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How Effective Is Rosetta Stone?


Although many language lovers might recognize Rosetta Stone by name, its controversial emphasis on software gimmicks over person-to-person instruction continues to inspire debate in the realm of education.

Hugely successful brand marketing campaigns proved critical in bringing Rosetta Stone to prominence. Individuals who wish to learn a foreign language can usually call its advertisements to mind with relative ease.

Beginner’s Luck

The LEAF Project/Flickr

The LEAF Project/Flickr

At the very beginning of the learning process, assuming minimal previous foreign language exposure, Rosetta Stone can be a useful tool. In a 2009 study published by Rosetta Stone, they found that 55 hours with the software roughly rivaled one semester of instruction at a university.

This study, however, only tested this theory with Spanish, the foreign language with (by an enormous margin) the most widespread exposure in the United States. Their research also almost exclusively focused on users at the introductory level, just beginning the learning process. This is, naturally, the stage at which the most rapid progress occurs anyways.

Man Versus Machine

Favorable reviews tend to point out the efficacy of the software as a supplementary tool, and language news site Langology report a fairly high standard of consumer satisfaction.  Users, especially beginner learners, seem to enjoy the structured, easy introduction to the new language.

The Economist’s 2013 review recognizes Rosetta Stone’s efforts to improve upon the structural shortcomings of a technologically-driven, rather than people-focused, language education, and champions their ability to be on the cutting edge of automated instruction.  However, they still emphasize the importance of embracing the software as a tool rather than a one-step solution. Frankly, if the option exists, studies indicate that the best instruction comes from a qualified teacher.

A Couple of Problems

Several users-turned-critics take major issue with Rosetta Stone, a few of whom voice their concern on Language101. Major problems include the claim that it teaches language acquisition the way a child would learn his or her native tongue.

It is crucial to acknowledge that teaching exclusively with pictures and multiple-choice answers does nothing to discourage guessing, which is not conducive to effective information retention. Above all else, children learning their first language also have access to full-time, live-in language tutors: parents.

Does TOTALe Work?

For a long time, Rosetta Stone has attempted to combat user frustrations, none more pressing than the lack of immersion and in-person interaction. Although they are not the only company to claim that it is possible to fluently learn a language exclusively via automated instruction, Rosetta Stone has made increasingly obvious strides in later iterations of the software to adopt a more well-rounded approach.

Rosetta Stone’s latest upgrade, TOTALe Studio, now includes video instruction with an online teacher available through an app and an annual subscription to their services.They have implemented voice recognition software, quite a technological feat.  Sadly, it is still not quite advanced enough to pick up every subtle error in tone and pronunciation the way a teacher can. Clearly, the benefits of instruction from a native speaker are invaluable, especially during early phases of learning.

Respecting Teachers: the Key to Success



Rosetta Stone is working to mitigate the gaps in their approach to language instruction and made some major changes, including adding with the new TOTALe Studio option. As time progresses, users will likely note an increase in the focus on person-to-person interaction over an overemphasis on fun but only partially successful methods of technology-dependent instruction. Listen & Learn, at its core, embraces the irreplaceable expertise of hard-working foreign language instructors and built its success around qualified and passionate educators. Be sure to Contact Us with your goals and begin the journey to true fluency in the language of your choice today!