Rosetta Stone is a language-learning software program aimed at teaching foreign languages using interactive images and audio. You can buy individual packages or bundles, as each language has up to three or five levels. It is possible to purchase the software in certain retail outlets, however they have primarily moved towards a subscription model. The prices vary from $16.99/month for a three month subscription to $5.99/month for a twenty four month subscription. Reductions in these prices are common due to sales. Rosetta Stone has well-known brand name and a large advertising budget ($98.5 million in 2011, according to the New York Times). Rosetta Stone may also rely on the "commercial gym" model of revenue streams - wherein people buy and renew their subscriptions with no intention of using the product.
Rosetta Stone is intended to simulate natural learning by immersion, but the extent to which is does so is controversial, as described by the researcher Stephen Krashen. Rosetta Stone's software avoids using the student's native language, relying heavily on pictures and multiple choice exercises, and it does not explicitly teach grammar. To supplement the course, some languages are now packaged with grammar overviews and dictionaries from Barron's.
Rosetta Stone's philosophy lies with generating output as early as possible. In the very first lesson, a user is expected to complete a pattern drill with a visual prompt on screen. The current subscription also includes many ways for interaction with native speakers and other learners, bridging the gap between self-study and classroom methods. These include tutoring sessions with a maximum of 4 learners, with directed lessons tied to each unit in the program and games where people are matched up by being native speakers of the language their opponent is learning. Finally, each unit has corollary graded readings - users can read, listen, listen & read, and record themselves reading the story for personal review.
Versions 3/4 Edit
Version 3 is the base version still currently sold, though rebranded as Version 4 TOTALe to include the online components. The major improvement of this version included more "user friendly" interface, more practical beginning material, and notably the proprietary speech recognition software (now branded as TruAccent).
The course follows the following structure:
Level > Unit > Lesson. Each Lesson is 20-30 minutes of work, and accompanying the lessons are several exercises of 5-10 minutes: Pronunciation, Reading, Writing, Listening, Vocabulary, Grammar, Speaking. These exercises are staggered throughout a Unit, so for example the Speaking exercise for Lesson 1 does not appear in the timeline until after Core Lesson 3 is completed.
Pronunciation: In the first 2 Units of Level 1, these exercises break a word into syllables for the user to repeat. Thereafter, they consist of 4-5 screens of phrases from the main lesson to practice saying.
Reading: In the first 2 Units of Level 1, these exercises focus on minimal pairs. An exercise may look like this in Italian: ci vs chi, a user will hear samples of these 2 sounds and have to identify them as ci or chi. Then perhaps gi vs ghi. Finally, a user will be given all 4 samples at once to identify. The exercise ends with spoken phrases with blank spaces to fill in the proper written element. An example from this exercise might be: "Questi sono i miei ami__" (ci / chi). The remainder of Level 1 and Levels 2-3 will have users required to read a phrase with no audio and match it to the correct picture (or vice versa). In Levels 4-5, users will be given a reading passage and prompted to speak it into the microphone, with no recorded example given first.
Writing: In the first 2 Unites of Level 1, these exercises continue with the minimal pairs from the previous Reading lesson, and then prompt the user to type out a given word or phrase from both a written and audio sample (example: "el libro" will appear on the screen, the user expected to then type "el libro"). For the remainder of the course, users will be given only audio and expected to type the sample from dictation.
Listening: The opposite of the Reading lessons, here phrases are matched to pictures (and vice versa) with audio samples only.
Vocabulary: Typically these are review slides from the main lesson which focus on the core vocabulary learned.
Grammar: In the early versions of Version 3, these screens were similar to the Vocabulary lessons. A user might see some varying conjugations or tenses across the screen, but nothing explicit. With the introduction of Levels 4 and 5, and subsequent updates to the software for earlier Levels, the program does isolate various grammar points. Typically, an exercise will consist of a screen of 4 phrases, each with some words highlighted in blue and/or red to draw the user's attention, and the following screen will have blanks to fill in the proper conjugation/tense/agreement/etc.
Speaking: This is the final supplement to each lesson, and consists of some repeating of phrases, but also a lot of guided output/pattern drill. A user will be given 3 sentences to repeat, and the 4th will have a corresponding photo as a prompt, but the user is expected to produce the sentence on their own based on the pattern of the first 3.
Milestones: Each Unit concludes with a "Milestone" - these are somewhat clumsy dialogues where the user is expected to complete their part of a conversation, either based on a question they are asked or an answer given.
