Has anyone used Rosetta Stone?

If so, for what language? Was it effective? How much time is required?
I’d like to get better at Hebrew. I already know the alphabet and a smattering of words. I was wondering how this program does with a foreign alphabet. Has anyone used it for Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, or another alphabet?

I’m guessing “no.”

I was visiting my folks over the winter holidays and while I was there I read through some of their old National Geographic magazines. Rosetta Stone had an advertisement in all of the issues I read.

I’ve never used Rosetta Stone myself, but some of their claims in the advertisements were not entirely true. IIRC, they seemed to be claiming their software mimics the kind of language input that children receive, and that by using this software you would be learning language just like a child.

Most researchers agree that first language acquisition (FLA) and second language acquisition (SLA) are two entirely different processes. For children FLA is a cognitive-psychological process closely tied in with their development as a human. There’s still much debate on the how’s and why’s of this process, including the exact role of the language input children receive from the environment.

For an adult learning a second language, SLA is more like skill development, like learning to play a musical instrument. The general consensus is that a person past the “critical period” (around the onset of puberty) will never fully acquire a second language. You can be fluent in a second language, but you will never have as deep a “knowledge” of that language as your own first language. (Bilingual children are considered to have two “first languages”.)

There’s also much debate on how to teach and learn a second language. Most researchers agree, however, that reading is important for vocabulary development, and meaningful communication is important for grammar and fluency development. “Meaningful communication” refers to the actual exchange of information with another person in the second language, not just rote repetition of phrases or memorization of short dialogues.

Language learning also involves receptive (reading, listening) and productive (writing, speaking) skills. Software like Rosetta Stone would only provide you with opportunities for receptive learning.

To get back to your original question, I would hazard the guess that Rosetta Stone would give you some vocabulary and grammatical input, and that the “interactive” nature of the software would make learning this input more interesting and motivating than using a regular textbook.

I have no idea as to the amount or quality (in this case usefulness) of the input you would receive, and whether or not this would be worth the price tag. One of the leading vocabulary acquisition researchers recommends learning something like 100 new words a week, and I highly doubt the software provides you with this much input.

You would not be learning language just like a child would. You would not have any opportunities for meaningful communication, and your productive skills would not develop unless you had another speaker to practice with.


I bet that Rosetta Stone would provide you a good working knowledge of the basics of a language but not much else, so it may not be worth the price. If you have the money to spend then it would work if used in combination with other speakers to practice with, and additional sources of the language (textbooks, magazines, TV shows etc.)

Hope that helps.

Yes, that is helpful- thanks. :slight_smile:

I played with Rosetta Stone not terribly long ago. I liked it, and thought it could be extremely useful. It’s repetition, but mixes it up enough that you have to think - it’ll have a word they’ve taught you, or later on a phrase with maybe 1 new word you have to figure out, and then 4 pictures - you have to choose the picture that goes with that word or phrase.

As an example, they might have pictures of a ball, a picnic table, a horse, and an airplane, and you have to pick the one that matches the word.

I know I’m not describing it well, but it makes sense, is intuitive, gets both sides of your brain working, and seems to work pretty well.

I did not go very deep into the program, so I can’t speak for anything more than a half hour of testing it out.

I’ve used Rosetta Stone for Spanish. I took Spanish throughout High School (around 20 years ago), and I still remember some, so it was mostly vocab training for me.

My main problem with it is that it doesn’t take you through an academic understanding of what you’re saying. You come to understand what most of the stuff you’re saying means, but the fundamental fine points, like how to conjugate verbs, is never spelled out. I realized a ways into the program that my prior understanding of the language was really helping me out, and that if the language had been totally foreign, like Chinese, I would probably have been completely lost at that point.

I think this would definitely be a problem for me.

I remembered that pkbites had asked about this a few months ago and the responses were not very positive.

Here’s his thread

I’ll be reading here with interest to see if there are any kind of online ways to study a language that actually work. My wife is interested in learning Italian and I would like to learn with her. I wouldn’t mind paying for this if it were for a proper course that worked.

I search the 'net and find two extremes: either glitzy companies that want to sell you something in a box; or full-bore university courses.

In this modern Internet age, aren’t there any moderately priced online courses where instructors in Italy teach students in … anywhere, over Skype?

Agree. I’ve used it do get my conversational German and a bit of Arabic and Mandarin just for fun up to speed, but I’d say the Rosettas would only be useful with a good textbook. Plus they tend to stop at a very basic level of competence.

I like the Michel Thomas series, but it’s probably quicker to use a book and look to supplement with audio tapes/CDs or a teacher. Most definitely cheaper than buying Rosetta – those things are pricey for how little you get.

No; if there were, they’d be as well-funded as the good folks at Rosetta. A private local tutor would be cheaper, and Italian is pretty easy to sound out phonetically, so even a textbook for college students would do you well.

Failing that, for hiring somebody over the internet it would probably be cheaper to just fly there for a bit and chat up some locals. Italian is all about the accent, and not some much about the grammar.

