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Rocket Languages vs Rosetta Stone
A linguist's guide to the key differences and similarities between Rocket Languages and Rosetta Stone
For decades, Rosetta Stone was the gold standard in language learning – largely because there was so little competition. However, in recent years, a number of alternative language learning apps have burst onto the scene, with Rocket Languages being one of them. But Rocket hasn’t just followed the trail blazed by Rosetta Stone and built a similar program. In fact, these two courses are very different. In this detailed comparison, we break down those key differences and give our thoughts on which program is ultimately better.
Because our comparisons contain so much detail, we’ve added jump-to links above so you can quickly navigate this article.
Video Comparison: Rocket Languages vs Rosetta Stone
In the video above, team member John covers all the key points about how the language apps from Rocket Languages and Rosetta Stone stack up. For more detail, you can always keep reading our full guide below.
Overview Of The Rocket Languages Program
Before we dive straight into our evaluation of Rocket Languages, let’s talk about the structure and format of the company’s lessons. This will help to provide an idea of how these two companies really differ.
With Rocket Languages, their program is comprised of two different types of lessons. You’ve got (1) interactive audio lessons, and (2) language & culture lessons. In the interactive audio lessons, a moderator speaking in English walks you through a native conversation in your target language step-by-step.
The moderator will start by explaining what the goal of the lesson is, why you’re learning it, and then set the stage for the upcoming conversation. Then you’ll dive into the actual conversation where you listen to native speakers converse.
Every few sentences, the moderator will stop to explain what you just heard, provide some pronunciation tips and grammar explanations, and perhaps most importantly, ask you questions to have you engage in the conversation. So you can essentially think of these interactive audio lessons as guided conversations.
The audio lessons’ counterparts, the language & culture lessons, are sort of like interactive textbooks. You’ll read a paragraph explanation containing grammar rules and cultural insights, engage with a few examples to ensure you understand, and then rinse and repeat. They’re pretty short and go much faster than the main audio lessons.
Finally, to finish out each lesson, you review what you just learned in the audio and language lessons through several short, “reinforcement” exercises. These drills include variations of flashcards, speaking exercises, writing drills, and quizzes.
All in all, if I had to compare it to another language app, I would say the Rocket course is very similar to Pimsleur.
Our Thoughts On Rocket Languages
Now that you have an idea of how the Rocket Languages program works, let’s get into the major pros and cons that I took away after testing this program.
Awesome Audio Lessons
The first highlight of this course has to be the interactive audio lessons, which are the core of their curriculum. Instead of just listening to or reading an individual word or phrase, and then repeating it without context (like you do with Rosetta Stone most of the time), the Rocket audio lessons prompt you to respond to native speakers in the context of actual conversations.
You’re actively involved in tracking the conversation and the moderator of the audio lessons keeps you on your toes as you need to understand what’s going on in the situation and respond at the proper times.
In my opinion, this active participation is powerful at getting you to recall and use the language under pressure just as you would in real life situations. I suppose that’s the key point here, the Rocket Language audio lessons simulate real world experience.
And if I’m being honest, this is about the best setting for truly learning a new language (as compared to just listening to words and phrases and repeating them in a vacuum). So Rocket definitely has the leg up over Rosetta Stone in that regard.
Extremely Flexible Learning
Because roughly half of the Rocket Spanish lessons are audio-based, I like that you can complete these lessons while moving around and being productive (or unproductive if you want, I guess). You can knock out lessons while you’re exercising, gardening, taking your dog for a walk, or just laying on the couch.
It’s just nice you don’t have to be glued to your computer or phone at all times like you do with Rosetta Stone. This ability to change scenery when studying can really help with your attitude and retention. So overall, I have to give props to Rocket for how flexible their lessons are.
Focus on Grammar & Culture
I further like that the Rocket Language programs make cultural insights and grammar instruction a priority. This is something I can’t really say for Rosetta Stone, which is sort of disappointing.
The Rocket coursesaccomplish this in multiple ways. First, as you complete the interactive audio lessons, the moderator periodically stops to cover different grammar principles and verbally explain the “why” behind them.
Then of course, the bulk of your grammar instruction is delivered through the company’s language & culture lessons, which again, take the form of a digital textbook.
To be clear here though, I’m not talking about some long, dense academic textbooks. Rocket does a great job breaking these lessons down into short, digestible chunks. Each section within the lesson is only about 3 to 6 sentences long on average.
