In this review:
- How does Rosetta Stone teach?
- Why is it not an effective program?
- Why is it still popular?
- A research about the program effectiveness
- Rosetta Stone VS Pimsleur and other programs
Languages taught: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Irish, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Latin, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Swahili, Russian, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Welsh.
Format: Computer-assisted language learning which includes:
- Lessons in the software
- Online tutoring sessions
- Interactive Language games
Price: Level 1: $179; all 5 levels: $200-$400
I. HOW DOES ROSETTA STONE TEACH?
Rosetta Stone calls their method “Dynamic immersion”
- All the texts and sounds in the program are in the target language. There are no English translations or explanations. Words and phrases are defined by pictures.
- There are also no grammatical explanations. You are expected to learn grammar structure by recognizing the patterns in the sentences presented.
A typical lesson
Words/ phrases are introduced one at a time. They are provided with the script and pronunciation.
As you progress through the lessons, you will complete exercises that pertain to the lesson. These exercises include:
- Matching words/ phrases with their related pictures
- Testing the correct pronunciation for words/ phrases. This is accomplished by voice recognition technology.
- Providing a transcript for spoken phrases.
You are also asked to do some grammatical exercises such as verb conjunctions, etc.
The whole course for a language has up to 5 levels. Each level contains 4 units, with each unit containing 4 core lessons. This means there can be up to 80 lessons! Outside these core lessons, there are also additional sections which focus on building writing, vocabulary, grammar, listening, or reading skills.
Each core lesson should take about 30 minutes to finish. Focused activities should take 5-10 minutes. The company recommends you to relearn a lesson one or two times to solidify your knowledge.
The online tutoring sections
After finish 2 core lessons you are encouraged to take part in an online tutoring section. An online tutoring section, which is 25 minutes long, is lead by a native speaker, who will coach you and several other learners (maximum 4 learners).
In the section, you will go through a fixed set of activities, and all of the conversations in these sections are in the target language; English is not allowed.
When buy any CD – ROM or download any Rosetta Stone products, you will be given free 3 month subscription to this online tutoring service. The maximum number of sections per month you can schedule is 4. This means that you will be given 12 free sections. After that you have to pay if you want to continue to use this tutoring service.
II. THE GOOD
1. Helpful tutoring sections
- This may be the best part of the program. Talking with native speakers is always an excellent way to practice what you’ve learned.
- The tutors are usually patient and helpful.
2. Spaced repetition
- The program uses the “Spaced Repetition” method to help review the words/ phrases that have been learned. This feature is helpful; it helps the learner retain the knowledge better.
3. Beautiful software interface and images
- The software is aesthetically pleasing
- The images used in the lesson are vivid
III. THE BAD
1. For most of us, Rosetta Stone does not work
- There are no grammar explanations, if the learner can’t figure things out, they get stuck.
- There is no explicit writing teaching. Imagine you are in an Arabic lesson and you don’t understand a word. In fact, you don’t understand why they write the word that way. That is the first time you see it. Because you were not taught Arabic writing rules explicitly, you don’t know how to type and also the program does not allow you to copy words from the screen to look it up in dictionaries or Google. The learner has no way to understand the word meaning, because teaching is based on previous lesson. This system can cause you to lose your way.
2. The “translation approach” in course building
- Different language courses are not built based on individual cultural views. In fact, it seems that Rosetta Stone simply translates the course from a language to another, only making small adjustments.
- For example, when you learn Asian languages you will not see much Asian food, clothing, or cultural information. Instead, a set of generic pictures repeat throughout all language courses.
3. No practical words/ phrases
- Learning sentences like “the dog jumps”, “the elephant is big”, or “the girl is under the table” will not help much in real life conversations.
- Rosetta Stone is not good to learn speaking.
4. Matching pictures hundreds of times is boring.
- There are many kind of Arabic, Rosetta Stone doesn’t tell what kind of Arabic it teaches.
Rosetta Stone is unlikely to be an effective way for you to learn a language.
What can Rosetta Stone be useful for?
Some people use Rosetta Stone as a supplemental tool to help them acquire vocabulary.
V. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
1. A statistic: Rosetta Stone versus other programs
On Sept 28, 2009 a thread on How-to-learn-any-language.com forum began with a question: “What are your favorite language programs?” Until now, the thread has received more than 340 reply messages from around 150 forum members. The number of votes for 11 top programs are listed in the below table.
|Rank||Program||Number of votes|
Rosetta Stone has only 8 votes.
The forum is the most reliable forum about language learning methods. Many of its members can speak 2, 3, 4 or 5 languages. The low number of votes for Rosetta Stone (despite the big fame it receives in the market) means that most of the forum’s members do not consider it as a good program.
2. Why is Rosetta Stone so popular?
A large portion of Rosetta Stone’s revenue goes to Marketing.
In the report, we see that in 2013, the money spent on sales and marketing is 146 million dollars. That’s more than 50% of the revenue and 4.3 times higher than the money spent on research and development. The ratio, although smaller than the rations in 2012 (6.4 times) and 2011 (6.7 times), is still too high for an educational company.
3. A Rosetta Stone effectiveness research
The research was conducted by Dr. Katharine Nielson from University of Maryland. The Rosetta Stone software version used is the version 2.
- 150 of the US government agencies’ staffs agree to use the program for 10 hours per week for 20 weeks.
- These people had personal goals in language learning and willing to learn language for their own benefits.
- The learners use the program to learn either Arabic or Chinese or Spanish.
The result was startling: out of those 150 people, only 32 spent at least 10 hours on Rosetta Stone and only one person finished all 200 hours of commitment.
Because of the severe attrition, the primary goal of the research, which is figuring out the effectiveness of Rosetta Stone, could not be done.
Although one of the reasons for the attrition is that users encountered some technical issues within the software (which might be fixed in the current version), it shows that there are something wrong with the teaching approach: it is maybe not interesting or not effective or both.
(From version 2 to the current version the approach doesn’t change)
View the full research here:
*The research was also conducted on another program: Auralog Tell Me More. The result is not much better with Tell Me More.
4. We cannot resell Rosetta Stone CDs
Why? Rosetta Stone has a policy that denies any owner of the software the ability to resell it, even when legally purchased/acquired:
“The Rosetta Stone Product is licensed, not sold….Licensee may not, and may not permit others to, directly or indirectly sell, rent, lease, loan, timeshare, or sublicense the Rosetta Stone Product. The transmission of Licensee’s user name, password or Activation Id to allow any person other than Licensee to use Rosetta Stone Product is expressly forbidden and failure to comply with this prohibition may result is the suspension or termination of the right to continue to use the Rosetta Stone Product or receive support.”
Excerpt from Rosetta Stone End User License Agreement
Therefore you cannot resell it on online websites such as Amazon or Ebay.
5. A good review from Susanna Zaraysky, a famous polyglot
Video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kOYp1rT9p8
I tried my best to give you the information as detailed and exact as I could (for I understand that if you choose a wrong program, it will cost you more time, money and energy to achieve your learning goal). Despite that there might be points that I need to be more specific, or points that I was wrong. If you know the program well, please help me, as well as other learners, by giving your opinions about the program in the comment section below.