Review of Rosetta Stone: Detailed and honest look at latest version (TOTALe)

This is a very detailed and frank review of the latest version of Rosetta Stone: version 4 TOTALe

Rosetta Stone is one of the biggest brands in language learning in the English speaking world (not to be confused with the Rosetta Stone that helped us decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, which it is named after). The problem is that it is out of the budget of many casual language learners, and budget travellers, so in almost a decade of travelling, I had never used it.

Running a blog as big as this meant I got asked the following questions very frequently: Should I buy Rosetta Stone? Does is really work? Is Rosetta Stone really the best (and most fun) way to learn a language? I polled my readers for their favourite and least favourite language courses and Rosetta Stone actually came out as the dramatic loser.

But perhaps many of those polled were just against the idea of something costing as much as it does, or they may have used a limited pirated version and simply not valued it much because of that. I wasn’t interested in hearsay. I wanted to use the non-pirated latest version myself intensively and properly, and write a detailed review of the disadvantages and the advantages as I see them.


My frank review of the latest version of Rosetta Stone

So I contacted Rosetta Stone to ask for a review copy and they were kind enough to send me one. I told them that I’d let them see this review before it went live to correct any factual mistakes (I did something similar for some of my other reviews), and they were very helpful in making sure there was no misleading information here, even to go as far as giving me a 2 hour long private video conference call and Q&A about the software.

They requested that I give a disclaimer that I have my own product, Fluent in 3 Months PREMIUM, that I sell, although I don’t see how that affects a balanced and honest review of something that I’m clearly not competing with. I’m a blogger and I wrote a guide about how I learn languages in general using the communicative approach, to help support this blog. I guarantee that you can learn a language great without ever sending me money, as I suspect the vast majority of readers of this free blog do. Just to be clear, I’ll say that I recommend you don’t buy anything I have to offer as a direct alternative to Rosetta Stone as it doesn’t solve the problems found in a specific language course that I discuss here.

Despite the free copy, I told them that I’d be writing a frank and informative review, and appropriately there is no affiliate link to buy it anywhere in this post, where I could earn commission (as in many “reviews” you’ll find online). As you read this, especially the latter part, you’ll understand why this is certainly not a promotional post.

They sent me the latest recently released version, TOTALe 4 and did so for Dutch, as I am currently learning it. However, this review also covers every other language version for a (rather disappointing) reason I’ll explain below.

I was sent Levels 1, 2 and 3, but several distinct technical issues meant that I only made it to the mid point of Level 2. Since I run Windows as a Virtual Box within Linux, Rosetta Stone say they can’t fully support it on my system, so I won’t be discussing these technical issues.

I wanted to share three major things with my readers: 1. Details of how it works 2. Why does it cost so much? 3. Would I recommend it?

My particular independent learning style, and fundamental disagreement with aspects of how the software is organised, means that ultimately I have to say that I will likely not be using Rosetta Stone again to learn any language, even if I am given another free copy. While I point out some important advantages, I have to say that I cannot recommend this as an efficient investment, both in money and in the time you put into it.This review will hopefully explain why, while also informing people about what goes on behind the scenes and within this software as I saw it.

Despite being disappointed at times, I also greatly enjoyed some aspects of it and can see why you could write an entirely positive review about it. In fact, because of the first point raised below I actually understand why at least half of its price could be very fairly justified.

However, at this stage I have quite a lot of experience in language learning so I can appreciate the advantages and disadvantages much more than many monolinguals who may review it and consider its potential or enjoyment-factor rather than practical end applications.

I’m in Amsterdam and need to speak Dutch; so there is no guessing or estimation at how effective it has been.

First, I’ll start with the parts I liked, then I’ll be getting a bit more frank about why I can’t recommend the overall system.

Most useful feature by far: live lessons with a human!

Since any reviews I had read about Rosetta Stone were based on older versions, they didn’t mention a feature that I really enjoyed – I was surprised to see that I got live time with a native teacher through the program! I am skeptical of systems that hide you from human contact as I feel that’s the best way by far to learn, but seeing that Rosetta Stone do give you that contact brought my opinion of them up dramatically.

Once you complete a unit in the program, you can go to the “Studio” and schedule a 50 minute session with a teacher, where you can see them by video feed (they can’t see you) and both of you talk via the headset.

The teachers are friendly, patient very professional and clearly excellent and experienced teachers of the language.

One issue I had was that the available slots were incredibly inconvenient for someone in a European timezone; the earliest possible sessions during the week were at 10 or 11pm (usually booked out, with 2am or so being available). I’m told this is because Rosetta Stone’s version 4 has only been properly released in the states, and they say this month they will release it in the UK. Even so, this leaves a lot of time zones not covered and I had to work my learning around these strange availabilities which slowed me down. If you live in the states this likely won’t be an issue; although other timeslots may not be available as a consequence, such as if you prefer to do it late in the evening due to work restrictions.

Rosetta Stone reply to this to say that as they grow internationally, their services will expand correspondingly and suggest that they could take requests for time slots and attempt to accommodate you.

But once I was in the class, I can say that my first ever experience speaking Dutch was indeed within the Rosetta Stone environment! My teacher was incredibly patient, and refused to switch to English (consistent with the program philosophy discussed below), no matter how much I was struggling; something I agree with is difficult to maintain but an obvious wise decision for the learner’s benefits. In my first two sessions I had a teacher all to myself and found each session to be incredibly useful. After that all my sessions were in groups, and I actually felt much more like I was back in a classroom to be honest.

Unlike private lessons I may occasionally take when learning a language, they have a very fixed program they follow and questions or games they need to get through in a 50 minute session. This is all part of the master plan of the program, which is fair enough, but I would personally have preferred to just chat with the teacher. The justification for this is that the program teaches you particular vocabulary before the session and from their overall plan it would not make sense to ask you random questions, since you wouldn’t be prepared to answer them.

Rosetta Stone reply to this to say that there are more unstructured conversation opportunities in the “Rosetta World” (Duo/Simbio) aspect of the program. However, as explained below this was not possible at all for my language combination. They also attempt to get learners to ask one another questions so at least some amount of independence is encouraged.

Luckily they were patient with me if I went off on tangents, so you can be somewhat flexible if you have a teacher to yourself, but of course less so in a group session.

There were no indications before entering the class if you would be alone or with others, or how many have signed up already. I would find this information helpful, even if people can sign up 15 minutes into a class or cancel at the last minute. You can sign up for fixed lessons an unlimited number of times, but since the same content is covered I can only see this as being practical for reviewing twice or three times maximum.

There are four units per level, so this could ultimately mean 12 very distinct (or more if you feel like repeating a lesson) private or very small group lessons included in the price. To me, this was the greatest justification of a higher price than the reasons I give below. You can hire teachers to get Skype lessons much cheaper elsewhere, but it would be hard to find people so integrated into such a complex system like this.

Despite some restrictions that I wasn’t a fan of due to simple disagreements in learning styles (I used to be a teacher; teachers are the worst students :) ) I did indeed find each spoken session to be incredibly helpful, varying a bit depending on if I was the only student or with others. This was clearly my favourite part of the whole application and what I got the most value out of.

Without this to work towards (as it was in previous versions) I would have given up on using the program due to frustrations in the learning interface, but having something meaningful to work towards kept me going.

Interesting philosophy: Rosetta stone works with no use of your native language

It was explained to me that Rosetta Stone was founded by people who appreciated learning by immersion and had learned languages abroad in immersive environments.

They wanted to emulate this as closely as possible for people who can’t travel, while making it still affordable. Of course I have other recommendations if you can’t travel, but the base concept (even if there are aspects of it I disagree with) makes sense. I don’t particularly feel immersion is something you can package a generic version of, but they’ve done a good job of trying.

One interesting aspect is how they have no English at all in the program apart from the containing interface. They never present a translation of anything. It’s all represented in photos and untranslated audio and text. While I think there are major issues with this (discussed below), the idea of not using your native language is an interesting one that definitely holds a lot of potential.

I have to admit that I (as many learners) do typically learn a lot through English (i.e. your mother tongue), getting my vocabulary through flashcards (usually translation based in my case, but you can make them just in the target language), looking up words in bilingual dictionaries, reading grammar explanations also in English etc. I’m sure there is a danger of slowing me down and thinking viaEnglish at times, which is an issue this program successfully avoids. For people who are fans of “learn like a baby would” philosophies I think they would get a lot out of this program.

Rosetta Stone say that they aren’t necessarily promoting a “learn as a baby” philosophy because they get rid of the guesswork involved in trial-and-error approaches. But I find many similarities myself.

Such learning approaches have big advantages, but as those who read the blog know, I disagree with the concept and feel that we can take advantage the fact that we are adults and can have things explained to us in more complex ways than being presented with some images and audio. The devotion to learning in such a simple way (even though the research behind it is very complex) made me learn very slowly in Rosetta Stone. After days of using the program intensely, I felt I would have learned the same words and phrases dramatically quicker using other approaches.

Rosetta Stone reply to this saying that the goal is not “speed for its own sake”. They feel the technique they apply is better described as “certain” rather than slow, because their research over 30 years about when and how words should be introduced have proven to be very effective. I believe them that they have carried out this research, but I still disagree based on my experience.

I only made it half way through my set, but I can’t imagine how completing all 3 levels would get you out of what I would definitely call basic level. It’s a clever idea, but I don’t see it as a major improvement over alternatives.

Outside of the program, this native-only content is expanded to the audio. I copied the audio to my MP3 player and listened to it as I jogged in the morning, repeating all the phrases when requested. I tried something similar when I reviewed Pimsleur in great detail. Even though Pimsleur is entirely audio, and so you would think their audio would be superior, I actually prefer Rosetta Stone’s audio.

Apart from instructions (like repeat, listen etc., which are given in the target languagein Pimsleur’s courses), everything is in the target language. It is based on what you would have gone through for that unit, so you should actually recognise everything and this is a great chance to try to work on your pronunciation and test yourself to see if you understand what’s going on.

Even though it’s an improvement on Pimsleur (whose audio is almost entirely English or repetitions), I still found it a bit tedious after a few sessions and think that actual native content such as a podcast would have been more helpful to recreate an immersive environment. But of course, it’s all part of the greater whole and philosophy of the program to only present you with words you should know already.

In this sense, the interconnectiveness of the entire set; actual lessons, audio, games, live classes etc. is very intricately designed to rely on what you’ve learned. You won’t be put under much stress in this program to see or hear things you haven’t come across before. This makes it an enjoyable learning environment, although hardly a realistic one in my view.

Krashen’s input hypothesis

Rosetta Stone reply to this saying that the pace and structure is based on the (Comprehensible) Input Hypothesis of Stephen Krashen, whose research has made huge and important contributions to linguistics in the 20th century.

While I have issues with how far otherwise interesting research is being taken as being the basis of your entire learning technique, I have to admit that RS applies that approach the most effectively that I’ve seen so far.

Over the long-term, purely recognisable input as a learning strategy is more enjoyable than the stressful situations you would encounter in immersive environments, but you learn quicker with that pressure and it’s simply more realistic to how the world will present you with situations and words that you aren’t prepared for yet. The input-hypothesis is an “ideal” learning environment, and is thus not suited to a non-ideal world in my view.

Of course, many people would like to get eased into a language through a system like Rosetta Stone, and then feel prepared to dive into conversations at the end. It sounds fantastic, only that I feel that after all 3 levels you would still not feel ready for the vast majority of conversations you are likely to have. You will have the struggle to speak no matter what.

If you compare it to easing yourself into cold water, I consider the amount you would learn in the whole system of 3 levels equivalent to dipping a toe in, rather than slowly easing your whole body or at least your legs in. The immersive/communictive approach I apply takes a preference of diving my entire body straight in and getting the unpleasant part over with quicker, since it’s going to happen anyway (presuming you actually plan on using your language with natives).

If you are a fan of Krashen’s research then you will love Rosetta Stone. I agree with a lot of what Krashen says, but think that most people take it too far.

Reasons for why Rosetta Stone is so expensive, and is it worth the money?

If one typical small spoken group class would cost you $10-20 and 12+ are included in this, then the live lessons aspect of the program discussed above actually justifies over half of the price in my eyes (even though I would personally recommend you get private lessons tailored to your needs rather than based on a generic course). For the rest of the article I’ll be looking at why I didn’t get value out of the other “half”.

One great aspect of doing this review was that Rosetta Stone put me in touch with people high up in the company. We had a fascinating discussion where I was given a live tour of the software and explained intricate details of what goes on in the background.

One of my first questions to them was about the price tag; why does it cost several hundred dollars when you ultimately receive what physically costs much less to produce (a USB microphone, one software CD per level for your computer and 4 audio CDs per level, packaging and an activation code).

Now from Rosetta Stone’s perspective, the price tag (changes often; was around $500 recently, but last time I checked is $379 for what I have) does indeed make sense. It’s the investment they‘ve made into it. And as I say above, I do feel the 12 50 minute sessions with a native must count for something in this.

But I did get other justifications, which I will discuss now and present my scepticism about them really helping to justify the price from the end user’s (not Rosetta Stone’s) perspective:

Research Rosetta Stone uses to justify its approach to learning a language

Rosetta Stone have actually spent a fortune on linguistic research, consulting cognitive scientists, PhDs, neuroscientists and more. And these are incorporated into every single aspect of the software; from the positive reinforcement of harp sounds (that I promptly turned off; I felt it lost it’s impact entirely after several hours of constantly hearing it), to the meticulously planned photos (which I also had an issue with, described below).

As you all know, I am certainly no linguist (I studied and worked as an engineer initially). Linguists produce a body of fascinating and incredibly useful research that can help us understand how languages work. A small number of linguists also work specifically on second language acquisition, and to be totally honest, people with experience (or education) in this are who I would most like to be dominating research when language learning is being discussed.

With Rosetta Stone leading a team of people from such a varied and incredibly focused aspects of learning, brain functions, psychology etc., all focused on producing a great language learning system, it would be logical to presume that it would lead to the best system in the world. But I disagree here. I feel like the research is tailored more to how can we make a product that sells well and is scalable as a preference over how can we ensure people definitely learn this language as efficiently as possible.

As you can imagine, Rosetta Stone disagree with this. Their reply is “In our view, a program is truly effective only if it offers genuine language learning value to the widest possible diversity of learners”

However, this preference for scalability was my feeling as explained in various points below. So I’m afraid the research they invested in is not something I hold that highly.

Speech recognition

Another reason to justify the higher price is how much research has gone into developing their speech recognition from the ground up. Unlike speech recognition you’d come across for automated telephone calls, this was developed especially for non-natives speaking a foreign language and is all Rosetta Stone’s own research.

When you speak it analyses your recording and approves it or requests that you try again based on how you did. If you have particular trouble, you can open up the wave analyser and visually see the difference between the native’s speech when slown down and your own.

While I like the idea, since it gets you speaking to the program and gives you feedback, I found several problems with it including registering a sneeze as a correct answer or needing to repeat myself several times and not understanding what was different that I got right. This may be due to one of the technical issues with using my own microphone since the USB microphone wasn’t porting through my Linux-based virtual box. Rosetta Stone recommend that you use their headphone and do not support use of others, even though initially my headset didn’t give me problems, and they say you can use others if you wish.

It may also be due to the variable sensitivity; by default 3 out of 10. You would have to play with this when using the program to find a level that suits how good your pronunciation is, so that you aren’t rejected too much while also being corrected when wrong.

In this image you’ll see a slot on the right to analyse the tones for a tonal language like Chinese. As you can imagine it’s just a waste of space and deactivated for European languages.

One surprise I saw was how bad the examples used to train my pronunciation were. For example, “Baby” was used, and it was split into two syllables with the ‘a’ pronounced rhyming with may and emphasised as important. Baby is a loan word from English and Dutch does not pronounce ‘a’ this way normally. This was very misleading, as this part of the program was supposedly teaching me Dutch phonetics. It’s clearly only there as a remnant of words copied and pasted to all versions as discussed below.

Luckily the reading exercises are native content and the pronunciation you will learn from this is more useful. You can also get a more detailed pronunciation guide for the alphabet within the help menu of the program.

Games & other features: Is it really fun?

As well as the core course, there are other features of the program, such as a review, very basic writing test, grammar lesson (contextual of course; some grammar points are very difficult to explain with nothing but examples and photos!) and text reading.

I did like the text reading as it was like a mini-podcast with a native speaking more consistently than the rest of the program, and got you used to reading while listening at the same time to associate spellings with sounds.

The games were enjoyable guessing games and bingo with core vocabulary. Not my cup of tea, but certainly useful for many people.

Then there were multiplayer games that you can play live with/against another learner or with someone learning your language, while you learn theirs.

This sounds like a great idea until you stop and think about it for a second. How many Dutch people do you think have bought Rosetta Stone (especially considering version 4 is only available in the states and some time soon in the UK), and are learning English? Nobody in this country that I talked to has ever heard of Rosetta Stone, nor would they get much use out of it because all lessons are too basic for what most Adults’ level of English would be.

So basically, I would not have anyone to play Duo with in this language combination! I really don’t think this part of the program was thought about logically at all.

Photos for “natural” language learning

It wasn’t mentioned as a major reason for the price, but I suspect that taking professional photos, hiring models, and finding the right places and lighting etc. can be a huge expense. It was explained to me that while taking the photos, very precise care is taken to make sure that everything is perfectly right; right down to which direction the model is looking as they are performing the action, as this can dramatically alter what is interpreted.

This is shown as the photos are indeed very well done, and you do get a good feeling for the action they are performed in a natural way. Their research for precisely how to represent a word without using your mother tongue in just images is an interesting way to present it and the foundation of the way the software works. In most cases it’s pretty clear what is going on; although I did have one or two cases where the photos simply weren’t helping and I had to go find a dictionary to figure out what the word meant.

I would consider myself at least a mildly “visual” learner (whether such a label has any merit or not is up for debate), but I can’t say that four (or more) images is a great way to present every concept in the world.

Rosetta Stone reply to this saying that they aren’t attempting that, but that it has been based on advice from cognitive psychologists about how the brain likes to learn. Once again, this stems from my frustration in how the preference is to get people from so many fields on-board, who don’t have experience specifically in language learning. I don’t doubt that images are fantastic learning tools, but they are not suited to language learning when used in this way in my opinion.

Learning a language by clicking your mouse on multiple choice options is not even remotely emulating the immersion learning environment; without the spoken lessons that lean on them the usefulness of these clicking lessons would disappear entirely in my view.

There are many ways the software presents images to you. Sometimes it simply asks you to repeat phrases, sometimes it explains one photo and gives a similar one with slightly different context you have to guess. However the vast majority of your work in lessons is based on multiple choice (usually just 2-4 options) and process of elimination.

You are given a phrase or word and you have to click the right photo. I find it hard to express fully how unnatural this feels to me for language learning, but apparently RS’s linguists disagree; once again I feel that neuroscientists etc. may be studying learning in general but out of context. This photo-centric presentation is a fundamental aspect of the learning system I can never agree on.

A similar system was copied from Rosetta Stone by some websites, and it’s even less effective there.

But forgetting the way the system works for a moment, I had two major issues with the photos themselves:

  1. Some of them were badly photoshopped.

This surprised me quite a lot. The vast majority are real, and some require some editing (such as to show a clock in the corner or a number somewhere to suggest someone’s age, or a flag to suggest a country), which is fair enough.

But some were terrible jobs of plonking people in front of places like Rome’s Colosseum. I don’t even do photo editing, and I can tell they are photoshopped. The girl in Rome here was obviously shot in professional artificial lighting, not on a sunny day in Rome. And the contrast is terrible in the Moscow shot compared to the model. Surely they could have hired someone to change the lighting and contrast to make it more realistic, or taken this into account when shooting in front of the green screen? Or… you know, actually have someone really there?

Rosetta Stone reply to this saying that they don’t endeavour to pass these off as authentic, and that the focus is on the language value of the image, and they are used with a wink and a nod so to speak.

In some cases they were abroad, so I don’t know why they photoshopped in others. But for a system based on photos and which prides itself on how professional those photos are, making them up is just lazy. Apparently how annoyed some users may be at this was overlooked in all thatresearch. Maybe I’m alone in this and nobody else using the system would get frustrated by these images?

  1. Cheesy political correctness instead of cultural relevance

I’m all for political correctness. I love that Star Trek had a black, female and even a bald captain to star in their shows. Presenting a varied cultural set of people in photos is great if you are teaching children to have open minds about the world , especially in multicultural environments. But it’s distracting if you are learning a culturally relevant language.

For example, when learning the word “Newspaper”, the newspaper’s text in the image was printed in Arabic and I’m not learning Arabic right now. This doesn’t help me at all and is part of the copy-and-paste use of all images discussed below.

But even forgetting this for a moment, most culture presented in the photos screams U.S.A.

When learning about Dutch, I want to see photos relevant to the Netherlands and how Dutch people act (or Belgium/Belgians); their body language, their smiles etc. I do not want to see cheesy American poses. Even the culturally sensitive ones of Islamic families act like Americans just wearing different clothes.

In one image for example someone is presented a big jug of water in a restaurant. They don’t do that here in Amsterdam. I can’t imagine how many culturally irrelevant aspects of photos there are once you compare it to non-western cultures!

Every time I started using the program I felt like I was leaving the Netherlands and back in America. It’s hard for an American to appreciate how obvious this is in most of the photos. As a non-American who has lived in different countries I can say that this is doing nothing to help you prepare for any kind of immersion.

There’s a good reason they do this, which brings me to my biggest pet peeve of all with Rosetta Stone:

A copy-and-paste approach for drastically different languages

When I was getting the live video tour, I noticed that the content of the lesson (as well as the photos) was exactly the same in Swedish as it was in Dutch. I asked about this and it was confirmed that it’s the same in Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Russian or other very different languages.

When something is drastically different, they do take that into account. For example, one lesson showed me how to distinguish two Dutch words for “family” depending on if it’s immediate or broader. But this is more out of necessity since it would just be wrong to teach me that the same word counts for both as in English.

What Rosetta Stone have done is researched one way of presenting a language learning system and simply translated the content (audio and otherwise) to every single language. I was told that this is because a “completely customised language” (i.e. a unique course for each unique language) would increase costs. I was assured that the content is developed for each language separately, and that nothing is ever directly translated from one language to another, but I’ve looked at videos online of people’s Rosetta Stone, seen several slides of the Swedish version and I see precisely the same content that I came across in Dutch.

Even if “just” 80 or 90% of that template is the same, that’s far too much in my opinion.

The extent of how far this may negatively effect the content isn’t so clear, but I could feel some lessons as being just way too irrelevant for me learning Dutch.

An English speaker learning Dutch has obvious advantages over the same person learning Chinese, Arabic or Russian and to clump learning any language together as following the same generic vastly similar (even if not identical) content, photos and steps is madness. This holds no benefits at all to the end user and is nothing but a lazy shortcut to be able to scale a system to every language in the world.