Version 2 Edit
The original mass-produced version of the software, of which most people are familiar, and which can still be found in various language labs or libraries. V2 was only multiple choice and featured an exhaustive amount of vocabulary, especially in the languages which offered 2 levels. The course was not very user-friendly, and less conversational than Version 3/4. For example, greetings aren't even introduced until Level 2. This would make V2 better used by an intermediate or false-beginner who can customize using the program to their needs and accrue more vocabulary.
This course had the same 10 slides per lesson, each to be gone through as a "learning" experience and then the 4 modalities of Reading only, Listening only, Writing, Speaking. The Learning sequence would preview each slide then ask the user to match the phrase to the picture. Not until all 10 slides were completed correctly would the lesson be marked as complete.
These reviews are written either by professional linguists, or by people who have learned multiple foreign languages to a high level. Several of these reviews describe the program in great detail.
- Stephen Krashen: Rosetta Stone: Does not provide compelling input, research reports at best suggestive, conflicting reports on users attitudes (PDF), from the International Journal of Foreign Language Education (2013). Stephen Krashen is a well-known researcher in Second Language Acquisition who speaks several languages.
- Benny Lewis: Review of Rosetta Stone: Detailed and honest look at latest version (TOTALe), from the Fluent in 3 Months web site (undated). Benny Lewis is a polyglot and world traveler.
- Donovan Nagel: The Most Balanced Rosetta Stone Review You'll Ever Read, from The Mezzofanti Guild web site (updated 2018). Donovan Nagel is a polyglot.
The consensus is that Rosetta Stone is an expensive course. The technology press tends to give the program accolades.
There have been lots of HTLAL threads about Rosetta Stone. Here are a few interesting ones:
- Why don’t people here like Rosetta Stone?
- Rosetta Stone Warning. You can't sell Rosetta Stone on eBay or most other major auction sites.
- Rosetta Stone revisited.
In general, Rosetta Stone is not popular at HTLAL. There are several people who like to use it as a vocabulary supplement, especially if they can get it at a reduced price. And there have been a few success stories mentioned on the forum, most of them second-hand.
Languages Offered Edit
Unless noted, all of the below entries are Version 3/4. Most existed in Version 2 format as well. Exceptions include the Endangered Language Program, Irish, Dari, and Urdu.
Rosetta Stone has partnered with Indigenous groups around the world to help preserve their language assets with Rosetta Stone software specifically designed to revitalize these at-risk languages. Once the software for the language is completed, the rights and marketing of the software is done by the sponsoring organization.
|Language||Number of Levels||
|Arabic||3||Modern Standard Arabic in the main course, an Iraqi dialect exists for US Army contracts|
|Chikashshanompa'||Endangered Language Program: Chickasaw||In Progress|
|Danish||1||Version 2 only||May be found used|
|Dari||1||Online only, originally designed for US Army contracts, may be structured around military terms|
|Diné Bizaad||2||Endangered Language Program: Navajo||Available through http://navajorenaissance.org/|
|Indonesian||1||Online only, originally designed for US Army contracts, may be structured around military terms|
|Iñupiaq||Endangered Language Program: Coastal and Kubuk/Selawik Kobuk River Communities||Available through http://www.aqqaluktrust.com/language|
|Inuttitut||Endangered Language Program||Developed in conjunction with http://www.nunatsiavut.com/ (Did not find a way to order the software)|
|Kanien'kéha||Endangered Language Program: Mohawk||Developed in conjunction with http://www.korkahnawake.org/ (Did not find a way to order the software.)|
|Latin||3||Uses restored classical pronunciation|
|Latin American Spanish||5|
|North Slope Iñupiaq||Endangered Language Program - North Slope Community||Available through http://www.north-slope.org/departments/inupiat-history-language-and-culture/inupiat-heritage-center/educational/language|
|Pashto||1||Online only, originally designed for US Army contracts, may be structured around military terms|
|Sitimaxa||Endangered Language Program: Chitimacha||Developed in conjunction with http://www.chitimacha.gov/ (Did not find a way to order the software.)|
|Swahili||1||Online only, originally designed for US Army contracts, may be structured around military terms|
|Thai||1||Version 2 only||May be found used|
|Urdu||1||Online only, originally designed for US Army contracts, may be structured around military terms|
|Welsh||1||Version 2 only||May be found used|
Official Site - https://www.rosettastone.com/