6 Good Reasons Why Rosetta Stone Sucks

You’ve seen the Rosetta Stone TV commercials. You’ve read the Rosetta Stone magazine ads. You’ve even walked by the Rosetta Stone kiosk at your local mall or airport. Rosetta Stone is the end all language learning program that will take you to fluency faster than any way possible, right? Well, not exactly…

While Rosetta Stone may have its good points, I’d say it’s far from being the best language program out there. Here are six good reasons why Rosetta Stone sucks.


Reason 1: Rosetta Stone’s vocabulary learning is too slow.

If you have a few years to learn a language and don’t mind learning at a snail’s pace, then Rosetta Stone might be for you. I don’t know about you, but personally I’ve always wanted to learn a language quickly so that I could get on to the fun parts and start using it in real life. You probably don’t want to sit around while it repeats phrases like “The cat is large”.

Reason 2: Rosetta Stone is unclear.

Showing you vague photographs while repeating the foreign language does not necessarily make the word’s meaning clear. Does the photo for the word mean an article of clothing? Or, does it mean a type of shirt? Or, does it mean that specific kind of shirt in the photograph? Or, does it refer to something completely different like the pattern on the shirt? You need to learn the real meaning of a word or you will waste time wondering about its meaning and be afraid of making a mistake in real usage.

Reason 3: Rosetta Stone requires supplements.

Rosetta Stone will not get you anywhere near fluency. It just doesn’t teach nearly enough words and grammar structure. If you want to become proficient in your new language, you are going to need more than just Rosetta Stone or else your ability in the language will be stunted. Rosetta Stone is like a map that shows you 1/8th of the way to your destination. It may be fine for the first bit, but it will leave you lost and stranded on your path to fluency.

Reason 4: Rosetta Stone is lacking in useful phrases.

Rosetta Stone stresses teaching unnatural phrases like “The cat is large” or “The woman is wearing a yellow shirt”. It does *not* teach you useful phrases like how to introduce yourself or even how to say “hello”! Think about this past year. How many times have you said, “The cat is large” and how many times have you said, “Hi, my name is…” Do you really want to be spending all your time learning sentences that you won’t use and not even learn how to say “how are you?”

Reason 5: Rosetta Stone tries to fit every language into a cookie cutter formula.

The truth is, human languages vary widely. One language may be particularly hard in its verb conjugation but easy in its adjectives. Another language may be easy in its verb conjugation but difficult in another aspect like its noun cases. Rosetta Stone does not address the special issues of any one language. It gives equal time to all categories. Furthermore, it simply tries to force each language into its pre-arranged photos and sentences. For this reason, you are missing all of the specifics of the language that are most likely to be different from English and therefore are most important to learn properly!

Reason 6: Rosetta Stone is just plain expensive.

It costs a lot and I’m just not sure if the cost is worth what you are getting considering the problems I’ve outlined. There are cheaper and faster ways of learning a language. If you’re interested in learning about these other faster and cheaper methods, just continue reading below.

As you can see, Rosetta Stone does have its problems but I do admire Rosetta Stone for its innovative use of computer technology to teach a foreign language. It is a nice concept despite its lacking execution and inability to efficiently teach a foreign language. However, its emphasis on interactiveness is a (small) step above textbooks and I would like to see future software products expand on this interactiveness and try to do things right.

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  1. I agree to some of the problems you’ve mentioned, but although The Rosetta Stone seems to me one of the most effective ways to learning a language with the help of the computer. I combine it with pimsleur and movies.
    But probably your book is even more effective. I’ll have a look at it.
    Greetings from germany!

  2. The main reason that Rosetta Stone sucks, IMO, is that adult learners are not children. They don’t have the same kinds of brains that children have. A small child can learn any number of languages through osmosis if they are exposed to them. Moreover, they will speak each of them like a native. It’s the same as with anything else, piano for instance. Give identical piano lessons to a 3 year old and a 30 year old. Assuming that they both practice regularly, the three year old will be monster inside of a year. The 30 year old will NOT.

  3. I completely agree with the points raised in this review on Rosetta Stone. I bought Rosetta Stone Korean 1 online and when I received it in the mail I was so excited until I put it in the computer… I realized I wasted a lot of money. My biggest problem with it is that the pictures can be so vague you don’t know what you are memorizing and sometimes they use words in combination with new adjectives you learned for example when they would usually say “yeoja” (woman) they would use another word for woman that they never taught? What’s the difference? As you can see they don’t like to clarify. My other problem with this software is you can’t always teach grammar through photo, sure you can learn simple sentence structure like, “The boy is under the plane” but how can you demonstrate “Last year we went to Seoul and bought many things.” through a picture? For those of you who are being coaxed into Rosetta Stone, be careful, I would recommend anyone to get a dictionary to go along with Rosetta Stone (which defeats the purpose of the software anyway.) without it you will get lost unless you have background in the language already.

