Mashable once named Rosetta Stone the gold standard of language learning.
Meanwhile, European Business Magazine awarded Rocket Languages as one of the best language learning software in 2017.
And both of the platforms made the PCMag’s list of best language learning software.
With such accolades on both sides, it begs the question of whether one is superior to the other.
I think it’s time we find out!
But first, let me tell you a little bit about Rosetta Stone and Rocket Languages before they duke it out.
Rosetta Stone vs. Rocket Languages: Meet the Contenders
Two award-winning platforms with two very different approaches. Here’s a little background on them both.
A pioneer in tech-based language learning solutions, Rosetta Stone has been named the best of the best for years.
Rather than teaching languages in English or your mother tongue, Rosetta Stone immerses you in the target language through sights, sounds and word-picture association, taking away the element of translation and allowing you to learn similarly to how you learned your native tongue as a kid.
The theory is that acquisition came so easily to us back then because of the deep and meaningful exposure that allowed us to function in the language, and that’s what Rosetta Stone’s aiming to accomplish.
Rocket Languages is a popular alternative and pretty much what you’d expect an online language learning program to be.
It’s an interactive course comprised of mostly audio lessons, with some textbook-style grammar lessons. The language of instruction is in English—a different (and perhaps more familiar) learning strategy compared to Rosetta Stone’s immersion technique.
You can probably already see how different these two programs are. There are a couple of similarities between the two, such as they’re both paid programs and utilize native speaker audio. Other than that, they don’t have that much in common.
So how will they fare when they battle it out head to head?
With their introductions out of the way, let’s get ready to rumble!
Rosetta Stone vs. Rocket Languages: Battle of the Language Learning Heavyweights
Round 1: Languages and Levels
First things first, let’s go over the basics. Since language is the main concern here, it’s only fair to start off with the languages and proficiency levels offered on each platform.
Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dutch, English (American), English (British), Filipino (Tagalog), French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin (web only), Persian (Farsi), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish (Latin America), Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese.
Languages are broken down into five levels. Levels 1-2 are for fundamentals and connection, Levels 3-4 are for exploration and clarity, while Level 5 is for conversation. Some languages only go up to Level 3.
Each level is composed of four units, with a single course ranging from 12-20 of them.
Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Portuguese, ASL, English (American), Inglés (Spanish learning English)
The levels in Rocket Languages are as straightforward as they get (Level 1 Beginner, Level 2 Intermediate, Level 3 Advanced). Just like Rosetta Stone, these levels vary per language, with only around half of the list offering all three levels. At the very least, learners have access to the intermediate course of each.
Round 1 Winner: Rocket Languages
While I appreciate the variety of languages with Rosetta Stone, the courses have definitely been designed with beginners in mind. Plus, if the aim is to reach conversational fluency, why do some of the offered languages stop at Level 3?
Depending on what you want to study, you might not be able to move beyond the exploration stage. Conversation can (and should) be practiced at all proficiency levels.
When it comes to language fluency, depth trumps breadth. Thus, I have to give this round to Rocket Languages.
Although some languages only go up to Level 2, the distinction between the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels shows that Rocket Languages accommodates learners at various stages.
Also, it’s pretty cool that Rocket Languages also offers ASL. More language learning software should include sign languages.
Round 2: Format and Features
In this round, Rosetta Stone and Rocket Languages face off in terms of program structure, lesson format and learning tools.
Rosetta can be used on desktop, tablet and smartphone, but the web app offers a better user experience.
There are three types of accounts (Personal, K-12, Work/Higher Ed) which are structured a little differently to suit each type of user.
As mentioned earlier, Rosetta Stone has five levels, with each one containing four units. Each unit is further divided into four core lessons and a Milestone review.
The core lessons are bite-sized. They’re about 10 minutes, but you’ll probably spend a good half hour on the entire lesson and the exercises.
The main part of the lesson is the picture-word association, then that’s followed by pronunciation, grammar, reading and writing exercises. And as a huge pro, all the speaking exercises are equipped with the TruAccent speech engine that allows you to compare your recordings to that of a native speaker.
Since the very essence of Rosetta Stone is building conversational skills, grammar takes a backseat with this program, only appearing in the grammar exercise of lessons to indicate applicable sentence structures.
Rosetta Stone has a section for extended learning tools for language enrichment.
There’s the “Phrasebook” where you can practice everyday phrases in different fields, though this feature is only available for certain languages.
The “Audio Companion” allows you to download any course audio content so you can practice your pronunciation or new phrases anywhere and anytime.
“Stories” is a compilation of short literature and other texts for additional reading practice. These also can be downloaded onto your phone.
“Seek & Speak” is an AR game for practicing vocabulary with everyday objects.
