Our Review of Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone has loads of useful content with high quality audio and vibrant images which help make the material stick in your brain. However, it teaches language through immersion, meaning there are no English translations or explanations of concepts. We recommend using Rosetta Stone to improve your vocabulary and accent as one part of a more structured language learning strategy.
Ease of Use8
Engagement and Motivation7
Rosetta Stone is one of the oldest and most well-known language learning programs on the market today. Once easily recognizable by its big yellow boxes sold in bookstores and airports, Rosetta Stone is now available in browser mode as well as on mobile.
Rosetta Stone teaches users vocabulary and grammar through “Dynamic Immersion,” which means there are no instructions or translations and you learn by associating words with images. The audio is crisp and clear, TruAccent voice recognition helps you improve your accent, and accompanying imagery helps you form stronger memories.
To get the most out of Rosetta Stone, we recommend using it as a vocabulary supplement to a balanced language-learning routine.
Table of Contents
- What languages are available on Rosetta Stone?
- How much does Rosetta Stone cost?
- How does Rosetta Stone work?
- TruAccent: Rosetta Stone’s speech recognition engine
- What will you learn on Rosetta Stone?
- Rosetta Stone’s curriculum
- Our experience learning beginner Chinese with Rosetta Stone Foundations
- Our experience learning Intermediate Russian with Rosetta Stone
- Our experience learning German with Fluency Builder, Rosetta Stone’s advanced-level course
- How to get the most out of Rosetta Stone
- The bottom line – Is Rosetta Stone worth your time and money?
What languages are available on Rosetta Stone?
Rosetta Stone currently offers 25 languages:
Spanish (Latin America)
Most languages have content within the A1-B1 range (on the CEFR language proficiency scale), though some of the more popular languages have content up through C1. Dutch, for example, only has 12 Units of content (the most advanced units fall within the upper reaches of A2) while French has content all the way to C1.
How much does Rosetta Stone cost?
Rosetta Stone used to be sold on disks and each Level (from 1 to 5) had to be purchased individually – the cost for the entire course was more than $500. Fortunately, Rosetta Stone updated their pricing model to allow subscriptions.
There are currently three subscription options for new users:
- 3 months: $35.97 total ($11.99/mo)
- 12 months: $95.88 total ($7.99/mo)
- Lifetime: $179 and includes access to all the languages available on the platform
How does Rosetta Stone work?
Rosetta Stone teaches languages through total immersion. That means that there are no written explanations or English translations for any of the study material. This approach is perfect for audiovisual learners who prefer to learn grammar and vocabulary implicitly, rather than through explanations. Rosetta Stone also features speaking lessons which ask you to complete sentences or repeat phrases. Their TruAccent speech recognition software then grades you on your accuracy.
Almost like an interactive slideshow
Rosetta Stone works sort of like an interactive slideshow where you match images to audio descriptions. As an absolute beginner you’ll start out by learning a few very basic words like “boy,” “girl,” “man,” and “woman.”
The course then moves to some basic verbs such as “read” or “eat,” thus teaching you how to conjugate verbs and begin forming basic sentences. The course content gets progressively more difficult over time as you are introduced to more vocabulary and grammatical structures.
TruAccent: Rosetta Stone’s speech recognition engine
It’s common for language learners to feel shy speaking their target language. As language learners, we constantly make mistakes and struggle to remember words we know we knew at some point. Our tongues trip over simple pronunciations and we absolutely butcher phrases that sound so beautiful when coming out of the mouths of native speakers.
This uncomfortable phenomenon is simply a part of the process and it gets better with practice. The problem, however, is that many learners never have the opportunity to practice speaking!
Rosetta Stone’s TruAccent speech recognition engine is designed to help develop your accent and enable you to speak your target language correctly and confidently. Rosetta Stone’s speaking exercises will start by playing the audio recording of a given word or phrase after which you are expected to repeat. TruAccent grades you on speaking exercises and gives you immediate feedback, identifying the exact areas where your pronunciation was incorrect or could use improvement.
