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Rosetta Stone vs Duolingo

Our resident linguist breaks down the key differences between Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, explaining which one is better

Duolingo or Rosetta Stone? That may be the most commonly asked question in the world of language learning apps. And it’s a fair question. Both companies are incredibly popular with their smart, modern approaches to learning, and as a result, trying to decide between them can be quite difficult. While Duolingo tries to gamify the learning experience and make it fun, Rosetta Stone leans on visual exercises and killer voice recognition software. So how do you choose? In this guide, we explain the pros and cons of each, and ultimately, which one you should go with.

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    • $10-$15/mo
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Outline: Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone

As this is a lengthy comparison, we’ve added jump-to links above so you can quickly navigate to the section of your choosing.

Video Review: Rosetta Stone or Duolingo?

If you’d prefer to watch a video review as opposed to reading our lengthy post below, team member John breaks down the key differences and similarities between Rosetta Stone and Duolingo in this comprehensive video guide.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone

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  • Large emphasis on verbal practice exercises
  • Rosetta Stone’s voice recognition technology is much better than Duolingo's
  • Lessons are great for visual learners
  • Immersive learning experience is effective
  • Awesome supplemental resources (phrasebooks, on-demand videos, and stories)
  • Lesson exercises can be a little repetitive (matching phrases to pictures)
  • More expensive than Duolingo
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What The Rosetta Stone Lessons Are Like

To help set the stage for our thoughts on each program, it probably makes sense to give you a little context on how each program works. So let’s start by discussing how Rosetta Stone is structured in terms of format.

Each Rosetta Stone learning module contains one core 30-minute lesson that can be broken down into three 10 minute mini sessions if you would like, followed by 3 to 15 supplemental drills. These exercises that follow the core lesson are typically 5 to 10 minutes in length, and cover things like pronunciation, listening, grammar, and writing.

In terms of timing, if you sit down with the goal of completing an entire lesson, it will likely take you right around an hour or so.

However, more broadly speaking, when you really break down the Rosetta Stone lessons, they are essentially a combination of images and audio.

rosetta stone flashcards
The Rosetta Stone program places a heavy emphasis on visuals

You spend most of your time listening to a word or phrase, repeating that word or phrase, and then matching it up to a corresponding image. Essentially, the lessons and drills are all variations of interactive flashcards.

For example, let’s say you’re learning Portuguese. You’ll listen to a native speaker who says “o homem corre,” and then you’ll click an image of a man jogging.

The whole idea here is that you have to rely on visual cues, intuition and inference as you gradually acquire the language content necessary to move onto the next lesson or unit (regardless of whether you are learning Spanish, French, or Italian).

You’ll start with one- or two-word building blocks and progress to longer, more grammatically complex sentences as you reach the higher levels.

Our Evaluation of The Rosetta Stone Program

So with that in mind, let’s dive into our thoughts on the Rosetta Stone program, especially as it compares to Duolingo.

Better For Visual Learners

Because the Rosetta Stone lessons focus so heavily on imagery, they’re great for visual learners. I know there are a ton of people out there who learn best by seeing and understanding how each word is spelled, or by making a mental connection between a word and a particular picture or scene.

Then when they have to recall that word, these types of learners either picture the spelling of the word or the corresponding image.

It’s just how some people learn and associate new words. If that happens to sound like you, then Rosetta Stone is the preferred choice to Duolingo.

Voice Recognition Technology

The second highlight of the Rosetta Stone program is their proprietary TruAccent voice recognition technology.

This is something the company has spent years developing, and actually, has a patent on it.

So when you’re asked to repeat words or phrases, fill in blanks, or describe what’s happening in the various images you see during the lessons, Rosetta’s TruAccent technology is listening and if you mispronounce a word or phrase, it will prompt you to say it again until you get it right (same story with Rocket Languages as well).

rosetta stone speaking
The Rosetta Stone voice recognition software is a highlight

Now, it’s definitely not a perfect system, and is not a substitute for speaking to a real person that speaks the language. But all things considered, it’s actually pretty darn good and right up there with Babbel’s tech.

Now, to be fair, Duolingo does employ their own voice recognition technology during verbal drills, and it’s not bad.

So it’s not an overwhelming win for Rosetta Stone. However, our team has to hand it to Rosetta’s voice recognition technology – it’s about as close as you can come to getting pronunciation feedback from a real person.

Bonus Resources

Compared to Duolingo, Rosetta Stone provides much more in the way of extra resources for its customers. Don’t get me wrong, Duolingo offers some decent resources as well, but I’m just a big fan of all the extras that come with the Rosetta Stone subscription.