Lastly, there’s the “Live” tutoring, which will give you access to a native-speaking professional.
Like Rosetta Stone, Rocket Languages can be accessed on your computer and mobile devices. Though the website has far more capabilities than the app.
The content is divided into three sections:
- Interactive Audio Course (up to 98 lessons with 370 hours of audio)
- Language and Culture (up to 87 lessons)
- Survival Kit (3 kits worth $149.95)
For languages with non-Latin scripts (such as Mandarin or Russian), there’s also a section for writing, which contains video lessons that show you how to navigate the alphabet system.
The Interactive Audio Course makes up the bulk of the content, and Language and Culture is a collection of grammar and culture lessons. And as you might have guessed, Survival Kit helps you with everyday situations—handy for travelers. Both the Interactive Audio Course and Survival Kit utilize the audio and text formats, while Language and Culture lessons are purely made of text.
As for the lesson structure, the audio or text-based lesson is followed by Rocket Reinforcement. Depending on what you’re learning, this section has six to seven exercises that test all language skills. These exercises include:
- Hear It! Say It!
- Know It!
- Write It!
- Sort It!
- Draw It!
For these activities, there’s voice recording software that allows you to record and compare your answers to native speaker pronunciation.
The majority of Rocket Language’s features are built into the lessons themselves, but there are a couple of extras.
For example, you can create custom flashcards or view public sets. You can also create your own word lists.
There’s also a public forum where users can communicate with each other.
Round 2 Winner: Rocket Languages
Rosetta Stone came in this round swinging. The interface and navigation are easy to use, and I really do like the additional learning tools, specifically Stories, which blends seamlessly with their language immersion strategy. These extras are an entertaining way to explore your target language.
If only the main lessons were just as intriguing.
When it comes to the core course and lesson format, I have to side with Rocket Languages. Sure, Rocket Reinforcement is pretty repetitive, but those exercises are definitely necessary if you want to learn beyond word-picture associations. The sum and sustenance of a language app shouldn’t outweigh the bonus tools.
Round 3: Language Skills and Progression
Okay, now here’s where we get into the nitty-gritty of language fluency to see if it’s even possible with these programs. Let’s see how they do with language skills and progression.
While it may not have the conventional audio language lessons that Rocket Languages is built on, Rosetta Stone offers a ton of listening and speaking practice, along with other language skills.
Just to reiterate, the four language skills are reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Native speaker audio is scattered throughout the lessons as well as the extensive learning tools, so you won’t be missing out on listening. And wherever there’s native speaker audio, you can practice your speaking. Even the stories feature allows you to record your voice as you’re reading aloud.
For more speaking, there are also the Live tutoring sessions, where you’ll be speaking purely in your target language.
Outside of the extended learning tools, reading is also included in lessons. The reading exercises are also a chance for language shadowing, which is added speaking practice.
There are also writing exercises in the lessons, but there isn’t as big of an emphasis on this skill in comparison to the rest.
If you sign up to learn Spanish, French, German, American English, British English or Italian, you have two options for learning paths: Foundations and Fluency Builder.
Fluency Builder is suited for intermediate learners and beyond, where you can choose your lessons based on your interests, industry or skills.
As for the rest of the languages, you’ll automatically be placed onto the Foundations path.
As a dynamic immersion program, Rosetta Stone focuses more on vocabulary and skips the traditional translation and grammar explanations. While there isn’t really any grammar progression per se, you do learn structures and rules through common conversational phrases.
As an audio course, listening is a huge component in Rocket Languages, but it’s not the only language skill addressed on the platform.
In fact, most of the Rocket Reinforcement activities tackle at least two language skills, and all the exercises incorporate translation, vocabulary and grammar in some way, shape or form.
Reading is covered in Language and Culture lessons and throughout Rocket Reinforcement activities. There’s a little bit of reading involved in FlashCards, as well as Sort It! where you’re expected to rearrange words into a grammatically correct sentence.
Writing is practiced in Write It!, where you listen to audio and write down the word or phrase. Draw It! is also available for character-based languages like Korean, which is a game for helping navigate new symbols.
Speaking is targeted in Hear It! Say It. This is where you listen to a word or phrase, record your answer and receive a score to see how native you sound. You also get another speaking opportunity with Know It!, where you translate words from your native into your target language by recording your answer.
Although there’s lots of pronunciation practice, there doesn’t seem to be any way to practice spontaneous conversation on the platform, though.
Progression is tested in the multiple-choice Quiz and FlashCards. FlashCards can be marked with a difficulty level so you can let Rocket Languages know what you need practice with.
As for building on your skills, I’d say the program does well in increasing your vocabulary and improving grammar, as well as expanding into more interesting topics as you move up the levels.
