Why Rosetta Stone Sucks



There sure are a lot of e-learning and language software out there. One of the most popular ones is Rosetta Stone. At VCU we spent 20 hours with Rosetta Stone software. Here are some of the things I learned from my experience prior to leaving for Russia – and where Rosetta Stone gets it right and wrong.


Rosetta Stone provides a software that projects audio, visual, and voice recognition technology to help you immerse yourself in language simulations featuring vocabulary, speech pronunciation, and writing exercises. Within these images, you have four options to choose like a multiple-choice test. There are numerous levels of Rosetta Stone, with the All-In-One Package retailing at $399.


In September 2011, the US Army’s Contract with Rosetta Stone and all of it’s two dozen language programs expired. With no surprise – the contract has not been renewed. Despite being hailed as the most widely used platform for language learning for government, military, business, and travel – it does not work for the simple reason that it cannot provide enough immersion.

For 400 Bucks

For $399 You Can Say “They Are Cooking”


Rosetta Stone applies the same cookie-cutter photo and vocabulary exercises for it’s languages often utilizing environments like dining, housing, outdoors, sports, and etc. However, if you are going to be on the streets of Madrid and you see the picture (pictured right) about men eating, cooking, and etc. You’re cheating yourself and wasting your money.

Real Scenario – Streets of Madrid 

It’s a warm summer day and you’re a tourist in Madrid, you turn to the person next to you as you desperately need directions to get to your hotel – or perhaps a performance at an outdoor venue later that evening. Chances are, you won’t begin this conversation with “The Men Are Eating” like an asshole. No, instead you’ll be asking – Where To Go, Where to Turn, How Many Blocks, What is the Address, What Monuments are Nearby, etc.

When you’re on the ground in a foreign country and you’ve prepped by e-learning, the last thing you need to know is how to explain the kid throwing the ball, the cat under the table, or that the dishes are in the dish washer. I think you get the point now.


Perhaps the most notable experience I recall with Rosetta Stone (Russian) was pronunciation. Speech exercises were my favorite, and I do recall a few Russian exercises that delved on traffic direction – The Car is Going Right/Left/Straight. The often tedious, hit-or-miss pronunciation exercises for complex languages like Russian can be quite helpful as the listener can tune into the accent and speech of a native on the other end. In this respect, Rosetta Stone is a pretty good resource.


Haggling Prices - Ismailovo Flea Market (Moscow)

Haggling Prices – Ismailovo Flea Market (Moscow)

Real language learning comes from trial and error, conversation, grammar practice and absolute immersion – think of it like learning as a child. Rosetta Stone fails horribly when it comes to explaining grammar rules or complex sentence structures necessary to formulate coherent dialogue when you need it most.

Additionally, Rosetta Stone fails again when it comes to how you utilize the software – You have four boxes, all of them are options, and you can guess. Rosetta Stone treats it like a multiple choice test with options!

When you’re on the ground in Cairo looking for that special restaurant – you won’t have any time to guess. There is no guessing when you’re trying to speak a language in a foreign country. Think to yourself – How often will anyone be holding four index card in front of your face providing you options to communicate? Never.


Transactions and Money

Foreigners get taken advantage of all the time. Marked up prices, scams, ATM fees – you name it. More importantly – the most critical point of using money can come down to the grammar and conversation ability to be able to specify quantities of currency, how much needed, even understanding the vocabulary of “exact change” (I once ran into this problem ordering a Kg of apples – it was frustrating)

Having an ability to speak the language regarding price amounts may allow you to haggle the price – which in any case, you should always do. In some countries or cultures, the idea of overcharging or scamming a foreigner is not considered wrong – but moreso the culture of business.

Directions and Logistics

You need to fully understand how to say where you need to go – to read the street signs in the native language, and to reconfigure your sense of direction in a new place. This means establishing landmarks – finding unique monuments, buildings, or areas to make a mental note of the city geography to help you establish your sense of direction. If you’re in a study abroad or traveling with a group – you can be sure that you’ll need to be prepared to get lost from your group or to effectively direct large amounts of people at a moments notice.

Timezones and Scheduling

Depending on your reason for traveling, you can be sure the time zones will change, and in some cultures like Russia – the day is represented by four period of time, each of them ending and beginning at the exact set hour. Even Eastern cultures have different calendars and holidays take into account as well. Knowing the names of the days, months, and year (in all forms of grammar, most importantly) is vital to booking flights or trains, or even asking someone out for coffee.

Where Can You Learn More About Going Abroad?

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  • Sarah Ireland 4 years ago

    I have some comments about Rosetta Stone. I am using it to learn Farsi, and I have used it to brush up on French. I would never recommend it as a first language program, but I would as a third. It does in fact teach you grammar, you just have to look for it. It teaches you how to do plurals, how to do negations, how to find she, it, me, I, we, them. They teach you “they are cooking” as an alternative to “he is cooking.” I wouldn’t recommend it for a second language exactly for that reason: you don’t know what grammar to look for. You will have to fill in the holes, but it will teach you a broad array of vocabulary and if you decide to study on the side to fill in the holes or have things explained further (which the codes within the package do provide)you can learn enough to start understanding written and conversational use of the language. Rosetta Stone is not enough by itself, of course, but it does provide all the tools you need to actively learn a new language.

  • What I really don’t like about Rosetta Stone is their copy protection. I bought the software about 7 years ago. The software requires the CD-ROM to be physically in the machine in order to operate. I’m sure they are aware that physical disks wear out and would love to sell me the license again, but modern computers don’t ship with CD-ROM drives.

    This was a problem I ran into multiple times over the past several years as I’ve used netbooks, PC emulators on linux and mac and other scenarios where CD-ROM aren’t available.

    If I had known their copy protection was so strict, I would have never bought it. As a legitimate owner of a very expensive license, I can’t even use the software I own. I’ll never trust them with any of their more modern tools. I hope they close shop and the founders are forced to see open-source, GPL incarnations of their software develop.

  • Evelyn 3 years ago

    i can’t stand their long musical commercials in spanish-speaking channels!–like I had enought with High School Musical, and not Im dealing with Rosetta Stone’s repetitive musical ads XP

  • Anonomus 2 years ago

    agreed, i didnt learn shit from rosettastone and its a waste of time and money.