Unlike other apps which offer speech recognition, such as Babbel or Duolingo, Rosetta Stone’s speech recognition pinpoints certain areas within the exercises that you need to improve. It’s surprisingly accurate – at one point it kept telling us that we were pronouncing certain Russian letters incorrectly and we thought the feature must be not working properly. It wasn’t until later when our Russian tutor informed us that we were pronouncing our t’s incorrectly that we realized Rosetta Stone had been correct all along.
Traditional classroom environments are time-constrained and there are usually dozens of students learning from a single teacher. Apps and other online resources generally aren’t structured in a way that encourages users to speak.
As a result, learners may feel incredibly intimidated when they suddenly find themselves forced to speak their target language. Rosetta Stone’s speaking exercises are particularly beneficial because they allow you to practice speaking in a safe environment where the only witnesses are you and your computer.
What will you learn on Rosetta Stone?
Rosetta Stone begins by teaching you the absolute basics: words like “boy” and “girl” and “hello” and “goodbye.” As you advance, you begin to pair these words with verbs such as “eat” or “drink” and then eventually start to build longer, more complex sentences. We found a list of Rosetta Stone’s curriculum and included a few excerpts below:
The first excerpt is from Unit 1, Lesson 1. This lesson focuses on basic nouns and verbs.
The second excerpt is from Unit 4, Lessons 1 & 2. These lessons introduce more complex grammatical structures as well as new vocabulary words.
Rosetta Stone is best for learners who plan to study their target language for a long time with the goal of becoming completely fluent. You’ll learn tons of vocabulary and be able to describe all sorts of situations, events and things. Rosetta Stone’s course material is not designed for travelers, however. If you’re preparing for a short trip overseas and want to learn some travel phrases we recommend using Pimsleur (see our review here).
Rosetta Stone is designed to teach you the most important grammatical structures in your target language and give you a broad base of vocabulary words. That means you will learn lots of phrases like “the boy is sitting on top of the airplane,” or “the milk is in the refrigerator.” Working through sentences like this can get frustrating, especially in the early stages where you’re still learning the basics, but it gets more interesting eventually.
Here’s an excerpt from Unit 20 (the highest level of Rosetta Stone’s curriculum):
Rosetta Stone’s curriculum
Rosetta Stone divides their course curriculum into two sections: Foundations and Fluency Builder. Foundations is Rosetta Stone’s beginner level course which is available for 23 languages. The content difficulty ranges from A1 to about B1 on the CEFR scale depending on the popularity of the language; some languages have more course content than others.
Fluency Builder is Rosetta Stone’s advanced-level course which includes study material from B1 to C1, however it’s only available for Spanish, French, German and Italian. We’ll cover both of these courses in more detail in the following sections.
Foundations: Rosetta Stone’s beginner course
The Foundations curriculum is broken up into Units. More popular languages like Spanish or German have 20 Units while less commonly studied languages like Dutch or Irish have less. Each Unit covers a different topic, such as “Greetings and Introductions” or “Recreation and Tourism.” The course is designed to teach you the basics of your target language’s grammar system and provide you with a broad base of vocabulary.
Each Unit within Foundations is made up of four Lessons that act as sub-units. Each Lesson has a specific focus in line with 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
Within each lesson you’ll find a handful of study activities. The first activity is always called “Core Lesson.” It introduces all of that Lesson’s new vocabulary and walks you through a few practice activities.
After completing the Core Lesson you’ll be expected to work through a handful of other study activities to train different competencies, for example “Grammar,” “Vocabulary,” and “Pronunciation.”
Our experience learning beginner Chinese with Rosetta Stone Foundations
We completed the first few Units of Rosetta Stone’s Mandarin course while also taking an entry level Chinese class. The course was helpful for learning supplemental vocabulary not always included in our Chinese lessons and also for getting some extra grammar practice.
