Rosetta Stone Review

Course Overview

  • Uses the total immersion approach
  • Digital Download (Subscription)
  • Available languages: more than 30 languages

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Editor Rating5th Place

3 1/2 stars

User Ratings

2.3
2.3 rating
2.3 out of 5 stars (based on 36 reviews)
Excellent14%
Very good14%
Average5%
Poor25%
Terrible42%

 

Review

Rosetta Stone courses are some of the most talked about within the field and it’s really not hard to see why. Many other language courses have tried to emulate the innovative methods that they use, and have failed. The practical fact of the matter is that Rosetta Stone programs are in their own league, using what they call the “total immersion” approach. Unlike other courses and programs that attempt to re-create this with a sea of indistinguishable phrases and confusing layouts, this program relies primarily on using the connections that your brain makes between pictures and words to its advantage.

Content

As you might expect, the Rosetta Stone packages come with a lot of additional extras. Well, for that price, they’d better! As well as the accompanying audio CDs, there is also a USB headset with a microphone. The best language courses use vocal recognition software, so to have the package come complete with a headset is really just very useful. The headset itself comes with a fancy array of settings, so you can set the sound and reception to however you speak.

Similarly good, the vocal recognition is not bad, and picks up on subtle mistakes that other pieces of software might have missed. Still, again considering the cost, one would really expect absolutely flawless equipment and software, and while everything is very intuitive and easy to use, certain parts of the vocal recognition software just aren’t as precise as they might be.
There are three Levels to each language taught by Rosetta Stone, and each Level contains four lessons. Within these lessons there are several units. The layout of the course is so tightly structured that it really helps you to keep on task with what could be the difficult job of trying to learn a language without a real teacher. And yet, despite the layout being so strict, because of the style of teaching there really is a strong interconnectedness to the whole method of learning.

Usability

Because Rosetta Stone really is geared up to utilize the way we learn as children, it is no surprise that this is a very effective study aid for those who are younger. A bit of an expensive study aid, perhaps, but if you want your child to become fluent in more than one language, then this is certainly the program to choose. However, as an adult, it is much more difficult to say whether this program will be of any use to you or not.


There is the argument that Rosetta Stone programs are just glorified flashcards, and to an extent that is absolutely true. That is not to say that it doesn’t work, however. You look at the pictures and through your logical. It certainly is hard to jump into, but has the added bonus of the fact that the more lessons you do, the more you feel you are picking up and not just in an informational sense, but in the sense of really beginning to understand how the language works. However, if you are one of those people who needs to know the science behind something, then this isn’t the course for you. Written words are avoided at all costs, with Rosetta Stone programs relying on a series of games, flashcards and exercises that all follow the same theme: match up the picture with the spoken words. Grammar is not given any importance whatsoever, beyond you figuring it out for yourself. You are supposed to be able to learn to associate what you say with what is in front of you, linking the image in your mind with the correct pronunciation of the object.
This has some obvious drawbacks, such as it not always being clear what the pictures are trying to show. You can be looking at a picture of a red ball for ages, and not realize that what you’re supposed to be focusing on are the children, or the kind of game that they’re playing. A simple solution to this is to have a dictionary with you while you are learning, so you can run through the possible answers, but for the amount you’re paying for this course, it’s the sort of thing you really shouldn’t have to do. There are no explanations for the pictures themselves, and no external information that helps you to understand any of the potentially more complex grammar aspects of learning a language.
Still, overall, the pace of the lessons is excellent, with a lot of re-capping previous points and making sure that you understand the right lessons that have been taught. It’s pretty focused on vocabulary as well, and you can really start to feel that having an effect on the way that you think about the language, even if you won’t be able to form complex sentences yourself by the end of the course. It certainly isn’t the kind of course that you pick up for a few weeks before you go on holiday; it is definitely the kind of program that you buy if you want to really immerse yourself in a language, and plan on using it in the long term.

Cost

And here is the major flaw with Rosetta Stone. Yes, you can find countless positive (and negative) testimonies for this program, but the fact of the matter is that this is probably going to be a way of studying that you simply haven’t encountered before. It is not particularly familiar, and it certainly isn’t something that you can just dive right into.