I can take Spanish at the local community college for less than half of what it costs for Rosetta Stone - and community colleges tend to arrange their schedules to accommodate working people, too. This seems like the obvious solution to learning more common languages. If you want to learn, say, Czech or Swahili, you’re going to have a harder time, though.

Hebrew isn’t a very commonly spoken language in the US, but it’s not that hard to find classes in it - ThelmaLou, have you contacted your local synagogue? It is very likely that they will have Hebrew classes, or know where you can take them, for free or for very cheap. I took Hebrew for free for a year in college at the local Hillel.

Second this – in any medium or larger city in the US, there will be a number of free- or nominally-priced places in which to learn Hebrew, much more effectively than through Rosetta Stone. I still think the Michel Thomas tapes are the best of all language self-instruction materials, but have no idea if he has a course in Hebrew, and, regardless, the best way is through contact with a talented and interested teacher, and, perhaps, fellow pupils.

No, he doesn’t (unfortunately enough, because I believe he could speak Hebrew).

I wouldn’t recommend Rosetta Stone software at all. As others have said, it doesn’t teach you any grammar rules, it just teaches you to memorise words and phrases like a parrot, so you’re not learning how to use the language at all. It’s also horrendously dull and repetitive.

I work with literally dozens, if not hundreds, of people that picked up second (and third) languages well after puberty, and I would strongly disagree with this ‘general consensus’. I do suspect that pronunciation may suffer for older learners, but pronunciation is not a very good proxy for language proficiency (although it is important in terms of the *perception *of proficiency).

I stopped at a Rosetta Stone booth in the mall a few years ago and spent about 15 minutes playing with the first Irish lesson. I specifically picked a language that I didn’t already know. I did pretty well, particularly when it came to repeating what the speaker had said. I would love to actually try something like Rosetta Stone, but there is absolutely no way I’m going to spend $400-500 on it. I’ve gone so far as to look on eBay or Craig’s List for a used copy, but I didn’t find anything in the $100 range. Perhaps my expectations are a little unreasonable in that regard.

As with any language training, the key is actually speaking and hearing the language in a near-immersion manner. There is absolutely nothing like needing to learn a language in order to have one’s basic necessities met to kick one’s butt into gear. Simply listening to tapes or CDs and even speaking into a computer program like Rosetta Stone might teach you the basics. But after that (or perhaps, in conjunction with that), you need daily conversational practice, for as long as you can get it.

If you already have some skills in Hebrew, DVR some Hebrew soap operas. If you live near a large city, there should be a channel that has Hebrew language shows.

See if you can follow what they are saying. If you miss something, just go back and listen to it again. Try to get to the point where you can understand everything that is being said during the entire program. I find this a good way to improve one’s listening comprehension. It helps to have a Hebrew speaking friend watching with you to explain things.

Its not a complete language lesson, but its useful and free.

People can pick up languages after puberty, sure, and some can even become fluent at it, but it’s never going to be as good as someone who learned it at a younger age. I’ve met many Korean Americans who immigrated when they were 13 or older, and while they are pretty much fluent in English and have perfect pronunciation, there’s always something in their speech that betrays that it’s not their first language.

I tried Rosetta Stone for Japanese a number of years ago, and it was completely useless for actually learning to speak and understand a language.

I was a poster in that thread so I won’t repeat everything I said there, but my opinion stands. Don’t waste your precious time or money on Rosetta Stone.

There are a few online courses with live instructors. For example, I tried JOI (Japanese Online Institute), which works over Skype. My instructors were Japanese, in Japan. I gave it up though as I’m not the type who gets much out of short, one-on-one sessions, and tend to learn better in an interactive, classroom evironment. I’m not saying they’re not good; they’re just not for me.

For me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. My conversational Japanese has improved significantly since I’ve been taking live classes. Although I have passed level 4 of the national JLPT, I am confident I’d still be spinning my wheels with particles and kanji radicals if I’d stuck with an online course, and would be barely able to understand, much less respond to, someone asking me my name in Japanese if I’d continued with Rosetta Stone.

My wife uses Rosetta Stone to reinforce her Spanish. She tried it for a while as a primary learning method, but it didn’t work terribly well. We’re currently taking lessons every week or two, and she finds that it’s actually pretty useful for reinforcing what we’ve already learned.

Seems to me that’s about the extent of its utility.

I think all online/computer courses are all more or less worthless. The best way to practice understanding a language by yourself is (1) Listening to an audiobook while reading the book and (2) TV shows with subtitles in the language. (2) would be better and more interesting, but the subtitles never match up exactly with what the people are saying.

Basic to intermediate vocabulary is best done by flashcards, IMHO. For things like happy, sad, hammer, chair, etc. that have one to one translations for most things. Once you get enough vocab, reading books or newspapers is very good to reinforce things. Advanced vocabulary for nebulous ideas like exasperated or convoluted is tough to do outside of having it explained by a native speaker, but books at dictionaries help.

In order to be able to speak a language, there is only one way. You need to speak, speak, speak, speak, speak, and speak it some more. There is no substitution. Doing rote translation drills will never get you to the “stream of consciousness” level of speed necessary to actually talk in a language.