There seems to be a good balance between conversational fluency and reading comprehension, but as I said, there’s room for improvement in terms of authentic language exchange.
A lot of podcast language courses tend to use too much English in their lessons, even for the advanced lessons. Rocket Languages is guilty of doing so too, but I appreciate the reduced English in Levels 2 and 3. Level 1 features two hosts (one English speaker, one native speaker), while Levels 2 and 3 lessons have three hosts (two native speakers, one English speaker).
Round 3 Winner: Rocket Languages
It was hard declaring a winner for this round, considering both have their own sets of hits and misses.
For starters, both manage to tackle all four language skills, each excelling in different areas. Rosetta Stone is impressive with the amount of speaking practice, while Rocket Languages did better with developing writing skills.
While the everyday topics are useful on Rosetta Stone, there’s barely any cultural integration within the lessons. It’s definitely difficult building any sort of connection to your target language when you don’t see it woven into social customs, history, holidays, pop culture and such.
Sure, there are some cultural notes in Stories, but to me, culture seems to be more of an afterthought with Rosetta Stone. On the other hand, Rocket Language’s “Language and Culture” portion fills in those gaps. It also provides grammar explanations to improve communication.
In the end, Rocket Languages had the upper hand with the focus on grammar and culture. I get that Rosetta Stone wants to take the focus away from grammar and place it on vocabulary and conversation, but there’s only so far you can get without looking deeper into sentence order, conjunctions and whatnot.
Round 4: Prices and Plans
Last but not least, we have to talk about cost. Money is a big factor for language learners, as we all have different budgets to work with.
The options for subscription plans are three months and a year. It costs about $11.99 a month, so the three-month plan costs $35.97 while an annual subscription costs $143.88.
However, if you want lifetime access to all the languages, you can pay $299 upfront. Payment plans are available for purchases over $99. There’s also a three-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee, but remember that like pricing, this is always subject to change.
Live tutoring is an additional cost that ranges from $14 to $19 per session, which is considerably cheaper than loads of tutoring apps.
The free trial is a little different with Rocket Languages. Instead of giving you a time limit, you get access to three to four lessons, including the Rocket Reinforcement exercises.
Rocket Languages is notorious for its high price point, but it’s an upfront cost instead of a subscription. You can pay for Level 1 ($149.95), Levels 1-2 (299.90) or all three levels ($449.85) per language. If you end up signing up for all three levels, you can opt for the six-month payment plan.
The number of free Survival Kits corresponds with the Level you purchase, so if you buy all three levels, you get all three kits for free. They can be purchased separately if you sign up for only one or two levels.
And then if for any reason you don’t want to learn with the program anymore, you’ve got a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Round 4 Winner: Rosetta Stone
In terms of price, Rosetta Stone and Rocket Languages are known to be on the higher end of the spectrum, so it’s pretty fitting that we compare the cost of these two programs side by side.
I find the Rocket Languages free trial extremely limiting. For an upfront cost that high, I want to see the course in its entirety so that I could be the judge of whether it’s truly worth it for me or not. As for the Rosetta Stone free trial, three days seems way too short. Then again, I’d rather be limited by time than by content.
When comparing the upfront costs of both, Rocket Languages is more expensive and only gives you access to one language. I guess the price matches the comprehensiveness of the course, but it still seems like such a huge commitment. Luckily though, there are sales from time to time that make it much more affordable.
Rosetta Stone, on the other hand, gives you lifetime access to all the languages for much cheaper. That’s enough for me to give it this round.
And the Final Champion is…
Winning three out of the four categories, it’s clear that Rocket Languages is the champion.
But overall, I still wouldn’t go as far as saying Rocket Languages is superior. Rosetta Stone has been (and continues to be) a leader in the field, and for very good reasons!
Just as this app review indicates, Rocket Languages won’t take you to complete fluency, but it will push you beyond basics. It’s also more well-rounded in comparison to Rosetta Stone, though the latter would probably be more beneficial for false beginners and those who want more conversational practice.
And of course, if neither one of these works for you, there are plenty of alternatives to Rosetta Stone and Rocket Languages. There’s Babbel, which has more of a grammar focus, Mango Languages, which has some hard-to-find languages, and then there are free resources like Memrise and Duolingo. Of course, there’s also FluentU. It’s a good alternative or complement to either program.
To fill the grammar void on Rosetta Stone, you can take advantage of FluentU’s interactive dictionary which offers definitions, sentence examples and related videos so you can see how words and constructions are used in various contexts.
And given the structured learning format of Rocket Languages, FluentU allows you to explore language beyond the virtual classroom through real-life scenarios and authentic media clips.
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.
I hope you’ve learned as much as you could about both programs to make an informed decision. And if these two language platforms are still too pricey, you can always explore more budget-friendly options!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.