When it comes to language learning, there’s no one-size-fits-all option.
It fact, it’s easy to get stuck with a learning program that doesn’t suit you.
Popularity and expense aren’t guarantees that any software, website or book will work for you.
And that’s why today, we’re going to help you shop around.
Specifically, we’re going to help you compare Rosetta Stone with other language learning tools.
As you probably already know, Rosetta Stone is an award-winning language learning course that can boast of accolades like the “Best Language-learning Software” from PC Magazine, six years in a row.
For many, that’s enough to immediately buy the product and start learning now. And that may work out just fine!
But for language learners who want to look around, crane their necks and say, “What else is there?”—well, this post is for you.
We’re going to talk about alternatives that can, just as effectively, or maybe more effectively, teach you the language of your dreams.
Some of these programs may help you, personally, learn better than Rosetta Stone can. Others you may simply find more fun. And still others… well, let’s just say there are definitely cheaper and more price-flexible options out there. But it’s even possible there’s something out there that costs about the same or more, yet is still a better value for you as a learner.
But before we get to those alternatives, let’s first look a little bit closer and see what’s at the heart of Rosetta Stone, so we know what we’re up against.
What’s the Deal with Rosetta Stone?
If you haven’t been living under the actual Rosetta Stone, and if you’re a serious language learner or seriously thinking about becoming one, you’ve probably heard of Rosetta Stone. It’s a well-established player in the world of language learning apps and programs.
Here are three elements of the Rosetta Stone approach. These will be useful to keep in mind for later, when looking to see if other programs meet your requirements as much as, or more than, Rosetta Stone.
The target is the medium
The Rosetta Stone learning system comes with no translations. If you’re trying to learn German, chances are, you’ll be getting the lessons in German.
Rosetta Stone believes that for students to learn most effectively, they have to immerse head-on in the target language itself—none of that translating back-and-forth with English.
As kids, we learned our first language without the benefit of translations. We simply listened and observed what the adults around us said. We deduced what they meant, and through trial-and-error and countless repetitions, we were able to pick up the language.
Learning a language with Rosetta Stone feels very much like this. It’s also like staying for a week in a remote area, where nobody speaks a word of English and your smartphone just ran out of power. It’s a situation where you might start mixing up basic expressions like “My tummy feels funny” with “I’m hungry” and not realize your mistake until the person you said it to continues feeding you.
In the beginning of the course, you’ll feel like so much is going over your head. But the more you get into it, the more things start clicking—things slowly begin to make sense, and the dots get connected. That’s the idea.
So you’re going to have to do a lot of deducing what the presented words mean. Through repetition and some very helpful pictures, you’ll be able to learn vocabulary without the need for translations. However, while it’s completely possible to learn this way, it can be a matter of preference. There are varying degrees of language immersion in the alternative programs listed below.
Spoken language is key
What good is it if you mentally know all the words, but can’t express them in a meaningful way?
Rosetta Stone believes that communication is the primary goal of learning any language. So they focus on pronunciation and actual spoken use of the language. The program itself attests that you “learn the language, not just the words.”
Grammar is not taught overtly. Yes, you’ll be learning grammar, but not because the rules were explicitly explained, at least not immediately or extensively. You’ll learn to deduce the rules by using the language yourself. Through repetition and practice, you’ll gradually figure out how your target language works.
Speaking is at the core of the game, and Rosetta Stone’s propriety technology, TruAccent, is a speech engine which is able to “listen” and help you fine-tune pronunciation so that you slowly begin to sound like a native.
So be prepared to talk a lot when working with Rosetta. And hey, no procrastinating on it. You’ll be speaking from day one. There are plenty of other programs that take this approach—still others focus more on other skills, so be aware of this when shopping around for the right language program for you.
It’ll cost you a bit
Rosetta Stone is available as an online subscription, an instant download or a CD-ROM. It works with both Windows and Mac, and the app is available on iOS and Android.
As an example, an online subscription for learning Spanish will run you as follows (prices may change or vary):
$79 (3-month access)
$119 (6-month access)
$179 (1-year access)
$249 (2-year access)
For some potential learners, these costs may not be a big deal at all, and some may consider it a good deal. Your subscription includes the interactive course, the speech recognition technology and engaging games and activities. However, some language learners may find it too steep. For others, it might not be a matter of whether they can afford it, but whether the money is worth it for what they get.
