I’m sure you have heard of this software before: Rosetta Stone. When many people think of learning a new language, they automatically think of Rosetta Stone. But is it worth the money? Does it work? Read my review to find out! 🙂
I don’t want to spoil the review for you, but my answers are No and Not as good as other methods. Rosetta Stone’s prices have fallen in the past few years, but it is still much too expensive for what it offers. A full Rosetta Stone language package (with 5 levels) is going to cost you $399. That is much cheaper than last year’s price of $499, but you will not be learning as well as you can be.
When I first started learning Russian, I wanted to try Rosetta Stone. I was broke…so buying it was out of the question. I started off by using free online resources (all I could afford at the time), and later bought some second-hand Russian grammar books and dictionaries. I eventually learned the Russian alphabet and some basic phrases and was working my way forward through grammar.
Finally, I got an opportunity to use Rosetta Stone and was very disappointed. I expected to get something better than I already had…but those second-hand books were much more valuable than Rosetta Stone could ever be. But don’t worry, I didn’t waste $400 on Rosetta Stone. I got it for free during my service in the military (now unavailable due to an expired contract between the military and Rosetta Stone). I’m very glad I didn’t spend the money!
Rosetta Stone has a distorted view that learning like a child is good for adults. They promise that they will immerse you in the language you want to learn. They promise that you will learn this new language just like you learned your first one! You will learn just like a baby. No translations. No grammar. Just pictures, text, and sound. The problem with is that You Aren’t A Baby…
You start off learning phrases like “The boy is eating” or “The man is drinking.” You don’t start off learning the valuable stuff (i.e. useful conversational phrases). You also never get formal instruction in the alphabet (i.e. that alien Cyrillic script! ;P) And even worse…None of the grammar is explained. This type of instruction is great for babies (because they can’t read, and don’t have a clue what grammar terms such as ‘nouns’ are), but is terrible for adults.
You can learn more from a cheap $10 course than you can from Rosetta Stone’s entire 5-level package. You won’t be fluent after you read the $10 course, but you will much closer than after finishing all that Rosetta Stone offers.
So let’s go over what they try to sell you (i.e. what they advertise). Here’s what we’ll cover:
-Rosetta Stone is immersion
-Rosetta Stone is interactive
-Speak with confidence
-Live sessions with a native coach
Rosetta Stone is immersion
Rosetta Stone claims that they immerse you in the language you are learning (Russian). All they do is fail to provide translations and they call that immersion. Just because you don’t get to hear your native language (English) doesn’t mean that you are being immersed in the language.
For ‘immersion’ to work, you must be completely surrounded in the language and culture for long periods of time (24 hours a day). This means that to achieve true immersion, you must book a flight to Russia! You can’t simulate immersion with software.
Think about this. You use Rosetta Stone for a few hours (a few hours of ‘so-called’ immersion), and then you go back to your normal life (your normal life of speaking English and being surrounded by English). This time you spent on Rosetta Stone might have been useful, but it probably wasn’t…you probably spent a few hours learing useful phrases such as “They are eating” and “They have pens”… You could have been spending a few hours learning useful phrases such as “Hello” and “What’s your name” using a different course or method.
Rosetta Stone is interactive
Rosetta Stone is interactive, I give them that. You don’t really get bored with learning. But the problem is that you don’t learn useful stuff. They could really crush the language learning industry if they could take useful phrases and mix them in with their interactive software…but they don’t. They insist on teaching you useless phrases like “She is eating” and “He is under the ball”. You learn nonsense about 90% of the time and useful stuff about 10% of the time.
…But if you are going after Rosetta Stone just to play…then have at it. You will have fun, but you won’t learn Russian effectively.
Speak with confidence
When you buy Rosetta Stone, you will get a headset that has a microphone enabling you to speak to your computer. You will use their innovative speech recognition system to pronounce native words correctly. I have to say, I was really surprised with this speech recognition software. It seems to work most of the time.
You do a lot of speaking and listening with Rosetta Stone, which is wonderful. The only problem is that you aren’t speaking and listening effectively. You are learning useless stuff!
Live sessions with a native coach
The new version of Rosetta Stone allows you to have live lessons with a native speaker of the language you are learning. This is a wondeful idea, but you don’t need Rosetta Stone to do this. There are plenty of free and cheap alternatives!
LiveMocha allows you to submit spoken exercises for native speakers to grade. You can also personally message native speakers and connect via other means (i.e. Skype).
My Language Exchange is a place where you can learn a language in exchange for teaching your native language. This means that you will find Russians that want to learn English, and they will teach you Russian in exchange.
Lang-8 allows you to keep a journal in the language you are learning. Native speakers will read what you post and then correct any mistakes you have. If you do a good job, they will likely comment with how great you did :). It’s a great way to understand the mistakes you are making, so that you don’t make them again.
italki is a place where you go to pay for online Russian classes (usually through Skype). Some teachers offer trials so you can see how they teach before you pay for a session. The sessions vary in time, price, and materials covered, so you’ll have to do some independent research.
Should you buy Rosetta Stone?
No, you should not buy Rosetta Stone. You will waste your money. Instead, try some of the free and cheap alternatives. You will save money and learn more.
Have your own experiences? Comments? Questions? Disagreements? Please comment! 🙂