The first noteworthy resource is the on-demand videos, which allow you to dive deeper into concepts and become more familiar with local culture.

For example, if you’re learning Spanish, one of the videos I found helpful was all about Mexican slang. This could definitely come in handy if you’re planning a trip to Mexico.

rosetta stone resources
Rosetta Stone offers tons of bonus resources

The subscription also includes short stories, which give you a chance to improve your reading and listening skills.

You similarly get phrasebooks, where you can perfect your pronunciation using Rosetta Stone’s voice recognition technology.

And lastly, they offer a nifty Alphabet tool to become more fluent as a writer and better understand your target language.

Bottom line, Rosetta’s bonus tools and resources are just way better than Duolingo’s.

Live Classes

If you’re really serious about picking up a second or third language and becoming fluent, Rosetta Stone also offers access to live classes and coaching. This is something Duolingo just doesn’t offer.

Now to be clear here, you do have to pay extra for this. Classes and coaching are not included in their base subscription packages.

That said, 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 what 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 very valuable service that you should consider taking advantage if you can spare the extra funds.

Greater Flexibility

In short, Rosetta Stone just offers more flexibility than Duolingo. With Rosetta, you can jump around from course to course, or lesson to lesson. You’re not forced to follow a strict schedule.

This is in comparison to Duolingo, which dictates the order in which you complete modules. New Duolingo modules only become active once you’ve completed the previous one or you’re able to “test out” of it early.

Additionally, Rosetta Stone also offers more flexibility within its supplemental drills. If you feel you’re weak in any particular aspect, you can focus on practice exercises in that specific area until you gain more confidence (just like the Rocket German course).

With Duolingo, their lessons, review sessions and progress quizzes don’t offer that sort of flexibility.



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  • Duolingo "gamifies" the learning experience, making it fun
  • Duolingo offers a totally free version (Rosetta Stone does not)
  • We like the variety of exercises & drills in the lessons
  • Regular review sessions help the material sink-in
  • Duolingo's program is fun, but not nearly as comprehensive as Rosetta's
  • The free version has serious limitations (annoying ads and daily caps on mistakes)
  • No real focus on grammar in the Duolingo lessons
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What The Duolingo Lessons Are Like

In comparison to Rosetta Stone, Duolingo’s lessons are much shorter. Each one only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to complete, and they go by super fast. This is generally the case as each lesson is made up of just a few quick-hit, interactive exercises.

These exercises include listening drills, fill-in-the-blanks, matching pairs, verbal practice, and writing full sentences. The Duolingo lessons definitely offer a little more variety.

duolingo drill
Duolingo’s program is very game-like and fun

So from a high level, that’s how the two companies’ lessons compare. The key takeaway here is that the Rosetta Stone lessons are longer, rely more on immersion (meaning less use of English translations and directions), and place a greater emphasis on imageryYou need to rely on visual cues and intuition.

The Duolingo lessons on the other hand are much shorter, include more English as far as directions and translations go, and mix in more variety in terms of drills and exercises.

Our Evaluation of The Duolingo Program

With that background, let’s get to our thoughts on Duolingo’s language course as it relates to Rosetta Stone.

The Free Version

The clear highlight of the Duolingo program is the fact that they offer a free plan. This is what draws most people in, and you have to hand it to Duolingo.

It’s very commendable that their language programs are accessible to everyone. It’s honestly a great tool for anyone on a super tight budget.

However, not to be the bearer of bad news, but the free version definitely has some disadvantages.

For one, the free version is ad-supported, which can become really annoying and frustrating when you’re using the program.

Secondly, the free plan comes with a limited amount of “hearts,” which are essentially just incorrect answers. You start with 5 per day and if you answer a question incorrectly during a lesson, you lose a heart.

Then when your hearts are up, you either need to stop for the day or circle back to old lessons in order to earn some more hearts. Frankly, it can just be very discouraging as you try to learn.

Then lastly, free users have a limited amount of “test outs.” With Duolingo, if there’s a skill or topic that you already know really well and you want to skip ahead to keep learning new material, you can take a short quiz to “test out” of that particular topic to keep moving forward.

However, the issue here is that free users only have a limited number of “test outs” they can use.

So bottom line, while I love that Duolingo’s app is free, like most freemium versions of anything, it is definitely lacking.

Great Variety

Another nice perk of the Duolingo course is the variety of their lessons, drills and exercises. I like how Duolingo presents the same content in a variety of different ways, and all in a short time frame.

The lessons force you to interact with the material through several different perspectives, which really helps to keep your attention.

And if I’m being honest, I can’t say the same about Rosetta Stone. Sometimes their matching words to pictures exercises can become somewhat repetitive.

