Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur are both popular language programs that use different methods and accomplish different goals. Which one is right for you? We’ll compare them side by side to help you decide.
Table of Contents
- An Overview of Pimsleur
- An Overview of Rosetta Stone
- Where Pimsleur Beats Rosetta Stone
- Where Rosetta Stone Beats Pimsleur
- What Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone have in common
- Rosetta Stone vs Pimsleur – Which is the Better Language Learning App?
An Overview of Pimsleur
Pimsleur may not be a household name like Rosetta Stone, but its methods make it stand out compared to other language learning apps on the market.
How does Pimsleur work?
Pimsleur’s listen and repeat approach was developed by a linguist named Dr. Paul Pimsleur in the 1960s. Learning through the app involves learning new material through audio exercises and reviewing old material through spaced repetition.
The Pimsleur Method
Each 25-30 minute lesson on Pimsleur focuses on conversations and essential vocabulary. The narrator asks the learner questions about the material they previously learned, waits for a response, then plays the native speaker audio. The idea is to listen to native speaker audio, match your pronunciation, and develop a natural-sounding accent.
This method is now known as the Pimsleur Method. Pimsleur’s audio-only model makes it easy to fit lessons into your day. You can even multi-task by listening while you’re doing other tasks like you would with a podcast.
The Pimsleur curriculum is divided into Units. Each unit contains 30 Lessons.
Users are encouraged to complete one Lesson per day and speak the responses aloud to get the most active participation. The number of Units available is not the same for every language. It depends on the popularity of the language. For example, Spanish and French have five Units, while Croatian or Thai currently only have one.
Which languages does Pimsleur offer?
Pimsleur currently offers 51 languages for English speakers. Some languages on Pimsleur offer Premium content like interactive study activities, audio-enabled lesson transcripts, flashcards and more. Pimsleur currently offers Premium content for 24 languages, though they regularly add more:
- Arabic (Eastern)
- Arabic (Modern Standard)
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- Farsi (Persian)
- Haitian Creole
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
- Spanish (Spain-Castilian)
How much does Pimsleur cost?
At the time of this article’s publication, Pimsleur offers three different monthly subscription options. Each option offers a different learning experience. Two of the three only offer access to one language at a time.
- $14.95 per month
- Includes access to one language, audio lessons only
- No access to premium content
- $19.95 per month
- Includes access to one language plus Premium features for 24 of the 51 languages
- $20.95 per month
- Includes access to all 51 languages at once
- Includes access to all Premium content
An Overview of Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is a robust language learning program based on immersion tactics that’s been around since the pre-app days and has remained popular for a reason.
How does Rosetta Stone work?
Rosetta Stone uses an instruction method called Structured Immersion. The platform presents all lessons in the target language along with pictures and audio recorded by native speakers. It’s a method that’s been a cornerstone of Rosetta Stone learning for decades.
Structured Immersion is inspired by the way humans learn their first language. People who learn a language with this method pick it up faster and more naturally than methods based on rote memorization and translation. This also means, say, an English speaker and a Spanish speaker can use the same program to learn Mandarin.
Rosetta Stone’s curriculum
There are two sections of Rosetta Stone’s curriculum: Foundations and Fluency Builder. Foundations is the beginner level course (A1 to B2 on the CEFR scale), which is available for 25 languages. Fluency Builder is the advanced-level course (B1 to C1 on the CEFR scale). It’s only available for English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. Some languages have more content than others depending on the popularity of the course.
The program is broken up into Units. More popular languages have 20 Units while less popular languages have fewer. Each Unit is made up of four Lessons. Each Lesson has a specific focus within the Unit topic, for example:
- Unit 1 (Language Basics), Lesson 1: Basic sentences
- Unit 1 (Language Basics), Lesson 2: Everyday items
- Unit 1 (Language Basics), Lesson 3: Colors and sizes
- Unit 1 (Language Basics), Lesson 4: Clothing and quantities
The first activity of each lesson is the Core Lesson. It introduces all of the new vocabulary for the Lesson and walks the user through a few practice activities. After the Core Lesson, there are a handful of skill-based activities like grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
Which languages does Rosetta Stone offer?
