General Question

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

Is Rosetta Stone a good way to learn a language?

Asked by toomuchcoffee911 (6928points) January 24th, 2009

I can afford it and all, I’m just wondering how good it is.

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19 Answers

cage's avatar

It is if you have the money!
That stuff costs a considerable amount, but I guess you get what you pay for.

lifeflame's avatar

I used Rosetta Stone to learn Polish.
Here’s what I wrote a while ago.. um, eight years ago… in a review for Amazon for the Polish Explorer. Hopefully they have updated it since then, but here’s what I thought then:

“I have been looking at self study language courses and came across RS. I would urge you to check out its website, because there you can get free sample lessons. There are also different options for the length of courses, and whether you want it online or CD rom.

I find this program quite sneaky and clever – it’ll get you to recognise and build upon what you know through recognition and interactive software, so that you will learn just as kids do, figuring out the rules by yourself. I’m personally interested in how my mind puts it all together. Here are some thoughts (and gripes) I have about the RS course:

1. They seem to have one module and translate it into many different languages, forgetting that kangaroos are probably more useful in some countries and non-existent in others.

2. You would probably learn faster if you complemented with another more grammer based course. I am a bit dubious about completely buying the ‘learning just like a child learns language’ theory. As adults we have the benefit of transfering ideas of abstract rules to help us with our 2nd (or 3rd, etc) language.

3. It isn’t totally clear from the picture sometimes what the sentance is saying, but I could ‘get the right answer’ through elimination even if I didn’t totally get what was being said. I solved this by downloading the manual for the “English” RS course, which told me exactly what the equivalent sentance was supposed to be.

4. There is more emphasis on recognition than production, which can be a useful first step. However, this is not the quickest way to learn. I found Pimsleur tapes more useful for breaking down the sounds of the words and really making me think of the sentances and words in context. Here you just have a bunch of pictures. However, compared to the Pimsleur for the same amount of money (that is, if you choose the right type of RS course) you get larger range of volcab. In a nutshell: Pimsleur will teach you to speak. RS will teach you to recognise.

5. It may get tedious after a while because it is structured in the same way. But if you are really interested in learning the language it’s in small digestable modules. My strategy is: in one day I will preview lesson 3, do the listen/read test from lesson 2, and the listening test from lesson 1. The next day I will preview lesson 4, listen/read 3, and listen for 2.

6. It is no subsititue for speaking with a native speaker and going there, because the phrases in the modules are still really limited.

7. The writing exercise I find a bit naff and is about sorting out a sentance anagram. Theoretically it has a speech recognition so that you can test your accent, but like the writing because it has limited computer intelligence it can’t correct you in a useful manner.

Having said that, I think it is a really decent component for a cram course – which is what I need before I go to Poland – and I think it really helps my volcab. It does mean sitting in front of a computer for many hours. Good luck. ”

eponymoushipster's avatar

I teach both ESL and Russian, and I’m not a huge fan of Rosetta Stone. Similar to what @lifeflame said above, it depends on what you want to do. I really prefer Pimsleur to Rosetta Stone – at times I’ll play a portion of a Pimsleur recording during the class. But they focus on speaking, and reading plays a far in the back second fiddle to speaking. I’ve noted, however, that my students who use the Pimsleur recordings initially to speak freely, pick up reading skills – while not simultaneously – faster overall. This has a lot to do with hearing the sounds of the lanugage.

I look at it this way: a child (and really, we go back to childhood language-wise, when we take up a new language) hears for a while (0–5 yrs let’s say), and then begins to read. Adults tend to want to force this. Now, I’m not saying you should wait 5 yrs to read a new language, but the point is – you’ll be more accurate overall if you hear first.

What I like about Pimsleur, too, is that they use native speakers and speak at a normal pace – no dumbing down.

There used to be a Cheap Pimsleur website, but I don’t think it operates anymore. You could try eBay or Amazon for used, and get a bit of markdown.

Out of interest: what language are you trying to learn?

andrew's avatar

What about if you’re learning for, say, an extended vacation?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@andrew well, there are “ranges” of Pimsleur products. Barnes and Noble had a $20 introductory level kit for most major languages (french, spanish, italian, etc).

there’s also a series called “Teach Yourself…” (they make TY books for things other than languages,fyi). A lot of the language books in this series have a “with cd” variant you can find at a good bookstore, or online. They’re a step up from phrasebooks and the like, as they teach some grammar and expand on vocab past the “Where is the toliet?” and “I did not know that women in this country are forbidden to shave.” and so on. I have the TY books for Ukrainian, Polish and Italian and they’re more or less helpful.

