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Is Rosetta Stone the Answer to Learning Spanish?

Yes.  No.  Maybe.  How’s that for an answer?

Rosetta Stone LogoIf you don’t yet know what Rosetta Stone is,  you don’t watch much TV because they run a ton of ads.  Basically, Rosetta Stone is software designed to “immerse” you into the language you wish to learn.  This is done by using audio, pictures, and user feedback through choosing an option on screen, writing out an answer, or saying the answer using the headphones/microphone they provide.

Here is how Rosetta Stone describes their approach:

Dynamic Immersion® is the cornerstone of the Rosetta Stone method. By eliminating translation and grammar explanations from language learning, Dynamic Immersion activates your own natural language-learning ability. You begin to think in your new language from the very beginning—the same way you learned your first language.

You constantly interact with the software by connecting words with images to confirm their meaning—all through a carefully designed sequence that helps you build grammatically-accurate language structure step by step.

Rosetta Stone Screen Shot

Rosetta Stone Screen Shot

I own Rosetta Stone Spanish Levels 1-5 and I can tell you it is pretty slick.  The interface is easy to navigate and the images and audio they use are top notch.  The speech recognition is pretty good as well; as good as any other speech recognition software I’ve used.

Of course, there are some drawbacks also.  First of all is the price.  Currently it’s available for $249 for the complete set of Levels 1-5.  Expect price to vary depending on when you read this and if they are having a sale.  Also, you can watch for it on Craigslist or eBay and try and pick it up used.  You don’t have to buy all the levels at once if you prefer to just purchase level 1 to give it a workout.  Level 1 alone is about $179.

Another drawback for some people is the immersion approach they use.  When you start the program, there are no English instructions on what you should be doing.  It’s a bit of trial and error before you begin to understand what is expected.  Of course, this is by design because Rosetta wants you to have to figure things out by trying to think in Spanish from the beginning.  It helps to have a Spanish/English dictionary with you when you are working with Rosetta.  Using a dictionary along with Rosetta will speed up the learning process because you’ll better understand some of the words and sentences they use.

As I mentioned, the speech recognition software is pretty good but this can equate to really frustrating for some people.  A cool feature they provide is the ability to turn off the speech recognition portion as you are doing your lessons.  You lose the practice of saying the words but if the speech recognition really bothers you, the option to turn it off is available.

Now that you have a better idea of what Rosetta Stone is all about, let’s get back to the original question and title of this post; is Rosetta Stone the answer to learning Spanish?  No, it’s not the answer.

I think a better question to ask would be, “Can Rosetta Stone be part of the answer to learning Spanish?”  The answer to that is yes.  Don’t expect one software program to provide everything you need to become fluent.  You shouldn’t expect fluency from any one book, video or course either.  The best and most realistic approach is to utilize a variety of materials.

I’m happy with my purchase of Rosetta Stone and have enjoyed using the software for myself and my kids.  But, if the price is too steep, then don’t feel like you are missing out on the be-all, end-all of learning the language.