Then within the lessons, there are also dozens of stoppage points where you interact with examples and pictures to keep you engaged. So really, it’s more like a mix between a Cliff Notes-style digital textbook and an interactive exercise.
Bottom line, I was just really impressed with the level of grammar instruction and cultural insights that the Rocket courses work in to your learning, as well as how the company integrates this material into their lessons.
More Exercise Diversity Than Rosetta Stone
In directly comparing these packages, I found the Rocket Language lessons to be more engaging and stimulating than the lessons from Rosetta Stone. With Rosetta, the matching words and phrases to pictures exercises can just become a little boring and repetitive.
I suppose I just wish they included a little more variety within their lessons with varying exercise types. In contrast, Rocket excels in this area my opinion. They deliver their language instruction in a multitude of ways. There are interactive audio lessons that urge you to participate, informative quick-hit grammar and culture lessons, and an array of reinforcement drills that span flashcards, speaking exercises, writing practice, and quizzes to ensure you’re grasping the material.
So overall, if you’re looking for diversity, Rocket Languages is the way to go.
No Immersion Like Rosetta Stone
Another point in favor of Rocket is that I like that their lessons include English directions, translations and explanations. This is in opposition to Rosetta Stone, who is more of a believer in immersion – meaning very limited use of English within their lessons.
In my experience, I’ve found that the use of English, even if limited, can definitely be helpful. Don’t get me wrong, I get the merit in Rosetta’s Stone immersion argument. Of course you’re probably going to learn quicker if your feet are held to the fire.
However, I also think that sort of approach can lead to frustration. So ultimately, I appreciate Rocket’s 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.
Lastly, I like that Rocket Languages tries to gamify the language learning experience. They make an honest effort to make learning fun through game-like components.
As you complete lessons and drills, you earn points that represent your progress. Then from the dashboard, there’s a leaderboard where you can keep track of your streaks and compare your performance against other Rocket Language users to keep yourself motivated.
In addition to the points leaderboard, Rocket also offers certification tests. As you complete each module, you can choose to take a test based on the widely accepted CEFR framework, and if you score at least 80%, you’ll receive a printable Certificate of Achievement. And I know that doesn’t really sound like much, but when you’re trying to learn a new language, every milestone and achievement is a big boost for morale.
So overall, I like that the Rocket program offers tools and games to keep you energized and encouraged.
In comparison to Rocket Languages, Rosetta Stone’s lessons are fairly different. Each lesson typically contains a core, 30-minute learning module, as well as 3 to 15 supplemental drills that cover pronunciation, listening, grammar, reading, and writing.
However, when you really boil it down, the Rosetta Stone lessons and drills are essentially some combination of images and audio. You’ll spend most of your time listening to a word or phrase, repeating the word or phrase, and then matching it up to a corresponding image.
In a way, you can think of the lessons and drills as a form of interactive flashcards. For example, if you’re learning Spanish, you’ll listen to a native speaker who says “el niño lee” and then you’ll click an image of a little boy reading a book to match the two up.
The whole idea here 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 from a high level, that’s how the lessons from both companies compare. The key takeaway here is that the Rosetta Stone lessons are (1) extremely image heavy, and (2) light on English translations and directions (instead primarily having you rely on visual cues and inference). By contrast, the Rocket Languages lessons (1) place a much stronger emphasis on listening and speaking in the context of actual conversations, and (2) make grammar and local culture more of a priority.
Our Thoughts On Rosetta Stone
Now that we’ve covered our thoughts on Rocket, let’s flip the script and cover our evaluation of the Rosetta Stone program.
Better For Visual Learners
Given that Rosetta Stone’s lessons are so image heavy, they are the better choice for visual learners. With Rocket, besides the small number of images used in their language and culture lessons, there’s really not a ton of visuals throughout their courses, which may be problematic for some people out there.
There are certain people who learn best by seeing images and visuals, and associating them with words and phrases. It’s just how some people soak up and retain new vocabulary.
Honestly though, this all comes down to personal preference. For some, this might not be a big deal at all, but for others who learn best through imagery and visuals, it could matter a great deal. In the event you are a very visual learner, Rosetta Stone has the leg up (though I would note Babbel and Duolingo are also great for visual leaners).
Superior Digital Platform
Next up, the Rosetta Stone digital platform and mobile app are just a little more sleek and eye-catching than Rocket Language’s. Don’t get me wrong, both companies’ apps and web-based platforms function great.