While there are aspects of Rosetta Stone I do like, this really got on my nerves and it’s one of the many reasons I simply can’t recommend the system to people. The one-size-fits-all content you cover is everywhere (audio, games, courses, what guides live spoken lessons) and what the whole system rests upon.

Active language learners always do better

Some people will get benefit out of Rosetta Stone. I can see how it would happen. I did indeed learn something from this program, including having my first ever conversation in Dutch, which gave me an enormous boost of confidence. Injecting this confidence is something that Rosetta Stone does very well but to be honest the time would have been much better spent on other tasks.

Talking about blue skies and red balls made little addition to the conversations I needed to have with people. This has always been an issue I’ve had with generic courses; they try to teach you everything and in doing so teach you almost nothing that you really need. I didn’t even see the word “please” until Level 2!

People feel that throwing money at the problem will solve it. You can actually learn a language entirely for free by finding learning material relevant to grammar and vocabulary online or in your local library, and then meeting up with natives in person (without needing to travel) or via language learning sites.

The problem is that doing so for free or inexpensively requires that the learner be active. Rosetta Stone attempts to spoon-feed the information to you so you do not need to plan anything at all. They retort this to say that the learner is quite active and needs to interact a lot with the program, which develops their skills to help make the language stick. I disagree; the system is indeed complex, but in such a way that almost too much is organised for you.

Relinquishing responsibility (apart from the time investment) before even beginning is hardly a good approach; active learners even with limited resources can do much more, and tailor what they learn to what they are interested in and what they talk about, rather than a generic system designed for the entire world and all languages.

The few people I talked to who had reached fluency using Rosetta Stone, when pressed said that they had actually used other systems along with it, which I would argue were helping them more than they think. Those promoting it have not demonstrated much progress or even completely misunderstood basic aspects of the language.

This has been a very long review (6000 words!!), because I wanted to present it in full detail, explain everything that I did get out of it, and explain why I can’t recommend it. I quoted Rosetta Stone’s own comments about my criticisms too because I wanted this to be balanced. Since the review is neither promotional, nor one endless rant, but focused on presenting as much information as possible, I feel it is perhaps unique online, at least for its depth!

If you’ve somehow made it this far, thanks for reading and if you have any comments or experiences with Rosetta Stone to share, or want to discuss particular parts of this review, please do leave a comment below!



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  • Ryan

    Whew! Benny, what a thorough review of this software. Thanks for doing such an in-depth look at RS.

    One thing I appreciated was your statement that “Over the long-term, purely recognisable input as a learning strategy is more enjoyable than the stressful situations you would encounter in immersive environments, but you learn quicker with that pressure and it’s simply more realistic to how the world will present you with situations and words that you aren’t prepared for yet.”

    This is something that I recently experienced when arriving to Colombia– the fact that in the real world (which is not an ideal world) you are going to be presented with situations, phrases, and vocab you’ve never heard before. You’ve got to develop a way of rolling with those and acquiring them as you go through real life. No packaged program can really duplicate that experience.

    I also appreciate the fact that you have extensive language acquisition before giving this review, as it definitely carries more weight. The people that I know who have used Rosetta Stone and recommended it to me were all monolinguals learning their first language (and their Spanish accents were terrible). Thus, I don’t think I’ll be getting the software anytime soon.

    Great review!

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Well said – no packaged program can duplicate that experience. Things I’ve discussed before like the skill to extrapolate the meaning of words you don’t know based on the context of your actual situation (not photos; it’s not always visual!) and having the mentality to accept that you won’t get everything but to go on regardless, are essential to me. You can only learn this in the field.

    • David Ames

      I have been studying Farsi on my own for the past three years. I started with the Living Language series, which include audio CD’s, and then eventually I took the Farsi Rosetta Stone course. I can say that the book and audio have helped me more. I believe this is because of the dialogues in the Living Language series. After the course, when I would speak Persian with someone, I would find myself stopping to think of what word to say. I would try to think of a situation where I’ve used that word before. And the visuals from the dialogues were easily accessible. But I have almost never directly recalled anything I’ve learned on Rosetta Stone.
      And so I say, if you are learning Bengali or Amharic or Urdu; if contact with native speakers of your target language is very limited, I’d go for the dialogues. You’ll find yourself experiencing a stories that will stick with you.

  • Zane the Experimenter

    Wow, I knew Rosetta Stone recycled the image content (and I cannot blame them), but I am shocked that they translate directly between languages. Not only does it separate language from culture (ack), but it also seems to me that certain grammar patterns and usages are far more difficult in certain languages. I remember trying to use RS when I was starting Arabic and feeling completely lost, especially on the writing bits. Looking back now I wonder how that course would have progressed…

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      It’s probably 80-90% translated between languages in the core course. They do have unique texts for each language, but this “template” that seemed to take up most of the course being so similar is not useful for the learner, only for the producer.

  • Randy the Yearlyglot

    “…you learn quicker with that pressure and it’s simply more realistic to how the world will present you with situations and words that you aren’t prepared for yet. The input-hypothesis is an “ideal” learning environment, and is thus not suited to a non-ideal world in my view.”


    • Randy the Yearlyglot

      You mentioned a couple of things here that stood out to me strongly when I tried Rosetta Stone (an older version) during my Russian year. There were several grammatical concepts in Russian that are entirely unclear from a photo, no matter how well though out that photo may be. Also, the overly American-ized content didn’t make much sense to me for the language I was learning… so much so that the disconnect was a distraction. And one of the most egregious details was that basic conversational terms (please, thank you, good morning, goodnight, how are you, etc) were introduced either late or never. How can you learn a language without those basic details?

      • Benny the Irish polyglot

        There were some photos that presented me with a word and I really could not figure it out and had to go for a dictionary. It made sense in retrospect, but NOT while I was learning.

        As stated here, “please” came up in level 2. I was learning about colours and objects before I was learning about the most basic components that make up all conversations. My progress in Dutch was slowed down and there was too much I wasn’t able to say, and too much that I was learning that was irrelevant as I say it.

        Clothing should not be such a priority in level 1; I never talk about clothing!!! This is just academics given to you for the purposes of describing people, not for real first conversations.

        • Randy the Yearlyglot

          Indeed. I find it frustrating how much attention these companies pay to academic vocabulary, especially at the cost of actual conversations. I think a better method would be to just dissect an actual conversation had by actual people.

        • David

          Don’t you teach shapes and colors before “please”? I taught my kids yes/no, shapes, colors and then later they learned please. How would you ask for the “blue round ball”? You don’t need please if you don’t know ball, blue, and round.

      • Andrew Stone

        Same with Polish :-)

  • WC

    “In our view, a program is truly effective only if it offers genuine language learning value to the widest possible diversity of learners”

    That’s the most telling quote to me. ‘effective’ is only in their terms. They don’t care how effective it is for the user, they only care how effective it is for Rosetta Stone’s bank account.

    Not only is everyone different, but at different stages of their learning, different techniques work better. There is no 1-size-fits-all.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      In talking to Rosetta Stone directly I am sure that many of them are indeed passionate about spreading language learning, but unfortunately I see this as being clouded by the bottom line as demonstrated by the quote.

      I wouldn’t say that they “only” care about their bank account, but the business goal waters down the potential for end-user benefits in my opinion. Even forgetting the similarities between different language versions, a system of one language tailored for everyone is narrow minded in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Benny, excellent review. Very in depth and I think you’ve provided a great service for learners. I do want to ask your opinion though on one thing. I guess I feel you’re right, that “dive in” immersion will get better and faster results, but for those who aren’t able to immerse themselves right now and who won’t be able to for some time, would Rosetta Stone be a good place begin?

    For example, I have a friend who teaches high school Spanish in rural South Dakota. She has her beginning students do RS 3-4 days a week. They have way more fun, are much higher motivated and she has seen a significant jump in the number of kids signing up for Spanish 2 and 3. Around 50% of her 2009 graduating class has Spanish minors in university. It is not all RS of course, but it got the kids in the door so to speak.

    I guess I think that programs like RS are best for those who want to get started now, but who cannot “go” anytime soon. Would that be fair?

    And compared to the other alternatives (classes at the local university, community ed classes, etc) for such folks, RS and like programs might be the best thing for them.

    Then of course it comes down to whether you foot the bill for RS or go with the free services at Livemocha or Busuu. But that is another discussion.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Diving in isn’t about travelling to the country, it’s about meeting up with people or speaking it NOW. Everyone can do this, by arranging Skype calls or meet-ups with natives very easily in many major cities. Sometimes they need to be resourceful, but there is NOBODY who “won’t be able to” for some time.

      Rosetta Stone is a fun environment to learn a language in, but it certainly isn’t the best option in my opinion. However, if they are using it and can afford it, it certainly isn’t doing any harm. Comparing it to community ed classes and such as if they are the only alternatives is not so wise, but it would be better than many traditional academic learning alternatives, depending on the teacher and course material.

      Livemocha and Busuu have a vastly inferior system to Rosetta Stone, and that’s coming from someone clearly not promoting Rosetta Stone. Those websites are not viable alternatives for anyone in their courses, but I send people there all the time to find conversation partners as the social aspect of those sites is very useful.

      • Anonymous

        I think I see RS as a supplement.  If you’re working 40-50 hours a week. If your a mom with 3 kids to raise.  RS can give you a consistent place to step into the language because it’s convenient.  It’s right there on the computer in the other room.  It never cancels a Skype call.  You don’t have to drive across town to meet with it.  That I think is one of the benefits of the system. 

        • Benny the Irish polyglot

          “If you’re working 40-50 hours a week”
          “It never cancels a Skype call”
          WTF? Such illogical arguments are bordering on religious devotion. Everybody has excuses for why they would prefer to sit down and click a mouse instead of being active. Everybody has “no time” and everybody has “no means”. All I see with your argument is that Rosetta Stone is good for people who are good at making excuses for why doing something slightly more active is not possible for them.

          • Stephanie

            Hey, Benny – up to now, I’ve been with you all the way. However, to be so dismissive – and really, just plain rude – to someone bringing up a perfectly valid point was uncalled for. Perhaps, in your world, people don’t get tired. Must be nice. I’m a single Mom who raised two sons, working around 45 hours a week, switching from days to nights every 28 days, for YEARS, in a very rural area. I can guarantee you that not ‘everybody’ has reasonable access to large cities, unless you would consider driving 300-500 miles something you’d do on a regular basis. Give home girl a break. The U.S. is way more spread out than Europe. We don’t ALL live in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Dallas or Chicago – or even close.

            That said, great review of the product. I may still buy it (I’m in Arkansas, which is pretty much the middle of nowhere), but IF I do, at least it’ll be with my eyes open. Thanks!

          • Benny Lewis

            Stephanie you’re getting offended over nothing. And it’s just childish to say that in my world nobody gets tired. It’s the biggest irrelevant tangent I’ve seen yet!

            I dismiss his comment because the arguments of working a full week are pretty stupid as MANY people will relate to them. I’m not a single-mom, but I’ve worked 70 hour week jobs also switching from days to nights, and to say that RS is the solution to people in that situation just annoys me. It’s throwing money at a problem that has way more efficient and frugal solutions.

            I never said living in a city is the solution, although it can help. You can learn a language by Skype by conversing daily with someone. That’s basically the only aspect of RS I do recommend, but you can do it *much better* by arranging classes or a FREE exchange yourself, with conversations tailored to your situation rather than generically.

            You may be isolated, but you clearly have an Internet connection ;) Talk with someone about your situation and your life, and do it in the target language. Arguing that everyone doesn’t have it the same is a good reason NOT to use Rosetta Stone because you shouldn’t be using a course that a single travelling Irish guy can learn from the same way a single mom in a rural area can. Find a human being who you can chat to daily over Skype who can help YOU. Not a generic customer.

            Here is one way to find a Skype partner: but there are dozens of websites online. If you take the money you’d spend on RS and put it into private Skype-based lessons you’ll get MUCH further. Depending on your language you can find people by many means.

          • Stephanie

            I didn’t say RS was the solution to the problem, I don’t think ANY software would really be adequate to truly learn a language… and I wasn’t offended; you weren’t talking to me, after all. At least you read his post thoroughly enough to recognize it was a dude, which was more than I did. Oops!

            I DO have (sort of) internet access – on my phone, which btw doesn’t do skype. Not that it matters, I live in the sticks & it’d probably drop the call, anyway, which might be dude’s problem w/ skype, now that I think of it… Anyway, I won’t be buying anything before I replace my old pc, may it rest in peace…

          • ryan mitchell

            Wow. That is a rude attitude to have. Makes me wonder about your review.

  • Annette

    I think programs like this can be useful but as you mentioned about the people who have “reached fluency” using this program, I think other contexts and methods are needed to truly be successful in learning the language. I have used various language learning programs along with other methods, such as writing on Lang-8, skyping with native speakers, taking classes entirely in German, and going to my Italian meetup group and I would say using a language learning program is good, if you like it and are learning something, but should not be the primary way you learn if you really want to be able to use the language.

    Thanks for your review. It was very interesting to read and I feel like I know a little more about what the program includes.

  • Vera van Mulken

    Een uitgebreid en overdacht verslag. Ik geef nu een aantal jaren Engelse les aan Nederlandse kinderen in Nederlandse scholen en door de jaren heen heb ik geleerd dat er geen perfecte methode is. Methodes zijn nooit afgestemd op individuen en hebben allemaal hun voor- en nadelen. De beste manier om een taal te leren is door één of twee leidende methodes te gebruiken en hiernaast de hulp in te roepen van verschillende andere bronnen. Naast mijn cursusboek (tekstboek / werkboek) maken de leerlingen gebruik van een idioomboek, gesprekken met native speakers, voorbeeldgesprekken van YouTube, krantenberichten, tweets, grammatica-overzichten en al het ander materiaal wat we maar te pakken kunnen krijgen.

    Het leren van een taal is mijns inziens niet afhankelijk van de methode die je gebruikt, al klopt het wel dat een goede, passende methode het proces kan versnellen of vergemakkelijken. Ik ben een groot voorstander van ‘in het diepe springen’ (communicative approach, doeltaal als voertaal) met gebruik van verschillende leerstijlen en benaderingen.

    Heel veel succes met het leren van onze mooie taal!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    As said in this article, the main feature of RS I would promote is the live spoken lessons. These weren’t available in version 3, so I can’t say I’d promote any versions before version 4. I did get some use out of Rosetta Stone, but only because I was working towards the spoken lessons.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Very true – a system for learning Hindi that talks about sport and doesn’t discuss cricket is really badly planned.

    I don’t doubt anyone who uses it will indeed make progress and learn something, but the points you raised are important.

    Not being able to sell it on second hand is very strange – you can do this with all other courses! Obviously it wouldn’t be fair to do it with mine because I got it for free. It will likely just get put on a shelf here in this apartment for good after I’m gone, rather than someone else perhaps taking advantage of it.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    One of my blog readers analysed Pimsleur and found TWELVE minutes of native non-repeated content in the 30 hour course. Pimsleur is mostly English and repetition – so much so that the course amounts to very little content. At least Rosetta Stone’s audio is all native content, even if it’s content that I don’t particularly like, I didn’t hear too many repetitions (still some) and NO ENGLISH (other than the repeat etc. instructions).

    Pimsleur’s audio is much more complex for the obvious reason that the whole course is audio. Since Rosetta Stone’s relies on their course, the audio time is actually more efficiently used; it’s all pronunciation and recognition. There are plenty of problems with this, but I’m afraid I didn’t find Pimsleur useful – you can see my review about Pimsleur on this blog to understand why.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I’ll continue reviewing other systems if I see them as holding potential for improving my learning techniques. ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Glad you found it funny! They told me that was their goal, but it ended up annoying me.

    Yes, there is simple psychology behind higher prices selling better. It’s interesting how illogical people can be!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Even though I was just dealing with 3 levels, I could see how VERY little is learned. Your comment confirms my suspicions about 5 levels not taking you much further.

    The program actually intentionally doesn’t explain verb conjugations; it presents them in their context. It attempts to avoid complicated grammar explanations. This is an approach many people like, but I think can slow you down. As you show, there is no room for extrapolation in this way!

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Andrew

    Ok, you’re right, it actually is worse than I thought.  I’ve used it before and I’d agree with most of your criticisms.  Also, I didn’t get to try the live tutors at the time, but if it’s as rigid and structured as you say it is, I don’t think I’d bother even if I could, I’d just schedule a private lesson with someone online or find someone to talk with for free from a language exchange site.


  • Anonymous

     Would have loved to have read a summary/conclusion at the end where you discuss whether it’s worth the money etc and how it rates compared to other software. Conclusions in general are not a bad idea, especially not when the text is 6,000 words :)

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      My conclusion was at the very start: I can’t recommend it and I don’t think it’s worth the money.

      Half the price is justified by the live classes, the other half has parts I sometimes enjoy but can’t find very useful.

      • Anonymous

        Ah, so you did, in bold nonetheless :P  
        Anyway, take it as feedback :) . It’s always nice to have a clear and concise conclusion at the end of a review (and many other types of writing too).

  • Talitha PLD

     I used RS when I started learning Swedish…you could say that I acquired it without the cost if you will! I found it was really great for vocab. I was learning in a university at the same time and they were only teaching me grammar and expecting me to edit text before I even knew any words! Any words they did try teach me seemed to go in one ear and out the other and I literally had a really intense headache every class because I was trying so hard to concentrate! (No exaggeration) RS on the other hand brainwashed the words into my head, and I have never forgotten them. That was the advantage I found with RS. The voice recognition is not good for the confidence as it is often not working and the pictures are so cheesy! The lessons are also really long! If you do a whole section at once. As you said it is really only basics… I would buy it just for that if it cost under $100 US but not it is actual retail price..not a chance! buy it just for that if it cost under $100 US but not it is actual retail price..not a chance!

  • Tom

     Hi Benny,

    A nice in depth review that only confirms what I thought.  Maybe you would find the following interesting as the company spokesman refers specifically to learning like a baby (despite RS saying otherwise to you) as well as the now infamous discovery made by Michael Phelps:

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks Tom, but I already linked to this post at the end of my review.

  • Andrew Cohen

     Hi Benny – Great post.  I used Rosetta Stone to learn French about 5 years ago (pre-TOTALe), and the frustrating experience inspired me to create a new language program for myself in an Excel macro.  This program has since turned into a fast-growing web/mobile education startup called Brainscape. 

    In fact, I recently wrote a post on the Brainscape blog describing why I felt that  “immersion” programs like Rosetta Stone are not quite as effective for adults.  (  We have also written a white paper describing why the new language-learning method we have created – entitled Intelligent Cumulative Exposure – is likely to be the most effective balance between cognitive science and positive user experience. 

    I encourage you to check out Brainscape, and to please let me know if you would like to speak further about it.  Keep creating great Fluent-in-3-months content in the meantime.

  • Andrew Cohen

    Great post, Benny.   Your implied preference for at least SOME translation and explicit grammar instruction is a welcome alternative to the “total immersion” approach (which is really not total immersion at all).

    I actually wrote about the False Promises of Language Immersion Software on the Brainscape blog a few months ago:  I’d love your thoughts.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks Andrew – you raise several points that I totally agree on! Keep up the good work with Brainscape ;)

  • Robert Budzul

    Brilliant review.  Probably will remain the best, most accurate review of RS on the net for a long time.
    I’ve got the Arabic version – actually threw money at it… and gave up after a few hours.  It became impossible to work out which words were being taught, cars or colours… it might have been my fault but it’s so tedious no matter how you look at it. 

    It’s possibly an emperor’s new clothes phenomenon.  They charge so much so everyone thinks it must be good and if they don’t learn it’s their own fault.  And yes, how do you teach Russian cases and aspects etc just with pictures?  From your review it sounds like the answer is… they don’t take you up to that high a level so they don’t need to.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      With the cars & colours thing, sometimes they do it right (4 images, all red for example), but other times I had to give up and use a dictionary. In retrospect it made perfect sense, but not at the time.

      I like your analogy!

  • Antoni W

     I wish I’d read this review a few years ago when I purchased this. After using this, I learnt about as much as I could from a book in a few days, expect it took weeks to finish. The interface was pretty and the graphics, but the content was rubbish. Bear in mind also, I didn’t get the online lessons that they now offer. 

    I’d recommend this course, if it was much much cheaper than it is now, but the price really isn’t worth it. 

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      My point too. I found many parts of it useful, but you learn too little to justify its current price.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Ha, funny story! Excellent conclusion :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Exactly. I *could* have deleted all the negative parts and made it sound like you must buy it now and probably earned really well from it because of the traffic I get to this site, but that simply wouldn’t have been honest. I hope people appreciate that I’m going for integrity, transparency and as balanced and detailed a review as I possibly could, rather than cha-ching sounds ;)

  • Anonymous

     Although I neither completely agree with your or Rosetta Stone’s approach, I agree with you that Rosetta Stone CANNOT bring you to fluency. But I must say RS is GREAT at getting you started in a language. I learned really quickly when I first started using RS. But after a couple units, I stopped because it wasn’t pushing beyond the basics fast enough

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      I got great value out of those very first two conversations (that I was alone in the call for). In that way Rosetta Stone did help me with a nice boost of confidence. Apart from the calls and when it started getting more classroom like with other students, I can’t say it does so much more though. For the price you need more than just that boost of confidence. Private lessons with a spunky encouraging native would be cheaper.

  • Anonymous

     Great review Benny, I read it all the way through. Very balanced and honest. Rosetta Stone certainly invest a lot of money in advertising and I think get a lot of criticism for that. It seems like it does a reasonable job but it not worth the money in conclusion.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Yes, I forgot to mention that! So much of their budget goes into advertising. Since I don’t live in the states I don’t get exposed to it. It must contribute to the end-price since it’s part of their investment.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I invited them to comment here if they liked. I had already sent them the final draft before adding in their comments as shown here, so I’m not sure if they would have much to add apart from replying to comments?

    I’m not sure if they planned to generate sales from sending me a copy, but I think it was very wise of them to work *with* me on this. If I hadn’t talked to them directly to find out more about how things work, and if I actually had to pay the price to get this myself then the tone of the review would have probably been much more negative. Thanks to our cooperation, I feel it is very neutral, as many people confirm.

  • Anonymous

     Thanks, Benny, for your review. I only have a Demo version of Rosetta Stone but I found it pretty disappointing, especially beacause it is often said to be THE most effective program in the world if not in the whole universe. In general, this whole “think like a child and learn subconsciously” makes likely sense, but I think you can’t learn a language without any grammar.  In my case, I was trying to learn Swedish a was very confused because of the different forms that were not explained. So I had to guess when to use which form, until I found out that the difinite article goes at the end of the noun, big surprise… So I think there are lots of other programs that can compete with RS. The pictures are nice and everything, but in the end it’s just a very expensive way to learn your vocabulary.