I just wish Rosetta followed Duolingo’s lead and offered a little more variety within their lessons. It’s also nice the Duolingo lessons are a little shorter than Rosetta Stone’s.

This makes them great for busy professionals or parents who don’t have a ton of time each day to dedicate to learning new language.

All in all, I just really appreciated the swift, interactive nature of Duolingo’s lessons.

Gamifying Learning

The final highlight for Duolingo is their gamification of the learning experience. As you complete each lesson, you earn experience points (or XP points for short), as well as Duolingo currency known as lingots.

The XP points relate to your daily goals and allow you to track your progress, while the lingots can be used to purchase additional features within the Duolingo store.

I’m also a big fan of Duolingo’s app and digital platform, as well as all the cool visuals they provide in general.

duolingo review session
Great user experience with Duolingo

Their dashboard is organized logically and easy to navigate, and filed with cool, cartoonish animations. It also includes a daily goal tracker, a scoreboard where you can compete against others users, and other features that make it a fun, collaborative environment.

Altogether, the Duolingo program feels much more like a community and game, so they definitely earn some points from that perspective.

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Cost Comparison

Before we dive into our final verdict, let’s quickly cover a comparison of pricing between these two courses, as that can be a big factor for a lot of people.

With Rosetta Stone, you have your choice between a 3-month, 12-month and lifetime subscription. The monthly options only include access to one language, whereas the lifetime plan grants you access to all Rosetta Stone languages (over 20 of them in total).

The 3-month plan costs around $16 per month; the 12-month plan is $14 per month; and the lifetime subscription is usually on sale for around $200.

Then jumping over to Duolingo, you already know by now that they offer a free plan. Again, while everyone loves free stuff (including myself), this plan does come with some serious drawbacks.

So if the free plan won’t cut it, Duolingo also offers a Super Plan, which is a paid subscription. It costs $84 per year, or $7 per month.

For upgrading to the Super Plan, Duolingo removes all of the ads, includes unlimited hearts, allows unlimited test out attempts, and adds personalized lessons to review your mistakes.

So if you compare the paid plans from both companies, pricing is extremely close. You’re looking at around $7 to $14 per month for a full year for either company, so it’s just too close to declare a true winner here.

I would also mention that both companies give consumers the chance to test their programs before fully diving in.

With Rosetta Stone, you have a 3-day free trial period and a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied, while Duolingo gives consumers a 14-day free trial period to test out the Plus subscription.

Verdict: Duolingo or Rosetta Stone?

Now that we’ve covered all the granular detail in this comparison, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you choose Rosetta Stone or Duolingo?

Honestly, I think the simple answer is that Rosetta Stone is the better overall package, and that is the program I kept going back to as I was trying to learn German.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits to Duolingo and I would choose it in certain circumstances. For example, if you’re just seeking a free resource to brush up on a language you took in high school (like Spanish), or you’re just having some light fun with learning a new language, Duolingo is the obvious choice.

However, if you’re more of a visual learner or you’re really serious about learning a new language, then I think Rosetta Stone is the winner.

Their courses are just more robust than Duolingo’s. The Rosetta Stone lessons are longer and a little more comprehensive, their TruAccent voice recognition tech is super useful, and they offer a ton of extra resources. Plus, their program just offers more flexibility.

So all in all, I have to give the edge to Rosetta Stone for those reasons. In the context of this comparison, they are my preferred recommendation for people who plan to dedicate a good chunk of their time to achieving an intermediate level of a new language.

With that said, you might want to check out my reviews of the Babbel and Pimsleur language learning programs as well, as I actually rate their courses slightly higher than Rosetta. Ultimately, they might be a better fit for you depending on your learning style and preferences.


Is Rosetta Stone better than Duolingo?

Yes. After thoroughly testing out and reviewing each language learning app, we found Rosetta Stone to be a superior program to Duolingo. While we like Duolingo’s gamification of learning, Rosetta Stone is simply more comprehensive and effective.

Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone, which is better for travel?

If you are going to be travelling and want to learn a language at a beginner to intermediate level, we believe Rosetta Stone is a better option than Duolingo. Their lessons are more comprehensive and you will learn more quickly.

Duolingo or Rosetta Stone for learning Spanish?

If you’re looking to learn Spanish, our team recommends Rosetta Stone over Duolingo. After using both language learning programs, we found Rosetta Stone to be more effective for learning Spanish than Duolingo.

What is the difference between Duolingo and Rosetta Stone?

The main difference between Rosetta Stone and Duolingo are that the lessons from Rosetta Stone are better for visual learners, whereas Duolingo’s language platform is geared more towards beginners.