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Babbel vs Rosetta Stone
Our detailed comparison guide breaks down how the language learning programs from Babbel and Rosetta Stone differ, and which is better
Once you’ve decided to learn a new language, the hardest step is often determining which language learning program to go with. This decision point is especially difficult when the options you’re considering are Babbel and Rosetta Stone, two of the biggest and most popular language learning software programs in the world. In this guide, we call out the subtle differences between these two programs, provide our thoughts on each, and ultimately, declare a winner.
As this is a lengthy comparison, we’ve provided jump-to links above so you can easily navigate to the section you’d like to read.
Video Review: Babbel vs Rosetta Stone
In the video above, team member John summarizes the key differences between Rosetta Stone and Babbel, and advises as to which our team thinks is better. For more detailed analysis, find our full written guide below.
Let’s kick this comparison off by covering the format and structure of Babbel’s core lessons. That way you can start to form an idea of what their course is like, and whether it will be suited to your specific learning style (regardless of whether you want to learn Italian, French, or any other popular language).
With Babbel, their core lessons are a little shorter than Rosetta Stone’s. Each one only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and they go by super fast.
This is largely because each lesson is made up of several quick-hit, interactive drills and exercises.
You’ll generally start with an exercise where you listen to new words or phrases, and then repeat them. Then the lesson will quickly transition into a digital flashcards drill for a few minutes, before moving into a short grammar or conjugation lesson.
From there, you might be asked to reconstruct words or phrases by typing them in on your keyboard, and finally you’ll be asked to complete a fill-in-the-blank exercise by following a mock conversation.
It’s just a very fast moving, hybrid approach with a variety of drills and exercises. And as you will see below, this isn’t necessarily the case with Rosetta Stone.
Strengths Of The Babbel Language Programs
So now that you have a general idea of how the Babbel learning program works, let’s dive into the strengths of this course, and who is may be best for.
Variety of Exercises & Drills
The first major pro has to be the variety of Babbel’s lessons, drills and exercises. I love how they present the same content to you in a variety of different ways, and all within a short time frame.
The lessons force you to interact with the material through several different perspectives including listening, speaking, reading, writing and using visual elements. And as a result, not only do you get experience with all these mediums, but you also don’t get bored with the lessons.
They’re genuinely fun, and Babbel does a great job keeping your attention. And if I’m being totally honest, Ican’t necessarily say the same about Rosetta Stone. Sometimes their matching words to pictures exercises can become a little repetitive and boring (especially when trying to learn German).
I wish Rosetta followed Babbel’s lead here and offered a little more variety within their lessons, sort of like how Pimsleur does it as well. But more on this below.
The bottom line is that I just really appreciated the swift, interactive nature of Babbel’s lessons, and I think most folks out there will too.
The second highlight of the Babbel program is that their lessons leverage English directions and translations. Babbel will even give you hints in English if you’re struggling in a drill or exercise.
Now I know Rosetta Stone is a big believer in 100% immersion – meaning no use of English within the lessons. Although I would note that they have recently started adding English translations in their mobile app for select languages and lessons.
But in any event, I’ve found that the use of English for directions and translations can be truly helpful. If we’re being real, in today’s internet age we’re all used to having the answers to everything in the palm of our hands.
It’s almost become second nature at this point. So not having translations in Rosetta Stone’s program can become annoying and frustrating.
At the end of the day, I can see the merit in Rosetta’s Stone argument – of course you’re probably going to learn quicker if your feet are held to the fire – but I also think that might lead to some frustration for folks.
Ultimately, I appreciated Babbel’s limited use of English to help keep the lessons moving and keep users from pulling their hair out if they get stuck on a particular phrase or sentence.
Integration of Grammar Into Lessons
The last pro in favor of Babbel is that they incorporate grammar content into their lessons, which is something that Rosetta Stone doesn’t really emphasize that heavily. I really like that Babbel doesn’t bog you down with dense, boring grammatical principles.
Some linguists are huge believers in heavy grammar teachings from an early start, but sometimes I actually think that can do more harm than good when you’re first learning a new language.
Babbel integrates grammar instruction into their lessons in a very subtle and efficient way.
For example, one grammar exercise might include just a quick one- to two-sentence explanation in English regarding adjectives vs adverbs, and then you participate by filling in blanks in example sentences.
Then as you get to more complex exercises, you’ll be asked to draft full on correct translations. But as I referenced a moment ago, Babbel is always right there to provide hints and translations to ensure you understand.
Let’s switch gears now and talk about Rosetta Stone’s lessons. Contrasting with Babbel’s lessons, Rosetta Stone’s take right around an hour or so to complete from start to finish.
Each lesson contains one core, 30-minute learning module and 3 to 15 supplemental drills that are typically 5 to 10 minutes in length.
These follow-on drills cover pronunciation, listening, reading and writing. But when you really boil it down, the Rosetta Stone lessons and drills are essentially a combination of images and audio.