  • Walker W

    Excellent review with balance and detail.

    Rather than reiterate what you and others have said, I will point out my biggest disagreement with you – I really couldn’t care less about photos being photoshopped.  So what if it’s a little cheesy, if locating someone in Paris is useful for a lesson, cut them out in front of the  Eiffel tower and be done with it.  On the other hand you’ve given me cause to believe that it probably ISN’T the most important thing to learn, when please, thank you and such don’t even come until level 2. 

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Yes, as I mentioned the photoshopping annoyed me, but I can see how others would find them funny. As I stated here, the reply from Rosetta Stone is that they are used with humour.

      But as I said “please” wasn’t in level 1. Thank you was though if I remember right. But I still think learning about clothes items before I learn how to say “please” is a terrible structure to follow.

  • Fernando Dharma

    I don’t like Rosetta Stone or Live Mocha. The phrases are the SAMES to all languages. Take the japanese course.  The pronoun “kare-tachi”  (they) have a few use,  japanese use “min-na” (people).  I see the same problem with the japanese gramatics, too. Listen to japanese anime, is hard listen the plural form of pronouns “tachi”.  The languages aren’t equals. Different languages, different methods!

  • Seb

    They have a good selling point ‘learn naturally’ but unfortunately we do not live in the same world as babies do. We are not always in the target language country, we have learn at least one language and we usually want to learn a lot quicker.

    From my experience, I started learning my first (and only) second language at the age of 25. I became fluent in 8 months and there were two major stages in my fluency.

    1 – get the basics super quick.

    2 – stop translating.

    To get to step one I belive tanslation is vital. That doesn’t necessarily mean direct word translation though.

    The human brain is amazing quick so you can get fast results through using your mother tongue.

    Translation though can hinder you later on when you are trying to speak naturally.

    A good way to stop translating is to stop using a foreign language dictionary and instead use a single language dictionary in the target language.

    Quick results are a must otherwise you just give up (has happened to me three times) but for long lasting results real immersion ( not fake RS immersion) is key.

    Thats my 2c.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Glad some people see that parts of this article are actually doing RS a favour… but yes, I can’t recommend it.

  • Gavin

    Great review.  I’m glad to see you took the time to really comb through the program and discuss it’s approach.  I especially liked your section on research when you wrote,

     “A small number of linguists also work specifically on second language
    acquisition, and to be totally honest, people with experience (or
    education) in this are who I would most like to be dominating research when
    language learning is being discussed.”

    You’d think this would be the case with a software program devoted to learning an L2, L3, Ln, but I you hit the nail on the head when you said that they prioritized marketability over learnability.   I’m always a little cautious around any company that supposedly does its own ‘research’ and considering how complex the field of second language acquisition is, mass producing a product that claims to provide the ‘baby learning method’ always made me wonder a bit.  But the name for my field, second language acquisition is a bit of a misnomer.  We don’t actually acquire our non-native language, learning is a much better word for what actually is going on and unfortunately the cognitive, linguistic approach to research is deeply rooted in the field of first language acquisition. 

    You’re right to mention the American-centric view coming from the program as well.  That was pretty funny, didn’t think they’d be that sloppy.  I think you recognize the need to shift away from a cognitive approach to language learning and shift our views to a bit more of an ecological approach, one that sees language as embedded in the environment rather than a code simply transmitted back and forth between brains. 

    Anyways, great site! Stoked to have found it.


    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks for reading and for the great comment!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    You didn’t say where you are, but I suggest you log into and search for your town there. Even my small town in Ireland has a “comunidade” and I managed to meet up with Brazilians! Couchsurfing is also great.

    And if you can’t meet up with them in person? Find ways to chat to them on Skype. As I keep saying, consistent conversation opportunities are what will get you ahead; as you can see from Rosetta Stone, clicking buttons can’t do this. I’ll only say that I find the live spoken lessons to be a nice treat in the TOTALe version of the program.

  • Phil Huggins

    I used an older version (version 2 I think) of Rosetta Stone French, just 2 levels. I think 3 were available. I got through both but I was disappointed and suprised in how little I got from it, considering how much it cost and how much time I put into it. It is just an elaborate vocabulary system. I did everything I could possibly do with the program, every day, for about a year and a half. I have been learning French for 3 years and most of what I know came from other sources and my own hard work. It did help me get started though, and I think that it did help me learn the spelling of the words with the writing (typing) exercises. If the price included ALL the languages they have it would be worth it. But with all the tools online I won’t be going back to RS when I start learning my next language.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Actually that’s a good point; since they copy and paste the content ANYWAY, if it included all of their languages it would be a much more worthy price, especially in terms of earlier versions which were much worse if they didn’t have my favourite feature of live lessons with a human.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    No thanks.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    No thanks.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    No thanks.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    No thanks.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    No thanks.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    The commenter and his team have training and certificates, however members of the team very likely lack hands-on experience and may not even speak any foreign languages at a fluent level, so they don’t understand how end results are actually applicable.

    Best of luck with your research, but please don’t diss people without linguistics qualifications. I imagine you have much more training than me, but I am not convinced by your comment that you have knowledge I don’t, just that you have more arrogance.

    As I said in this article, I appreciate the work some linguists do, but some other people with diplomas have opinions that are totally irrelevant in the wrong context.

  • Benny Lewis

    Don’t use Rosetta Stone to teach children. I was an English teacher for children for many years – plonking them in front of a computer screen is a terrible idea – they need human contact!

    You don’t learn like a baby. How many babies click multiple choice options?

  • Benny Lewis

    Next time you leave a comment, please simply write facts rather than your opinion ;)

  • Benny Lewis

    In a six thousand word article, it’s quite possible that I made a mistake. This is to be expected. If you see something specific point it out and I’ll correct it.

    But whining about me making a mistake you fail to even point out and being so moronic as to make a stupid grammatical mistake yourself is hypocritical and idiotic. This level of trolling actually has a Wikipedia page all about it:

    In your tiny two sentence comment you managed to slip up on this: “English” is spelled with a capital E. As far as percentages go, you’d have to find over 4% of my article having grammatical errors to even things out. Good luck with that.

    • John

      Ha. I love it when the grammar police make mistakes in their rants.

  • Benny Lewis

    I find the term “total immersion” to be thrown around quite a lot, so I’m usually sceptical. If the course has you speaking in the language and using it from the beginning, rather than teaching you grammar rules, then I’d encourage attendance.

    However you may not need any courses if you live near Spanish speakers. Hanging out with them will be all you really need. Otherwise that’s the only reason you’ll end up learning in Puerto Rico if you don’t learn beforehand; because you are exposed to people.

  • Benny Lewis

    Your comment kind of makes sense, until the last bit. Why not just pay $20 for a good book based course and “use it like you paid 500″? I find the only true advantage of Rosetta Stone is that you are less motivated to fail because of the huge chunk of money you’ve spent and you’ll get out of the house to practice and study with other techniques too. That is a psychological technique independent of the content of the software.

  • Benny Lewis

    Your comment kind of makes sense, until the last bit. Why not just pay $20 for a good book based course and “use it like you paid 500″? I find the only true advantage of Rosetta Stone is that you are less motivated to fail because of the huge chunk of money you’ve spent and you’ll get out of the house to practice and study with other techniques too. That is a psychological technique independent of the content of the software.

    • Christina Humphrey

      For a visual person like me I tried the “book versions” and failed. The Rosetta Stone program I got to try worked way better for me and I made progress faster in a shorter period of time

  • Benny Lewis

    Your comment kind of makes sense, until the last bit. Why not just pay $20 for a good book based course and “use it like you paid 500″? I find the only true advantage of Rosetta Stone is that you are less motivated to fail because of the huge chunk of money you’ve spent and you’ll get out of the house to practice and study with other techniques too. That is a psychological technique independent of the content of the software.

  • Benny Lewis

    Your comment kind of makes sense, until the last bit. Why not just pay $20 for a good book based course and “use it like you paid 500″? I find the only true advantage of Rosetta Stone is that you are less motivated to fail because of the huge chunk of money you’ve spent and you’ll get out of the house to practice and study with other techniques too. That is a psychological technique independent of the content of the software.

  • Benny Lewis

    My feedback is to use Anki instead – as far as flashcard apps go it can’t be beat. Others who have used byki agree.

  • Matt Alexander

    Thanks for doing this. I enjoyed learning about the various language-learning theories you glossed, and it was very valuable that you helped me understand the theoretical underpinnings of Rosetta Stone.

    I was just about to pull the trigger on Rosetta Stone (Spanish). My daughter is learning Spanish in a dual language program in public school, and the rest of us want to learn Spanish to keep up with her. But after reading this, I’m not comfortable delegating responsibility for our language learning, or taking the “easy way” instead of a more true-to-life immersion approach.

    I’m reading your Language Hacking Guide next.

  • Anonymous

    I suppose I’m late to comment on this, but your review which strives to be fair and in-depth falls apart right here:

    “I only made it half way through my set, but I can’t imagine how completing all 3 levels would get you out of what I would definitely call basic level. It’s a clever idea, but I don’t see it as a major improvement over alternatives.”

    You don’t really know where you’d be at the end of all 3 levels. (Isn’t it 5 for some languages anyway?) You just assumed where you would be at the end. I don’t think it’s crazy to expect a self-proclaimed detailed and honest review of a course to be written by someone who has…actually completed the course they’re reviewing.

    • Benny Lewis

      Please read the review carefully. I wanted to finish the course but technical problems with faulty programming meant that I had no choice but to stop. I would have really liked to have discuss how poorly designed the software is, to force me to not be able to use the one thing I actually liked about the system (the private spoken lessons) with a functioning microphone half of the time, but since I was on a Virtual Box that technically isn’t supported, I didn’t go into that.

      In my opinion, the issues I had have nothing to do with the Virtual Box. I’m confident of this, but not 100% sure so I decided not to discuss them.

      And as I said, I didn’t learn how to say PLEASE until level 2. It’s pretty easy to extrapolate how much further I was going to get. Level 1 and 2 were exactly the same with slightly different lessons. There was no jump in new use of the interface.

      For me to complete the course I would have had to accept that I couldn’t continue with my live video lessons, and this was unacceptable as its the only part of the course worth investing time in.

      • Anonymous

        I still think you could have found a way to make it work (bug their technical support until you can get it done) for the sake of a complete review about a complete experience. And then certainly complain as much sa necessary in your review about what you had to go through to get it working, but I still think you should have done it.

        “And as I said, I didn’t learn how to say PLEASE until level 2. It’s
        pretty easy to extrapolate how much further I was going to get. Level 1
        and 2 were exactly the same with slightly different lessons. There was
        no jump in new use of the interface.”

        I still disagree with this in this context. It’s possible that you’re “probably right”, but making an honest and detailed review should still requires believing the possibility that you might not be right. Maybe the pedagogy doesn’t teach certain things early on because the order of material is designed in a certain way, and they expect you to eventually complete it. (A real example of this is Heisig’s Remembering The Kanji, where he doesn’t teach common characters early on, based on the idea that you can learn a couple thousand much faster if you use his order, rather than struggling more to learn only the two hundred that happen to be very useful).

        Not saying this is necessarily the case, just saying that it’s not fair to discount the possibility.

        • Benny Lewis

          I did bug their technical support. After weeks of to-and-fro I had no choice but to stop. You can think what you like, but I’m very confident that level 3 wouldn’t have had huge surprises to turn my opinion around. I put a lot of hours into Rosetta Stone so this is a very valid and serious review.

          I really wanted to discuss the buggy software and unsatisfactory technical support, but the technicality of me using a Virtual Box meant that I couldn’t.

          I did some research to see if there were major alterations in level three and this is not the case. You can’t compare it to Remembering the Kanji as the change is very much apparent from what I hear.

  • MsMay

    This was an interesting review and I know it was well thought out but unlike others im not so easily and instantly impressed. I found it to be overly wordy, overly long, and a bit dull in many aspects. I also enjoy reviewing and ive never been a fan of overly long, dull reviews that could easily be tightened up a bit.
    I completely agree with the part about the photos being recycled. I was wondering why they were using photos that were clearly of japanese, and arabic when I am learning Spanish. As far as it not being a good enough program and being an active learner. Not all of us have that option. I am disabled and so are many others and I cannot get out of the house very often. I also don’t have any extra cash to hire tutors or attend any classes so a boxed program like this is just right for me. I also think there is nothing wrong at all learning from a boxed program if you are beginner and just getting started in a certain language. After im done with it I may or may not look for other ways of improving my knowlege of spanish. Not everyone has to be overly serious about learning the language they want to learn. Some of us just want to enjoy ourselves and have fun learning the basics and there is nothing wrong with that at all. 
    Back to the photos section. I also, would have thought it would have been much better to see all spanish photos while learning the spanish language. And while I like the learning style I had some confusion as to two photos. In the early section I was sure I understand what the spanish phrases for swimming were but in later lessons they showed more photos that depicted swimming and I got confused as to which one really meant swimming or if both of them did. And I noticed someone saying ”oh my friends had terrible spanish accents  and only used rosetta stones so i didin’t think their opinions really mattered at all” and I have to completely disagree with that statement, I think the average person who is just learning a language is not supposed to have a picture perfect accent, and there opinion is what matters the most because the program is made for the beginner, it is not made for those who are already fluent in the language.

    • Benny Lewis

      That could have been an interesting comment and I know it was well thought out, but I found it to be overly wordy and terribly repetitive (saying “overly long, dull” so quickly in succession).
      Breaking your own rules much? :)
      The only useful part of the program is the video call – if you can’t leave the house then use many of the free language exchange sites to Skype people.

      • Setzer

        I also enjoyed your review, but I am surprised at how you have responded to comments.

        I see some comments where you respond (and often disagree) with what they say. That’s reasonable. However, sometimes you provide a little critique of the wording of the comment… as if you’ve now taken up reviews of comments as well.

        Try not to antagonize your readers, for God’s sake.

  • Amanda Allen

    This is definitely informative and makes me rethink making this purchase. I’m looking into learning Spanish for work (insurance) and debating on what is the most effective. I took classes in high school but never got a good grip on the language. Something that isn’t super time consuming would be best but there are just so many products out there…

  • Benny Lewis

    As I’ve said before, nobody I’ve talked to has ever successfully learned a language with Rosetta Stone unless they have used a large amount of other materials. At that stage it’s impossible to say if RS was any use because the person was doing so much with other means.

    The fact that you have used so many materials kind of proves my point. I’m sure your Hebrew is great, but it’s because you are living in Israel, have friends, attend a school etc., not because of the yellow box.

  • Rda734


    I had RS Chinese and loved the program.
    Problem is not the software but their Customer Service. The CS was so atrocious that I sent RS back to them and will never deal with them ever again.

    You might want to try the CS, you’ll see for yourself.

    • Benny Lewis

      I know all about it. I had some serious technical problems that I didn’t mention in the blog post because “technically” my system wasn’t fully supported. Expecting someone on a global corporations technical support to understand the basics of how the 3rd biggest operating system for computers in the world works was asking way too much.

  • Benny Lewis

    Best software in the world is HB 2.0:

  • Jmickel

    I agree with most of Benny’s basic philosophy of language learning, but there is something else to consider: some people will not study, make flash cards, etc but still want to learn. A lot of your methods are quite time consuming. I learned Spanish and Arabic as a student and through immersion. Now that I hBr a demanding day job, I’ve found Pimsleur to be a great

  • Jmickel

    …sorry technical issues. Anyway, an invaluable way to get started acquiring vocabulary and familiarity with sound and syntax. I can just press play in my pimsleur tapes or click through Rosetta and I’m learning something that will be a great springboard for immersive learning when I am in Switzerland 3 months from now.

  • kirt ford

    yes the pictures confuse you at first because they show pictures instead of words but you can go on a translator like the one I go on such as google translate to see what the word are sentence mean rosetta stone work but you have to go on a translation in order to know the words and sentences thats the problem with it but it does work an they do have a rosetta stone chat site were you can talk to people of all different languages an interact with then with texts are webcam chat.

    • Alpage48

      I had not thought of using the translator because the Mandarin Chinese is presented in Pinyin rather than Simplified Chinese, however, I tried it this morning and discovered that Google Translate can handle that.

      A word of caution though.  My (step) daughter, who is Chinese, tells me that Google Translate is not always accurate, so it does pay to check with some other programs as well.

      • watermark0n

        You can select Pinyin, Simplified, or Traditional Chinese…

      • Andrei Gheorghe

        When using google translate, I usually translate a phrase from my native language(english) into the other language. I then translate from the other language back into english, if the engish text that comes out makes sense, then its likely that the translation is safe.

        • Brandon Rivington

          Another great tool for single-word/short-phrase translations is Wikipedia! Look up something in your native language and then see if the same page is available in your target language. You may be surprised at how many “translations” you can find! And the best part is that they are all human translations!

          Happy learning!
          Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Missmt96

    I agree with the pictures not always being clear on RS and I find myself confused. Also how often am I going to need to say “The horse jumps”?

  • Benny Lewis

    Finding people who speak the language in your area or via Skype is by far the cheapest. Other than that go to your local library and get out any course on the language, or buy a book for $10-20. The content is almost always the same, just with prettier presentation for the more expensive ones.

    None of these courses that cost hundreds are necessary.

  • Benny Lewis

    The fact that someone “took the time” to read my article does not make them exempt from receiving my honest reply if they leave one.

  • Holly S.

    My personal breaking point with R.S. was after I received a notice (less than three months after buying TOTALe) informing me that I needed to pay an additional fee to maintain the product’s new services. These included tutoring sessions, interactive games- basically all of the components improved from older versions.

    Upon surveying the box, I found the whole deal written in 4-pt. font. It warned that “certain components of the Rosetta Stone product” might expire after an (unspecified) period of time. This disclaimer hardly communicates that two-thirds of R.S.’s advertised advantages over other language-learning products (i.e. components based on internet access and a theoretical immersion experience) will expire shortly after the date of purchase.

    Needless to say, I didn’t pay the additional cost… and thankfully, I’m still in high school so my parents paid a portion of the original price, as it was an “educational venture.” ;)

    • Benny Lewis

      Wow – I thought access to lessons was free for life! This is terrible!

  • Genilton Barbosa

    Great post Benny. I’m from Brazil and I’ve studied English and Spanish and now, I’m begining with French language using various online materials, books, podcasts, skype and so on.  I completely agree that speaking is essential.

    When I go to online learning sites and realize that they use same structure, images and dialogs to every language they teach, that’s very frustrating to me.

    Aaron… If you want an exchange partner, we can talk via Skype, MSN and so on. I’m interested in Spanish, English and French. I can help you with Portuguese.

    Genilton Barbosa

  • Benny Lewis

    I suppose “you’re an extremist” is another “modest claim” and certainly not lashing out in any way? I really can’t stand hypocrisy.

    I must do no such thing “as the writer of a blog”. What a ludicrous suggestion! I am sharing my thoughts here in an honest and non-watered down way. If this offends you, then you will stop enjoying this blog eventually anyway.

    What I said to Aaron stands. His comment suggests a woe-is-me attitude.

    • Holly Keenan

      Wow, is this how you talk to people you meet in your travels who dare to disagree with you? If you were on a train and you got into a discussion about Rosetta Stone with someone you just met, would you call them “so illogical as to be bordering on religious devotion” if they dared suggest that it could be a good supplemental material to busy people? And then call them childish, and their arguments stupid? What you call “honest and non-watered down”, most others call “disrespectful”, as shown by the number of down votes your replies have gotten. We all have a right to disagree with others, but have you ever heard of “respectfully disagreeing”? Aaron’s posts were nothing but respectful to you, but you couldn’t give him the same courtesy in return?

      Aaron’s original comment mentioned children learning Spanish and starting with RS. Do you think that they can all use the methods you mentioned in your reply? Most of my friends limit their children’s internet access in the evenings, and probably wouldn’t let them Skype with or go out to meet strangers either. Furthermore, the children Aaron was referring to live in rural South Dakota, not a “major city”, meaning they almost certainly can’t go out and meet native speakers. So your reply didn’t even address the specific situation Aaron was asking about.

  • Benny Lewis

    I would highly recommend she looks for online exchanges, which are totally free. Lots of people want to improve their Spanish. She can help them and get English practice and lessons without spending a cent. ;)

  • Nkosi

    Thanks for your update. I’m just about finished with unit 1 in Italian and I’m already creating grammatically correct sentences on my own. Hopefully at the end of unit 3, I will be able to have a better grasp on the grammar. I’m really amazed with my vocabulary though.

    • Celos Beats

      I’m about to start unit one today. I’m glad you showed improvement. Inspirational.

  • Bsort13

    I bought RS and essentially agree with what is stated above. The thing that continues to piss me off is that for the money spent, we should expect the software to operate at a consistent level. I have an Imac and when I set up both me and my wife-she has a different log in-we began to have trouble with the software. The main issue is that with 2 users, the software does not know who to recognize, even though you have logged into the app. So, essentially we have to reboot the machine for the speech recognition to work.

    When I called RS support on this, they acknowledged this and several other issues I brought up and just said that they were “known issues”! They walked me through a correction that only works once and then if you want the app to perform as expected, you either do it again or reboot. I don’t think it is worth the effort for the price and would not buy it again!

    Bill Sortino

  • The Brown Sugar Life

    Great Review….I guess that impulse buy is on hold for now

  • Asimov4

    Merci beaucoup pour cet article. Mon professeur me l’a donné comme lecture obligatoire pour un cours de programmation d’applications Android d’apprentissage de langues étrangères à l’Université de Washington (Seattle).

    C’est bien plus facile à lire que les documents de “Recherche” ;)

  • Jolenecraw

    What program do you suggest to learn italian? It is my dream to learn it! I took 4 years in high school but unfortunately that was awhile ago:/ would love to learn it again.

  • Permittivity

    I think you just saved me a few hundred bucks.  Thank you.  I’ll head over to the library and pick up some stuff on Spanish and become an active learner.

  • Fritz Brune

    Very informative comments on Rosetta Stone.  I learned a lot.  I just watched your TED  presentation and heard many of the statements I used to make as a high school language teacher…especially the one concerning the year 1066!  Wishing you continued success learning Chinese.  PS:  I believe you had a chance to meet my son Michael, who is in Shanghai to work on learning Chinese.  I’m sure the tips you mentioned in you blog will be help for him.

    Fritz Brune

  • Hugo M M Rabson

    I’m new to this site, but I’m thrilled to have found it. It’s full of informative blog posts and intelligent comments.

  • Leena Klama



  • Michael Reinhart

    Fantastic article.

  • Professorpeterlane

    I actually find Rosetta Stone works a great deal better than the French classes I took in school and faster than library research and the like. I remember far more of what I learn for one thing. Now every system has flaws so using more than one thing is always recommended  but I’d say it’s a great way to learn the basics quickly.