Rosetta Stone helps you put grammatical concepts into context
Sometimes when learning a foreign language, it can be difficult to put the grammatical concepts we learn into context. We learn the theory of how a concept should be applied but we don’t get a great understanding of which real-life situations it applies to. Rosetta Stone’s courses are very useful for supplementary practice of grammatical concepts.
For example, Rosetta Stone was really helpful for learning how to use the Chinese word “在 [zài] is/at.” This word can mean “is/at” in the sense of a location (“这家人在家 [Zhè jiārén zài jiā] This family is at home”) but can also indicate that something is happening “你在做什么？[Nǐ zài zuò shénme?] What are you doing?”.
Our Chinese teacher didn’t give us much context as to how the word 在 [zài] should be used so so we ended up being a bit confused at first. It was helpful to go through our Rosetta Stone course and see examples of real-life situations where this word would be used.
Rosetta Stone will help you develop a perfect accent
Rosetta Stone was particularly helpful for Chinese since the accent can be so difficult for non-natives. Chinese is a tonal language so your pronunciation can drastically change the meaning of a word or phrase.
Fortunately, Rosetta Stone’s audio quality is really, really good. The native speakers who provide the voice acting speak slowly and clearly enough that the material is easily understood, but not so slow that it’s unnatural or annoying. By constantly listening (and repeating aloud during speaking activities) we learned to pronounce the tones with almost perfect accuracy.
Content lacks cultural relevance
The only major problem we noticed with Rosetta Stone’s Chinese curriculum is that the course content isn’t localized to fit Chinese culture. One particularly prevalent example is the focus on Western food vocabulary such as “orange juice,” “milk,” and “sandwich.” It appears Rosetta Stone created one single curriculum and translated it to multiple languages so there isn’t a lot of culture-specific vocabulary.
Our experience learning Intermediate Russian with Rosetta Stone
We’ve been learning Russian for about two years and are currently somewhere around B1 on the CEFR scale. We were interested in seeing what it’s like to jump into Rosetta Stone’s course at an intermediate level so we switched our account over to Russian and started learning.
When switching languages we were prompted to complete a short survey about our language study goals as well as a short self-assessment of our language proficiency. The test asked us to describe our Russian proficiency according to five different questions. In the screenshot below we were asked to complete the statement, “When I talk to native speakers in Russian, I can:”
The test informed us our level was B1 but didn’t tell us where to start in the course – we jumped into the Foundations course but were prompted to start at Unit 1, which was rather confusing. It took us a bit of experimenting to figure out which Unit would be best for our proficiency level.
Unclear where to start for intermediate learners
If you have previous experience in your target language it can be a bit difficult to figure out where to start. We initially began with Unit 9 “Home and Health” but after a few minutes realized the content was too easy. After trying a few other Units we landed on Unit 15 “At Home and Around Town” which seemed to be roughly at our level. The only problem is it’s hard to tell which grammatical concepts are taught in each Unit.
Full immersion makes it difficult to learn the grammar
Rosetta Stone is a great course for practicing grammatical concepts you’ve already learned but it isn’t the best way to learn grammar in the first place.
Rosetta’s grammar points are peppered throughout the curriculum along with other subject areas, meaning it’s unclear which Units teach which concepts. If you’ve already learned some grammar structures from other sources it can be difficult to avoid re-doing them. And if you want to focus on a specific concept – for example, “past-tense preterite vs. imperfect verbs” or the notorious “por vs. para” in Spanish/Portuguese – it’s not possible to find and train those skills specifically. Rosetta Stone’s philosophy of 100% immersion means users aren’t intended or able to identify and focus on certain grammatical topics. Rather, it is expected that they’ll absorb an understanding of the concepts over time by seeing examples throughout the course.
This approach can be problematic for learners experiencing difficulty with some of the more complex grammatical structures. Complete immersion works well to a certain extent but some concepts are simply too complex. Even native speakers study, memorize and drill certain grammatical concepts in school.
