You’ve almost definitely seen it in an airport.
You might have seen a kiosk in a shopping mall.
It’s ubiquitous and practically synonymous with language learning.
It’s Rosetta Stone, the blue and yellow language learning program that nearly everyone knows.
Rosetta Stone is so well-known that it actually appears higher in Google search results than its arguably more important namesake.
The program is generally praised as one of the best ways to learn a foreign language. But is it, really?
I’ve been learning languages since I was five, and I’ve been a language teacher for almost two decades.
However, I’d never used Rosetta Stone before.
I decided to give it a try and “learn” my own native language in three days.
This post is the result of my experiment or, in other words, a native Spanish language teacher’s honest review of the Rosetta Stone Spanish program.
Rosetta Stone Spanish Review: A Native Spanish Teacher’s Thoughts
What Is Rosetta Stone?
Rosetta Stone is one of the most well-known Computer-aided Language Learning (CALL) software in the world.
It uses a combination of native audio and images that get you immersed in the language while teaching you vocabulary and grammar in a natural way, just like a child would learn.
Rosetta Stone uses the Spaced Repetition System as the core of its program, and teaches you Spanish through practice instead of making you learn grammar rules.
It sounds amazing in theory, really. Now let’s see if it actually works.
Getting Started and Setting Up Your Course
One of the first things you’ll have to do when you start learning with Rosetta Stone is to choose the variety of Spanish you want to learn (Latin American or Castilian Spanish).
Next, you have to choose your Spanish level and your goal for learning Spanish.
There are three available levels (Beginner, Intermediate and Proficient), as well as four study goals (Travel, Family, Work and Basics & Beyond).
After you’ve set up your level and goal, you’ll be redirected to your Spanish language course.
Here, you’ll be able to see the whole overview of the course divided into weeks:
How Much Does Rosetta Stone Cost?
When you register on the website or the app, you get a three-day free trial during which you can access the whole Rosetta Stone Spanish program.
After those three days, you need to buy a plan in order to continue learning.
Rosetta Stone used to be notorious for its high prices, but today, its pricing plans are quite a bit more affordable.
These are Rosetta’s prices as of September 2021:
- $11.99/month for the three-month plan with access to one language
- $7.99/month for the 12-month plan with access to one language
- $179.00 for the lifetime plan with access to all languages (there are currently 25 different languages)
The Rosetta Stone Spanish Course in Detail
Course layout and content
Rosetta Stone courses are divided into six weeks, with each week including five lessons of around 30 minutes each.
Every lesson contains different mini-lessons on topics such as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, although, as I mentioned earlier, these skills are always taught in the form of exercises by using SRS.
I started my learning experiment by choosing the Latin American accent at the beginner level, and I selected “work” as my goal.
The overview of my course included the learning plan divided into weeks, with the specific topics I’d learn by completing all the lessons.
Some of the topics included in my beginner course for work were basic sentences, meeting people, colors and sizes, clothes, family and staying in a hotel, just to name a few.
I could also access any given week individually and check out the lesson plan for each day.
For instance, this is the lesson plan for the fourth day of the third week of my course:
As you can see, there are different mini-lessons devoted to vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.
Additionally, the course includes Core lessons (which are 30-minute lessons that introduce you to the vocabulary and structures you’ll cover in the next few lessons), Phrasebook lessons (which teach you how to pronounce useful phrases and expressions), Reviews and Stories (more on Stories in the next section).
Rosetta Stone’s Bonus Features
Apart from the course, Rosetta Stone offers students an array of bonus features to complement their Spanish learning.
These features are located in the “Explore All Content” tab. They are:
- Live Lessons: These are group lessons with a language coach. They last around 30 minutes each.
- On-Demand Videos: A collection of short clips that include language tips, vocabulary and grammar explanations. Some videos also cover slang words or cultural tidbits.
- Coaching: Through this feature, you can book private lessons with language tutors.
- Stories: This section has a collection of short interactive stories. It’s divided into 20 units, and each unit includes three parts: Read, Listen and Speak.
- Phrasebooks: These are eight phrasebooks on topics such as meeting people, being polite, getting around and shopping, among others.
Each topic includes several flashcards with which you can practice listening and speaking.
- Audio Companion: This is where you can download the audio of your Spanish course to listen to it offline.
- Alphabet: Here, you can learn the sound of Spanish letters and listen to words containing them.
What Are the Pros of Using Rosetta Stone to Learn Spanish?
State-of-the-art speech recognition software
Rosetta’s speech recognition software (called TruAccent®) is powerful and impressive.
I’d even dare to say it’s Rosetta Stone’s best feature!
It was designed to compare what you say to how a native speaker would say it, and it gives you immediate feedback on your pronunciation, making you repeat the words and sentences until you get them right.
The software will allow for small pronunciation errors as long as they’re not too blatant. Additionally, if you’re trying to say a sentence, it’ll tell you the words you got right and the ones you need to work on.
Native Spanish audio
Another very positive aspect of Rosetta Stone is that all the audio it includes has been recorded by native speakers.