  • Ria smith

    a friend of mine has tried Rosetta stone and said that for some parts of it the program was alright in other parts completely pointless.
    i am trying to learn languages as i am sure the next person and previous person who wrote a post is but i am still confused as to which way to turn to learn baring in mind i am a student and still studying

  • Ronald Buie

    I use RS while studying korean.  I have enjoyed it, but would agree that, alone, it is not a complete approach.  I disagree with a lot of your criticism about the method (although agree with the implication that RS’s belief in the universiality of their method is not realistic.)  I believe the program would achieve something close to perfection if it had 2-3 time as much content introducing the same vocabulary.  That is, more variety in the exercises and how the information is presented.  The best would be if it were generated each time, so that you would have many ‘curve balls’ that more realisticly mirror the use of spoken language.  That is, perhaps 2-3 more pictures for each targeted vocabulary, but 5-10 more variations on its use.  As it is, each lesson takes on a kind of predictability that actually hinders learning.

    Even with the online lessons (which are a big help) I do not believe that RS alone is sufficient for even mastering the basics of even travellling using a language, but I do believe that it successfully teaches the cognitive constructs of the language and so is a valuable boost.  However, more contextual pictures would go a long way to improving that.

    I am not fully convinced the price is justified.  Particularly when, after your 3 months, you pay a subscription to continue playing games and reading stories.   I would  prefer for all the rest to be free, but lessons to be pay per class.  As you noted, the studio lessons are readily staled after a couple of attendences.  The addition of lessons still targeted at the same vocabulary, but with expanded methods for students who have advanced beyond but wish to refocus on prior vocab and (most importantly) master contained grammar and concepts would be a great addition as well.

    In the end, I have decided that RS is a unique and beneficial part of my learning, and so continue to use it, and have now purchased the mandarin Chinese.  But, budget wise, it is certainly an extravagance.

    Perhaps the biggest problem…  a lack of learners.  I hope Chinese has more, but korean, has few, and outside of studio lessons, I do not see them, so I do not play the games with others, which means I do not play most of the games, and am missing a key part of the interactive (and so trully valuable) learning experience.  The poor design of the multiuser platform is a serious failing, but I see their reasons, it is a highly secured environment where meeting with strangers are regulated and the entrance fee (total costs plus subscriptions) is prohibitive.  I believe that arrangement is a mistake.

    Fortunately for me, I am in Korea at the time, I take other lessons in person, and I have many people to practice with and learn from.  If these were not true, RS would not be helpfull, but with these RS is a valuable addition.  The most expensive tool in my box, and not superior, but uniquely beneficial.

  • Joe Rodgers

    Oddly, the “graduate professor” ( I’m in education myself but have never heard this title) fails to use correct grammar or even deliver a comprehensible message in almost every sentence of his post ( not to mention numerous misspellings , lack of punctuation and other errors ) . All of this also severely undermines his arguments ( such as they are ) and credibility.

  • Maria

    An additional tip to language learners: watch a lot of movies on the foreign language and preferably that were made in the country. It is fun, inexpensive and helps to get used to the speed of the speech. Of course no subtitles allowed!!

  • Joseph

    Actually, research (by real foreign-language acquisition experts) has found that “total immersio” is NOT the best way to learn a language. In fact, it can be a very poor way. Because a learner immersed in, say, another country, can get so discouraged by the constant reminders and realization that no matter how well one feels one is progressing in a language, a quick trip to the grocery store will disabuse one of that notion.

    The better way to learn a language is by being in a small group (12 maximum, but the smaller the better, i.e., 2 or 3, but 1 on 1 with tutor the best) and using different methodologies that provide the learner with contextualized, meaningful, real-world communicative and/or functional) opportunities (aka “exercises”). You don’t have to go abroad for this. And, as mentioned, that has found to be counter-productive in research.

    Going abroad can help! I was myself in Moscow for two months, studying Russian at MGU summer sessions. Yes, being surrounded by all that “in-context” Cyrillic helped immensely: but not as much as communicating in the language in real-world contexts. Which can be done anywhere a willing language partner can be found.

    • Kieran Maynard

      I agree! Total immersion is discouraging. I’ve met foreigners in China who seem to give up on Chinese because no one in the grocery store, etc. can understand them. It’s because their pronunciation is terrible, and you can’t improve it just by hearing people talking around you (probably speaking various dialects anyway).

  • James Nelson

    The one aspect of rosetta stone I found useful (with Russian) was that of hearing correct pronunciation, but I’ve discovered that especially with languages that utilize any sounds that English speakers are not accustomed to, you might think your pronunciation is spot on, but only a native speaker can tell when you have it right. For that reason any course RS included is only going to be truly effective if you have someone that you can talk to ( the sooner the better), because what you might actually be doing is reinforcing an incorrect pronunciation that will then take extra effort to correct.

  • Ben

    I’m learning German at the moment before going on Exchange next year. I have bought RS and also a CD series by Michel Thomas.

    I find RS useful for the vocabulary but hopeless for the grammar. I have to continually guess why the grammar is the way it is. The Michel Thomas series is much better in this regard as he clearly says things like “You must always put the second verb at the end of the sentence”

    I also find that because the CD course is entirely audio I can’t cheat by using visual clues from the photos. Plus he is using proper sentences from the beginning and prompting me to answer in complete sentences.

    So like Benny, I think there are other better ways to learn German which take advantage of our adult skills in learning. I don’t want to have to learn German grammar by trial and error.

  • Bepe13

    I have had Rosetta Stone for a year now and it does help learn words and I am sure eventually complete sentences. The real question is whether it is worth the $400-$500 you pay to get the complete version? Also important and never discussed in many places is the fact that this company cares nothing for their clients once they have purchased the software; There is essentially NO customer support! They periodically “lock” your version and try to force you to purchase their online interactive community subscription, which costs about $25/month! Once the program is locked, ten you need to go to support (they outsourced their jobs to India) via “Chat” on your machine. That is a very long (for me 50 minutes) process which yielded no help! I then found a workaround, which was to un-click the “show program in Browser” box. That then allowed me to use the program.

    I think this company is essentially a scam and they do everything to sell the software. if you have any installation issues you are essentially on your own! They need people to stop buying the product until they provide service equal to the price of the product!

    Bill Sortino

  • Andy

    Hey man. I think you did a really, really good job with this review. Although I agreed with you 100% it was well written and thought provoking. RS was great in some respects for me because I am A.D.H.D. and feel inconsiderate whenever someone is trying to explain something and the my mind drifts off. RS doesn’t care because its not a person. Also, its anytime and anywhere I want and for however long I want. Very convenient. But when I tried to order level 4 I was shocked that there isn’t a level 4. I finished the program and am far from fluent. I can barely get around in a Spanish speaking country. I am constantly traveling for my job. What could you suggest considering I am A.D.H.D. and never in the same town for more than a few days? Please help!!

  • Aaron

    You say that you get 12 50-minute lessons with the natives. What if you start over and reinstall the software? Does this mean you get unlimited access to the native speakers? Being able to talk to native speakers an unlimited number of times (though restricted by lesson) seems beneficial despite the large price tag.

    • Benny Lewis

      1. There is a secure code associated with each purchase. That’s what you’re really buying. Re-installing the software is a waste of time because you have to use the same code.
      2. Talking an unlimited number of times normally could be OK, but these teachers are VERY inflexible to the lesson plan. You’d learn the exact same vocabulary and be asked the same questions. Rosetta Stone is built on this system of keeping the lessons very fixed, and teachers are true to that. You can’t talk about your day for example, ESPECIALLY when there are other people in the class and you hear the same tiresome “The ball is blue” rubbish.

    • Scott

      Hi Aaron,
      Unlike Benny, I’ve actually used Rosetta Stone through all 5 levels, making frequent use of the classes, so can probably give you some more accurate information, including changes currently being rolled out.

      The online sessions require an online subscription. In fact, most of the course content has now moved online, so the only time you should need to use the software installed on your PC is if you want to use the system when you are travelling, or somewhere you don’t have an internet connection. Whilst I was sceptical about the move to a browser based app, it does work just as well as the installed programme, and gives the added flexibility that I don’t need to use my own computer (for example if I have an online session scheduled when I’m at my brothers, I can just use his PC).

      Yes, you get unlimited access to the sessions. They have been 50 minutes duration per session for as long as I can remember (about 18 months), but this month they are changing to 25 minute sessions. I’m not sure how that will work out, as I really enjoy the 50 minute sessions, but it will be interesting to see how it goes.

      Having completed all 5 levels of my Russian course, my online subscription recently ran out. I renewed it for 9 months for £79. This gives me unlimited access to the online sessions, which I normally book twice a week. At the rate I use the program, it’s pretty good value.

      The online experience has changed a great deal in the past month or so, with additional chat functionality with other learners and native speakers. Some of the new features are a bit hit-and-miss, but the features have constantly been evolving over the time I’ve used Rosetta Stone, so I’m happy to try out new things every so often, and use the bits that work for me.

      The tutors are extremely flexible in the online sessions, and happy to digress on to any subject which is at a level everyone in the session can benefit from. Sometimes there is only you and the tutor, other times there are up to four students. Usually I find myself with one or two other students, and in both the Russian and French sessions, I’ve got to know the tutors over time and often talk about daily life as well as the course content. Obviously in the early stages of the course, most people are limited in their vocabulary, so an online session in level one is likely to be more focused on the words learned in that lesson than one in level 3. I have, however, had sessions on the early levels and found that the other students, like myself, have an advanced vocabulary and a wider range of things to talk about.

      It is much easier now with the online forums to co-ordinate with other learners to meet up for games or arrange to attend the same classes, so when you have a really good online session, you can arrange to take the next session together with the same students.

      Without doubt, the online sessions and new online chat are the biggest selling point of Rosetta Stone, particularly the new functionality over the past couple of months. This has come at a particularly good time for me, as I’m currently learning French, and didn’t know anyone to practice with, other than fellow learners on Rosetta Stone.

      The only limit on the amount of time you can spend in sessions is that you can only book two in advance at any time. In reality, I’ve never found a problem scheduling a couple of sessions a week, and I’ve noticed since starting the French course that they obviously have a lot more sessions for the more popular languages, so it’s often possible to book a session for the same day or the following day.

  • Isaac


    Just dropping by to say I appreciate your honest review, I will admit I didn’t give it a full read( although I did read the majority), but it was still useful for me, I have already bought Rosetta Stone and had been wondering if I should keep it, but I think I just need to get on it and do the work. I’ve got a TEFL course in November, and then it’s hopefully off to China, where I will teach English and continue learning mandarin. I think that Rosetta stone is probably the best option for me right now, I grew up outside of the country and only recently moved back, and am still settling in, but God willing I’ll be moving again in a few months. I believe Rosetta stone is going to give me a foundation to begin immersing myself in mandarin, I am sure going to China myself will prove to be much more effective.

  • יןסף

    I have done the RS Hebrew program, all three levels. I found the program very helpful. After continuing to study the language though, I have to agree with a lot of what you said about the program. I don’t think RS is the best. And I don’t think it is worth the money.

    I think most people who have “tried RS” (and only did a few units) and say it is a terrible program, probably are people that don’t really have the will to learn a new language.

    Really, to learn any language a lot of time and effort is involved. People who think there is a super quick way to become fluent in a language are deceived.

    If you aren’t worried about cheapest or fastest, RS can definitely be useful.

    If you really have the will to learn a language any program can “work”. While I really enjoyed using RS, I have to say it is not the best.

  • Andre

    I am going to purchase RS for Spanish ( just moved to Miami) and go to twice a week classes at a community college starting in January. I a few months I will post my thoughts on it. Thanks for your review. IT WAS VERY WELL PUT TOGETHER!

  • smartastic

    As an American I can confidently say that that is not an Americanism, it is just bad grammar. We do know how to speak proper English over here you know. Or like something or whatever.

  • Dominic

    Rosetta Stone Totale used to be a great language
    learning software. It surpassed other
    language learning software for no other reason then the online sessions you
    could schedule with native speakers. Of course, you paid extra for this benefit. It was a flat rate every month. However it was completely worth it because
    the user could schedule as many sessions as he/she wanted. Now they have decided to take that away. Still charging the same flat rate of $25 a
    month they only allow 2 sessions a month.
    On top of that, they have shortened the sessions to a half hour. Now Rosetta
    Stone online capability is web based.
    Paying the extra $25 for this online capability amounts to looking at a
    pretty webpage that is useless.

  • Sandy

    I just purchased the set to learn Russian and so appreciate you taking the time to provide such an informative review. Thank you

  • Christina Humphrey

    I found your review very informative and would recommend it to someone shopping for a language program. I myself found much value using Rosetta stone over a couple other systems as I am a very visual person and learn better thru visual representations than words. With that being said recognising that people learn differently being added and presented in your review is the only area I could see for improvement.

  • amy

    I am using the Mandarin Chinese Rosetta Stone and I keep having problems because the lessons will not Load –it keeps saying “loading next screen”—I contacted them online and a technician told me to uninstall and install again–but it still did not work. I called the 800 number and asked for technical support—the first support personnel asked for my name and then hung up . I then called again and another technical personnel said “have a good day” and again hung up on me. I then called the 800 number and explained the situation and she said she will connect me with “second level support”—I have been hold on for someone to answer the phone for the last 20 minutes—so where is the support that they have been touting???????

  • Kim Leone

    Would you say that for a person with no knowledge of the language at all that RS might be a good starting place (say, Level 1) but to not count on it to become somewhat fluent? I’ve tried texts and other software products and felt like I was spinning my wheels. The price of RS, though, is a major roadblock so I’m hoping for some good responses.

  • Malo Pointe

    I’ve found the pictures to be useless, and the multiple choice approach also useless as I’m starting to feel like I can cheat the system and, in turn, cheat myself. But I do have one question: did you learn your language? Maybe I missed that part.

    • Benny Lewis

      I did learn my language. Once I abandoned RS and focused on speaking with people ;)

  • Torrential

    Hi there,

    I think the Rosetta Stone approach is a very helpful way to start developing an ear for the language. It is close to useless if not supplemented with other activities, such as reading grammar, but it combines well with other techniques.

    The three big problems are the price tag, which is ridiculous for what you get, the poor customer service, and the lack of any SRS methodology (SRS = spaced repetition system).

    I recently bought the Japanese version, having previously been happy with the Chinese and German versions. The customer service was so poor I am now writing a freeware competitor, which will be built with user contributions. Google for Arcuate Audio Exchange and get involved if you think it’s a good idea. One approach is to write lessons in the language you are learning, and get a native speaker to check them for accuracy and provide the audio. We’ll be sharing lessons at Lang-8, initially in English and Japanese, but with other languages to be added soon.

    I don’t think for a moment this will fix the underlying limitations of RS, but user-provided content could eventually produce something much better than RS, and because it will be free you can add it to your other methods, pick it up or drop it as you see fit.



  • Ryan Tippens

    Well,Im trying to learn spanish so I got the near 400 dollar version of totale for spanish…1 through 3.I got it last christmas and here it is 1 year later on christmas day.1 year of using it and I cant say a sentance in spanish.It would teach me single words but later as I studied it gives me sentance fragments but the new words to go along with the single word it did teach me were never told to me before,Ive never seen them until RS put them in a sentance fragment.So I find myself looking them up in a dictionary to try to understand what they are.So I know the one word and RS gives me new words but never tells me what they are…I look them up to know and RS never tells me what they are later either.New words it just hands you for the first time in your life but never defines them,never hints at what they mean but it throws them into your lap.This needless to say slows everything down a LOT because there is never vocabulary list or words you will soon be using with a definition of what they mean.As it moves along it gives sentance fragments even more and leaves a blank in the middle or the start of the sentance fragment but you pick which of about 3 words that you’ve never been told what it means to fill that blank,so I look them up again and sort of guess which gives me about a 50% success rate at this point,in the end Im still only guessing and without looking them up I can guess at 50% ……Now for the voice recognition,I wished it worked but its so bad that it doesnt work AT ALL.Headphones with the mic and it gives me a word like COME,CO MAY which means eat,it breaks the word down to CO,it says CO and now its your turn to say it,I say CO,NOPE,I didnt say CO correctly.There isnt a way for me not to say CO correctly,its two letters.My sister n law comes into the country and she only speaks spanish,she doesnt speak english so my wife gets her to try it,NOPE,the womans whos only language IS spanish cant say CO and have the RS software understand her.I contact RS through their facebook page and a nice RS person responds with links that tell me how to setup my brand new laptop RS is on to work better with the voice recognition software.I set it up and the mic stops working so Im back to studying without the voice recognition that I hoped would make this easier.So 1 year later studying several times a week for hours at a time,I dont speak spanish,I dont understand spanish if someone else is speaking it and Im listening and rosetta stone I find to be all but useless as a way to learn spanish.

  • L. Amadeus Ranierius

    Great review! Thank you for your insight.
    In the US military we are permitted to get a copy of v3 for free. I was always skeptical of Rosetta Stone’s method, since I knew no grammar was actively taught. I’m stationed in Japan, and I have very effectively taught myself all the grammar and most of the kanji on my own, but vocabulary was lacking so I thought I would try it. (I am also a polyglot and have been a language teacher for years.)
    It turned out to be a great idea! I would never recommend Rosetta Stone for any language without first making sure the basic grammar was known — or ideally all of it — but RS for Japanese has filled in lots of vocab holes that I had allowed to grow due to my quest for acquisition of grammatical conversation skills (it took me three months to become conversational).

    I wanted to add my input about the copy-and-paste method. Since I have access to all the languages, it’s actually very useful! I once had a semester of beginner Italian, beginner French, and advanced German, three days a week, all right after each other. This allowed me to develop a code-switching ability; I can switch between those three with zero effort still today almost like my native tongue. Now when I finish a Japanese lesson, I go do the same one in Russian to brush up. My goal is to develop the same code-switching ability for Japanese an Russian. If only I had more time, I would try to bring my Chinese up to the same level to do this simul-learning. It’s very effective!

  • Lola Deveraux

    I appreciate your thoughtful review of the Rosetta Stone, especially your description of the things you like and don’t like. It’s always good to present both sides of anything. I’m currently using the program to learn Greek, and I’d have to say that it is extremely useful. I’m still in level 1, but I have become much better at understanding what I read and hear. My first language is English, but it didn’t take long for me to become familiar with the Greek alphabet and get to a point where I can understand the words I’ve learned and distinguish words in songs.

    The Rosetta Stone definitely has it’s limits. As you pointed out, it doesn’t integrate culture, and I wonder how much progress I will ultimately make in speaking Greek. I think immersion will always be the best choice for learning both culture and language. But I also think the Rosetta Stone is the next best thing for those who cannot afford to go to other countries, are extremely busy, or do not know native speakers. I don’t know any native Greek speakers who are willing to teach me their language (the only native speaker I met was looking for a girlfriend, not to teach me his language). So, in the absence to access to native speakers and money to travel, I have the Rosetta Stone. My other issue is that I am in graduate school, so the Rosetta Stone allows me to learn at my own pace as I am extremely busy with school. Considering that I had 0 knowledge of Greek when I started, I think I’ve made some pretty good progress so far in Level 1.

    Everything, even immersion, will always come down to the individual learner. Learning a language requires an individual to be proactive, regardless of how they try to learn it. An individual could go to a foreign country, default to speaking their own language the entire time, and never really learn the language. A person could take a course and never practice. A person could do the Rosetta Stone a few times and never practice, or go long periods of time without using the program and make very little progress. All of these scenarios result in the individual never truly learning the language because they didn’t put in the effort. But if a person really makes an effort, in any of these scenarios, they can make a lot of progress. It all comes down to how proactive the individual is to become fluent. I’m not saying that a person will become fluent with the Rosetta Stone, but I think that if they really take advantage of it, use it regularly, and practice what they’ve learned outside of the program, it will help them to build a solid foundation. A person can be an active learner with the Rosetta Stone. One of the things I’ve tried to do it use the words I’ve learned outside of the program. And of course I will need other resources to attain fluency. But it’s a lot better than sitting around waiting until I meet a native speaker or until I have the money to travel. At least with the Rosetta Stone, I can mimic immersion and work towards my goal.

    Finally, it’s a good semi-structured way of learning. Some people prefer to create their own structure for learning, other prefer a rigid structure, and other prefer semi-structure. People learn differently, and what doesn’t work for you may work wonderfully for someone else. I don’t think it’s good for you to say that it’s “relinquishing responsibility” or being “spoon-fed.” Some people may not know about the other options out there. Others, like myself, may have really thought that it would help them to achieve fluency and later realized more resources would be needed. Such a generalization for the motives of individuals who use it is unfair. You learned how to become fluent in multiple languages before using the program, and that’s great. But everyone is different, everyone learns differently, and everyone has different life circumstances. Obviously it isn’t the right resource for you, but it could be a very helpful resource for someone else.

  • Chiko

    I have tried to use many of the leading programs: Rosetta, Tell me more, Talk now… I have had the same problem in them all – they are very childish. The second two, tell me more and talk now, use very bad graphics, very 1st grade computer program style menus and worse yet, these games that i stopped playing when i was.. i cant even remember.

    My biggest problem with rosetta stone was the pictures. Sure, there is a picture of a girl eating… but what does it mean? Shes eating? She eats? The girl eats? The girl is eating? Etc etc. Due to this i stopped using the program very quickly.

    I am waiting for the day when computer game companies team up with language companies. What better way to teach through “immersion” then to build a REAL environment that you are in? Make it a real game – you just ended up in your country of interest and you need to find a home, get a job, learn how to buy and cook food… get a relationship going, etc. Make the program have a learning module in the form of your electronic dictionary that you carry around. And you must learn to read signs and talk to people, require that it uses your microphone (with suggested dialogue, for simplicity) Grand theft auto 4.. preferably without guns.


  • Kim

    I bought an earlier version of RS Korean. Maybe the pictures have improved, but for me back then, there were whole series of photos which i did not understand. I went through the course so many times that I could get all the right answers – but that was a far cry from having any idea what was being taught. I find it highly unlikely that they spent much money on the cognitive aspects of the photos (even just for Americans, much less internationally). Some examples were of bull riders -doing what?: falling, riding, winning, or was it the bull? and a skateboarder – doing what (or is it about a noun , a conjunciton or a preposition)???? I don’t skateboard, so I don’t know any specific thing related to the sport, so I can only guess: jump, touch, bend, fall, fly, try, boy, board,… There were colored shapes that got moved around and changed size; I studied math and that was no help in trying to isolate the variables, that were not well controlled. I couldn’t hear the difference between the words for foot and arm, and the picture showed both. The plural marker is introduced very early on, yet it is ” rarely ” heard in Korea, only being used when necessary to distinguish singular and plural, Korean being a high-context language.