To illustrate an example: Spanish and Portuguese have two different words to say “for” — “por” and “para.” “Por” is used for motion, duration, unit of measure, reason or cause (plus some others), while “para” is for purpose, recipient, comparison or destination (plus some others). There are a dozen different situations that need to be learned and many are too complicated to communicate via an image with no explanation — “she’s worked ‘para’ the company ‘por’ five years” or “I bought a present ‘para’ my friend ‘por’ $10” Both words mean “for” but they’re used for different things — at the end of the day, learners need a clear explanation of the rules in order to understand how to correctly apply the concepts.
Rosetta Stone definitely makes for a good supplemental course for those looking to get some practice outside of the classroom but it’s really not a great way to master the grammar rules of a language. It takes time, effort and practice to properly learn the grammar system of a foreign language. The best way to improve your grammatical proficiency is to find an experienced tutor (read our Preply review) who can help you set up a roadmap of the grammar concepts you need to learn then help you master them.
Our experience learning German with Fluency Builder, Rosetta Stone’s advanced-level course
Rosetta Stone offers advanced-level course material (B1 to C1) for its most popular languages: Spanish, French, German and Italian. As described on the Rosetta Stone website, “Fluency Builder provides challenging and unique content to learners that are looking to reach the next level in their language of study.” We tried out two German courses on Fluency Builder: “Geography – C1 [Landeskunde – C1]” and “Skill Focus: Vocabulary – C1 [Kompetenzschwerpunkt: Wortschatz – C1]”
Fluency Builder has a variety of different courses covering advanced cultural and professional topics, such as “Geography” or “Finance and Economics.” As a learner you can choose which courses are the best fit for you then add them to “My courses” to begin learning.
Unfortunately, accessing Fluency Builder can be rather complex – users must take an incredibly long test in order to determine their proficiency level, after which they will be assigned a course (B1, B2 or C1). Users are unable to preview Fluency Builder content and unable to manually change their course placement.
Fluency Builder placement test (Spanish, French, German and Italian)
We took the German placement test, which included roughly 75 questions and took about 45 minutes to complete. The test was made up of reading and listening exercises that increased in difficulty over time – the last few questions of the test included long paragraphs with very complex vocabulary and grammar.
The experience was rather annoying – we weren’t told how many parts of the test there would be and it felt like it took forever to finish. It turned out the test consisted of three parts with roughly 25 questions each. Once we finished the third part we were assigned a score of C1 and taken to Fluency Builder to begin learning.
The content is useful but sometimes a bit dry
The Geography course has seven lessons focusing on regions of German-speaking Europe and mostly focuses on developing users’ reading comprehension skills. Each lesson starts out with a reading activity (key vocabulary words are bolded) followed by a few comprehension questions.
The material is interesting but very dry. There isn’t any audio support and the photographs appear quite outdated. Plus, it’s impossible to select or copy a word from within the program and look it up. If we wanted to look up a word we’d have to manually type it into Google Translate, which quickly begins to feel very tedious.
Fluency Builder is great for conversation practice
The Skill Focus: Vocabulary course is a bit more interesting and interactive, plus it has a heavy emphasis on speaking. The “Conversation Practice” section, for example, asks you to speak part of a conversation and your choices influence the direction of the conversation.
In the screenshot below, we are asked to respond to the statement “Ein Freund besucht Sie unerwartet. Leider sind Sie sehr beschäftigt. Aber was machen Sie überhaupt? (A friend visits you unexpectedly. Unfortunately, you’re really busy. But what are you doing, anyway?)”
We watch a short video clip and see a family putting suitcases in a car and looking at a map. It appears they’re getting ready to go somewhere. When we’re ready to respond to the question, we click the “Speak” button and respond using one of the three choices on the left:
- Ich packe gerade den letzten Koffer. (I’m just packing the last suitcase.)
- Ich packe meine Koffer! (I’m packing my suitcase!)
- Wir fahren gleich weg! (We’re just about to leave!)
