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Rosetta Stone Spanish Review
Our expert team reviews the Spanish language learning course from Rosetta Stone
Whether you just need to brush up on some basic Spanish for your honeymoon to Cabo San Lucas, or want to become fully fluent to impress your new in-laws, most folks turn to Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish. After all, Rosetta Stone has been around for 25+ years and is even used by the US State Department. But the question still remains – does Rosetta Stone work to learn Spanish? We answer just that question and more in this detailed review and breakdown of the Rosetta Stone Spanish app.
To set the stage for our evaluation of the Rosetta Stone Spanish program, let’s quickly talk about Rosetta Stone’s cost so that you have an idea of how this course compares to others. Rosetta Stone offers 3 different subscription plans: a 3-month plan, a 12-month plan, and a lifetime plan.
The 3-month subscription costs approximately $36 (or $12 per month), the 12-month subscription costs around $96 (or $8 per month), and the lifetime subscription costs around $299, though it can often be found on sale. And a quick note here – if you do opt for the lifetime subscription, it includes access to ALL languages, not just Spanish, so do keep that in mind.
But bottom line, you’re looking at around $8 to $12 per month for Rosetta Stone, unless you go whole hog and purchase the lifetime subscription. If you stack this pricing up against competitors, Rosetta Stone comes out looking pretty favorably.
For reference, the 3-month subscription plan from Babbel costs around $10 per month, and the monthly fee charged by Pimsleur is around $20. So from a cost perspective, Rosetta Stone is on the affordable end of the market.
In addition, I should also mention that Rosetta Stone does come with a 3-day trial period, as well as a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can always test the program out before fully committing.
How The Rosetta Stone Spanish Program Works
One of the other housekeeping items we need to discuss before we dive into our thoughts is how Rosetta Stone’s course is structured. Or, in other words, how the program works.
Essentially, the Rosetta Stone course is made up of 20 learning units. Each unit covers a different topic or category, such as greetings and introductions, or professions and hobbies. Then within each unit, there are 4 overarching lessons.
The lessons are the backbone of this course framework, and you will ideally tackle one lesson per day, or at least a few per week.
Each lesson contains a core 30-minute learning module, and then anywhere between 3 and 15 supplemental drills that are typically 5 to 10 minutes in length. These exercises cover pronunciation, listening, grammar, and writing – the basics of most every language learning program.
If you sat down to complete an entire lesson, it will likely take you right around an hour or so. It could be longer or shorter depending on the particular lesson, but it’s generally in the ballpark of an hour.
And that’s really the program from a high-level. You have 20 units, 4 lessons per unit, and each lesson is comprised of a variety of exercises and drills that take about an hour to complete in total.
What Are The Lessons Like?
So now that you have context around program structure, you’re probably wondering – what are the actual lessons like? Well, when you really boil it down, the Rosetta Stone lessons are essentially a combination of images and recorded audio.
You’ll 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. Think of the lessons and drills as quasi interactive flashcards if you will.
For example, you’ll listen to a voice that 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 gradually acquire the language content necessary to move onto the next lesson or unit.
You start with one- or two-word building blocks and progress to longer, more grammatically complex sentences as you reach the higher levels. And in order to reach those higher levels, it’s recommend you score at least 85% on each lesson, drill and exercise before moving on.
The other major point worth noting around the lessons is Rosetta Stone’s TruAccent voice recognition technology. This software is something the company has spent years developing and is actually patented.
As I referenced above, the Rosetta Stone lessons require you to participate in the lesson. You do this by not only by matching up images with phrases, but also by speaking yourself.
You’ll be asked to repeat phrases, fill in blanks, and describe what’s happening in the various images. And each time you speak, the company’s TruAccent voice technology will be listening, and if you mispronounce a word or phrase, it will prompt you to say it again until you get it right.
Now to be clear, it is definitely not a perfect system. There were times when it would make me repeat a word or phrase that I knew I was pronouncing correctly, and there were times when I knew I was wrong but the tech would tell me I’m right. That said, compared to other voice recognition software I’ve tested, Rosetta Stone’s is definitely one of the best.
Beyond the technology itself though, I love that Rosetta Stone integrates a speaking component into their lessons, as not all language learning programs do this. I firmly believe that output (actually speaking and talking) is crucial for successful language acquisition.
The people that shy away from it and wait to start conversing until they’re “ready” are stunting their progress. So I like the way that Rosetta Stone puts you under pressure to swiftly recall phrases and speak sentences. This makes a huge difference in terms of your ability to do so in an actual conversation, so I have to give Rosetta Stone props for that.
What We Like About Rosetta Stone Spanish
So now that we’ve covered cost and you know what the Rosetta Stone Spanish program is all about, let’s get into what our team likes about Rosetta Stone. And the first thing piggybacks off of where we just left off.
As I mentioned just a moment ago, we are big fans of Rosetta Stone’s voice recognition technology. Sure, the computer is never going to be a substitute for an actual human being and carrying on a real conversation, but Rosetta Stone comes about as close as you can get with technology.
There were a few times I caught the tech messing up, but by and large, it worked just fine. And the fact that you can actually practice speaking to your computer any time you want and without fear of embarrassment, takes your learning to the next level. Bottom line, their TruAccent voice technology is about the best in the industry.