    A well-educated Korean friend said that the phrasing was unnatural.

    The speed of the speech (realistic for Seoulites but not all Koreans) made it extremely frustrating. There was no adjustment for beginning listening. (Compare this to Talk to Me in Korea, free on-line, where at least the sample sentences and words are repeated syllable by syllable)

    The testing recycled and recycled and recycled questions that I got right all the time. This is not based on any accepted learning theory.

    I have read that the Russian version doesn’t make the proper distinctions based on the sex of the speaker (It might be true of the Spanish too, but I don’t know).

    When I asked for my refund, based on the guarantee I got with the package, RS never responded.

    To me, one of the ironies is that RS claims that its method removes the stress from language learning. In fact, RS Korean was the most stressful learning experience I have ever had — and I’ve studied music (being not natively musically inclined) and have studied African, Asian and European languages.

  • Kim

    As I wrote in my comment, RS OFFERS a full refund, but they never GAVE it to me. Their words were not backed up by action.

  • JustJanplus5

    My son has always been interested in anything Japanese; art, music, video, language..etc. Thank you for your link provided by you and your wife. He is 19 and this language is not offered at any college locally, so am considering RS. Will also research other suggestions by blogger. (wonder if they include swear words used by blogger in his responses and what the photo’s would depict??) lol Thanks!

  • Jonas Fjallstrom

    Joe is obviously a troll, he is ” fan of Pimsleur, Berlitz, Living Language, Linguaphone, Cortina, Teach Yourself, Collquial Language”.
    -You seriously expect to learn a language from any of those??

    Joe says he’s “fluent in 8 languages and “ok” in about 20 more”.
    -Really? Using a Berlitz or Pimsleur? I guess he’s fluent in saying “Hello” in 8 languages and can say the phrase “ok” in 20 more… That’s what I think. RS is just ONE TOOL, it may work better or worse for different people. We all learn differently and there’s no telling what will work for who… To be fluent and I mean fluent for real, 10+ years of 100% living and speaking the language is pretty much a minimum to make such a claim. It can’t be learnt from RS, Berlitz or any other “fluent in 10 days” package.

    People, try different methods. Use different tools to see what works for you. The trick is to find the mental triggers that get you learning. You essentially can’t “force” yourself to learn a language, but you can explore methods and techniques, til you find something that is fun and kicks your brain into wanting more of it and once you find that, you’re on the path to true immersion as it becomes part of your life. Just walk that path when you find it, up and down dangerous mountain trails, pitfalls, wild rivers whatever, just keep going by challenging yourself. As long as you enjoy it your mind will take in more and more of the language. Give it 10+ years with 100% immersion and you “may” be “fluent”. There’s no quick fix for learning a language.

    • PaulLambeth

      What makes you say that you can’t learn a language from any of those? Colloquial and Hippocrene combined have given me great starts, coupled with a lot of motivation and a desire to focus on grammar.

  • Eric Finnegan

    Would this be something worth torrenting (since I can’t exactly afford it)?

    • M.C.

      To give the answer that no one else will give, since we’re talking about breaking the law: Yes, I would say its worth torrenting.

      Its not very good as being your primary source of learning, which is what a $1000 product should be. But if it were a free piece of software, I would say its something that every language learner should get in order to get a jump start into the language, since it gets you quickly used to the pronunciation, basic sentence structure, etc. Supplement that with Pimsleur to learn some survival phrases, and you’ll have an excellent base from which you can start jumping into the REAL language learning, since you’ll know enough to begin practicing with people, etc.

      The only reason no blog would ever recommend this strategy is because its so expensive. But if you plan on breaking the law anyways, this is what i would recommend.

  • bigcatface

    I’ve been using RS for both Russian (levels 1& 2) and French (level 5) for about 6 months now so I feel that I’m qualified to speak about it both as a beginner and an advanced level learner, so hear me out.

    For beginners: RS will give you a good, solid grounding in the languages. The software is about building things up from the basics and giving you a good sense of how things click together (grammar rules are covertly introduced pretty quickly) and after a while you do get a ‘feeling’ for how things should work. You will be quickly able to conjugate verbs (and adjectives, maybe) correctly without ever formally learning any rules, and it’s kind of creepy how well it works.
    Now, if you’re looking for some quick useful language for an upcoming trip or whatever, turn around now because, what you’re looking for is called a ‘phrasebook’ and RS cannot help you. RS is not a vocab machine, nor will it teach you how to parrot phrases. It’s about giving you the tools to work with a language and make your own way from there.

    For advanced levels: personally, i thought RS was a bit of a waste of money for this level. There are some useful things that you may miss normally (in my case, some grammar rules) but this really does not justify the cost. The phrases are usually too short and clipped for an advanced level so it hardly pushes you. If you’re at the stage where you can read in the 2nd language or can communicate ok-ish I wouldn’t recommend it as it will mostly bore you.
    In short, Rosetta Stone is good for beginners not so great for advanced learners.

    Now for some general points: RS is good, but it’s not everything. Vocabulary IS limited but I think this is a drawback of the ‘input method’ rather than RS specific. I would stress to use it in conjunction with other learning methods to bring up your vocabulary.
    The immersion aspect of RS is very good. The whole approach prevents you from ‘translating’ in your head when you hear the words an phrases and so speeds up the thinking process, it works in reverse too: I found very quickly that I could make simple phrases in Russian without having to really go through the English and then translate across. It wasn’t until after years of evening classes in French that I could do this so this was a huge surprise!

    A final point, I have done the whole ‘active learning’ thing and i can very much sympathise with people who don’t want to do this. Setting up Skype calls, coffee meet ups, etc. Is a huge ball ache, especially if one or both parties already have busy lives with jobs and kids. Add this to the fact that unless you or the other party is A) a professional teacher, or B) really, really specific about what they want to improve, then learning will be sporadic and both parties won’t see much of an improvement except for maybe a bit in pronunciation and flow. I’ve been there, done that and unless I was looking for a specific explanation or vocab related to a topic we would talk about the same crap every time and get bored quickly. When you consider all of this extra work RS starts to look more appealing every second.

    tl;dr Rosetta Stone is ace for beginners and even though it’s pricey it’s still very much worth it.

  • The Snark

    I’m sure the grammar police would have something to say about ” I felt it lost it’s impact”

  • B.Allen Thobois

    I was initially happy when my Rosetta Stone (Spanish) arrived in its pre-packaged and cellophane wrapped box. I purchased it online for $250 and it came with a headset and several cds. I was able to run it for a few months with the ENCLOSED and sealed activation code. However, when I began to get error messages I contacted the company and they refused to offer ANY help because I did not purchase it directly from them. Since you can purchase many things New onliine, I was surprised by this

  • Juan de la Loma

    I have RS 1,2,3 for Irish. No way will you become even baby-talk fluent with this. Induction is indeed a learning protocol; however, suggesting than an adult learner can induce the complexities of Irish orthography and grammar is not realistic. I strongly agree with your main peeve: shoe-horning one approach into all languages. One manifestation of this in RS irish is the annoying preponderance of the passive progressive construction. Rarely used in “real” Irish. Not bad for Spanish, though. And why, oh why, did RS choose the West Kerry sub-dialect? I attend Irish school in Donegal and take Irish classes, with a Connemara slant, in the US. Why would RS select a dialect so far from An Caighdeán Oifigiúil? One plus: not a bad way to learn vocabulary. But RS is a rather expensive set of electronic flash cards. Save your money.

  • Kate

    I am trying to learn Dutch using online free resources, but find myself struggling. I feel like I am jumping around trying to figure what to learn first or how to figure out (and remember) the grammar and rules of the language. What are some tips that help with retention and fluency?

  • Adam2323

    The overarching problem with Rosetta Stone’s approach is that it’s far too easy to guess the correct response. I found I was getting nearly 100% in every section, and I could walk away and remember almost nothing. Even my wife, who didn’t use it, could walk in the room, look at some more advanced question and figure out the answer most of the time. This type of learning makes for a lazy brain.

    Rosetta Stone is one-way communication. I learned Spanish some years ago, and I only got good at it when I started to write e-mail and especially engage in chats. My ability to remember new words greatly increased because my brain knew it needed the words. Rosetta Stone fails for the same reason high school history fails: The brain knows it needs the information just long enough for the next test.

    RS has one benefit, however. Because I learned Spanish and French sitting in many classrooms and then through practice, I know language from a linguistic standpoint. I found that when I combined it with grammar references and interacting with others, it wasn’t too bad. I used RS Italian, and when I saw sentences on the screen I could quickly break them down given my other romance language knowledge. RS is fun to use, and that counts for something; just don’t use it alone and expect to learn a language.

  • alberto

    hi, i need to a friend to learning english my skype is alberto.simao6

  • Kieran Maynard

    Great review. People ask me a lot, “What about Rosetta Stone?” I never tried it because of the obvious (expensive, slow, cookie-cutter lessons, total immersion doesn’t work, etc.). Now I can refer people to your review if they are seriously considering paying the outrageous price.

  • Iteach2help

    I was on a flight to Prague and among all the choices for entertainment was RS. It was set up for English, so I tried it out. It was a slimmed down version, but the information was just bad. Some of the sayings were either outdated or never used in normal conversations. As I went through it, I kept wondering if a native speaker made this mock up or if it was a pirated version. I assumed it was the real deal since there was a lot of advertising for it on the plane and in the airport. Thanks for the information.

  • Brooke Lorren

    This is a very fair review. I happen to be a big fan of Rosetta Stone myself (L2 Spanish is currently open on my screen behind this window as I type).

    I took 6 years of middle school/high school German, a year of high school Russian, 3 semesters of college Spanish, and 3 quarters of college Italian while living in Italy. For me, Rosetta Stone has worked better than all of the above. I’m just finishing Level 2/Unit 3/Lesson 1 of RS Spanish, and it feels as if I am about at the level I left off at finishing 3 semesters of college Spanish. Of course, I did have that extra practice, which probably does help.

    That being said, it probably doesn’t work for all learning styles, and I do supplement with free materials. I look up things that I can’t figure out (including conjugations if I’m having trouble recognizing the pattern) and I also have been reading at least one Mexican newspaper article a day, just so I can see it in real use. I’ve also been using it on my kids. It’s helping me, but I’m not going to say it will work for everyone.

  • Samuel David Lickiss

    I’ve been following your blog and off for a few years now but I somehow missed this post!

    I’m an Englishman living in India (Tamil Nadu way down south where nobody speaks Hindi) and have decided after a couple of travelling tours to Hindi speaking regions of India that I need to learn a bit. My Tamil skills are atrocious (the difference in dialects is baffling and everyone will tell you to pronounce the same words differently; my colleagues come from all over the state) but I am now beginning to get myself understood and it has really enhanced my experiences here.

    Despite reading this post I am still considering buying the Hindi version. I use a shared computer at work for internet access as I don’t have it on my own so much of the good material online is inconvenient foir me to use although I realise this voids the spoken lessons. I hope to be able to hook up to the internet specially for these. I have a (very) basic grasp of Hindi from phrase books and I have Hindi-speaking colleagues (though most of them are English teachers and probably speak English better than I do!) who can help me out. The convenience appeals to me when used in synergy with other strategies. If I’m honest, in India native speakers have actually been thoroughly unhelpful in many respects – most of them cannot understand why I want to learn Hindi/Tamil and will just speak to me in English. Because I am working with them usually I just need to be able to communicate quickly (I am a geography teacher) and I don’t have the time to trudge through a different language just to ask some new board pens. I’ve genuinely had more help from my Tamil and Hindi speaking friends in the UK than I have from those in India.

    I’m still researching but RS looks like it would help me at least achieve a level that would sufficiently allow me to communicate with locals in Hindi where I can then refine and improve more actively. At present, my very basic Hindi hasn’t allowed me to do anything asides from say a few pleasantries. Knowing a few phrases and more vocabulary I think will be helpful and I have a limited amount of time to study. I tend to be very tired at the end of the day and a spoon-feeding method does appeal because I am not proactive otherwise (I assure you I don’t spoonfeed my students in such a way!).

    Nevertheless, the culturally irrelevant photos does sound annoying. I’ve been here long enough to know that things are done differently to the USA, or even an Indian family living in the USA!
    Many thanks for the review – it has made interesting and informative reading!

  • Julian B

    I just wanted to add, for anyone still looking to buy even after this excellent review, that the briefly mentioned technical problems have been a huge problem for my family and myself. Unstable, glitchy software and non-user friendly customer support web help. Expensive, frustrating and a waste of time.

  • Rhino

    I am a huge fan of Rosetta Stone. I know … I know … I may be the only one. The reason I appreciate it is because the picture to word association I find superior to having to reference my mother tongue language. Translation slows the brain down considerably. And I feel translating is an entirely different motor skill that is not needed for general conversation. Certainly everyone expects to learn at a faster pace, but it is designed to create building blocks for the language. For example, I used Rosetta Stone Swedish. Sometimes I don’t know the exact noun or verb I am looking for, but I always know every little word that goes around them. It gave me a great vocabulary to draw from, so I am never at a loss when I want to speak. Emphasis on speaking. Listening I find can be much more challenging. But … what did I do? I didn’t rely on Rosetta solely. I read Swedish books, I watch Swedish TV, and I also went to Sweden. Rosetta is the starting off point. But people that critisize the courses usually have two major complaints “I didn’t learn enough by level 2″ and “it is too expensive.” To the first, it is like saying “I went to a whole semester of French, and I’m not fluent!” Well … duh. To the second I say I spent thousands of dollars to learn French. My French is flawless. Worth the investment. But, I didn’t want to spend that much again. $300? Sure. That’s a steal. Especially when you can easily pay $20 per lesson to have someone chat with you.

  • Jennifer Beaumont

    Thank you for the very candid review. I learned my second language (German) in high school as a foreign exchange student. My husband has made several comments over the years about wanting to learn German so we could share this in common. I offered to tutor him privately, to which he responds that I should just buy him Rosetta Stone. I am not sure which approach we will take regarding his language lessons, but now have more information to consider. Thank you.

  • Evan Carroll

    I’m more curious to know about your experiences with Rosetta on Linux. Did it work in VB? Did it work in wine? Will the online functionality work with Chrome/FF outside of Windows?

    • Benny Lewis

      It did work in a VB, although I had problems porting their headphone/microphone through it, which was strange because my other headphones and microphone ported through fine.

      This gave a host of audio related problems, that I couldn’t discuss in this post, as RS maintained it was my fault for not installing it on a stand-alone Windows system. They simply won’t support it.

      The online functionality has to be within the program, not within a browser.

      • Scott

        The entire course is browser based now, and has been for some time (around a year). The only time you ever need to use the installed software is if you have no internet connection.

  • Natalie @ In Natalie’s Shoes

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this from one of your other posts! I am going to France later in the year and wanted to buy Rosetta Stone to learn as much French as possible before my trip. It sounds like I’m better off with something more travel-related so that I can learn “please” and other helpful travel phrases before level 2! I appreciate your in-depth review and how you show both the positives and negatives from this software– it allowed me to make my own decision on what would be best for me.

  • Steven W. Davidson

    Good review. I came across this site after getting quite annoyed with the software and felt I wasn’t really learning enough (I have a copy of Japanese) – approx 40 hours I’d say (over a week of free time) of going through unit one (halfway point, somewhere early in level 3) I thought “does this really work for people?” – I think everything you have said here describes exactly what I think of it, although as I have borrowed it, I don’t get the one-to-one or anything its basically just constant pictures and guessing games (I have the same problem also with the voice recognition and ended up turning that off!), and you would think that with about 40hours of studying a language you’d be a bit further on than knowing no more than the difference between an adult and a child, how many apples they are holding and what colour they are. I could babble on about how disappointed I am with it but you have pretty much covered everything in this post..

  • Andrew Stone

    I would go along with most of this. However, Rosetta is one of the best programs I’ve come across for rapidly extending the vocabulary. Used in conjunction with another program like Michel Thomas, it definitely does the business.

    Fluent in 3 months? You’ve got to be kidding. You’ll have survival language skills at best.

    As for the ‘cultural’ aspect. You are right. Would it really be so difficult to get different photographs for each country?

  • parlezavecmoi

    I have to disagree drastically with this post. I’ve studied six languages in a variety of settings – graduate level university, to in-country immersion, to books and CDs – and I have to say I think Rosetta Stone is by far the best. My languages were French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Swedish and Urdu. I think your problems seem like particular quibbling on your part. You don’t like that there are photoshopped pictures? You complain about the price, and then wish they had wasted jet fuel to fly a model to stand in front of the Coloseum? Please. I LIKE that they don’t assume you want to speak French or Dutch or whatever in Europe. Maybe you’re working in Africa! Eventually you’ll need to adjust to local dialects but it’s a great start and HUGELY better than others or nothing at all. They tried to make the references as neutral as possible, which I appreciate, and aren’t going to shoot literally thousands of photos for each language when they don’t need to. I think most people will benefit IMMENSELY from this software. No one is asking “is this software you can purchase better than living for a long time the country?” Of course not. But in my experience it will bring you up to speed faster than anything else out there!

  • parlezavecmoi

    It’s great that you were so thorough – but I just wanted to post the comments because as language learner myself, I don’t want others to be discouraged from using what is an immensely helpful tool. I wasn’t sure about Rosetta Stone and so waited years. I should have started it ages ago. So for those out there who are curious, I would highly recommend giving it a try.

  • B’s

    I agree that Rosetta Stone is very effective, but one shouldn’t waste the money on it if one plans to use an iPad, iPod, or iPhone for lessons. There is an exorbidant additional fee ($25 a MONTH) for basic access on these devices AFTER one has already plunked down hundreds of dollars for the ititial purchase. Great product for desk jockies that use the CDs, but terrible for people who need portable, reasonably priced lessons for more than the 3 months of free online access that allows one to use an iPad, iPod, or iPhone.

  • Karoly

    I want to share my thoughts about RS. Please don’t judge me for my bad grammar and spelling, English is only a second language (actually third) to me. I wanted to learn some new languages so I got RS for let’s say nothing.

    At first I was very happy because with RS you can learn without using English. I could learn just after the pictures. As I progressed I started to think that this is just a waste of time. It requires almost no thinking to choose an answer; you can’t deduct
    grammar rules from these exercises.

    I think they should include a grammar teaching method in the program. You should always memorize the theory, not the example sentence stomped into your head by RS.

    I miss the reflexivity needed to speak fluently. I mean you learn in the first lessons only “he/she” and you can’t say anything about “we” or “I”. Until you meet these later you can’t even form new sentences. You can only swap some nouns. When I first told my sister that I had learnt some Latin, she asked me to say something (after first
    lessons). I was ashamed, I could only say “the boy has a book” or “the sky is blue”. I think it would be smart to reorganize the lessons. Social interactions should be the priority, not animals, sports or clothing.

    This program is however a good tool for starting to learn a language. You learn some words, and that’s it. The program would be more useful if it taught some grammar too. It would be useful if it taught only vocabulary. Nouns, verbs, adjectives linked with photos, learnt by repetition. (If you know such program, please reply to my comment.)

    I think that there is some logic in using images connected to western culture. I am not American but i could easily understand the “cheesy American poses”. You should have an idea about the tings on the images, otherwise you can’t learn with this system. It would be too much information. My teachers in high school always tried to bring up relevant subjects to the new language and they failed to get our attention. My English teacher brought tea and maps about the UK, my German teacher taught us all counties and regions in Germany, my Italian teacher spoke about coffee and so on, but we just wanted to learn the language. These things meant nothing to us. Maybe some users have the same feeling when they try a new language.

    On the other hand, learning Latin and saying “She drives a red car” was very-very-very-very strange. The sports car on the image was so irrelevant to the Latin language that I felt disgusted every time I had seen it.

    I was born in Romania but I’m not Romanian. I can barely speak correctly and I’m not fluent at all. I had Romanian friends but I couldn’t learn the language well because they had never corrected my mistakes. I am very angry because of this. I somehow managed to get by without the language. I heard it only 3 hours at school, and at the cashiers in the stores. Living in a country is not always a guarantee that you will learn the language.

    And for finding a talking partner to learn the language: can you show me anybody that speaks Latin and is available to me anytime I need him? This is the only thing that would make me consider buying RS. I agree with the idea that speaking with somebody is the best way to learn. But be careful to choose somebody that corrects every mistake you make.

    When I saw the price… I was thinking: „who gives so much money on that?” You can take 90 hours private language lessons here for that amount of money. Just sayin…

    In conclusion RS is a piece of s**t. If you want to learn languages start with basic vocabulary, continue with grammar, detailed vocabulary then speak with somebody.

  • Anne van Rossum

    I would like to know how you managed to get it run in VirtualBox. I’m Dutch and have only Linux machines, but now it seems I have to install Windows for my sweet American girlfriend.

    By the way, in the picture the phrase “De salade is hier.” is something a Dutch person would very probably say the other way around: “Hier is de salade.” And without context it also sounds rude. :-) You would say “Jan is hier.” as a secretary to your boss.



  • Angela Best

    Hi, thanks for leaving this review, came close to buying Rosetta Stone package. I really want to learn french, but I can not find anywhere near me that teaches. I would love to up and live in France for 6 months, but I have a young family, so that’s not do able! I do not want to learn french for any other reason that I would like to learn something new, that I enjoy, and to stretch my mind and keep it active – but I want to learn “properly” what ever that is! I don’t want to just learn holiday french. I know and am quite happy that it may take years, but I would just like some advice at the best most affordable way to do it.

    I have even looked at doing an OU course, but that is big money then, and I don’t know how good the course is.

    Can anyone help – please!

    Thanks, in anticipation


  • john212432344

    It’s not perfect, but I got what I wanted out of Rosetta Stone. Currently learning arabic and it helped with pronounciation of the alphabet, and how to read the script. I agree with you about the stock photos, and some of the random sentences you end up reviewing, but in the end it forced me to read, slow down, and look up certain word positions within a sentence, which, for a beginner, was more helpful than skimming vocab books and trying to read shoddily translated grammar articles by native speakers.

  • Don

    Thanks for the information. Best review! I found that language programs all seem to be generic. I am interested in automotive and can imagine all the words that I would not learn. I need to find an affordable solution to immersion. My wife and I are interested in taking a trip to Japan, or even career possobilities. She wants to teach english, but we have to weed out programs that will waste money.

  • Adam Recvlohe

    My only comment would be to criticize the product only after you have learned the language fluently. If you don’t attempt to learn the language fluently but criticize the tools that help and/or hurt your ability to be fluent than those reading the blog won’t really know what tool is the most helpful. Yes, you can go out and buy grammar books and meet with a native speaker. But did that help you reach fluency? Did the money you spend actually end up being less than buying RS? Lastly, there really is no point in learning unless you are actually going to use the language with the community. If not, don’t waste your time or money. And I am not talking about a three month trip to Mexico, but something you see yourself using everyday.