You need to shift around the way that that you think about language in order to even get the concept of the way this course is presented into your head, and as such, it may be a colossal waste of money. It is the most expensive at-home course that one can purchase for this kind of language learning, and costs hundreds of dollars, even with sale prices.
While it is absolutely worth it if you are the sort of person for whom this kind of learning can work, I definitely advise trying it out before you buy. Their website sometimes offers trial periods to use the software, or perhaps you know a friend who has purchased from them. Either way, by hook or by crook, you should trial run the software first, because if it turns out that you have difficulty in receiving information in this way, then there still isn’t an alternative in the programming. You learn it with pictures or you can’t learn at all. Amazon often knock a couple of hundred off this course, and you can get a very reasonable discount if you buy second hand. The good thing about a love it/hate it course is that there are plenty of high quality second hand packages to buy, because some people really don’t get on with it and just want to sell it on.
An additional point to make about cost is that you can buy the levels of tuition together or separately. It’s a very good idea to figure out how far you want to take the language before you buy, perhaps with a much cheaper course to start with, because you could end up paying up to $350.00 extra for all three levels of the course if you buy them separately. You don’t want to start learning after paying for all three levels, then realize you don’t want to learn this language, and likewise, you don’t want to end up paying for Level One and wish you’d opted for the full package. For the cost, I really feel it should be working for the majority of cases, which considering other feedback, I’m not sure it does.

Summary

Make no mistake; if Rosetta Stone works for you, it’s going to work absolutely fantastically. The problem lies in the fact that this sort of learning just doesn’t appeal to everyone, and not everyone can use this method of learning to their advantage. It relies solely on the way that we learn language as children, so it’s not hard to see that the obvious drawback to the program as a whole is that most of the people purchasing this are not going to be children.
The way we learn as children is completely different to the way we learn as adults, and for most of us, that’s simply because we cannot process information in the same open-minded absorbent way that we do as children. We have already learned a language, and to most of us it will make no sense to start from the beginning without putting some of the already learned skill of a first language like English to better use by using it to help us learn a second.
This is why I would not necessarily recommend this package to everyone; it is so very specific in design that if you even feel a little like this is not going to work for you, then it probably won’t. And it’s a heck of a lot of money to spend on seeing whether it’s for you or not. Still, if you can get your head around the concept of learning in this manner, then Rosetta Stone courses will be fantastic for you.

Pro & Contra

very playful no explanations on grammar – you have to guess
good to learn vocabularymostly good to learn vocabulary
can be used at the age of 6at the end you won’t be able to build complex sentences
easy to usemeaning of a picture is  not always clear
 voice recognition isn’t precise

Screenshots

 

User Reviews

2.0 rating
June 21

customer service was awful,course material was ok .System crash and bugs what a waste of money

David
4.0 rating
June 15

I bought this without any farfetched belief that it would be the be-all and end-all to my learning Greek. That was the right attitude.
The positives:
It’s interactive and thus “fun” (not fun in the sense of a game, but it keeps you clicking and trying to get it right). If I were to try and slog through a book or sit through a lecture, it would be a chore. Plus of course, I can do it any time I want.
I can hear native speakers speaking the language, and it makes me say it back. I can’t even be lazy and think I won’t bother this round because they throw it into like every level. On at least some parts, you can go into a separate speech area where the person says it slowly so you can really work on it.
They never explain the alphabet because the point is to get it as you go along, and that does sort of work.
In short, there are many positives to this over a big book or a class, especially when you work and so on or when you feel like practicing at 2 am.
The negatives:
The speech recognition isn’t that great. It’s particularly bad on voiceless consonants. It often registers correct when I get all but one word (an important one!) wrong in a sentence and then won’t accept a single instance of my saying “ree” or something, over and over. The syllable parts are more delicate. It hardly ever hears me say the Greek “to.” (However, it’s better than trying to fudge it by reading pronunciations written in a book.)
I know the point is to not explain grammar because you’re supposed to pick it up, but honestly, how do you depict “the” versus “a”? Answer, you don’t. I’ve had to look that stuff up. I totally misinterpreted “not.” And my brain overran the software, seeing “nei” as no instead of yes and then getting very confused.
It tries to get across concepts with other concepts, like “the girl is walking” or whatever, but when you pick the right answer, you base it on the presence of “girl” in the sentence and then find you’ve never learned the rest. A few things are never reviewed as well as they could be. We get “girl” and “boy” like crazy, but some stuff gets glossed over. In the same way, it could test you better, in the same fashion, by presenting different versions with the right words but only one correct verb form, rather than your choosing the right answer from the noun.
Anyway, it’s tempting to think you can “play” through it, as I’ve tried to, but I’ve gone back and done level 1 stuff about 50 times and will continue to do so until it’s embedded in my brain.
All in all, it has its uses, but it’s not a perfect solution. I’d see it more as a useful tool along with books or websites to help explain the parts that throw you off.