Rosetta Stone offers 25 languages at the Foundations level (A1 – B1) and five at the Fluency Builder level (B1-C2) This is the complete list:
Spanish (Latin America)
Fluency Builder (B1-C1)
Spanish (Latin America)
How much does Rosetta Stone cost?
If you were wondering “is Rosetta Stone free?” it is not. There are currently three subscription options for new Rosetta Stone users:
- 3 months: $35.97 total ($11.99/mo)
- 12 months: $95.88 total ($7.99/mo)
- Lifetime: $179. This option includes access to not only all 25 languages available on the platform, but also all skill levels.
Where Pimsleur Beats Rosetta Stone
Pimsleur might be worth it to you if you’re looking for audio-based lessons or are on a budget. Here are the ways it beats Rosetta Stone.
Though Pimsleur’s curriculum isn’t as robust as Rosetta Stone’s, it is a good budget-friendly option. Its lower cost and more focused curriculum make Pimsleur a good choice for beginners who are hesitant to spend more money on learning a language because they haven’t committed for the long haul yet.
Best audio-only app on the market
Pimsleur isn’t the only audio-centric language learning app on the market, but it is the highest quality one. All of its recordings are of native speakers’ voices. Its use of spaced repetition helps learners effectively learn and retain the material. Its focus on conversational skills and key vocabulary make it a smart choice for those who are learning a language to prepare for a trip and need to get to the material they need for that quickly.
Where Rosetta Stone Beats Pimsleur
You’ll find a more rounded experience using Rosetta Stone than you will on Pimsleur, but it comes at a higher price.
Immersive Language Learning
Immersion is the best way to learn a new language. Rosetta Stone is the closest thing you can get to complete language immersion without living abroad. Most language learning websites teach by translation. Rosetta Stone’s structured immersion method is unique compared to their competitors and enables users to gain a deep understanding of their target language faster.
Live tutoring sessions
Rosetta Stone Gold license subscribers can take advantage of live virtual tutoring sessions that are led by native speakers. Each session is paired with a Core Lesson and helps users practice what they’ve just learned in a real life conversation. Each session is exclusively held in the student’s target language to encourage them to use the words they know to communicate and get comfortable speaking to another person. These real-time conversations are also an opportunity for immediate feedback from a real person.
What Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone have in common
Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur both use their own methods based on research on how to learn a language most effectively, though the angles they take are different. Both apps also both use native speaker audio to help learners develop natural-sounding, convincing accents in their target language.
Pimsleur does this by recording all of their audio lessons with native speakers as the narrators and encouraging learners to repeat what they hear.
Rosetta Stone does this with their TruAccent speech recognition engine. Their speaking exercises are designed to help learners develop an authentic accent based on data from millions of native speakers, give instant feedback, adjust for sensitivity, and accommodate children’s speech. Both of these apps give you something that listening to a computer voice can’t.
Rosetta Stone vs Pimsleur – Which is the Better Language Learning App?
Here comes the moment of truth. Is Rosetta Stone better than Pimsleur? Here are all of the use cases each is better for.
Pimsleur is better for learners who…
- Need a budget-friendly option
- Learn best from listening
- Are absolute beginners
- Are preparing for a trip
- Need extra work on listening and conversational skills
Rosetta Stone is better for learners who…
- Want a more robust language learning curriculum
- Can afford a higher price tag
- Want to learn a less-popular language
- Want to immerse themselves in a language
- Are in it for the long haul
Since Rosetta Stone works well as a primary tool and Pimsleur works well as a supplemental tool for listening, they are wonderfully compatible with each other in your language toolbox.
There’s no such thing as the perfect tool for learning languages. It’s always a good idea to use multiple online and offline tools and language learning activities. Check out the link below to read reviews of nearly every language-learning app and platform out there.
– Luca Harsh is a Chicago-based freelance content writer. They speak a lot of French and a little of whatever language they’re currently trying out on an app.
Rosetta Stone is a property of IXL Learning, Inc.