  • Dan C

    I started Rosetta stone Hindi tonight and I was expecting some english translation flash card type stuff since Ive always learned that way.. The problem is they jump you right into (what I think is) “the girl is drinking water”, now there is NO english so I actually have no idea if that is what its saying or not it could be the female person is drinking water, she is drinking water, i dont know which word is which, also I would have like to started out with basic conversational Hindi such as “how are you” before talking about activities.. I may end up returning it before the 1 month is up (you have 1 month to try it) if this doesnt improve

  • kurtik

    Great review, thanks. I’m forwarding the url to my Russian students, who often ask about Rosetta Stone, but I share your skepticism.

    Benny, I’m curious: in talking with higher-ups at Rosetta Stone, did you find anyone at all with real experience in teaching a language?

  • Ryan Tippens

    Ive had it for about 2 years now and I don’t speak Spanish or understand it if someone else speaks it.I know a few words but for some reason rosetta stone makes sentence fragments with new words they never teach you.Its like you are supposed to just know them.Id love to speak Spanish,its what my wife speaks,shes Colombian but being married to her for 6 and half years Ive never picked it up from her so 400 dollars dollars I get RS.2 years later I speak none what so ever.Lastly,its got voice recognition but that doesn’t work AT ALL….It doesn’t understand me as if Im not saying it just like the person on the software is saying it but I am.I tested it,my wifes sister came into the country,she only speaks Spanish and is a doctor,RS couldn’t understand her and its her only language.OH well,lesson learned.RS sucks.

  • StevenHorvat

    So I was thinking of buying this program for japanese and spanish. I did get the “pirated” version of rosetta stone although I never used it I am pleased to know that there is now live teachers to help you. I look at this program as a tool. and like all tools you don’t get what you don’t put into it. I actually got a chance to try the program in the mall one day and in that 15 min I was impressed with the aspect of how it teaches you. I also agree that it doesn’t get you everything but the basics. So…. after you learn the basics then you can immerse yourself on your own right? go find someone that speaks your language then you wouldn’t have to muddle around with basic and learn what you need to know. Take a more advanced collage class and learn even more and most classes teaches your about the culture and proper politicalness I guess. My point is I would still get this program, then make the initiative to seek out higher learning. In 5 years or so I am planning a trip to Japan and I want to start asap with this program and spend the next few years to learn more about the language and be more fluent, thats MY GOAL!

  • Gary

    I read your review because I am contemplating buying and using Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish, as America continues to be flooded with…well, you know. The need for Americans like me to learn to communicate in Spanish is inevitable. Your review was very helpful, but I do have some issues with YOUR REVIEW, and I will come to the defense of RS as a company. As far as the badly photoshopped pics: that may have annoyed you personally, but in my opinion is irrelevant. I can only imagine how costly it would be for RS to have models professionally photographed on site at each of these iconic sites around the world. And for what? The point is simply to recognize that the person is shown at the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, etc. And secondly, you seem to have an issue with RS’s need for scalabilty generally. This would include the “culturally irrelevant” scenarios you discuss, as well as the “copy-and-paste” approach that you criticize. OF COURSE the program has to be to a certain extent generic and scalable. For RS to produce a completely customized experience for every language in their repertoire would be cost-prohibitive; and that cost would be passed on to the end user, and consequently no one would be able to afford the program; and there’s no way they could run a successful company and be profitable like that. Finally, you seem very disappointed by the “cheesy American poses” in the pics and the generally Americanized nature of the program. I would expect that RS’s primary target customers are actually Americans wanting to learn a foreign language, not non-American foreigners wanting to learn another foreign language.

    • freepressfreepeople

      I agree with your first two sentences completely. That’s exactly why I was thinking about buying RS

  • NicholasDuMonde

    About 18 months ago I purchased Rosetta Stone Russian for about $400, and I completely failed to learn the language. This isn’t completely at the fault of Rosetta Stone, but due to the generic use of pictures and not having any English translations, I lost all motivation very early on. During my Level 1 lessons, I was learning new words and phrases, but had no idea what I was actually saying. Wonderful, a picture of a girl drinking water. Did I just say the English equivalent of “she drinks”, “she is drinking”, “she drank”, or something completely different? In addition to that, how is knowing how to say “she drinks” going to help me immerse myself in the language and have a conversation with someone?

    I lived abroad for a few months in 2005 and was learning bits and pieces of the beautiful language of French. With this (very limited) experience, I’ve decided to go ahead and dedicate my time to learning the language of love. I contemplated purchasing Rosetta Stone, thinking “If I just stick with it, I will learn it”, but after reading your review and browsing through your blog, I’ve decided against it. I’ve just joined LiveMocha and Busuu to combine their free courses, I have a few fluent friends I plan to message and make plans to skype with, and living in a very culturally diverse area, I plan to look for some local native French speakers!

    Thank you for saving me $350. I’ll keep you updated on my progress!

  • Stephen Williamson

    I can see that I am woefully late in reading this review, but nonetheless I found it useful and thank you for it. I was considering getting RS to learn Irish Gaelic, as I am moving to Ireland soon. After reading your review I am not going to do so. Instead I will be reviewing your site for other methods to learn the language. I in law enforcement in Texas and we are encouraged to learn Spanish, as it is commonly spoken in the area by immigrants. While it would be useful, I find I would rather learn languages I have more personal interest in. I am interested in Irish, but I think it would also serve useful to learn, as it would help with pronunciation of names and places. Coming from a purely American English background, I find it counterintuitive when it comes to pronouncing Irish words.

  • giedre

    in my oppinion, the whole concept of learning the second language as a child is a wrong concept. Childs learn the first language in a “trial-and-error” method, which takes a lot of wild guesses and being corrected later on, and takes quite a while. Practice shows, that childs can learn the sign language a lot faster than their first language, and can communicate with their parents very efficiently before even being able to speak! – I have a friend who was attending with her child courses of sign language when she was very little, and have seen this working in practice. And it didn’t interrupt her language learning process, just in opposite – when she started to speak, she was doing so in very complete and complex sentences. But back to the point. I have an experience with foreign language learning, with knowing 3 foreign languages and learning 4th one (modern greek) in just a half year from the “complete 0-no idea” to “i’m turist in Greece, OMG I can understand what they’re speaking about, just too afraid to talk yet” level. I believe certainly that I have an idea now how a foreign language learning works. The problem I found with Rosetta Stone, while trying to learn japanese, was already mentioned “U.S.A. culture, nothing to do with japanese culture” environment, but another and most important was “trial and error” method. The point is, and sadly – it is not possible to learn the complex language structures just through comparing 4 or some more pictures which they bring you – guessing brings to wrong ideas and to wrong understanding of basic language concepts. In natural “child’s like enviromnent”, he would be corrected numerous times by adults in his mistakes while trying to speak, and he would take years to learn his first language, only reaching complex language usage level well into his 7-9 years. Thus with this Rosetta stone method you will be taking just as long time to learn second language, as it were your first. But trust me, you can do a lot better than that – less than a year in my practice is all you need to reach intermediate level – with somewhat limited vocabulary of course, but a good understanding of all of the language concepts and structure. Just all you need to start with – is the grammar – a good explanation of all of the language concepts, instead of “trial-and-error” or Rosetta’s guessing

  • Carla

    Thanks for the review. We’re using Fluenz to help our older kids learn Italian, which I speak, but I was considering Rosetta Stone for my younger kids due to a great sale I saw. However, I think you’ve just talked me out of it.

  • Alex Dunn

    I know this is an old article but I thought I’d give RS a shot.

    First new language besides high-school compulsory jap/french, I’ve spent all of an hour with RS Mandarin L1 but something immediately struck me about it.

    I wonder if some of the “RS sucks” views come from people who aren’t active learners or aren’t trying to think about how best to leverage the tools they have available.

    If you use RS with a passive learning style (ie your goal is to progress through the units as an end in itself) I suspect you aren’t going to get much out of it.

    RS is easy to cheat; you can just, through basic logic/reasoning, work out the answer to a given question without fully understanding the whole phrase before you. While this appears essential to using RS, it becomes a hazard if you start doing it because you’re lazy.

    Halfway through the first core unit/exercise I realised I was subconsciously looking for patterns in the pinyin and ignoring the audio/prononciation. I started doing the following:

    – Change the pinyin text to trad. chinese with small pinyin.
    – Close my eyes before each question and trying and figure out what’s being said before I see/use any of the visual cues (ie the pinyin and pictures). Ideally, if the words aren’t brand new, I should know what the phrase says before I open my eyes.
    – If it goes to fast for me to understand/recognise everything, repeat the audio until I’ve identified everything, rather than using the visual cues when I don’t have to.
    It takes longer, but I think this forces me to improve my understanding/comprehension better than just making my way through the exercises. It might be easier in mandarin since it seems like the language is delivered in concepts (I believe that “plumber” is water-pipe-worker, for instance?).

    Either way, I think the key to getting the most out of RS or indeed ANY tool is to remember that your goal is understanding the content, not just completing it and expecting that the understanding will happen through osmosis. I’m not saying RS is better than other tools and no-one else understands how to use it; this applies to any learning aid. I just think that those who hate it may not be using it to its full potential (or, worst-case, just don’t like thinking any more than they have to).

    But then I’ve only been using it for an hour so possibly I don’t know what I’m on about. Great blog, Benny, you’ve inspired me to get off my ass and actually start learning a language/culture I’ve been interested in for a long time.

  • Ingo Laatsch

    Nothing here makes sense at all. putting down RS does not cut the mustard.
    Tell me that so and so program is the better program to learn a language then RS.
    I read a lot of Bs here that did not give me any conclusion at all. My mother tongue is German I learned high school English but of course I learned more English when I came to Canada and had to speak it. I took a Spanish course level one in a class room 3 month ago and I forget everything already. instead of putting things down give me an alternative equivalent to RS Computer based programs, moving to Spain or Mexico to learn the language is not an alternative. it is a stupid suggestion! when I tried the trial of RS it a peered to me it was not any different then the Class I attended. This whole page including comments could have been summed up in 6 sentences, so far it is this blog that wasted my time. Btw. Calgary does not have a real Berlitz school, second You cant just Skype with people, second I have Mexican Friends but they are not teachers, I speak German that does not make me a German teacher! I give RS a try, can’t be any worse then what I used to learn English in Germany in 1985 which helped me to get around once I arrived in Canada with 3000 words of vocabulary, today I think I got about 90000 words

    • Benny Lewis

      Since you demand a program to solve all your problems, here’s a sales pitch for you:

      My “conclusion” is that you seem to want to throw your money at SOMETHING. RS is perfect for you then, since it’s very happy to take your money.

  • Kevin Kaczmarski

    You’re a good man. Thanks for taking the time to better our lives in a pretty significant way in my opinion. You have saved me both time, money, and frustration by writing this. My studies have taught me that your primary language is stored apart from any secondary languages so to attempt to concatenate two languages seems impossible or very difficult.


    Great review

  • Brahn Ulv Mountenay

    Well your opinion is extremely biased. Rosetta Stone is a great learning program for lazy ass people like me who want an easy way to learn a language ;).

  • Sarah Warren

    Thanks for a helpful review! I had an offer for level 1 of RS at about 30% of the price, so I have been having a look round for honest reviews. Yours is the most helpful I’ve found.

    I have been using the free trial version for Hebrew (which I have been teaching myself on and off for some years now) and I did find it useful, but this gives me a better overview before I decide whether or not it’s worth £60. Thanks!

  • Jerry Denize Jordan

    Well I am one of those learners that has done really great with Rosetta Stone. I do know that learning a new language takes commitment of time and practice practice practice. The other thing learning a language takes is some responsibility to do some extra activities in conjunction with the primary program. I purchased a grammar book to hone in on the rules for example. I joined a chat program where I speak with native speakers at least once a week. I utilize all the perks of Rosetta Stone Totale, the group Studio lessons, the games, the reading exercises and private Studio sessions. I am 53 years old and I can carry on a decent conversation in Italian which is my new second language and only after using Rosetta Stone for one year. My speaking is considered an A2, which is pretty good having no prior experience in Italian. This is the one thing that I know. There are many types of learning styles and everyone has a unique style. If you are visual and enjoy figuring things out then Rosetta Stone is a great choice. If you are lazy and don’t want to commit to speaking, practicing, doing exercises then yeah, Rosetta Stone is not a good investment for you. For me, it is the best program and I have tried many…..

  • Lady_Voldemort

    This was a very informative post, but I do have one question:
    I’m a teenager who speaks English as a first language, and I want to learn Japanese. Because I’m younger than the target audience, would Rosetta Stone be a good idea, or should I look for another program?

    • Benny Lewis

      The answer is ALWAYS look for another program, or better yet, talk to a human being.

  • watermark0n

    It also pretty much totally ignores tone with regards to scoring, so if you just breeze through lesson by lesson you will likely have been happily trained to speak toneless Chinese. You have to go into the advanced dialogue, where there’s a graph that represents your voices pitch shifts and compares it to the native speakers, to actually make sure. Handily, you can also play the audio back and compare it to the native speakers yourself, rather than relying on the judgement of the speech recognition. And from what I’ve experienced with the speech recognition, it’s incredibly generous even at maximum “difficulty”, so you really shouldn’t trust it.

  • Michael Mantion

    I have to say the newer versions of Rosetta stone are terrible. They are overly complex and too many features. I just want a program that shows pictures and gives a phrase. I honestly don’t care if I “learn a language”. It would be really nice is someone made an app that tracked my eye movement and showed me the pictures, then gave me the phrase after I look at them all, then registers when I look at the correct phrase. I mean its all possible, but sadly what I want rarely happens.

  • Michael Mantion

    That is the point, that is why I like RS. they DON”T tell you what the picture is, you have to derive what they are referring to, you have to use logic and reason and thus you learn. True you don’t learn grammar and silly things like that, but you learn useful words and phrases which is the heart of all language. Yes some pictures are hard to figure out, A it makes you try harder and B makes it more fun.

    • Bee

      Grammar is a part of the foundation of the language; if you know just the words in a language for “you”, “are”, “pretty”, that is one sentence you can put together, but that’s it. If you know the words and have the grammar rules that apply to them, you can consider yourself more apt, knowledgeable, and fluent of the language. I am a fluent Frenchie:
      Tu es joli(e)….. versus Il est joli …. versus Elle est jolie.
      Speaking-wise, little difference for pronunciation, but for writing, an immediate effect; to write “elle est joli” is basically to imply that they are a transvestite. When I learn a language, I have to be able to connect the speaking and the writing together; I am a visual learner and need to see how the math of the language fits together in multiple combinations and equations, and then I enjoy the phonetics, but I can’t do it the other way around; I can’t listen to a string of syllables and discern relationships as easily.
      @ Michael; that’s precisely blogger’s point; it’s more fun, but it’s not as effective as if you invested time by getting in real-time with a tutor so that you can have actual conversations and tangents that let you fully explore the language, as opposed to being fed a cookie-cut version. I picked up a free version of a Spanish course once, one of the first lines they taught you was “I don’t have any drugs”…. If useful words and phrases are the heart of all languages, then how on earth do we get by communicating the non-useful words/phrases? I suppose it all just falls down like a pack of cards.. Oh wait, there’s GRAMMAR -.-.

      • Michael Mantion

        No grammar is not relevant. Ok some people think it is important and those people are not relevant. Real world conversations is important. Problem solving is the only way one learns something. You can be instructed how to ride a bike but you are learning nothing. You only learn how to ride a bike by getting on and doing it. In that way you figure out how it works and what is a mistake.

        Incase you haven’t noticed no one uses grammar in real life. Business emails, text messages with friends, common conversations and dialects do NOT and never have focused on grammar. Truth be told if you were to write a play and the dialog was had proper grammar and full sentences people would not watch it.

        Anyone who thinks grammar and spelling is important, has nothing important to share with anyone.

        • Ricardo Rodriguez

          obvious troll is obvious

        • Afer Ventus

          Michael you don’t know what you are talking about. First of all speak for yourself. People are different from each other including on the way of learning. Second, comparing how to learn of riding a bike to learn a new leanguage is an absurd once different senses are involved.

          I learn languages the same way as Bee does. First of all I need the grammar (rules). If I know the rules I don’t waste time commiting mistakes.

          The first part is to know the alphabet and the phonetics.

          The second part is to memorize hundreds of words in order do get a huge vocabulary. In this step I already know how the words are pronounced and while I’m memorizing their meaning I practise their pronounciation.

          After that I learn the grammar itself. If I know the words, how they are pronounced and their meaning, it’s very easy to read the rules. If I know the rules, the meaning and the pronounciation of the words I’m able to form sentences in a easier way.

          And, again, I don’t waste time with trial and error.

          Doing this I have learned up to now 12 languages and I speak them fluently. And I sure I learned them faster with this method than any other person who thinks like you (I mean does not think because you learn by immersion not by thinking).

          I almost forgot: I’m only 22.

          • Tiayu Hage

            My question was to you Afer. Sorry

        • EMac

          Anyone who thinks grammar and spelling is important, has nothing important to share with anyone.

          Holy smokes. Did I read that correctly?

          • Michael Mantion


        • Ben

          A lot of what you said had proper grammar. Some didn’t. Does that mean that grammar isn’t important? No. If I didn’t know grammar, I couldn’t “translate” your lack of grammar into proper grammar and understand what you meant. Grammar is life! :P

          • Michael Mantion

            Grammar changes, people speak and type differently. What is “acceptable” now will likely be different tomorrow. Grammar is a waste of time. Why don’t you spend your time debating the value of an oxford comma. I personally am 100% in favor of the oxford comma. I always use it and everyone else should too.

          • Jeremy

            Oh my god you are so stupid Michael. Stop talking. Forever.

        • Jeremy

          wow you’re stupid

      • Afer Ventus

        Michael you don’t know what you are talking about. First of all speak for yourself. People are different from each other including on the way of learning. Second, comparing how to learn of riding a bike to learn a new leanguage is an absurd once different senses are involved.

        I learn languages the same way as Bee does. First of all I need the grammar (rules). If I know the rules I don’t waste time commiting mistakes.

        The first part is to know the alphabet and the phonetics.

        The second part is to memorize hundreds of words in order do get a huge vocabulary. In this step I already know how the words are pronounced and while I’m memorizing their meaning I practise their pronounciation.

        After that I learn the grammar itself. If I know the words, how they are pronounced and their meaning, it’s very easy to read the rules. If I know the rules, the meaning and the pronounciation of the words I’m able to form sentences in a easier way.

        And, again, I don’t waste time with trial and error.

        • Michael Mantion

          All studies seem to indicate we do not read phonetically. Our minds recognize letters in groups. The fist and last letters are most important. Regardless learning letters is not very important in learning to speak and understand a language. When you hear the word cat you will first visualize a cat. You do not see letters. Grammer is simply not important all people around the world speak in slang. New words and phrases are created all the time. Terms like dial a phone number…. When in was a kid you would dial a rotor on the phone. Now there are buttons or a contact. Yet we still say dial. I assure you much of the slang we use today will be proper in the near future. IQ is fairly good at predicting ones worth. Iq is linked to almost every metric of success in life. The ability to speak and read English is also a key to success. Learning proper grammar only aids you in a few areas in life. As you get older and learn useful skills grammar becomes less relevant The most successful and brilliant people often if not always ignore grammar

          • Afer Ventus

            You’re wrong again. As you made a mistake on comparing two different subjects of learning (ride a bike and speak a new language) you made another mistake: in English you still use dial even though the telephones have a keypad. But this is in English.

            In another languages such as Portuguese (Brazilian Portuguese) they used to say “to disc” when telephones had a dial (dial in English) and “to type” or “typing” on new keypad based telephones.

            So it depends on the language. It depends on every and each person. Nobody is equal anybody. Studies are generalist. They show patters and tendencies.

            But there are always exceptions.

            As a language can differ from another one (I mean some languages are richer than others in the matter of their grammar and vocabularies), a person differs from another one in the way on how he/she learns a language.

            I’m going to give you another example:

            In English if you are talking to more than one person at the same time, you refer to them as “you guys” if something applies to both of them. I mean you have to use 2 words to make yourself understandable.

            Again, in brazilian portuguese, you just put a “s” at the end of the noun. You = você / You guys = vocês

            I mean, the rule says if you are referring to something or somebody in plural, you just use “s” as plural indicator.

            Why in English some words use “s” to express the plural and in other cases not? This drives people to make mistakes and waste time trying to understand why they are not doing it correct. And you would say: it is not necessary to know why, just say it. Wrong again. Are you comfortable and happy speaking a language without knowing why?

            I’m not. Knowing such a thing is knowing more about the country, people and their culture.

            You said phonetics is not relevant… American people are very… how can I say that without hurting…. assholes if someone do not pronounce the “th” correctly. And the “th” is not present in all languages around the world.

            Another example: some people such as french people, use to pronounce the “th” as “f” or “s”.

            So, imagine they saying “thing” as “sink” or “thing” as “sing” or “thought” as “fought”.

            In these cases you are 100% dependent of the context. Which means that English is a poor language. The same affirmative is true for the previous examples (remember the “you guys”?)

            You are not capable to know if a person is referring only to you or to you and another one if this person doesn’t explicit “guys”.

            In portuguese just only one word does the job. All you have to do is follow the rule (grammar): put an “s” at the end of the word to express the plural form.

            An last example: friend… is it for male or female? In English this word express both: male or female…

            But in certain situations you have to ask the person who is speaking if he/she refers to a male or female friend.

            “I’m dating my friend.” Ok. Are you date a friend who is the same gender as you? Should I refer to him/she as boyfriend or girlfriend?

            So you have to use another words to make it have a connection. The word friend does not give you a clue.

            This is a characteristic of a poor language. And in these cases the study of grammar is mandatory.

            I say again: it depends on language, how each person learn things…

            Studies are statistical, not a standard. If it was, everyone should die at the same age, as they state, people live (in average) up to 70 year (+-).

            But some live up to 60 others up to 110.

            If you arguments are based on studies so study.

          • Jeremy

            Dumb dumb dumb. Shoot yourself. Please

        • rwhaller42

          Sounds like a very good strategy. I got a copy of “Spanish for Dummies” from the library. I was surprised that there was no discussion of Spanish pronunciation instead like ellos (eh-yohs). KIt seems strange to me. Then I realized it was because, their objective as stated was teaching people to speak Spanish, not to read it.

          But my approach is like Afer’s.

    • oising

      Exactly Michael! An objective arrival to comprehension is far more “sticky” than an instructive, subjective explanation. Your brain ends up with a set of routes to the understanding which anchors the meaning far greater than just being told “this is that.”

      • Michael Mantion

        Well thanks I know I am not alone. Not a lot of people understand how people actually learn things like languages or anythign, its why formal education is so bad at teaching math and science.

