Change Yourself…Change The World.

Rosetta Stone- Travel Resource?
July 3, 2010, 1:11 am
Filed under: Travel Tip

Rosetta Stone is a language learning software program, with 31 languages to learn from your picking and choosing. Many of you may have seen Rosetta Stone on TV ads, or perhaps one of those ‘customer representatives’ threw themselves in front of you while you were in a rush at the airport, trying to shove a Rosetta box into your hands while hawking about how you can ‘learn Spanish fluently!’

Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous language learning programs out there, and it covers many of the most widely used languages in the world, including Mandarin, English, Spanish, French, Russian, Italian, Hindi, German, etc. The way that Rosetta Stone teaches you is ‘total immersion’- which means there is no translation, but rather an interactive ‘game’ where, with the lessons taught, you eventually learn how to communicate in the language desired.

A lot of people question whether Rosetta Stone is truly an effective language learning tool, or whether they are able to learn the language ‘fluently.’ Is this a great travel resource, and worth the price?

Let me start by saying that I have used Rosetta Stone Spanish, Levels 1-5 (Latin America). I got this incredibly expensive software (fortunately, my school fees covered some of it) because of my intense commitment to learning Spanish to a nearly fluent level within the span of three months (this was while I was in Latin America, primarily Costa Rica and Paraguay). If you’ve been following this blog for quite awhile, then you’ll know that I was pretty successful in learning Spanish very well in a fairly short period of time (you can check out my Spanish capabilities here, where I gave a presentation to my internship, Fundación Paraguaya, in total Spanish. Yes, there are a few mistakes, for you fluent Spanish speakers out there 🙂 But still pretty good for three months!).

So some of you curious readers are probably wondering by now what the gist is with Rosetta Stone. Does it work? Does it REALLY make you fluent, and how influential was it in my language learning process?

Here’s how I learned Spanish: I lived in Latin America, where the language is predominantly Spanish; I took Spanish classes with a tutor 3-4 hours a day; I lived with a homestay family in Costa Rica that only spoke Spanish; and to top it all off, I studied Rosetta Stone Spanish every day at night to supplement my language learning skills. Notice that I said SUPPLEMENT. I do not think that Rosetta Stone will make you fluent in a language, or even conversational. Rosetta Stone teaches you random words and phrases, which is great IF you are learning and speaking the language as well- but because it is total immersion, they don’t teach grammatical structure, which makes it difficult to string along actual words that aren’t pre-ordained by Rosetta Stone.
However, Rosetta Stone was a GREAT supplement. It tied together all of my learning and helped me learn much faster. The exercises are fun and easy enough, and you also have the opportunity to practice speaking (they include a mic).

But when it comes down to it, do I RECOMMEND Rosetta Stone? Yes, for these reasons:
– If you are living in a country for an extended period of time (3 months+) and have a serious commitment to learning the language there.
– If you are GOING to travel to a country soon, stay for an extended period of time, and want to start learning the language before you go.
– If you want to learn how to pronounce in the language nearly perfectly. The great thing about Rosetta Stone is that they have seriously rigorous pronunciation exercises, (really annoying at first because you’re always wrong, but then over time you realize how well you speak) and you will eventually be speaking like a pro.
– If you are committed to learning a language, then I would only recommend buying Rosetta Stone if you can get levels 1-5 of the language- and currently, Rosetta Stone only offers levels 1-5 in English (American, though if you’re reading this I doubt you’ll need it), French, German, Italian, and Spanish (Latin America and Spain). Most languages have levels 1-3, or even just level 1. I think that buying only level 1 is completely pointless, in my opinion, because it doesn’t teach you basic phrases. Levels 1-3, in my opinion, also aren’t worth it, because you only start to learn much more advanced language skills in levels 4 and 5.
– If you’re considering taking high school/college credit for a language (in your home country where the language is not spoken) versus using Rosetta Stone, I’d say go for Rosetta Stone (if you have the means and discipline). In my experience, classroom language learning is all about memorization, and there is little individualized attention and speaking. With Rosetta Stone, you can take things at your own pace, the exercises keep you fresh and alert, and you’ll have plenty of time to speak.

I DON’T recommend Rosetta Stone for these reasons:
– If you are going to a country for 1-2 weeks and want to learn basic phrases. Rosetta Stone doesn’t work in this way- they’ll start you off by learning colors, numbers, and sentences such as ‘The girl runs,’ ‘The boy reads,’ etc. They don’t immediately teach you ‘how much,’ or ‘Where is the train station?’ If you’re looking for something to teach you easy phrases, then I recommend a Lonely Planet phrasebook, or something similar. You can also find all kinds of references online, such as YouTube (type in ‘Spanish language learning’ or something similar in reference to what language you’re looking for).
– If you’re choosing between going to a country for a period of time to learn a language, versus just buying Rosetta Stone. ALWAYS CHOOSE THE COUNTRY! Not only will you have some unbelievable adventures, but the absolute best way to learn a language is cultural immersion in the actual country where you want to speak it.
– If it’s a choice between learning from a tutor in the country that speaks the language versus Rosetta Stone by yourself. Rosetta Stone, unfortunately, doesn’t teach much about cultural nuances- what makes the language unique, and how to speak the local dialect. With tutors, you will learn all of those things. They are also more apt to speak only in their native language, which is a bit of a barrier, but more gratifying in the end. Last but not least, you may meet other students to practice the language with! If a person is taking a language course IN the country that speaks the language they’re learning, then they’re very serious about learning it quickly (unlike college or high school classrooms, where it’s a requirement). You’re more likely to meet other people who want to learn just as much as you do- and you’ll probably make friends in the process. Win/win.

Last advice: Rosetta Stone IS a great learning tool. It won’t make you fluent. But it will definitely aid you on your quest to becoming a native (and let’s be honest– we all want to be natives, don’t we?).

If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, I’ve heard great things about Livemocha, where you can learn languages online for free.

I hope that was helpful advice for all of you travelers and adventurers out there that want to take on another language. Believe me, I understand- my quite ambitious and unrealistic goal is to speak seven.

Best of luck future leaders of the free world,


3 Comments so far
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