Rosetta Stone Spanish Review: A Teacher’s Opinion
Rosetta Stone is the blue and yellow language learning program that nearly everyone knows.
It’s so well-known that it actually appears higher in Google search results than its arguably more important namesake.
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.
- What Is Rosetta Stone?
- How Much Does Rosetta Stone Cost?
- Getting Started and Setting Up Your Course
- The Rosetta Stone Spanish Course in Detail
- Rosetta Stone’s Bonus Features
- What Are the Pros of Using Rosetta Stone to Learn Spanish?
- What Are the Cons of Using Rosetta Stone to Learn Spanish?
- Conclusion: Is Rosetta Stone a Good Method to Learn Spanish?
What Is Rosetta Stone?
Rosetta Stone is one of the most well-known Computer-aided Language Learning (CALL) software in the world.
Back in the late 1980s, Allen Stoltzfus dreamed of a more effective way to learn languages. He teamed up with his brother-in-law, John Fairfield, to make that dream come true.
Rosetta Stone got its start in 1992 in the days of CD-ROM. The company went global in 2003 and was officially named after its main product in 2006.
The program 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. It’s available for many different languages, including common ones like Spanish, as well as more unusual ones such as Irish and Tagalog.
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. It seems to be helpful for beginners, at least from what I’ve seen in other reviews.
But now let’s see if it actually works, at least for me. In this Rosetta Stone review, you’ll learn if and how this tool can be incorporated into your language learning to tackle any foreign language that may come your way.
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 July 2022:
- $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)
Rosetta Stone also includes a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have some time to decide whether it’s the right program for you.
To compare, Duolingo Plus, the premium version of the well-known language learning app, has a 14-day free trial and then charges $6.99/month for an online subscription.
Rocket Languages has a 6-month installment plan of $75.00/month for full access. If you’d prefer to pay all at once, Level 1 costs $149.95, Levels 1 and 2 cost $299.90 and all three levels cost $449.85. However, it does have a 60-day money-back guarantee.
If these prices are starting to feel worrisome, you may want to consider looking into a Rosetta Stone alternative.
Getting Started and Setting Up Your Course
Pick Castilian or Latin American Spanish
One of the first things you’ll have to do when you start learning with this immersion software program is to choose the variety of Spanish you want to learn (Latin American or Castilian Spanish).
Your choice will depend on your learning goals, travel plans and interests.
If you live near a community of Colombian immigrants and want to communicate with them, then Latin American Spanish is the obvious choice.
If you’re trying to connect with your Barcelonian grandmother, Castilian would be the best bet.
Whether you like tapas or tacos or want to learn flamenco or salsa, all of these are factors to consider when making your decision.
It’s good that Rosetta Stone offers both Spanish programs.
But as you narrow down which regional variation you want to focus on, you may need to sign up for an additional, more specific language learning program. Especially if your goal is to communicate with Latin Americans, you’ll find that there’s a wide variety of accents and dialects to get familiar with.
Using a wide range of learning materials helps train your ear to understand these differences with greater ease.
Choose Your Level and Study Goal
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:
The Rosetta Stone Spanish Course in Detail
Course Layout and Content
Both Castilian and Latin American Spanish have five levels. Each level has 20 units (themes) and four core lessons per unit.
Every lesson contains different sections such as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation—these skills are always taught in the form of SRS exercises.
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.
As I mentioned earlier, the course includes four core lessons (which are 30-minute lessons that introduce you to the vocabulary and structures you’ll cover in the next few lessons).
The purpose of these is to boost your mental association of the Spanish word with the actual object (i.e. not with the English word).
Core lessons start off by showing you pictures along with native audio of the Spanish word describing what’s in the photo. As seen in the image above, this will help you see something likea picture of balls with the number 18 and think dieciocho pelotas, not “18 balls in Spanish is dieciocho pelotas.”
The learning process in Rosetta Stone is further enhanced by various vocab drills. These can include multiple-choice, mix-and-match, and even speaking questions using high-quality voice recognition technology.
Eventually, you’ll start getting new vocabulary words in context within sentences. What this will teach you is how you can learn just by looking at how an unfamiliar term is used within a phrase.
Doing these practice drills is pretty helpful for sticking new vocabulary into your memory. While other ways of learning vocab might seem faster, it does take longer to learn how to think in a new language, which is the whole idea of the program.
Each core lesson has around 3-15 exercises, and they usually range from 5-10 minutes long. Overall, you can expect to spend around an hour or so on your daily lessons.
These are the exercises included in my lesson plan for the fourth day of the third week of my course:
As you can see, there are different sections devoted to vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. Other examples of exercises include writing, speaking, reading, milestone and review.
The great thing about these exercises is that they help make your Spanish learning quite well-rounded. This is important because fluency involves being good at a lot of different things.
While Rosetta Stone itself won’t get you to that point, it can help you build important skills that will take you far, even when using other resources or native-level content.
The pronunciation exercises, plus the tools, are quite helpful for making sure you’re saying everything right. If you’re a beginner, it’s important to learn early on the correct pronunciation rather than having to unlearn the wrong way later on, especially because many platforms don’t help directly with accent improvement.
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. One advantage of these is being able to practice with like-minded adult Spanish learners and get instant feedback on how you’re doing.
- 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. This aspect can help you tailor your learning to suit your needs.
- 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. The nice part about these is that you can listen to a native speaker read the stories and then record yourself doing the same.
- 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. Think of this feature as your emergency backup plan when going abroad to a Spanish-speaking country.
- Audio Companion: This is where you can download the audio of your Spanish course to listen to it offline. Busy learners will especially appreciate the ability to learn during their commute.
- Alphabet: Here, you can learn the sound of Spanish letters and listen to words containing them. Getting this kind of foundation will help your reading in Spanish progress, something which Rosetta Stone generally doesn’t help you with.
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?
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.
FluentU, on the other hand, immerses you in Spanish through authentic, engaging videos. Because the videos are made by and for native speakers, you get to see exactly how they interact and use Spanish as seen in the media, such as movie scenes, interviews and other clips.
The videos come with learning aids like interactive subtitles, where you just tap the subtitles to see additional information on any words. It also comes with a contextual dictionary for an in-depth understanding of specific words and phrases.
You can follow up the videos with multimedia flashcards and personalized quizzes to help you retain everything you learn. All these features make learning through authentic content more seamless and effective than watching native language media on your own.
For learning on the go, you can also use FluentU as an iOS or Android app.
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.
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 in 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 the other language skills, 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.
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 or subscribing to a more well-rounded program like FluentU. The textbook will set you up with a solid foundation in the grammar and practical side of language learning, while FluentU will expose you to all levels of native, authentic videos with various learning features attached.
Basically, 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.
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)!