        • Tiayu Hage

          Can you guys just recommend a great product for those of you who have learned french. This is my first rodeo.

          • Afer Ventus

            Generally I don’t make use of any product (if you mean by product, softwares) for learning languages.

            As I have mentioned before, first of all I learn the grammar by reading specialized books.

            After that, I acquire as many words as possible by memorizing the vocabulary.

            After that, I start listening to music on that language. And in this step I start with very slow songs and, gradually, go into faster and more complex ones.

            I print the lyrics of the songs in order to read and memorize the words while I’m listening to. In this step I make the correlation of what I’m listening with to how it is written. I never take notes. I mean, I never write down the translation of a word or phrase. Everything must be made in my brain in order to not get lazy on thinking.

            If you take notes, you will take longer on memorizing or even never memorize because, unconciously, you will know that when you need it, all you have to do is to look for it on your notes. You will memorize how and where to find it, but the most important that is memorizing the word itself you will not be able to, because you have created your own version of google translator.

            Never put on paper what you have learned . Everything must be kept into your brain.

            Gramatically I’m already familiar with all words and phrases and their meaning.

            Now the fun part: I try to say exactly the same way a word is said in a song. I try the perfection of pronouncing.

            After that I start watching movies with no subtitles.

            When I install some software on my computer, I choose the language I’m studying for the installation wizard and software itself.

            At last, I just go to web sites written in that language and read them. Weather, news, places descriptions, culture, tutorials, lectures, literature, everything.

    • Ben

      Grammar and silly things like that? Isn’t grammar the basis of language?

      • Michael Mantion

        NOPE. are you suggesting that we learn grammar so we can talk? Imagine for a second you had the transcript of a presidential debate in front of you.. How many grammatical mistakes would you expect? I would expect every line would have some sort of grammatical mistake. That said in 10 years things will be different. Communication is a skill or an art. Everyone types and talks differently. If you want to follow silly rules when you talk or write, that is fine. I will keep doing what I am doing and laughing at people who think it matters if I capitalize monday.

        • Michael Knight

          Michael, I think you’re seriously confused on what “grammar” means. Grammar is not some super-formal nit-picky method of learning to speak. Grammar is the rules of a language. In English you say “I am home”. You are subconsciously exercising the grammar rule which says subject comes first, then verb, then noun. In another language you may have to say “home I am”, or “home am I”. If you are learning another language, you need to learn the way that they speak. That’s grammar. And no one is saying you need to sit down and explicitly learn the grammar rules first. You can pick them up naturally as you learn to speak words and phrases from the language. But a lot of people prefer to learn the grammar rules first since they will be able to create their own correct sentences using the words that they’ve learned.

          • Jeremy

            “Hey babe when are you getting home tonight?”
            “I did do have be home an hour beyond yesterday”
            Mantion you’re a fucking idiot, shut up please. Grammar is important, end of discussion.

      • Joe Gabriel

        Hey Ben!

        One explanation I heard once about grammar is that speaking languages is like being a dancer, and being a linguist is like being a choreographer. Grammar is one of the tools a linguist uses to describe what is happening in the language. But it is not the same thing as the language itself, nor is it the basis of language.

        People learn languages all the time without understanding the grammar, because grammar is a human creation to describe language, which exists and evolves naturally and organically.

        What are your thoughts?

  • Corinne

    Excellent review. I agree that the studio sessions with a native speaker is the best part of RS. HOWEVER, THE COACHES CANNOT HEAR ME. SUPPORT DOES NOT SEEM TO FIND THE PROBLEM OTHER THAN SAYING WIRELESS IS NOT PREFERABLE FOR THIS. Wish they said that before buying the program. It is very difficult for me to wire the computer 3 rooms away in a well fortified apt. bldg. Any suggestions?

  • Beenthere

    Thank you so much for such a detailed review. I have been thinking of getting an RS course partly as a way of keeping my brain sharp. (I am getting older and AZ runs in my family.)
    Your description actually made me feel that this is a good product for me. I am an intelligent, college-educated person, and I earn a good living as a technical writer. But I process information differently than most. I HAVE to have the repetition. I have to think about or “sleep on” most new concepts. I learn visually, and I’ve actually tried a sample RS mini lesson, and think the pictures, despite the drawbacks, work for me. When I learned Spanish in HS and college long ago, I learned to read and write fairly well, speak pretty well, but always had trouble understanding what was being said to me. I like the fact that I could listen to RS as often as I need to.

  • Katy

    Thank you for this informative review! I started their Hebrew Level 1 course a long while back and was reading the Hebrew captions and recognizing them without audio within weeks. At first it seemed weird (“How am I supposed to know this already?”), but the no-english, no-translation proved to be helpful in time.

    I guess the usefulness of that method depends on your learning style and maybe even on the language you are learning. Reading the Hebrew captions was like memorizing pictures (instead of letters) for me at first, since it looks nothing like English. However, word by word, I started figuring out on my own what sound each letter actually makes, which letters are silent, etc. That was really fun.

    I stopped the lessons after a while and focused on studying French in high school. I want to start again, this time with other materials to supplement! I just need to find my activation code again…

  • Jerry Denize Jordan

    I have had absolutely no problems with Rosetta Stone learning Italian. I have been doing it for one year and have made two trips to Italy with enough Italian to speak with some semblance of intelligence. Learning a language is a forever ongoing process. And for those who think that happens even in a year, it won’t. I speak Italian every single day and I have added a local language class twice a week to learn grammar. I listen to Italian radio on TuneIn radio and I watch Italian films. Visual learning thru Rosetta Stone has totally made sense for me, I get it and prefer it. My success in learning to speak Italian is totally up to me. I really started making huge gains when I added the Rosetta Studio private sessions. At 120.00 for 12 sessions, I can carry on a decent conversation with the coach.

  • Ben_Chasteen

    I used this once for Chinese for the 6 months trial. My situation it was a bit different because I was surrounded by Chinese People who didn’t speak much English, so everyday I was using what I was learning from Rosetta Stone. I have been wanting to purchase it is again, (i am losing my Chinese now since I am around more westerners) but have been waiting for the price to go down. This review really helps. I am also not a fan of the fact using the same images, however, after many methods of trying to learn Chinese (aside from being in an in an environment where you are forced to speak it) I found that for me, it was the best system for learning it. It does help if you already have taken some basic beginning classes on tones and pronunciation, then you can just jump into it, otherwise it can take a bit longer.

  • Joe Talin

    Not the most valuable comment, but anyway…

    The photoshopped Russian picture is St Petersburg, not Moscow.

    thanks for the very in-depth review

  • Stefan Varga

    Thank you for this detailed review. I learn much better myself by full immersion and I benefit highly from pressure learning. If you’re put into the deep end results are always excellent. I haven’t heard many positive reviews about Rosetta Stone, but I mainly find it too overpriced. I’d rather spend that money with the native teacher and/or learning in a foreign country.

  • Steve Hall

    this was so honest and i was just about to shell out £200 (christmas offer) I work with Romanian girls in my line of work and was told their language is like learning chinese. Even they say the best way to learn is go and live (or have a long holiday) there. Well done that man, you bothered your time. Regards steve near London.

  • Linden

    I have had a similar experience with Rosetta Stone. I purchased German a while back and got halfway through level three on disk two. I recently purchased Japanese a couple weeks ago and am now on level three of disk one. While I certainly am learning a lot, I can’t say I’m learning anything useful. My Japanese Software has yet to teach me the word Thank You (I already know it from watching Japanese Television but still) and it seems weird for such a formal culture that I would not have been taught this yet. I also find it to be very slow. I taught myself how to read Japanese about three years ago so I know what the kana and kanji mean. It would be nice if I could communicate this to the program and have more intensive writing and reading sessions. I also find it odd that Rosetta Stone has no English whatsoever. I completely agree with the idea of full immersion! But a dictionary would be nice. If I want to look up a word, I need to go online and google translate is still pretty bad. Just interesting to me that there would be no LANGUAGE DICTIONARY on LANGUAGE LEARNING SOFTWARE. But whatever. It is certainly overpriced. However it does help motivate a user to practice the language everyday by logging on to the program. I have developed the habit of logging on every morning after I wake up. The headset is very uncomfortable too, I just wear it around my neck and use the microphone.

  • Iteachlang

    As a language teacher I am often asked about Rosetta Stone, which I have never used. I am happy to have read this analysis of the program and can now have answers to the students who ask me if they should spend the money on it or not.
    Thank you for an enlightening review


  • Philippe Tremblay

    Rosetta Stone is great, and efficient. It’s somewhat expensive though. I do have some criticisms, but still… I’m surprised so many people fail to realize how good it actually is.

  • Douglas Mackenzie

    I’ve used Rosetta to learn Polish – its great as a supplement, but isn’t effective as an overall program. the ‘grammar’ sections are terrible – mostly i ended up simply guessing the correct answers and it was a 50/50 whether i would get the right answer.
    however, for learning basic vocabulary and working on your pronunciation, Roseetta is great.

  • Ricardo Rodriguez

    I found Rosetta Stone to be a complete waste of money. I got it for Spanish and I was extremely frustrated by the fact that it didn’t teach any grammar rules like verb conjugations and how poor it was in voice-recognition. More often than not, it wouldn’t recognize my speech even when I was clearly saying it correctly….and that’s with it’s head-set! You can say all you want about using a dictionary and etc. but I was able to learn more effectively from a textbook used in school (Vista is the company’s name) than this

  • Colin Elliott

    Thank you for the informative review, very useful, balanced and incisive – still in two minds whether to actually order the software but your review has given me food for thought. Best wishes.

  • Hannah Baum


    I have recently gone through two units of RS Spanish. Where I work there are some native speakers, so I learned a bit from them before I learned from RS. It was helpful to learn from them, but after using RS for a week I could actually speak in sentences to my coworkers. They can now teach me even more Spanish that will fit with the framework I have now. I have rapidly picked up my learning pace.

    I have found RS to be quite clear in teaching grammar and sentence structure, the “rules” of the language so to speak. It could be because I am good at understanding the mechanics of language anyway (34 ACT in that section), I need extremely organized information presentation, or Spanish is not that hard of a language for a native English speaker to learn.

    I agree that other sources need to be utilized when learning a language. Why else are you learning a language if not to use it to communicate with others who speak that language? Having many coworkers and friends who speak Spanish plus the RS program has allowed my learning to take off in a way I never would have imagined.

  • oising

    You know what, I think it may in fact depend on how many languages the user already understands. I speak English and French, and I chose Rosetta Stone to learn Mandarin and I find it incredibly productive, personally. The difference for me I found is that with the visual learning, I retain my knowledge, longer, without practice. If I was learning another where I could leverage my knowledge of English and French, I would probably find it less effective. However, for completely alien writing systems and languages, I find it very effective.

  • oising

    If I didn’t understand something in the Mandarin lessons, I would continue on throughout the chapter. Eventually it would become clear and I found that learning through inference like that is far more effective for retention than being told outright.

  • Clinton Mah

    RS Mandarin will be a challenge to someone completely unfamiliar with Chinese. In both theory and practice, one can learn any language by immersion, but being a purist here makes the process harder than necessary. So, however you choose to learn Mandarin, use all the resources available to you; get some good reference books even if you are going to live a year in Beijing. RS is most helpful in its systematic presentation of material and its repetition and frequent review, which few people would tolerate in a classroom or even a tutorial situation. It is more like going to a language lab, but with visual cues and direct feedback. I had some advantages here in that I already speak a Taishanese dialect of Chinese, but Mandarin is pronounced differently and uses much grammar and vocabulary that is different. Still I have learned quite a bit in a short time and as a Chinese person have found the RS examples for Mandarin not to be overly American at all. RS is expensive, though its price has come down; but in any event, this forces people to make a real commitment to learning a language. Do not approach RS casually.

  • Guest

    Thanks for this helpful information.

  • Meghedy Mirbekian

    Thank you for this helpful information(livelypsych)

  • Susan Richman

    I totally agree with you on the *photos* part of your review. I tried the ‘free sample’ intro CD, focusing on Hebrew, my target language. I was humming along, making fine progress, remembering these rather random words, getting things right, etc. BUT THOSE PHOTOS…. I remember wondering at some of the *lush green yards*– and all those *individual houses*. Where were the much more common *apartment buildings*, the sparser vegetation (or if things were green, clearly some *drip irrigation* hoses showing!). And the ethnic groups shown– I found myself saying, “Oh, well, you know, I’ve heard a lot of Thai’s have moved to Israel, helping with personal care for the elderly– THAT’s why they are showing all these Asians….and the African (African American??) might have been an Ethiopian refugee….” BUT THEN IT HIT ME– there was absolutely NOTHING cultural about these photos– they were generic, they were ‘any place’ and ‘no place’…. or certainly NO place associated with Israel, the ONE nation in the world where this language is spoken by the general population. That was enough for me– I never looked into getting the ‘full program’, and I’ve always mentioned this *warning* to the many homeschooling families I counsel who wonder if they should get Rosetta Stone. Thanks for your review! AND I too am someone who loves to use a *wide range* of approaches and materials and ‘stuff’. Too ‘canned’ for my tastes ;-). Love your website, Benny!

  • luke fausnaugh

    Worked well for me. The end.

  • Tray Bishop

    Well on top of all of that, they start asking you for more money after 3 months and shut down a good majority of the services they offer you, so if you’re not fluent in 3 months, expect to start paying MONTHLY for access to things you ALREADY bought.

  • Mark Saxton

    Terrific post. This is the most comprehensive review of RS I have found and seems to cover all the basics and more. I appreciate your comments about non travel meet-ups as a way to generate an immersive experience and I may look to do that. however, I need something structured to get me going in Spanish (currently English speaking only) and am debating between a well reviewed class (30 over 10 weeks for $480 USD) or RS Spanish 1-4 currently available for $250). At the $250 I may simply supplement the course and it would seem the additional live lessons would make this valuable. Especially at my complete beginner stage. Any thought on that?
    I do also want to agree with the idea that grammar is less important than conversational learning. I spent many years in Canada and we had mandatory French classes. They taught it almost exclusively grammatically and while I can conjugate my verbs and can pronounce most words reasonably well, I cant string them together in a sentence.
    I look forward to learning more from your site.

  • Steve Smith

    I recently purchased my first copy of Rosetta Stone in an effort to improve my rudimentary Spanish while traveling in South America. After progressing through the first few levels of the program and doing quite well in Rosetta Stone’s course work, I do find that my comprehension is improving, and that I am able to recognize and understand words and concepts covered in the course material when I read or hear it during my travels.

    Unfortunately, my ability to apply the course material when *speaking* in real-world situations is a whole different matter. I am not able to recall the vocabulary and grammar taught in the course material when I am speaking, and it is quite frustrating given the time I am investing with the software. I feel that after being exposed to words dozens of times that I should be able to recall them and use them in real-world situations. I also still do not understand basic grammatical concepts well, despite having seen and spoken dozens of examples of them over and over in the course work.

    I am in 100% agreement with you about the reasons for this. The software’s almost exclusive reliance on multiple choice, and its failing to challenge the learner to recall words and compose sentences WITHOUT seeing or hearing the vocabulary immediately beforehand, leaves me ill-prepared to do so in real-world situations. The fact that there are no explanations about grammar usage are precisely why I still do not understand even the most basic grammatical concepts. Pictures alone are not sufficient for many grammatical concepts in my opinion, which I believe is why children generally need to be taught grammar in grammar school to augment their visual learning experiences.

    And being a software developer myself, I think you are also spot on as to the reason they cling so tightly to their linguistic teaching philosophy: only using photos to convey meaning, relying so heavily on multiple choice, and using no native language for translations or to explain grammar. It is not about making the most efficient software for the learner. It is about maximizing reuse and making the most efficient software to deploy and scale for the developers. And as for their research, I believe that to be a matter of finding research that best justifies their business model.

    They are a software company first and foremost, and a linguistics company second.

  • agaace

    I’m Polish living in the US and my boyfriend is American. He uses Rosetta to learn Polish and I use it to learn Spanish, and we see drastic differences in our experience with Rosetta.

    I have mixed opinions on the program. I think Spanish is a decent introductory program. I enjoy the immersion method but I personally like structure, so I would appreciate adding structure after the immersion step of a new lesson – for example structured grammar review at the end with tables and things put together – makes it easy to memorize conjugation etc. On the plus side, the countless amount of repetition and scheduled reviews of previously covered lessons make the most tedious aspect of learning any language – repeat, repeat, repeat – a little less unpleasant than when done on your own. I wish the program pushed you to explore the language more – i.e. more vocabulary etc – like when you learn in classroom and you write a simple essay for homework (even when it’s only 3-4 sentences in first weeks of learning), you typically learn more vocabulary than just what was covered in class, and the teacher verifies you use new words in correct context. I think this is a very important aspect missing in Rosetta. Overall I would say Rosetta is good for introduction to Spanish or a nice companion to fill in gaps in other methods, but will certainly not teach you the language to become fluent in it.
    My background: native Polish, fluent English (20 years of learning, 7 years living in English speaking countries), basic French (1.5 year of learning), introductory Spanish in classroom before Rosetta (10 weeks), used to be intermediate in German (3 years, not used in years), used to be basic level in Russian (4 years, not used in years). So I do love learning languages and have experience doing so, so I can “compensate” for the aspects Rosetta lacks in.

    My American boyfriend has never learned any language. He had Spanish at school and chose not to learn (deliberately). Now he chose to learn Polish and boy he found Rosetta frustrating. While I enjoy my Spanish experience, I think he has every right to be frustrated with Polish. Polish is a *very* different language, with a much more complex grammar that requires a lot of explanation for someone who speaks a language with a simpler grammatical structure (English). So this immersion method simply isn’t working! Coming from English background, he doesn’t understand that “pies” and “psa” is the same noun, just a different case. So when he sees a picture of a dog, and it says “pies”, and the next picture of the dog says “psa” – he’s like wtf? He’s experience has been “it goes from very simple to very difficult without anything in between and any explanation”. Once I explained to him the noun casing in Polish, he finally got it why he felt so frustrated using Rosetta for hours. “Now it makes sense” he said, and it took me less than 10 minutes to explain the grammar concept to him.

    Overall, learning a language grammar is a bit like learning math. You might learn how to add and multiply numbers by just being presented a bunch of example pictures, without explaining rules. But you certainly won’t be able to learn trigonometry or fractions, without someone explaining the concept to you. Since Spanish grammar is a simplified version of Polish grammar – Rosetta works for me. But Polish grammar is a more complex version of English grammar, and in this case, it doesn’t work (especially that my boyfriend doesn’t speak any language with grammar more complex than English).

    Conclusion: choose wisely which language you want to learn with Rosetta!

  • Nathan Roten

    I can personally vouch for the remark that after going through 3 Levels, you feel like you are still at the basic level. I have studied Spanish with Rosetta for 2 years and still feel incapable to carry on a decent conversation. I learned a lot of words and grammar, but they are all loose up there in my head. You definitely need the speaking part, which by the way, I would have to pay for every so many months in packages for the Studio. For my version, I don’t have unlimited access. It was a 3 month package.
    I am putting Rosetta Stone in the drawer and have committed to 3 months to fluency based on what I learned in your book. I am interested to see how it will compare.
    Great post Benny

  • Tasdeeq

    You brought up cultural relevancy of the pictures and that reminds me of a joke.
    A billboard ad of a beverage company boosted sales in many countries but in middle east sales went down to nothing. Why? Because the ad was, from left to right, a tired/depressed man, in the next strip he’s drinking the drink and in the third strip he’s full of life.
    I hope RS didn’t make a mistake so drastic lol

  • That Nigga Pegasus


  • Ali

    hello,everyone i am learning spanish and its difficult so,in your opinion whats the best way to learn a language is it by finding the nearest language like hebrew and Arabic for example or by applying to course that will cost more than what i can invest in rostta stone?please advice

  • Andre Gillardin

    I wish I read your review before. I purchased Rosetta Stone Totale Spanish at Christmas 2013. Today is May 2nd,2014. I am yet to go past Level 1, unit 2.
    When I launch the program, I regularly get an error message and cannot go any further. I have called tech support many times and get the same answer about corrupt or missing files during the install from their CDs. I am told the uninstall the program, Then to reinstall the Application CD and the language levels CDs. This requires an enormous amount of time (at least an hour each time). Then everything is fine for one or two sessions, until a new error message appears. Back to the same vicious circle. The support people are very nice and patient. But this does nothing to solve the problem as I spent more time reinstalling than learning. I have never before had any problems installing programs before. I use a PC with Windows 8.1.
    Could the discs be defective? This is a really expensive mistake. Am I the only one having this problem?

  • Raul Saavedra

    Awesome review! Great to see your take at it, all you found strong and weak in it, and why.

  • Sarah Becraft

    After reading your review, I looked at your product and the video description. Actually, your statement and suggestions are pretty much exactly how I feel about language learning myself – that the method is inconsequential compared to exposing oneself and making oneself use the language. If you don’t use it, it won’t stick. When I lived in Ecuador, I avoided English as much as possible – my music was in Spanish, my books were in Spanish, my conversations were in Spanish as much as possible. (Difficult, since a lot of classmates didn’t feel as strongly about using Spanish only as I did.)

    And I became conversational where I had previously been utterly unable to talk to anyone.

    I actually do like the language programs too though, and I budget them in here and there. (I’m a recent grad working a night job. Under-employed but living with family… Gives me a more disposable income than I’ll have when I find a day job. But I’m also talking when a program is $274 or lower, not at their $400 or higher prices.) But my circumstances working a night job play a large factor. And I wouldn’t pretend I use Rosetta Stone alone – good grief, I’m using it in Spanish for review, and after the first level I hadn’t even touched a fraction of what I learned in a semester of college Spanish, not even simply vocabulary wise. I keep thinking instead of JUST making games like Picari for review, they should make games that are built around building your vocabulary further. People who complain about my speaking abilities don’t usually take issue with my pronunciation or grammar… the biggest problem? Insufficient vocabulary.

    (Edit: What I meant by “I have a night job” is that I’m awake when other people are asleep and vice versa. It’s REALLY difficult and often almost impossible to join groups or social networks for speaking languages I want to practice. So TOTALe allows me to do group tutoring, 1-on-1 lessons, and use the TOTALe Companion app while I’m at work – giving me far more practice than I would currently have left to my own devices. Using TOTALe companion at work instead of listening to music gives me 18 hours of review per week. So, for me and my circumstances, Rosetta Stone currently is a pretty good deal. But they could afford to make SO many improvements.)

    I do agree with all your criticisms of the program, though, and when people ask me about Rosetta Stone I make my issues clear. I also don’t try to pretend there’s a ‘one size fits all’ method or that it’s a good idea to use something without supplementary material.