Emphasis On Speaking
In the same vein, I also really like that the Rosetta Stone lessons place a heavy emphasis on speaking. I think verbal practice starting at an early stage is key for language acquisition.
Some programs focus on strictly listening and reading, saving speaking for much later on, and this is a fatal flaw in my opinion. So a big thumbs up for Rosetta Stone there.
Different Approach to Learning Grammar
Since Rosetta Stone is so big on imagery, you’re forced to rely on intuition and common sense to pick up grammar, which I think can actually be a good thing.
Some may disagree with me, but in my opinion, you do not need to intensely study grammar to pick up a new language. In fact, there are studies that have found dedicating the majority of your time to grammar as you learn to speak a new language can often do more harm than good.
Instead, some linguists believe it’s better to learn and absorb language chunksrather than dissecting grammatical rules.
Let’s face it, the majority of expressions we use everyday in our native tongues are unoriginal, recycled language chunks that we’ve become accustomed to over time. So from that perspective, some might appreciate how Rosetta Stone subtly highlights the grammar point being taught and uses images to clearly reflect the meaning, rather than making you studying dense, boring grammar principles.
Tons of Bonus Resources
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Rosetta Stone for all the extra resources they provide beyond the core units and lessons.
This list includes (1) on-demand videos so you can dive deeper into concepts and become more familiar with local culture, (2) short stories so can you improve your reading and listening skills as you workout or clean the house, and (3) phrasebooks to help you master your pronunciation using Rosetta Stone’s voice recognition technology.
They simply offer a boatload of extras that I really liked.
What We Don’t Like About Rosetta Stone Spanish
So that covers the majors strengths of the Rosetta Stone Spanish app and the things we really like. But it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows. There were definitely some issues with this program. So let’s switch gears and run through the things we didn’t care for.
Repetitive Lesson Work
I’ll come right out with the biggest downside our team found. The matching words and phrases to pictures exercises can become a little repetitive and boring. It’s essentially just some variation of the same drill over and over.
I just wish there was a little more variety within the lessons, sort of like the Babbel and Pimsleur drills. Don’t get me wrong, I think Rosetta Stone lessons and drills are highly effective – they can just become monotonous at times.
Culturally Irrelevant Images
My next bone to pick is that the lessons sometimes use culturally irrelevant images. For example, you’ll see an image of a Japanese geisha to demonstrate the word mujer (i.e. woman).
I mean, it’s not a big deal, but it can be a little odd at times, especially when you’re trying to learn a specific language like Spanish. I could totally understand that image being used for the Rosetta Stone Japanese program, but Spanish?
It just made me do a double take sometimes and messed up my flow. Not a huge deal, but a bit strange.
To be fair, recently Rosetta Stone did add some translations for people using their mobile app, but they’re not available for all units and they’re sort of treated like an afterthought.
I want to note this because I know a lot of folks like the convenience of looking up translations and always having the answer right at their fingertips. Most other language learning apps offer this, but not Rosetta Stone. They’re much more on the side of full immersion.
Rosetta Stone forces you to rely on visual cues, intuition and inference. They believe immersing yourself in the language and working off of common sense and intuition will help you to learn Spanish faster.
Pricey Live Classes & Coaching
Rosetta Stone offers live classes and live coaching, but you have to pay extra. The live coaching is especially helpful considering that the Rosetta Stone coaches are in-sync with the core lessons and know what stage you’re currently at, but it’s just a little expensive.
I guess I just wish it was included as part of the base subscription. Or at least a little less pricey. With that said, there are other companies (like iTalki for example), where you can get live tutoring or coaching for much cheaper. These types of services could be a nice supplement to the Rosetta Stone core curriculum if you’re on a budget.
Verdict: Learning Spanish With Rosetta Stone
So now that you have all the detail around cost, how the program works, and our thoughts, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you use Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish?
I think the answer to that question totally depends on your goals. If you’re just looking to learn the basics of Spanish so that you can hold down elementary conversations with friends or family, or easily get by while traveling, then I think Rosetta Stone is a very good option. The monthly subscription price is highly affordable, the lessons are effective and include a speaking component, and their voice recognition technology is impressive.
So considering the course from that perspective, I would recommend Rosetta Stone for learning Spanish. However, if your end goal is to become 100% fluent by the end of the 20th unit and be able to understand native Spanish speakers who talk fast with ease, then I’m not sure if this is the right program. In my opinion, Rosetta Stone is geared much more towards beginners to intermediate speakers who just want to learn the essentials to participate in modest conversation.
How much is Rosetta Stone Spanish?
When broken down on a monthly basis, the Rosetta Stone subscription packages cost somewhere between $8 and $12 per month, unless you opt for their lifetime package, which costs in the neighborhood of $300.
How long does it take to learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone?
With Rosetta Stone, you will likely be able to hold down very basic conversations in Spanish after just 10-15 hours of study time, but expect closer to 3-4 months of regular lesson work and practice to become more fluent.
Is Rosetta Stone good for Spanish?
Our team found Rosetta Stone to be a highly effective software program for learning Spanish, with engaging drills and exercises that build from the foundation up to more complex concepts.