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Rosetta Stone Japanese Review
Find out how effective the Rosetta Stone Japanese language program is in this detailed review
Whether you want to learn basic Japanese for an upcoming trip to Tokyo, or you need to reach an intermediate level of fluency for work purposes, a lot of individuals turn to Rosetta Stone given their reputation in the industry. In this review, we analyze everything you need to know about the Rosetta Stone Japanese course so you can determine whether it’s the right language learning app for your preferences and budget.
As this is a detailed review, feel free to use the jump-to links above to quickly navigate this article.
Video Review: Is Rosetta Stone Japanese Good?
In the video above, John from the TPI team covers the pros and cons of the Japanese language program from Rosetta Stone. For more information, be sure to continue reading our full, written review below.
How The Rosetta Stone Japanese Program Works
First let’s cover how this program actually works since the Rosetta Stone Japanese program is slightly different than other Rosetta Stone language courses I’ve used and reviewed.
From a very high level, there are just 12 learning units in the entire Rosetta Stone Japanese program, with each unit being made up of 4 lessons. So doing some quick math, that’s 48 total lessons in the entire program.
This is one of the first differences between Rosetta Stone Japanese and other Rosetta language courses like Spanish or German – most of their other courses contain 20 learning units, so the Japanese course is a little bit more truncated.
I know 48 total lessons doesn’t sound like much, but each lesson is pretty in-depth and lengthy, as they all progressively build on each other.
What The Rosetta Stone Japanese Lessons Are Like
As for how the Rosetta Stone lessons work, each one is built around a core learning exercise that takes about a half hour to complete, then a number of secondary drills behind that core exercise – almost like class with homework to follow in a way.
It’s also worth mentioning that one really nice change Rosetta Stone has made in the last year or so is that they’ve broken their core learning exercise in each lesson up into three separate parts. It used to be just one 30-minute exercise and you had to get through the whole thing in one-go, but now it’s three separate 10 minute parts, making it more manageable day-to-day.
Still even with that change, it still takes an hour or more to finish a full lesson. Some of the shorter lessons you can get done in under an hour, but the vast majority will easily take you more than a full hour with all of those secondary drills.
Now, as for what those drills and exercises are actually like, the thing you need to know about Rosetta Stone is that the program is very image heavy. Almost every single individual drill uses images in some way or another.
Sometimes the program will say something in Japanese and you match what was said to the right picture, and then sometimes it’s matching written Kanji and Kana to the images.
Then, sometimes it’s on you to verbally describe in Japanese what’s in the image and get graded by the company’s speech software, and in some instances, the pictures are used to teach grammar.
Basically, no matter what lesson you’re in, Rosetta Stone focuses on pictures and immersion to teach you Japanese. The program is designed to have you create associations between what you’re learning and imagery, allowing you to cut out English as go-between.
This forces you to rely more on organic connections between things and words, than on memorization. For the record, that concept is the same across all Rosetta Stone language courses, but, one thing that is different with learning Japanese in Rosetta Stone than other European languages is phonetics.
One nice aspect of being an English speaker learning another European language is that they use the Latin-script alphabet, so you can usually at least phonetically sound out the words you’re learning and understand the spellings.
However, with Japanese, Rosetta Stone expresses the words you’re learning in traditional Kanji and Kana, so you can’t really rely on phonetics like you could when learning Spanish for example – so that does make the program more challenging overall.
Rosetta Stone Japanese Cost
Rosetta Stone has three plans to choose from:
3-month subscription plan – $16 per month
12-month subscription plan -$14 per month
Lifetime plan, which is a one-time purchase and gets you access for life to all of Rosetta Stone’s languages for $400
Luckily, Rosetta Stone routinely offers sales and promotions. For example, the company’s monthly subscription options can often be found on sale for $8 to $12 per month.
Similarly, the lifetime package – even though it retails for $400 – you can almost always find a discount to bring the price down to $200 total.
Comparing this to other Japanese apps, Rosetta Stone lands near the middle of the pack in terms of cost.
Basically, at $8 to $12 per month, I’d say Rosetta Stone’s prices are pretty reasonable compared to others, especially if you can catch those sale prices.
What We Like About Rosetta Stone Japanese
Now that we’ve covered pricing and how the Rosetta Japanese program works, let’s get into what I like and don’t like about the program, first starting with the positives.
Immersive Learning Framework
The first component of the Rosetta Stone Japanese program that I like, but I don’t necessarily think everyone will, is their immersive learning framework.
Basically, they just toss you right into the fire and take away English as a crutch. There is hardly any use of English inside the program. For example, phrases and sentences aren’t translated for you, and there are no English directions – or at least very few.
