there is no instruction in your native language. The only English (or your native language) you encounter is in the help menus, settings, and title screens.
When you begin, you see pictures and either see or hear (or both) words that are associated with that picture. After being exposed to them several times, you then must speak or write the word. For spoken answers, a voice-recognition system decides whether you have said it correctly. You can disable this feature or adjust it to require greater or less accuracy. As you progress, you eventually have to write the word. The same words and images pop up repeatedly. With each lesson, your vocabulary builds, so single words turn into short phrases and statements.
Repetition is necessary to some degree with any learning process. With Rosetta Stone, however, it is heavy and comes without cultural context. If you find yourself reeling from repetition fatigue, we recommend trying some games and activities instead. They are found in the Extended Learning section. We especially like the Read activity, where you read or listen to short stories that are at your skill level.
There is more to say about Rosetta Stone’s learning approach: At first, you learn simple nouns and verbs using deductive logic, and later, it gets more complicated when you have to find out new verb forms and plurals (“he ran,” “she ran,” “they run”), but it is never difficult.
This method has some challenges, though. Because you do not get any instruction in your native language, it is impossible to know whether the German Erwachsene means “people” or “adults.” Is Guten Tag formal or informal, or does it not matter? Rosetta Stone does not tell you.
Rosetta Stone is incredibly useful when you need to learn vocabulary, gender, plurals, and some verb conjugations, but it is not as helpful when it comes to complex grammar, nuance, or cultural context. It has improved in several areas, however, such as by giving learners the opportunity to move directly into content that is most relevant to them, including the focused topics mentioned previously: Travel, Work, Family, and Basic and Beyond. You can also look for specific topics in the more advanced lessons. For example, there are lessons on language for describing emergency situations, business and industry, and dining and vacation.
The software does not have a placement test, at least not for the consumer version of Rosetta Stone. There are placement tests for the business editions. If you have previously studied a language, it is hard to know where to start, although you can choose between beginner, intermediate, and advanced. In addition, you have the freedom to jump around to different lessons and try them out until you feel appropriately challenged. It is completely the opposite of Duolingo. That app does not let you skip ahead unless you have finished all the previous lessons or tested out of them. That said, Duolingo does have an initial placement test so you can start at the right point.
Rosetta Stone Tutoring and Live Streaming
In addition to the core lessons and bonus content, Rosetta Stone has optional tutoring sessions and a new live streaming feature, which is in beta as of this writing.
The tutoring session let, you practice your language skills with a real live human instructor. These classes take place via one-way video conferences and can be solo or with a small group. You see the instructor, who shares their screen, but no one can see you. Your audio is on so that you can respond when the instructor asks you questions.
To sign up for a tutoring session, you must reach a milestone in your program. Each tutoring session lines up with a lesson, and what you practice in the class is nearly identical to what you learned so far in the lessons. Classes are plentiful. It is not hard to find an open slot, no matter your time zone.
Group classes contain just a handful of students, four at most. Private tutoring is one-on-one. The instructor only speaks in the foreign language and sticks to a script, which can feel restrictive. If you do not understand something or your audio cuts out shortly, they cannot tell from your facial expressions what is happening. A chat box lets you communicate with the instructor if you are having problems. You can also mute your mic and mark yourself as away if you urgently need to step away from the class.
The instructor shows an image and asks you a question about it, and you have to respond. Again, it is almost identical to what you do in the app, only now, you are talking to a real person.
The lessons are a great value-add because there is a huge difference between speaking a foreign language to a computer versus listening and responding to another person.
If lessons seem too intimidating, another option is to join a live streaming class. I had a chance to join one of the classes, which are still in beta. The class is a live video of an instructor speaking in both your native language and the language you are learning. The participants watch in real time and can join a text chat area. The instructor engages with the learners, asking them to type answers to questions. The session lasts about 40 minutes.
Rosetta Stone’s tutoring and live streaming are excellent resources that you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere for the same price. Still, they are no substitute for being in a live classroom. Keep your expectations clear, however, and you can definitely reap some benefits.
Games and Bonus Content
A section with bonus content and games offers more ways to study and learn. You can play some of the games solo while others pair you up with another learner or a native speaker. Whether you will find anyone online at the same time as you is a crapshoot.
The games are a little lackluster, but they utilize a good number of skills. In one game, for example, you have to speak short sentences. Another one has you listen to a story and click on any words you hear that appear on a bingo card.
The reading section. It is full of short stories designed to be within your reach. You can listen to them, read them silently, read them out loud, or any combination of those options.
If you also enjoy the reading content, you might be interested in another language-learning app called Beelinguapp. It has a variety of texts for different skill levels and on different topics in 13 languages.
Build a Foundation with Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is a wonderful, polished, and technically competent language-learning program. It is our top pick for paid language-learning software, and we recommend it in particular for beginners who need to build a foundation of vocabulary and grammar. As with all apps and services, if true fluency is your goal, you will probably want to also consider other types of instruction, such as local classes or tutoring, but Rosetta Stone can definitely help you build a solid foundation.
If you have prior experience with a language, it can take some trial and error to figure out where to start with Rosetta Stone, although so much of the additional content is ideal for more experienced learners. We recommend making sure you explore those additional sections.
If you do not need (or want to pay for) a course quite as heavy-duty as Rosetta Stone, Duolingo is our Editors’ Choice for free language-learning apps.
Excellent user experience
Polished interface on desktop and mobile
Optional online tutoring sessions
Great bonus content
No placement test
Repetitive at times