Beyond the price, the more important thing to think about is the program’s compatibility with your learning style and preferences. What language areas and skills do you want to focus on?
For example, since Rosetta Stone isn’t known for a direct focus on grammar, if you want to master grammatical nuances faster, then other programs can do that better for you. Or, if you want studying with “smart” video clips and to immerse in the language via audio-visual content, then there are programs that focus on that. If you want a more “game-fied” approach, or a closer sense of community while studying the language, there are programs that bring those elements to the table, front and center.
So what other programs out there might be more compatible with your learning expectations? Let’s find out.
Better, Cheaper and More Fun! 7 Rosetta Stone Alternatives
Language learning videos are the forte of FluentU. More specifically, authentic language learning videos.
If you’d like to learn language through the benefits of audio-visual and contextual content, then our program can take you by the hand, right from day one.
FluentU aims to be immersive, but it’s immersive in a more flexible and personalized way than Rosetta Stone. FluentU takes a video—say a movie trailer, an interview or a music video—and sprinkles it with some linguistic magic. What our team does is turn ordinary, run-of-the-mill (but fun and interesting) videos into bonafide language lessons on steroids.
With FluentU, you hear languages in real-world contexts—the way that native speakers actually use them. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you and organized them by level and topic. All you have to do is choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
You can use FluentU’s unique adaptive quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions and exercises. Just swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're studying.
The program even keeps track of what you’re learning and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
Duolingo’s owl mascot has won the hearts of many language learners. With millions of users learning any of the 30+ languages supported (with many more in the pipeline), Duolingo is considered one of the most recognizable language learning platforms.
It seems that if you “gamify” language learning, people flock to your doors. Add the fact that Duolingo, in both the web and the app versions, is free, and you have a pretty potent combination.
Duolingo captivates you into playing simple repetitive language games. The activities include pairing words and their translations, forming a proper sentence by tapping a set of words in the proper order or even speaking into your phone’s mic and reading a sentence aloud. They seem innocent enough, but with robust repetition, you’ll be slowly picking up vocabulary and grammar and not even really knowing it.
That’s why Duolingo’s a big hit!
A study has suggested that 34 hours with Duolingo is equivalent to a semester of university level education, and by those standards, it may be even more effective than Rosetta Stone. And considering that everything’s free, it may be like having a free semester of college.
Duolingo also has a lively forum where learners from all over ask their questions, share what they know and dish out some cool resource recommendations. And this community engagement is something else that Duolingo has over Rosetta Stone.
The biggest drawback to Duolingo may be the fact that it will only take you up to a certain level, but that’s not a reason to avoid it, as there are plenty of ways to continue learning after you’ve completed a Duolingo course.
If you like Rosetta Stone because of its focus on speech and pronunciation, then you’ll probably love Rocket Languages for the same reason.
This program comes with podcast-type discussions or dialogues where hosts talk about a certain topic (e.g., preparing for a party). You’ll hear the target language spoken in a meaningful context. You’re not just memorizing a list of expressions. You’re listening to interactions. And Rocket Languages provides you with the text you’ll need to keep up with the conversations. You’ll have PDF files and you can print those if you want.
But the best thing is that the program keeps you talking in the target language—probably more so than Rosetta Stone. Rocket Languages gives you plenty of opportunities to practice. Voice recognition technology can take a listen and compare your recorded speech with the native speaker’s and give you feedback.
Rocket Languages, like Rosetta Stone, does hit on the four linguistic skills—speaking, reading, writing and listening—but there’s another element the program excels at more than Rosetta Stone: incorporating cultural insights and tidbits into the lessons, which enhances the overall “flavor” of the course.
Rocket Languages is able to do this because it doesn’t follow a cookie cutter approach to content development. Each program is unique to the language. So whether it’s Chinese, Arabic, Spanish or any of the languages on offer, you can be sure that your course has been highly tailored to the nuances of your target language. Rocket Languages may be a bit on the pricier side, but it’s a formidable learning course.
There are three course levels available (prices may change or vary):
Level 1 only ($99.95)
Levels 1 and 2 ($249.90)
Levels 1, 2 and 3 ($259.90)
All are one-time payments and include lifetime access to materials and 24/7 email support. The following languages are available from Rocket Languages:
Finding out on the first day that there will be no English during the lessons can prove unnerving to many language learners.
