This article is a review of Rosetta Stone, an online resource for learning languages.
In this review, I'll take you inside the paid members area and then give you my honest assessment of the quality of the product, so you can decide whether it’s right for you.
If you’re thinking about how to learn a new language, you’ve probably noticed that there are tonnes of interesting resources to choose from.
When there's so much choice, what do you choose?
As you search, one option that you'll see crop up again and again online is Rosetta Stone.
But is it any good? I decided to buy lifetime access and give it a try. This review is all about what I found out.
In case you don’t have the time to read the whole Rosetta Stone review, I’ll summarise it here by saying that it's a well-organised, motivating resource, especially for beginners and lower levels.
But you won't find everything you need to learn a new language. And you it might not suit you if you're a first time language learner who needs help via translation and explanations.
For frustrated language learners who are stuck at the beginner level, I recommend the Uncovered Courses, available in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. These courses teach you to actually speak your chosen language using a unique method called StoryLearning which you'll hear more about shortly.
But first, let's get into this Rosette Stone review.
Overall Impressions Of Rosetta Stone
- Clean, clear interface that you get used to quickly after you start using the product
- Easy to use
- Based on images so great for visual learners
- Well laid out learning plan – you know exactly what to do and when
- Regular feedback – you get a mark or grade at the end of each lesson and the option to re-do sections
- Motivating to use as everything is well laid out and the learning plan is clear
- Good value for money
- The voice recognition function can be frustrating to use
- It's not a complete tool – you will need to supplement it with tutoring and grammar books
- Doesn't prepare you well enough for understanding real-life Spanish speakers
- Will help you build foundations, but not great for preparing for real life interactions
Inside Rosetta Stone
Let me show you around the inside of Rosetta Stone.
The course is divided into units, which, as you can see, are based on everyday topics you might need when travelling around the country where your target language is spoken.
Then when you click on a unit to start learning, you'll see it's divided up into sections with a longer, core lesson, then shorter lessons on pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Within each unit, there are multiple lessons covering different topics on the theme of the unit.
As you move through the lessons, the course adds more sections on “listening” for example or “reading”, “writing” and “speaking”. There are also “review” sections built in.
The lessons are highly visual and are based around listening to the new words and grammar, then doing drag and match or fill in the blank exercises.
Here's an example of an exercise from the grammar section of a unit:
And here's how the new vocabulary is presented within the “core lesson”:
Now that you've had a chance to see inside, let's get into this Rosetta Stone review a bit more deeply by taking a look at its upsides and downsides.
Downsides Of Rosetta Stone
One of the main downsides of Rosetta Stone is its voice recognition system which can be a little unreliable and therefore frustrating to use. Another downside is the lack of translations and explanations. Finally, Rosetta Stone doesn't prepare you for having real life conversations with native speakers (unless you pay extra for conversation lessons).
Voice Recognition System
One of the biggest downsides of Rosetta Stone is the voice recognition system. As a learner, it's hard to tell if the fault is with the system, or with your pronunciation.
The good thing is, you can repeat the lesson if you aren't getting the pronunciation right and eventually it teaches you to say the words correctly.
Within the course, there's a section called stories, where you have to read aloud an entire story in one go. After, the system tells you which words you got right and which words it could or couldn't hear.
It takes quite a while to do this section of the course (even a spare half an hour isn't enough). That's because you're relying on the machine to capture you recording that whole story. And if it misses a word or it says you didn't pronounce a particular section right then it tells you the whole section was wrong!
The limitations of the voice recognition software is a really frustrating aspect of the course. At times, you'll want to shout at the computer! Interestingly, the system seems to measure wave patterns. So even if you get the word wrong but the intonation patterns correct, it will tell you that you were right.
That said, you can tell that Rosetta Stone are working on continually improving and developing the voice recognition part of the product as they regularly ask for your feedback. In fact, if you mispronounce a word two or three times the system will ask: “Do you think you're saying this correctly?”
At the same time, not all the fault lies with the system because if you do repeat the exercises and try to pronounce the words correctly, it will mark you as saying them right.
The upside is that the voice recognition is not to hard to set up within the course. It simply asks you to do a sound check by speaking into your microphone to ensure it's on. Obviously, if you're not very good with tech, you might struggle with that.
Not Great Preparation For Real Life
The course is great for laying the foundations of your language learning by picking up vocabulary and grammar structures and learning to speak. But it doesn't prepare you for actually chatting with a native speaker in real life.
When it comes to interacting, you might feel stuck trying to use the language you learned within the confines of the course out there in the real world.
For instance, it doesn't prepare you for understanding what a native speaker of your target language will say back to you in conversation.
That said, you can book live tutoring sessions that take place either 1:1 or in groups. But this is an additional part of the course with an extra cost.
Lack Of Translations
The course uses pictures and known words to help you learn and understand new ones, rather than translations. Within the lessons they make it quite obvious what a new word means by showing you it in different contexts.