You’ll spend most of your time listening to a word or phrase, repeating the word or phrase, and matching it up to a corresponding image. Think of the lessons and drills as variations of interactive flashcards if you will.
For example, let’s say you’re learning Portuguese. You’ll listen to a native speaker who says “menino come” and then you’ll click an image of a little boy eating a sandwich to match the two up.
The whole idea is that you have to rely on visual cues, intuition and inference as you slowly acquire the language content necessary to move on to the next lesson or unit.
You’ll start with one- or two-word building blocks, and then advance to longer, more grammatically complex sentences as you reach the higher levels.
So taking a step back, that’s how the two companies’ lessons compare. The key takeaway here to remember is that with Babbel, their lessons are much shorter, incorporate a larger variety of drills and exercises, and frequently leverage English translations and directions to ensure you understand what’s going on.
By contrast, the Rosetta Stone lessons are longer, include little to no English translations, and place a greater emphasis on imagery. You need to rely more on visual cues and inference.
Strengths Of The Rosetta Stone Program
Having covered what the Rosetta Stone lessons are actually like, let’s jump into our thoughts of the Rosetta Stone program.
Killer Voice Recognition Technology
The first strength of this program is that during lessons, Rosetta Stone utilizes what they call their TruAccent voice recognition technology. This is something the company has spent years developing, and it is darn good.
When you’re asked to repeat words or phrases, fill in blanks, or otherwise describe what’s happening in the various images you see during the lessons, Rosetta’s TruAccent technology listens to you speak. If you mispronounce a word or phrase, it will prompt you to say it again until you get it right.
To be fair to Babbel here, they also employ their own voice recognition technology during verbal drills, which is fairly good as well. So this is not to give the impression that this is an overwhelming win for Rosetta Stone.
Still, I have to hand it to their voice recognition technology – it’s about as close as you can come to getting pronunciation feedback from a real person.
Better For Visual Learners
The second advantage of Rosetta Stone’s program is that their lessons favor visual learners a little more than Babbel. The Babbel lessons do make use of images and graphics; however, it seems like it’s more of a priority in the Rosetta Stone lessons.
As mentioned, Rosetta is big on making you learn through visual cues, intuition and inference. In my eyes, this really this boils down to personal preference. For some, this might not be a big deal, but for others who learn best through imagery, Rosetta Stone has the leg up on Babbel.
The final strength that I would like to note here is that Rosetta Stone offers live coaching to its customers. To be clear, you do have to pay extra for coaching – this isn’t included in their standard subscription packages.
However, there’s often no better way to learn a new language than through 1-on-1 coaching or tutoring. And the nice thing about going through Rosetta Stone is that their coaches work in tandem with the core lessons and know what level you’re currently at.
In that respect, you’re sort of getting customized coaching sessions. The coaches help you perfect your pronunciation, provide clarity around grammar rules, and perhaps most importantly, offer encouragement to keep you motivated.
Overall, it’s just a very valuable service that you should consider taking advantage of, if you have the funds in your budget.
Finally, before we jump into our verdict, let’s compare pricing and affordability as that’s always an important decision factor.
In short, both companies offer multiple subscription options. Starting with Babbel, they offer four different subscription plans in total, all of which include access to one selected language (of their 14 languages to choose from). Here are their plans:
The 3-month plan ($8-10 per month)
The 6-month plan ($7-9 per month)
The 12-month plan ($6-8 per month)
The Lifetime plan costs $200 and includes access to all Babbel languages
Rosetta Stone, on the other hand, offers three different options: a 3-month, 12-month and lifetime subscription. The 3- and 12-month plans only include access to one language, whereas the lifetime plan grants you access to all 25 Rosetta Stone languages. Here is the price breakdown on those:
The 3-month plan ($12 per month)
The 12-month plan ($8-12 per month)
The lifetime plan (costs around $300)
Overall, you can see pricing between the two companies is very close here. In fact, it’s almost a tie. But if we want to get technical, Babbel does edge out Rosetta Stone as the winner. Their monthly plans are about $1 to $2 cheaper on average per month.
I would also note though that companies give consumers the chance to test their programs before fully committing. Rosetta Stone offers a free 3-day trial period and a 30-day money back guarantee, while Babbel has a 20-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.
Now that we’ve covered all the important matters in detail in this comparison, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you choose Babbel or Rosetta Stone?
Well, after testing each program, I have to give the edge to Babbel. In my opinion, they offer the more effective language learning course.
Rosetta Stone certainly has their strengths, but ultimately, a few things push Babbel over the top for me. I love that Babbel’s lessons are much shorter on average – not everyone has a spare 45 minutes to an hour to give each day. I also love that they offer a greater variety of drills and exercises, which makes their lessons more engaging and fun.
The Rosetta Stone lessons can just be a little monotonous at times. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Babbel is the slightly more affordable option on a monthly basis.
All in all, our team found Babbel to be the better overall program from top to bottom. If your goal is to obtain an elementary to intermediate understanding of a new language, I’d roll with Babbel.