If you want a little handholding, and would rather have your feet get wet before diving in head first, then Babbel might just be the thing for you.
Just like with Duolingo, you’ll be introduced to plenty of basic vocabulary through test-style marathons. You’ll find yourself doing a series of tasks, like choosing the correct translation from a list of choices or typing the translation yourself. Through the spaced repetition system that’s repeatedly exposing you to words you’re having difficulty with, you’ll gradually pick up plenty of vocabulary.
Unlike with Rosetta Stone, you’ll be more explicitly taught grammar points. Babbel loves to do grammar sidebars and further explain nuances in grammar. You’ll be taken behind the scenes and taught how the rules apply. So if you want grammar lessons that are given to you straight, instead of doing trial-and-error sussing them out, then go for Babbel.
Check to see if your target language is one of the 14 languages on offer. A monthly subscription is available for $12.95.
For $19.99 a month, you can have access to lessons and exercises for over 70 languages, including hard-to-find dialects like Urdu, Tamil and Javanese. If you don’t find your target language supported by Rosetta Stone or any of the other major language content providers, then Mango Languages has got you covered.
You may not even have to fork over your $20. Mango Languages is a unique offering in that it works with a great number of public libraries around the world. This means you may be able to get it absolutely free from yours.
Like Rosetta Stone, native speaker voice comparisons and pronunciation practice allow you to get the hang of your target language. You’ll be prompted to enunciate the words, phrases and sentences in the lessons. In addition, cultural insights are built into the lessons so you can understand language from a broader context, making learned vocabulary more memorable and meaningful.
A feature (for some languages) that Rosetta Stone doesn’t have are the foreign language full-length movies that come with closed captioning. You can do a scene-by-scene study of the films, examining dialogue and grammar.
Considering its great variety of supported languages and a possible great deal on price, language beginners might want to check out Mango Languages.
Memrise is an awesome tool for learning vocabulary and phrases. You can download the app or play around on their website with any of the over 200 language courses on offer.
Memrise’s greatest strength is that it taps into the wisdom of crowds. Their language programs are not solely developed by an in-house team of researchers. Users can actually create lessons and share them with everybody. You can curate a list of vocabulary words, say words related to food, and let everybody else benefit from it.
Another way users are contributing to the whole here is through “mems,” or mnemonic devices that can help a word stick. Say you’re working on vocabulary flashcards for foods in Spanish. You can actually add texts and pictures to the lessons to help make a word memorable. For example, the Spanish word for “corn” is maíz. Some other user who studied the word ahead of you could write something like, “Sounds like some hungry kid asking his mom for corn: ‘Ma, iz corn available?'” And someone else may add pictures of corn kernels that spell maíz.
Now, not all “mems” will resonate with you, so you can choose which of the user-generated “mems” you wish to be highlighted in your own flashcards to help make lessons more fun.
Like Duolingo, this sense of community is something Memrise offers that Rosetta Stone doesn’t.
And oh yeah, it’s absolutely free!
Clozemaster is perfect for intermediate and advanced language learners of over 50 languages who want to learn both grammar and vocabulary.
The program is “sentence mining” in its simplest form. Basically, what you have is immersion into sentences in the target language. You’ll be exposed to hundreds of thousands of sentences. Each sentence will have a crucial word blanked. At the start of the game, you can select whether you want a multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks test type.
If Rosetta Stone immerses your ears through the use of spoken language as the medium, you’ll have similar immersion in written form with Clozemaster.
The whole thing is simple enough, and don’t be misled by the “dated” graphics, because the more you work with sentences, the more you’ll realize their power to instruct you on grammar and vocabulary. Because the words come in a specific context, you’ll be able to suss out the grammar rules, or the meaning of words after a number of repetitions. Just as Rosetta Stone lets you experience the language and work out for yourself the underlying rules of the language, Clozemaster submits you to an almost infinite number of sentences and lets you connect the dots.
And oh, yep, it’s free!
So what are you waiting for? Get to work!
With the seven alternatives we’ve given in this post, you’re now in a very good position to conquer your target language. There’s a world out there beyond Rosetta Stone.
In fact, don’t feel you need to limit yourself to any one language program. If you can, get a combo that works for you.
So get on with your language journey.
Whether it’s Spanish, German, Italian or another language, you have access to affordable and effective learning tools.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.