If you were going on an extended vacation, you might think about a week or two language course at a local language school. It’s fun (if not a bit more expensive), but it’ll force you to learn a bit more than just listening to a CD.

andrew's avatar

@eponymoushipster: I’m always looking to improve my grammar and vocab in other languages—but if I were to really sit down and start hammering vocab, I’d want to be the most efficient with my time.

Pimsleur is a “listen and repeat”-type thing, right?

netxm's avatar

That one is quite expensive, I’m using to learn ENGLISH. As for me, RS and are similar but second one is FREE.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@andrew yeah, it’s a “listen and repeat”, but a little more than that. the general approach is basically as follows.

at the start of the lesson, they’ll have you just listen to a brief (~2min) conversation. If memory serves, they get a bit longer as you progress. then they tell you that you’ll break down that conversation. as i said earlier, they speak at normal native speaker speed.

they’ll tell you a word or phrase, and what it means. with languages using m/f/n, they’ll say, if you’re a woman, you’ll say this, a man, this. and so on.

one other things that’s real big in Pimsleur is timed recall. Dr. Pimsleur did research on how the brain remembers things, so they’ve designed the lessons to ask you repeat words, phrases,etc. at (what appears to the average learner) random times. but it’s done in order to force your brain to recall it and build it into memory.

here is a brief explanation of the methodology

as you progress, you’ll play one part or the other of the conversation. they provide time to repeat after a phrase is said. by the end, you (hopefully) understand the whole conversation. I was told, and I tell my students, that if you get 80% of the material, progress on to the next lesson.

it’s not the same as sitting down with a dictionary or grammar book, but it offers fairly close natural conversation. One thing I did to expand past the presented vocab in these lessons, was sit there with a dictionary (Pimsleur discourages this, fyi) and look up the words, and related words, that were introduced, and make vocab lists.

Personally, I also find – aside from Pimsleur – that just sitting down, thinking about real world situations, and how I might explain them really helps. Do this, then sit down and fill in the gaps in your vocab, sometimes grammar too.

Jack79's avatar

I thought you were referring to the obelisk and wondered how you could afford such a thing (and even then, how you’d transport it all the way from Aethiopia or wherever it was sent recently). Seems quite an interesting way of learning a language, I’d like to try it. I had a “teach yourself Czech” book which was good, but unfortunately I was not disciplined enough to sit down and do it properly. I think one of the roles of a teacher is to force you to try.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Jack79 I prefer to think of the language teacher as a coach, like on a sports team. Not so much forcing the student, but guiding and encouraging to put forth more effort.

Everyone on the team wants to win the game, but needs a voice telling them to keep going. Force implies more along the lines of making someone do something they don’t want to do.

It’s important for the teacher to know when to let the student rest as well. that’s the other half. some people can burn themselves out trying too hard, and the brain doesn’t have time to process what’s it learning. Our brains rebuild a small piece (about the size of a quarter) with every language we learn. Again, like a child who’s growing and developing needs rest for the process to occur, language students sometimes don’t realize the need for rest and not thinking about the language constantly.

Jack79's avatar

yes, I am actually a teacher myself and this is precicely what I think too :)

I guess the word “force” was misleading there

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Jack79 no sweat. i didn’t mean to imply you were a harsh taskmaster. what language(s) do you teach? any specific techniques you like or prefer?

Jack79's avatar


Method depends on students, as I teach various levels and ages in different countries. My favourite is exam preparation for teenagers (or hopefully adults). But this year I taught small kids again and it was fun too :)

your description above sounds about right

tadpole's avatar

@eponymoushipster when you say that language learning increases the brain size, you do mean the size, and not the amount of connections within the brain? so adults can actually enlargen their brain? and lots of languages means lots of growth? this is very interesting…apologies for sounding simplistic about it…what else can we learn to enlargen it?

tiscon's avatar

i need a username and password for rosetta stone classroom.
Does anyone have one i can use?

VenusFanelli's avatar

I’ve heard it’s good, but I have no personal experience with it. I speak several languages, but I learned them without Rosetta Stone.

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