We clicked the Speak button and responded with the third choice, “Wir fahren gleich weg! (We’re just about to leave!)”
The next screen shows us a response to our choice: it asks us “Und wo fahrt ihr hin? (And where are you going?)”
This part of the Fluency Builder course contains some useful vocabulary and feels quite immersive. It’s cool to participate in a conversation at a slow, bite-sized pace where we don’t feel pressured to respond quickly (or accurately). In this environment learners can feel free to make mistakes and learn without being judged on their accent or accuracy.
How to get the most out of Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone can be a really helpful tool when aligned with the right goals and used in the right way. We recommend Rosetta Stone for learners seeking to study a language for a long time and become completely fluent. Additionally, we recommend using it in combination with other tools in order to get the best learning experience.
Use Rosetta Stone if you’re studying a language long term
Rosetta Stone is best for someone who is planning to study their target language over the course of many months with the end goal of reaching high level proficiency. Rosetta Stone covers a wide variety of topics and situations that aren’t applicable to travel or small-talk situations but are definitely useful for someone planning to live or work overseas.
Learners with the goal of becoming entirely fluent (for example, able to talk about a wide range of topics in detail) will find the program really helpful. Learners with the goal of learning a few travel phrases before a short trip would be better off using another program (see our Pimsleur review).
Use Rosetta Stone in conjunction with other tools
We recommend using Rosetta Stone to supplement vocabulary and grammar as part of a balanced study routine (see our guide here). Rosetta Stone by itself will not make you fluent in a foreign language but it’s an excellent program for improving your vocabulary, pronunciation and grammatical accuracy.
While studying Russian recently, we used Rosetta Stone for about 1/3 of our study time:
- We spent 1-2 hours per week working with a Ukrainian tutor we found on Preply; lessons cost $15/hour and we do lessons via video call in Preply’s Classroom feature.
- We spent 15-20 minutes per day listening to a podcast in Russian called RussianWithMax – his podcasts are really great for learning conversational vocabulary while listening to his commentary on different topics.
- We spent 30 minutes per day working through lessons on Rosetta Stone
- We spent 30 minutes per day using Anki to memorize new vocabulary we came across in the Russian podcast as well as any particularly difficult words from our Rosetta Stone lessons.
If you’re interested in learning how to build an effective language learning study routine, we have an article about just that – check it out here.
The bottom line – Is Rosetta Stone worth your time and money?
Can you actually learn a language with Rosetta Stone? Is Rosetta Stone worth your time and money? The short answer: yes, but it’s best when used as a supplementary resource; you shouldn’t rely on Rosetta Stone as your only source of learning material.
Rosetta Stone has loads of useful content with high quality audio and vibrant images which help make the material stick in your brain. You’ll learn vocabulary related to everyday things you interact with (foods, household objects, countries and locations, etc.) and you’ll learn how to describe objects and situations in detail. The situations aren’t always realistic or useful, however, since the program is often trying to teach you a certain grammatical concept; it can get boring to repeat sentences like “These clothes are from India” or “These pastries are from France” but the material does get more interesting as you reach the higher levels.
The program teaches learners through 100% immersion, meaning there are no English translations or explanations of grammar/concepts. In some cases this approach is helpful because you’re forced to think about and analyze the material you’re learning. Other times it can be a bit frustrating since it’s not always clear which grammatical rules are at play.
We recommend using Rosetta Stone to improve your vocabulary and accent but it shouldn’t be the only resource in your toolkit. We’d recommend working with a tutor one day per week (Preply is a good resource) in order to study grammatical structures, using Anki to study new vocabulary every day (guide here), and then using Rosetta Stone for 20-30 minutes every day as an additional booster resource.
– written by Drew Grubba for Smarter Language. Drew has ACTFL-certified proficiency in Swedish, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish. He’s also studied Mandarin Chinese, Norwegian and Dutch, and is currently learning Russian.
Disclaimer: Rosetta Stone is a property of IXL Learning Inc.