Unfortunately, this can mean turning to Google Translate to double check the meaning in English.
This is great in a way because you can have speakers of many different native languages using the same course.
But there isn't a translation tool within the course and they don't give advice on this aspect. You're left to translate words if you need to using a dictionary or Google Translate.
Again, no one tool can give you everything you need to learn a language, hence the need to supplement Rosetta Stone with other resources to help you build fluency.
Lack of Explanations
One of the things that's lacking in the course are explanations of how the verbs function. Again, this is related to the lack of translations and explanations in English.
You're learning what they're saying, but you're not really learning when to use certain verbs or what certain parts of speech actually are or how they function.
It's also not clear when a form is formal or informal although you'll come across both in the course. So you would need to have a grammar book or textbook handy to double check some of these points.
The best way to test out your knowledge would be to test it out on a real person and get feedback.
Upsides of Rosetta Stone
Now let's take a look at some of the things Rosetta Stone does well. The highlights are the method for teaching vocabulary, the structure and feedback plus the value for money it offers.
It's easy to learn new words with Rosetta stone because they roll out the vocabulary gradually and keep repeating new words.
The good thing is that the course involves a lot of repetition and gradually gets harder as you work through it. You start with individual words and then you build up to sentences and structures like learning how to form questions.
Even though the course and the sentences get more complicated as you progress, you keep coming back to what you learned in previous stages. And the new material also gets repeated so you have time to integrate it.
This is a good way to learn and remember words.
Good Lesson Structure With Feedback
One of the great things about Rosetta Stone is that you know exactly what to do and when. After you purchase it, you've got a six week plan ahead of you.
You start lesson one or week one day one and it will give you either one core lesson or maybe the next day there will be three or four broken down lessons in vocabulary or grammar or speaking etc.
After every lesson, you get a mark, and at the end you can go back and review the bits you got wrong. Once you've completed that day it says, “Do you want to go to day two no or–?” It's got a button saying, “Not now”.
So all you have to do is show up and do the work. You don't have to think about how you're going to plan and organise your learning. This is especially useful if you're a first-time language learner and you don't have much experience of choosing resources or a learning plan.
Good Value For Money
Overall, the course represents good value for money.
There's a lifetime access option that costs £219 which gives you access to all of the courses in all of the available Rosetta Stone languages.
You can also purchase a 3-month access to the course for £11.99 a month.
The other options are 12 and 24 months of access to all languages for £8.99 and £6.99 a month respectively.
Rosetta Stone Review: Summing It Up
Overall, Rosetta Stone is good for beginners, especially visual learners who aren't keen on too many grammar explanations and who want to avoid translation.
Speaking and pronunciation is a major part of the course. But the voice recognition system can be frustrating to use.
Rosetta Stone represents good value for money, especially if you go for the lifetime access option.
But if you want to interact with native speakers or you learn better with translations, it might not be for you. You also don't get support from a teacher who can give you explanations.
And in fact, if you want something more comprehensive, featuring explanations from a teacher, then I've got something that might suit you better.
An Alternative To Rosetta Stone: Uncovered Courses
While Rosetta Stone offers great value and has an easy to use interface and a well-structured learning plan, you have to supplement it with other resources such as grammar books and sessions with an online tutor to get ready for real life conversations in Spanish.
That's where the Uncovered Courses are different – available in 5 languages and counting, they're comprehensive online beginner courses, that take you from a complete beginner in the language of your choice up to an intermediate level.
Uncovered teaches all of the key aspects of the language – reading, listening, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and speaking – and does so using a unique and innovative new method called StoryLearning.
StoryLearning is a process that Olly Richards invented to teach you languages naturally. It’s so natural, in fact, that it’s based on how human beings learn their native language.
Even though you learn through story, you have a teacher and experienced language learner by your side all the way through the course giving explanations in English and tips to learn the material fast.
What You Get With Uncovered
- Complete 20-module course to learn to speak French, Spanish, German, Italian or Japanese with confidence through StoryLearning™. This is a method that relies on your brain's natural learning.
- 60+ video lessons with your teacher. You'll learn with the same method that's attracted worldwide attention, from the BBC, Independent, Open University, European Commission, El País, and more!
- Learn the secrets Olly used to learn 8 languages and how to use them yourself to learn to speak with confidence & take part fully in conversations with native speakers.
- Fully downloadable programme so you can learn faster – anywhere, any time, and on any device… even without an internet connection!
- Complete learning material, including audiobook, translations, printable worksheets… everything you need to get started and find success with your language learning!
- Expert pronunciation training videos, so you can perfect your pronunciation and speak like a native from the start.
- Money-back guarantee, so you can buy without risk today, and get a full refund if you don't love it.
Ready to start? Find out more about the Uncovered Courses and start your language learning journey.