The quality of the recordings is superb, including the ones in the Stories section.
SRS is one of the best techniques to learn languages.
This is especially useful in language programs such as Rosetta Stone, since the lack of translations, grammar explanations and resources like video clips can make you struggle to remember what you learn.
With SRS, Rosetta Stone ensures that you hear content at optimized intervals and actually remember it.
Lots of practice
Rosetta Stone’s method is very practical. Everything you learn comes in the form of exercises, so you can be sure you’ll be getting your Spanish language practice from the very beginning.
Superb bonus resources
As you saw earlier, Rosetta Stone includes several bonus resources to practice your Spanish even further.
Some of these resources are actually included in the courses (like the phrasebooks and Stories), but others can be of help if you need more listening practice or you want to hire a private tutor, for example.
What Are the Cons of Using Rosetta Stone to Learn Spanish?
Not useful for all levels (You won’t reach fluency)
Rosetta Stone has a very big flaw: It’s only useful if you’re a beginner or a lower-intermediate student.
The content of the courses can be a good introduction to Spanish for people who haven’t studied the language before or just want to learn a few expressions before going on vacation, but if you’re really serious about learning Spanish, you need to use something else.
Even the Proficient level is basically just a review course for intermediate students.
Those of you who want to learn Spanish in a fun and efficient way from the very beginning (A1) to the very end (C2) should have a look at FluentU.
FluentU Spanish has hundreds of clips divided into different levels so that every student out there can find something for themselves.
Bilingual English-Spanish subtitles not only allow you to understand what’s being said, but they also let you work with the video you’re watching.
See, FluentU’s contextual subtitles allow you to hover your mouse over any word and get its translation on the spot. Mind you, you’ll be getting the translation that fits the context, not a never-ending list of translations like the ones you get with other methods.
Additionally, you can click on any work you’re interested in and an interactive flashcard will appear. This flashcard includes the pronunciation and translation of the word, important grammar points related to it, sample sentences with audio and translation and even a list of suggested videos where you can see your word in action.
And if you want more, you can get more!
After watching a video, you get a quiz to test yourself. And guess what? You only get quizzes on videos you’ve worked on!
I could be naming FluentU’s superb features for days on end, but I’ll stop there. I propose you give FluentU a completely free try and check them out yourself.
No real immersion
If you think of language immersion as only listening to your target language, then yes, I guess you could say Rosetta Stone is an immersive program.
However, after learning and teaching languages for so many years, I’ve come to understand that immersion is much more than just listening to native audio.
Immersion is also acquiring a language naturally with the help of different types of resources; it’s listening to conversations and watching native speakers move, behave and interact with each other; it’s having a bit of everything and being able to practice all the aspects of a language.
Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone Spanish doesn’t give you that kind of immersion, and I doubt any student can become truly fluent in Spanish by only using this method.
I can understand not everyone is a fan of grammar explanations, but every serious language learner knows that grammar will be necessary sooner or later.
Rosetta Stone doesn’t have any explicit grammar instruction despite some of its lessons being called, paradoxically, Grammar.
The program will try to teach you grammar concepts by repeating words and sentences and working on them, but that can only work until you reach a certain point on your learning path. By omitting the grammar instruction, Rosetta Stone cuts your learning off at the intermediate level, at best.
No writing or conversation practice
Despite having one of the best speech recognition systems on the planet, Rosetta Stone fails to include any kind of real conversation practice into its courses.
You can talk to the AI all you want and repeat words and phrases till you die of boredom, but that will never substitute speaking to a native Spanish speaker.
Likewise, writing is nowhere to be seen. Writing is as important as any other major language skill, and a good language learning program should at least include some writing practice.
Conclusion: Is Rosetta Stone a Good Method to Learn Spanish?
You’re probably going to hate me for this, but my answer is “yo.” Or “nes.”
It’s both “yes” and “no” at the same time, and it all comes down to your level of Spanish and your needs/goals.
If you’re a total beginner, warming up with Rosetta Stone can:
- help you decide if you really want to learn Spanish, and
- get some basic knowledge of the language before you start using other more comprehensive methods (such as FluentU).
If your level of Spanish is B2 or above, Rosetta Stone is probably not a good match for you, so opt for other methods that can challenge you and bring you closer to fluency.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a place to learn rudimentary Spanish and get slightly conversational before your trip to, say, Argentina, Rosetta Stone might be better suited to your needs.
But if you want to be fluent in Spanish, sound like a native speaker or ace that DELE exam you need to get your dream job, you’re better off getting a good Spanish textbook and subscribing to FluentU.
I know many people reading this will be surprised, but the truth is that I personally wouldn’t use Rosetta Stone if I were to start learning a new language seriously. I also wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wishes to reach fluency with a single program, simply because it’s not set up to do that.
That said, Rosetta Stone is a fun program with many excellent features that learners can enjoy.
Either way, you can give Rosetta Stone a try with their free trial and draw your own conclusions.
Stay curious, my friends, and as always, happy learning (with the right method)!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.