Ann
1.0 rating
March 2

It is completely useless. I have been using several systems to learn french, started with Pimsleur and it was OK as it gives you some confidence and you manage to get some skills (only spoken though) going.
So I tried RS because Pimsleur was only about speaking and listening and I found out that is a repetitive sequence of images, words and short sentences that you will never use in normal life (and that you will actually work out once you learn the language properly), every level had plenty of sections what made it long just doing the same again and again and in the end nothing I could use.
Now I am using Speed Learning Languages, I highly recommend it because it scraps all the fancy stuff and gets to the point without being as boring and slow as school and classical methods.

Jose
5.0 rating
February 25

Some favored the RS and some did not like it. I totally did not bought the product because on how it appears and basically I got it to help me study another language. I love the simple method of this product and I am able to chitchat now in Spanish.

Eric Wilson
1.0 rating
February 4

I have purchased not once, but twice over the years to try to begin learning German. Both times it has been an abject failure!!! I purchased level 1 prior to attending a German language school in Berlin in April 2012. I did learn some vocab-
ulary, but Rosetta Stone doesn’t teach grammar at all, which is a huge oversight, in my opinion! They strongly believe that using pictures and matching them with words or short sentences, is going to enhance one’s ability to learn the target language. It doesn’t. I have been using Fluenz which is far superior in that it takes the time to explain German grammar in English in a very thoughtful, precise way. Please people, do not waste your money on Rosetta Stone!

William Stewart
4.0 rating
January 16

I’m the person who went through two or three boring Spanish classes, bought books on learning Spanish. spent money trying out various CDs, borrowed CDs that were already in heavy demand at the library, and so on. So you can imagine just how frustrated I was by the time I decided to buy RS on the glowing recommendations from people I knew who knew people who used it. I was even told that the U.S. military uses it.
Well, I bought the latest version of it, and I’ve got to say that it helps to have a little familiarity with the language already to get the most out of it. I’m only at Unit 2, Level Three right now, and I feel that I have a better grasp of Spanish than my previous attempts. However, I went through it too fast, since I’m an introvert and have a hard time practicing this new language with native speakers and other strangers online through the course. (I really like the solitaire games, though.)
Why else did I take this course? Well another reason is that I’d like to speak the language with the people who live around me. If I travel to another country, great, but right now I’m concentrating on the immediate future rather than something long-term. I anticipate more Spanish-speakers to be moving up from Latin America (and also getting to know the Native North Americans who also speak Spanish), so unlike others, I welcome the chance to relate to them on their own terms.
Right now, I don’t care about the mechanics of how the language works. If I can understand the other person (and vice versa), it works for me! And it has so far. I’ll get to the boring “how it works” part later. I get bored easily. 🙂

Onyx Rose
1.0 rating
December 23

Rosetta Stone is some bs alright. First of all, I was required to do every single lesson because its for school. I did the chinese part of the course and if you haven’t learned any chinese before without knowing anything, then it would be awful. First thing wrong with it: It takes FOREVER to load every screen so it takes about 5 mins to get every lesson done IF you know what you’re doing. Second thing wrong with it: The speaking. Don’t even try with the speaking. You can literally play music and it would accept it as the right answer, but if you say every single syllable and letter correct, you hear the little failure sound and you have to restart the whole lesson. It’s funny sometimes how it accepts the dumbest things but won’t accept the speaking. Its an overall 0/5 but I can’t put that here so yeah don’t do it whatever you do.

Fernando Sahmkow
1.0 rating
December 10

I studied German in local private institutes and for some time in a school in Berlin. Went on and bought this when it was on sale, so:
Pros
+ very intuitive interface
+ well structured course and development line
+ flashcard style works great for me personally
+ adaptive recalls I find very nice
+ with some preparation, can work flawlessly under Ubuntu and Linux Mint
Cons
– full of bugs
– speech recognition can drive you crazy, my friend is German to the bone and RS claimed she`s not pronouncing correctly some stuff…
– headset is total crap
– has issues with Windows 7 microphone on notebooks. I have dual distro and managed to start it with Wine and winetricks, worked better under Linux ( tested on Mint and Ubuntu ) than under Windows
– no grammar at all so practically useless if you don` go to courses somewhere else
– pictures often are unclear
– what is pronounced sometimes differs of what is written ( like it says”Sie kocht eine Suppe” but shows “Sie macht…” instead )
– the milestone is basically so badly done that you need to do it in front of the Delphi oracle to guess what you have to say
– writing is too low in content and thanks god because it is incredibly annoying if you have no german keyboard
– very expensive for what it offers
To summarize: Great idea implemented incredibly badly. If you add price – its a complete rip off.

Fulcrum

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