  • baron

    I joined the French Foreign Legion in the mid 90’s as a non French speaker. Coming from the United States, naturally I was only fluent in English. About 1/4th of my enlisting class was not fluent in French, it was a mix of different languages from around the world. Some African, Eastern European and Asian, it made for an interesting time. In order to “graduate” from enlistee training, everyone had to be proficient in both spoken and written French.

    How was the Legion able to accomplish this, full immersion. From day one we were only spoken to and instructed in French. We were given lesson in a classroom in French, Fellow enlistees who were native in French would help us out in the evening, extra instruction given in French, writing lessons in French. Everything, and I mean everything was in French. IF you were caught speaking….say to answer a question….in your native language, all personnel were taught to ignore you and either ask you again or dress you down for doing so.

    I found that after a few weeks of this intense 24/7 environment, I was able to begin to function at a decent level. Commands like attention, at ease, dismissed came easily. Then came the ability to piece together enough words spoken to you, that you could make an “educated” guess as to what the conversation was about. Along with that came the ability to also piece together enough words that the person you were speaking to understood what you were trying to say.

    Then one day you wake up, and all the sudden you begin to understand 95-99% of the things that are being said, and while I still fumbled with my speech a little, I was able to correct myself at a reasonable rate when I said something wrong or out of context. My writing improved dramatically as well.

    After 3 months or so, I was having zero issues.

    The whole Idea behind the process is to not only get you speaking and writing the language, the main goal is to get you to THINK in the language.

    One instructor I had used to say that once you started daydreaming in French, most of the battle was over.

    The Foreign Legion has been doing this for 100+ years,(founded in 1831) pretty much the same way. At first not a lot of classroom instruction was given, but for the entire history the immersion process has worked.

    Immersion is the best way, in my experience, to learn any language. Now obviously, my experience is different then what a lot of people could ever do. A couple of years ago I decided to learn Russian. The business I work for does a lot of business within Russia. My company offered to pay for lessons. At that time I looked into Rosetta stone and Busuu. But the best way was for me to search on the internet and find a Social Club, in my case it was a group of local business owners who were from Russia. I contacted the Club, stated my intentions, and was warmly welcomed to one of their meeting where I made some new friends. I informed my new “friends” that I was wanting to learn Russian, and they were all more than happy to help out. I got invited to more meeting, dinners, get togethers……while my Russian is still not 100%, I am able to think it when I am with a group of my friends.

    Ok, so I am a little long winded. My point is this, Rosetta Stone is in my opinion a good resource for those wanting to “break the ice” with a new language. Learning a vocabulary, and being able to identify things is never a bad thing. Call it “Kindergarten through 3rd grade” if you will. You should supplement your Rosetta Stone education with some real world experience, and to move on through the “grades” up to graduation, you need to eventually immerse yourself, whether its a vacation or just visiting a local club with some native speakers.

    End of line

  • lovelikewhitney

    I am trying to learn Korean since I want to teach there when I finish school. Since I’m in college, I so do not have the money for Rosetta Stone but the “learning like a baby does by not using any of your language” thing really put me off of it. I ended up purchasing Living Language and I can read Hangeul now, but I was wondering if you’ve ever done a review of Living Language products?

    • Brandon Rivington

      Benny hasn’t specifically done a Living Language review but, personally, I think they’re great! And don’t bother with buying Rosetta Stone no matter matter if you can or cannot afford it. It’s definitely not worth the money. Instead, get yourself talking! Try out sites like Conversation Exchange or italki to find conversation partners and start practicing :)

  • Charissa

    Hi I like your review. My experience with Rosetta Stone is that it is good as a supplement. I am currently learning spanish. I learn the grammar and such with a teacher and then use Rosetta Stone for practice ( I feel like it does help me and works for me) I also listen to spanish music, speak spanish alot with someone who speaks spanish. So I would say Rosetta Stone is a good extra, but probably not on its own i dont think i would comprehend all the pictures without the grammar knowledge i already have. I would not pay hundreds of dollers for this software.

  • Boring_username_wo_diacritics

    I’ve just bought a version of RS and while I haven’t tried it out yet, I feel the urge to comment on the article. Overall, it certainly gives a good overview of the functionality, strengths and – mainly – weaknesses of RS. I can’t be sure how effective my learning will be, but it seems to me that the article is based on the simplistic assumption that a lot of people try to learn a language ONLY by using software (or one approach in general).
    Of course, there might be some people who do that, but I think it’s a small minority. Personally, I have used language learning software in four of the five foreign languages that I studied so far (never with RS), and the quality of some of the software must have been vastly inferior, even though I don’t remember every detail. I remember being annoyed with speech recognition in every software. Still, I’m sure I learnt a lot using this software. Of course, I also spoke to people, took classes, watched TV etc. because ultimately, it is the combination of different learning method that is most effective; only by speaking to people you won’t really learn a language neither. Once you have achieved a certain level, it is a must to learn some grammar, and I think that a part of it can be learnt reasonably well with software.
    Thus, a lot of the criticism mentioned in the article, which could be applied to any language learning software, is not relevant in my opinion.


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  • Amy Schmiesing

    Helpful info, thanks. Watching the TED talk next:)

  • jolly bee

    OhmyGosh! This had to be the most long winded and didactic review I have ever read. It was painfully slowwww, and disrespected any disposable time the reader may have had. I`ve read easier articles on retro causality than this. Geez dude, re-write the bible if you get the sudden urge to be expressive via the keyboard.

    • Brandon Rivington

      The problem is that there are so many reviews out there that portray Rosetta Stone as the greatest innovation in language learning since the invention of writing which is simply not the case. He just wanted to be specific in his review, break it down topic by topic, and not leave any gaps.

      As for your request, he gave it a shot :)

      -Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

      • Constance Millar

        I never comment on these blogs etc, but I have to say . I am so glad this review was written “painfully slow” as its the first review ive read and actually understood! So thanks from me. (dumb blonde) lol.
        I will be contacting you at brandon@fluentin3months .
        Thanks again

  • Josh Rodriguez

    I’m using RS to study Hebrew. I say to “study” not necessarily to “learn.” I agree that the multiple choice format is not really effective for actually learning to produce the language. What I do like, however, is the progressive presentation of vocab and simple constructions. I was able to really learn the alphabet (which I had previously studied on my own, but not mastered until RS) so I could sound things out for myself. And I like being able to hear native speakers pronouncing, slowly and clearly. There is a real dearth of Hebrew audio out there. But again I don’t feel the CD lessons really teach production (i.e., real language use). To expand some on RS, I have been making my own flashcards using Quizlet, which enables me to practice in different ways, including working more on my writing. But I have to do the extra work to try to apply what I’m learning throughout my normal day, and make up my own sentences and look up words for myself. I have also been trying to learn the lyrics of pop songs to supplement, as well as other reading material (in this case the Hebrew bible–I won’t get into the classical vs. modern Hebrew distinction here). And I read supplemental grammar texts as well so that I feel I truly understand the constructions I’m being shown. Incidentally, I am also a trained linguist, specialized in Spanish grammar, and to some extent Romance linguistics and language evolution/history. Anyway, to sum up, I feel that RS is a nice resource, but should not be used as the one and only resource. I’ve really enjoyed it, but I’ve also been proactive about supplementing as needed. And I can’t agree more that the real place we learn language is in real-time conversations. Incidentally, there are conversation partnering websites which I intend to get involved in as I progress. RS is an easy place to start, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may think you’re learning what you need to know, when in fact you might be missing some foundations they don’t really offer.

    • Brandon Rivington

      My biggest grievance is the price. In much of today’s world, we equate higher price with a [supposedly] better product: iPhones, pricey cars, designer clothes, etc. I would be completely fine with RS selling their product for around $50 because I think that’s about all that you get out of it. However, they’ve successfully got people thinking that $500 is necessary to learn a language when, in fact, it can be done for free. Thanks for commenting!

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Peter

    I don’t believe that any software package or audio book is an effective tool on its own. Language learning has to be done using a number of resources – listening to music and reading a close (but inexact) translation – speaking with people who speak the language, having language lessons and using software/audiobooks.

    I do prefer Rosetta Stone to Pimsleur for one main reason. With Rosetta stone, you get the exact text. With Pimsleur and other audio packages, you get an inexact translation – which I find rather irritating.

    The point of using only the language you are learning is so that you can get it wrong, then repeat the lesson until you get it right. I don’t think that the use of google in this situation helps – just get it wrong, then figure out what you got wrong. Eventually, you can figure it out – especially if you have used a different language on the same software.

    Having done level 3 in Italian, I dispute the fact that you don’t learn the grammar of the language. It does have exercises where you have to select the correct verb/adverb in the sentence. What it doesn’t do is spoon-feed you the grammatical tables, which a lot of the time, confuses people.

    I think it is an ok package, but not worse than any other software packages available on the market.

    However, using purely the software is far from adequate on its own

  • Lisa Bacques

    Dear Benny, thank you for this detailed article. I would like to become fluent in Spanish. Any suggestions?

    • Brandon Rivington

      Hey there Lisa! I’m Brandon, Benny’s full time language encourager. Email at and we can chat about how to become fluent in Spanish :)

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

    • Joe Gabriel

      Hey Lisa!

      I was just going through some old comments and noticed yours ;) Benny has a new guide out called Why Spanish is Easy and could be helpful for your Spanish goals.

      Let me know of any other questions you have!

  • Meera

    Thanks for this review! It was incredibly helpful.

  • Joanna Joy Neuschatz

    Great article! I recently have been learning Deutsch. I started taking an evening class at my local adult school. The class, actually two level 1 & 2, did not cover a vast many topics. We learned how to say what we are called, how to ask and introduce both formally and informally and we learned directions, how to get to places. We also learned very solid how to conjugate the few verbs we did learn. After taking those two courses I tested out of A1.1 at the Goethe Institute. I was happy to be in A1.2 and was shocked to find that while everyone in the class knew a great little about a multitude of things, nobody really was able to effectively use verbs and conjugate them. The Goethe institute SF, uses a communicative approach – which I was very disappointed to learn. In desperation I researched Rosetta Stone and found they too use this approach. As a perfectly fluent English speaker, but being someone who was born in Romania, spoke Romanian and Italian, and am a teacher of music I am wholly disappointed in the culture of learning language that is very instant gratification oriented (maybe a U.S. cultural parallel). This article validated my feelings of frustration with both the Goethe Institute and with online learning approaches (especially Rosetta Stones – trail which I got last year for 1 month for free and didn’t retain or learn a single useful or applicable thing).

    • Brandon Rivington

      Thanks for looking it up first! Perhaps RS works for some people (however, I’ve not met any yet) but no matter how the program works, I don’t think that anyone should have to pay $500 for something that “might work.” What have you decided to use?

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Don Pierson

    Hi. I have used Rosetta Stone for Russian and Mandarin Chinese. I have to say that they both really worked for me quite well. The main advantage was that my ear was used to the language.
    You said that everyone you spoke to said that using Rosetta Stone alongside other methods, but I think that will be the case with any method, even classroom teaching. I have used Rosetta Stone, and then I started listening to Radio and chatted with Russian people. That topped up the knowledge, but I wouldn’t have been able to understand radio, shouldn’t be by the knowledge I got on RS.
    One thing that I found negative at the beginning was that I was able to understand a lot, but speak/write very little. But in the end it was great, because I was able to understand everything around me while travelling in Moscow. I have learnt German at the Goether Institute, and I was able to speak and ask questions, but little I understood when it came to listen to the answers :) Rosetta Stone was the opposite really.
    I think it all comes to learning styles. It did suit my learning style. I was able to learn Russian quite well in 3 months. Then I continued learning in Russia.
    I learnt Dutch with the Michelle Thomas method, which I found also quite useful, although no writing skills are taught. I think I like this repetition system. As I said before I think it all depends on your learning style.

  • Don Pierson

    I love that part. when studying at classroom based courses, I found that when I searched on the dictionary I forgot quite quickly about it…but with the pictures it was a lot easier to remember.

  • SJ

    My likes:
    When I was using this product (Learning to speak Dutch) regularly I actually was learning a bit and it didn’t bother me that there was no English, it sometimes took a while but I discovered the meaning of words on my own and it was that aha moment that they talk about.
    My dislikes:
    The games that are included and the opportunity to speak with teachers etc is only for a short period of time, after that you are required to sign up and pay a monthly fee.
    In addition to this, when you I purchased a new computer it was a ENORMOUS hassle to arrange for the product that I had paid so much for to be transferred to a new computer. I have recently purchased another computer and I have yet to have the product/account transferred because of my last experience, essentially making the expensive product useless until I do.

  • Chris

    I am a college freshman who purchased Rosetta Stone Spanish levels 1-5. I tested into a higher level Spanish class and expected Rosetta Stone to better my vocab, grammar, pronunciation, and reading. It did none of that. All of which RS promised in its ads. Rosetta Stone does not give you concrete vocabulary words (it fails to translate the Spanish to English at any point, it forces the client to correlate Spanish words and phrases to pictures. These pictures do not make the vocab clear), nor does it give you absolute grammar points. I like to understand how a language works and not just go through the motions. It gives you phrases for you to get a general meaning. It doesn’t help you with individual words. I cannot express how upset I was over this program. A college student who is out several hundred dollars. A college student just trying to prepare himself for college. I even contacted a RS representative and asked questions about the vocab and grammar, and all I received were preprogrammed responses about how this program teaches you the same way you learned as a kid. That’s all well and good, but I am no longer a child, nor do I learn like a child. This program is a waste of money and I suggest to any future, potential buyers, save your money. I wanted to learn and understand Spanish, RS did neither. All it provides are pictures with phrases. That’s it. Any fifth grader could make these lessons with powerpoint and an internet connection. I expected RS to be the premier language learning software. I was quite let down to say the least. Do not invest in this product. — One Extremely Upset Investor

  • Gerardo Garcia

    I use Rosetta Stone and I agree that you need other kind of materials along with the program to be able to succeed. Something that really helps me is to find audiobooks and the printed version. If you read and listen the book at the same time that will help you with your reading and listening skills.

  • SalZel

    I have played around with the spanish version and the chinese version. I would say that Rosetta needs to incorporate more “live fire” type situations. Read a passage and answer questions about it. Hear a conversation and answer questions about it. The clicking picture thing gets a little stale and boring at times. Also, you can cheat yourself if you see the correct word for the thing in the picture. I think they should challenge the user more.

  • Lauren

    This review has really helped me to decided whether or not I will use Rosetta Stone. It’s great have a thorough understanding or a system this complex before you spend the money. I will definitely follow up on your other post about learning a language.

  • Oksana Fore

    I am keeping an open mind. Yes, there are other ways to learn a language. But it always starts with something simple as red balls and green apples. I got 5 levels of Spanish right now, and this is my 4th language…F it, i am just having fun and of course, to make it perfect, i will try different ways of learning it, different programs, books, software etc.

  • JKL

    Wish I read this site before I purchased Rosetta Stone to learn French. The software never worked properly; I had quite a “run-around” trying to get technical support; then, all but one of the technical support personnel were not helpful; and the software has never functioned correctly. I have nearly ten years of experience teaching languages and have to say that the parts of the software that did function did not seem especially effective (for reasons already noted in your article). When I sought a refund, I was informed that it was outside the 30 day refund window and the company refuses to provide a refund – despite the horrible experience I had with the software and their personnel. So in addition to substantive flaws, the technical and customer support for the product is awful. I strongly caution folks to be very careful about purchasing Rosetta Stone products. I know I will never do so again.

  • tpy2012

    When considering the cost-benefit ratio of this program, the usual price is approximately 500.00. If it were available, as it is for now, for 199.00 USD, does this change the value of the program? Or in other words,is it a good deal at 199.00USD. The program is the same but the cost is less. I am thinking about purchasing the Latin American Spanish program and just received this offer.

  • Jonathan


  • Hikari Magic

    I am currently learning Japanese with Rosetta Stone, and so far I am enjoying it. I was able to obtain my copy at a discounted price for various reasons. Even though I enjoy the program, I feel that it is to slow for my liking. I have done a bit of searching to enhance my learning progress, and have found various mediums to help me. Something I came across was a talk about various learning methods to help remember information better. If you have ever heard of Mnemonics then you might be using it still even though it’s used often with children. When I can I try to combine that with a method called “Memory Palace”. For those of you who don’t know of it, you imagine a place that is either real or created by you and use that as a storage of sorts to put words. For example, you can imagine the home you live in or a favorite location you visit and imagine the action or object in that place. Unfortunately this requires you to actually use your imagination. I recommend stretching those imaginative skills we all have and give it a try. Other than those methods one of the sources I like to use is called “memrise”. Unfortunately it is quite limited to how many words you are allowed to learn at a time on a per week basis unless if you go premium, but using it as an additive is fine with me. What is great about memrise as far as I can see is that you are able to learn what you want rather than having to use a complete program that was made.

    All in all, just using one program or resource doesn’t seem like the logical thing to do in any case that I have seen. Since Rosetta Stone doesn’t encourage the use of other sources (preferably free, or highly rated by other users at reasonable prices), It’s the people you ask who will be your outside help. I like Rosetta Stone for what it is, but I wouldn’t say that it is the best.

    Also, depending on your view it can be annoying or beneficial but I am constantly e-mailed cheaper offers to purchase another language from Rosetta Stone. I guess this makes it easier to give the links to friends to buy the program at a discounted price. The last price I was offered for a new language was $219. It is not always the same price with each e-mail, but the emails happened about 12 times a month up till August, and only 4 times in September, and so far only 3 times this month (October 23rd). It can get annoying and I could unsubscribe to the emails, but I leave it be for now for some unspoken reason.

  • Justin Miller

    Thank you for your detailed review on Rosetta Stone!
    I have been attempting to use Rosetta Stone for a while and noticed the information did not stick as fast when I spoke with native speakers nearby. Now, I can shift my time for alternative methods to learn a language with limited resources.

  • Guest

    I think your crotic is too “picky”. Too unrealiatic to think that a 5 dvd course in a box is really gonna make you learn a full language… but they do a good job tryibg to get you to survive in a different language… let’s be realistic. One learns a language at an institute or school but my experience is that until you are not surrounded by native speakers in their own Country you will never master the language
    And I say this since I was born in Peru, learn English at School and moved to Virginia in the USA and was only there where I had a chance to rely practice the language. My writing skills are from School but I cached some of my vocabulary interacting with people in the USA

    Rosetta stone is to me basic vocabulary course that together with listening to songs in Italian, maybe read comic books in Italian or watch movies on Italian and using a “translator” system on my phone helps me learn the language a little better. I know I will never be able to speak frankly and fluently unless I move to Italy, but it will give me a way to move around if I ever go.

    Rosetta stone also gives me the chance of being there when I wanted. Meaning, I can pick it up and learn whenever I want on my time. Unlike a “class” where I need to commit to go every week… I can just turn on my computer and learn my language slowly

    My little nephews Mother is Italian and he is learning with words he hears from her and of course by actions, like when his Mother points at a thing and repeats the name of that thing in Italian… so, I guess that Rosetta stone approach to “non translation” works for me

    Again, you will never learn a language 100% accurately u less you live in the Country where the language is from.

  • maurizio

    I learned English in my native Country of Peru. I learned it in School and practiced at home watching movies in English and listening to music

    But it wasn’t until I moved to the USA that I really was forced to speak it correctly and or fluently. If anything I got from School was “grammar” and vocabulary and I can tell my grammar is still not the greatest… but, I can communicate

    Point is, Rosetta stone is that, a stone. A stone you step on to, to learn a language. An easy comfortable way to learn at your pace, on your time, without schedules. But you will only master the language if you move to the Country where the language is from. Only then you will be forced to speak and understand and even then NOBODY is going to translate the language for you, they will point at things or they will repeat the words over and over until you understand what they mean. That’s how you learn…

    That’s how I learned to speak and understand English. NOT translating.

    Now I am learning a new language with Rosetta stone. I mix and match it with songs and easy readings (like comic books or fairy tales) and only when I am stuck I use the translator… but I am not delusional, I know I will never speak fluently unless I find someone to talk to, live 24/7 or I move to the Country this language is from.

  • Guest

    I attempted to learn German with this program and frankly, I was bored. Matching word “Mädchen” with a photo of a girl for hours…. I can’t imagine how much time it takes for them to get to more advanced things. And then I got hold of a Spanish version… and then there were the same exercises all over again! Thankfully, I borrowed both so I did not pay anything, and I wouldn’t.

  • anon

    Great review, thanks. This demonstrates my feelings as well. I originally researched and decided to invest in Rosetta stone to assist my Italian-learning progress, and have been disappointed, especially for the price. So, on my own instincts, I began listening to Italian music, perusing the library for children’s books in Italian, listening to podcasts, reading the news in Italian, and keeping in touch with my Italian friends, all of which have helped me improve much more rapidly. I also love duolingo and memrise to supplement my learning. Rosetta stone was not worth it and I’m thankful for your thoughtful review to help other potential consumers see this, before spending the money!

  • Nicola

    I have family who live in Italy. When I was visiting, one of my family members helped me learn a bit and order at restaurants and things like that. While I had a translator, it’s the closest I’ve got to immersion. I panicked a lot. You say that the pressure of having to use the language helps you learn faster, but the panic just sent everything I knew out of my brain. On the plane home, I could barely remember more than three words of Italian. Yet I know people do learn from immersion.
    I have also tried to learn French in school, memorising vocab and grammar rules. It didn’t work for me and I never took an exam in the language because I simply wasn’t good enough. Yet I had classmates who became fluent in French.
    I had tried Rosetta Stone Spanish and while I doubt it will make me fluent in it without using additional materials, what I have learnt has actually stuck in my brain and I remember it.
    I think everyone works in different ways and learns in different ways and what might work for one person doesn’t work for others.

    • Joe Gabriel – Fi3M Team

      Totally true that everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners, while some are auditory learners (I’m not one, but I’m SUPER jealous of the guys that hear a word or phrase like once and never forget it arggggg)

      Panic is common, especially when learning a foreign language for the first time. The good news is that you get used to the pressure, just like if you were to practice giving speeches in your native language. The first time is terrifying, and it becomes less and less scary the more you do it.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    On the other hand it makes the program way more effective for English learners since they will be drowned in American culture throughout :-P

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I was a language teacher for many years and have my way of teaching, so sitting in a classroom getting taught a different way annoys me. ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I’m sure there are cheaper ways to learn to write with the Hebrew keyboard ;)

  • Nkosi

    Leo, don’t give up on Rosetta Stone just yet. I do about 4 – 10 lessons a day with Rosetta Stone, but this supplements my own research into Italian grammar and real life text conversations with my Italian friends. I’m currently trying to get someone to Skype with on a regular basis in Italian. I think that will be the turning point for me. Currently I can make small talk in Italian, and I credit most of my progress with sticking with Rosetta Stone at least for 4 lessons a day for the past 2 months.

  • Norma Jean Wallace

    What do you think about the “Tell Me More” program?