They’re intuitively laid out, easy to navigate, fast, and offer everything you need. However, at the end of the day, the Rocket Languages user interface just isn’t as sexy as Rosetta Stone’s.
The Rocket digital platform just isn’t as smooth or sharp. To be fair though, I’m not really sure how big of a deal this truly is. After all, you’re here to learn a new language, so who really cares whether their apps and websites function like the latest and greatest social media phenomenon.
In any event, to some it may matter, and to others, it might not matter a lick. Again, boils down to personal preference.
More Language Options
Rosetta Stone covers more languages and sub-classes of languages than Rocket Languages. Both companies offer courses for the popular languages like Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Chinese.
But when it comes to some of the other, smaller language options out there like Swedish, Dutch and Turkish, Rosetta Stone is the clear winner. In total, Rosetta Stone coversaround 25 languages, whereas Rocket covers just 15.
Plus for certain languages, Rosetta Stone even covers specialty dialects. For example, in addition to Latin American Spanish, Rosetta Stone also offers a Castilian Spanish course, whereas Rocket does not.
So overall, the key takeaway here is that if you’re looking to learn a lesser known language or a sub-class of a popular language, Rosetta Stone is likely your answer.
Lastly, my final noteworthy item is that Rosetta Stone offers live coaching to its customers. To be clear, you do have to pay extra for Rosetta’s coaching. This isn’t included in their standard subscription packages and it can get a little pricey.
Nonetheless, there’s often no better way to learn a new language than through 1-on-1 coaching. And the nice thing about going through Rosetta Stone is that their coaches work in tandem with their core lessons and what skill level you’re currently at. So in a way, 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 so you stay motivated. Overall, it’s just a valuable service that you should consider taking advantage of if you have the extra funds and you’re serious about learning a new language quickly.
Finally, let’s compare pricing and affordability as this can be a determining factor for many people. Both companies offer multiple subscription packages. Rosetta Stone offers three different options: a 3-month, a 12-month, and a lifetime subscription.
The monthly plans include access to only one language, whereas the lifetime plan grants you access to all 25 Rosetta Stone languages. The 3-month plan costs around $36; the 12-month plan goes for around $96; and the lifetime option costs around $180 total.
Rocket Languages, on the other hand, takes a slightly different approach. Instead of offering monthly subscriptions, all of their plans are lifetime and range from $150 to $450, depending on how many levels you want to purchase.
However, those prices are a little deceiving as they’re just the MSRPs. Rocket Languages is almost always running some sort of deal or special promotion and in most cases, you can expect to receive at least 10% to 40% off, if not more. So be sure to check for coupon codes before buying.
Still, from an overall cost perspective, Rosetta Stone gets the win. They are clearly the more affordable option. However, I should also mention that both companies do offer free trials and money back guarantees so you can always test the waters before fully committing.
Now that we’ve run down all the detail in this comparison, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you choose Rocket Languages or Rosetta Stone? Well, after testing each program, I believe Rocket Languages is the clear winner. I just think Rocket offers the more complete and effective language learning courses from top to bottom.
Yes, Rocket Languages is more expensive, and maybe their website and mobile app are a little dated, but I still think Rocket is the way to go. Ultimately, I found Rocket’s lessons to be more robust and diverse, and I like how they design their audio lessons within the context of actual native conversations. By comparison, the Rosetta Stone lessons can just become a little repetitive and boring.
Plus, Rocket is head and shoulders above Rosetta when it comes to grammar instruction and cultural insights. Plus, I appreciate that Rocket includes English translations, directions and explanations to keep the lessons moving and mitigate any building frustration. So overall, If I had to pick one, I just think Rocket Languages is the better choice to obtain an intermediate understanding of a new language.
Is Rosetta Stone better than Rocket Languages?
After extensively using each language learning app, our team actually found Rocket Languages to be better than Rosetta Stone. Though Rosetta Stone has been around longer, Rocket’s deep lessons and reinforcement exercises are superior.
Rocket Languages or Rosetta Stone, which is better for travel?
If you’re trying to learn a new language in anticipation of an upcoming trip, we think Rocket Languages is better than Rosetta Stone. With their emphasis on conversational speaking through lessons, you’ll pick up a new language more quickly for travel.
Rocket Spanish vs Rosetta Stone, which is better?
When it comes to learning Spanish, we much prefer Rocket Spanish to Rosetta Stone. Though the Rosetta Stone Spanish program is respectable in its own right, Rocket’s emphasis on conversational speaking, basic grammar and language insights make it better.