Now, to be fair, you can actually toggle on translations within the program to see the English meanings, but this is generally discouraged by Rosetta Stone – they want you immersed and learning intuitively.
At first glance, this might seem super frustrating, and it is at times, but by cutting English out as a go-between and learning the direct, raw meaning of words in Japanese, it really works, especially from the point of view of listening and speaking. Reading and writing is a lot tougher, but on the verbal side, I definitely like this approach to learning.
Image Heavy Lessons
Another major highlight of the Rosetta Stone program in my opinion is all of the images and pictures throughout lessons. If you’re a visual learner, this app is going to complement your learning style really well.
According to studies, about half of the population learns visually – meaning they need to see what they’re learning in order to retain it, and for this group, the image-heavy Rosetta lessons are great.
I generally like audio-based lessons and am a huge proponent of programs that do it right, like Rocket Languages, but for visual learners, this is where Rosetta Stone has a nice leg up on the competition.
The last highlight for Rosetta Stone over other apps are all of the cool, bonus resources that they provide. With all of the nice supplemental tools they give you, Rosetta is one of the most complete and comprehensive Japanese programs on the market. To be clear, other apps do you give you bonus tools too, but not to the same level.
Of all the different cool extras you get with Rosetta, I particularly like the stories feature. These are kind of like short podcasts with transcripts that become available to you as you complete learning units.
They cover all kinds of topics and genres, and allow you to work on your listening and speaking skills with some context. Plus, they’re also a nice way to break up the standard Rosetta Stone lessons from time to time.
What We Don’t Like About Rosetta Stone Japanese
Now that we’ve discussed the major highlights of the Rosetta Stone Japanese course, let’s get to the negatives.
Limited Grammar Content
The first negative of the Rosetta Stone program as I see it, is the lack of direct grammar instruction. To be fair, this is a bit of an issue with a language like Japanese because grammar rules are so different from English.
In essence, Rosetta Stone teaches grammar the same way they teach everything else in the program: organically and through intuition – meaning, you don’t get a nice, neat little explanation in English of how how to talk in the past tense or conjugate verbs.
Instead, they teach you these things more indirectly through the picture-based drills I talked about earlier, and while there is some merit to doing things this way, I personally prefer more direct instruction when it comes to grammar.
I’d rather just have things explained to me in plain English upfront, and then practice with various exercises, rather than trying to figure it out organically. I just think doing it that way can get frustrating.
Lessons Can Become Repetitive
The second downside of this program for me is that the drills can become a little monotonous. Since basically every single exercise includes images, they’re all kind of derivative of one another.
I mean it’s not nearly as bad as I’ve seen with some other apps, but with Rosetta Stone, sometimes it does feel a little repetitive – their lessons just don’t have the variety you’d get with Duolingo or Memrise, for example.
No Community Feel Among Users
The final drawback that I want to callout is that I actually think Rosetta Stone could really do itself a favor by creating more of a community feel among its users.
One of the reasons that apps like Duolingo and Busuu have become so popular is that they’ve done an awesome job of building a competitive and collaborative environment within its userbase.
Users compete in leagues, connect socially, do friend quests, and generally speaking, learn together, which definitely helps for sticking with it. If Rosetta Stone just incorporated a little bit of this, like some kind of buddy system, I think it could go a long way towards generating more engagement.
Verdict: Is Rosetta Stone Japanese Worth It?
Is Rosetta Stone a good app to learn Japanese and is it worth the money? Those are the big questions at the end of the day.
Well, I would say likely yes, and I hedge a little bit because it somewhat depends on your learning style. If you’re a visual learner, then 100% yes, I think it’s worth it.
However, if you’re more of an auditory learner and you’re looking for some more traditional audio-based lessons, Rosetta Stone might not be the best fit – in that case I would check out Rocket Japanese or Pimsleur – two very good programs as well.
Technically, Rosetta Stone does offer stories and audio companion lessons, but that’s definitely not the main focus of this course. Rosetta Stone is much more designed for visual learners and teaches through an immersive, organic learning framework
On the whole, I do like Rosetta Stone and think it is effective for learning Japanese, especially if you’re a visual learner and looking for a more active, hands-on program.
Yes, our team does think the Rosetta Stone program is effective for learning Japanese, especially if you are more of a visual learner as opposed to an auditory learner.
How much does Rosetta Stone Japanese cost?
The monthly subscription plans for Rosetta Stone Japanese cost around $8 to $12 per month after applying discounts and promo codes. Alternatively, you can always purchase a lifetime membership to Rosetta Stone for around $400 (although it is often discounted down to $200).
How many levels are in the Rosetta Stone Japanese program?
The Rosetta Stone Japanese course consists of 12 learning units and 48 individual lessons in total.