  4. I’ve loved learning languages for many years now so I’ve tried quite a few methods. I tried Rosetta Stone recently expecting it to be better than anything else I’d tried, but it wasn’t much to brag about (so I don’t understand why everybody is). Much of what this post says is very true and I agree with. One thing I wanted to add though is the aspect of how it involves the use of a mic to analyze your pronunciation. But we all know that any given computer and any given mic isn’t nearly as effective as a real person. But in spite of this, the Rosetta Stone program still requires that the program decides you pronounced something right before it progresses you to the next topic. I was saying the simple word for “juice” in Korean and had to say it at least 15 times before I got fed up and put the headset down, at which point the program read the scratching sound picked up on the mic when I set it down as the right pronunciation. Clearly the whole mic usage aspect of Rosetta is practically worthless and it’s absurd how the program is heavily based on it, and the user’s entire progress is documented and graded based off the mic.

  5. Add to the fact that the on screen keyboard layout is ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE and useless.
    First of all, all modern OS’s have the ability to remap the keyboard to the layout of you choice.
    SO if I’m in china I just remap it the the US layout and away I go!

    And there are some people that get payed to be stupid!
    They actually tell you to use your mouse and click on each letter instead of you keyboard!
    To bad the guillotine is illegal … I’m sure the genius would not miss his head!

    Here is what they say the reasons are.
    “The keyboard that you see in Rosetta Stone’s writing exercises is identical to a keyboard that someone who speaks the language you are learning would use. For example, Rosetta Stone French uses a French keyboard in the French writing exercises. Here is an example of Rosetta Stone’s on-screen French keyboard:”

    “The best way to complete the writing exercises is to use your mouse to click the letters in the on-screen keyboard.

    If your keyboard language is English (US), then you can also use the keyboard on your desk. When you press a key on your physical keyboard, the program will act as though you pressed the key that is in that location in the on-screen keyboard.

    Unfortunately, there is no way to change the on-screen keyboard to match your physical keyboard, or to change your keyboard settings to match the on-screen keyboard.

    When you are completing the writing exercises, be careful to include all of the accent marks and punctuation. Pressing the pink and blue keys in the on-screen keyboard will allow you to type special characters.”

  6. I agree. I have pimsler and a farsi website that i use, in conjunction with Rosetta stone. The other two i use together and rosetta stone is sitting there collecting dust. Its not effective and too slow.

  7. I agree with all of this here.
    You can’t learn a language from a CD.
    It take interaction with other native speakers to understand it,there is not magic formula. Thats why I set up my website catering to people who really want to learn Spanish correctly.

  8. The problem that I have with Rosetta Stone is that they are stupid. They have this TV commercial of this young lady who opens by asking, “Are you one of those people who think they can’t learn a foreign language?” TWO GRAMMATICAL errors screech nails across a blackboard to me, an English teacher’s son of 72 years of age. It should be, “Are you one of those people who thinks (“one of those people” is singular stupid!) he or she (not THEY!) can’t learn a foreign language?” So is that how they are going to teach me to speak a foreign language, in a way full of grammatical errors? So I phoned their 800 number and told the person about it and she thanked me. Did it change? No. So I wrote a letter to the CEO of Rosetta Stone on S. Lynn St. in Arlington, VA and no response. This shows that they have an axehole for a CEO and no wonder they screw up royally. I bought the Russian version to get my college Russian built up. They had NO phrases that would help me find the airport, the train station, a hotel, a good restaurant, etc.. What I found to say was, the boy stands under the (airplane) wing. Boy stands on table. Man and woman are dancing. Dog is brown. Cat is black. I think the above comments at the top of the page are spot on.
    Rosetta Stone is run by a dolt and it sucks, yes!

  9. Rosetta Stone is not only expensive, but you cannot resell it or give it away even if it is brand new! According to their obscure “licensing agreement” hidden in the box, it is their property and cannot be transferred under any circumstances. I would NEVER RECOMMEND Rosetta Stone to anyone! I am interested in your language learning system.

  10. Wolf-Dieter v. Schau

    The tech support is lousy. Had issues to run the software on windows 7, computer was not able to start. Had to reinstall the program, could not activate and now RS refuses to give me a code. tells me to are sufficent and my problems they can’t help. The backup don’t work, activation fails. I had altogehter 6 crashes, only the last was not related to RS 3.4 (Bios update and the PC failed to start)
    Can not anybody recomend this expensive program, if they don’t care about their customers

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with those reasons. Rosetta Stone is a complete rip off.

  12. I understand what your getting at.
    Everything is very weird.
    I really don’t need to know how to say the cat is under or on the table.
    I’m a third of the way through and still don’t know how to say ‘My name is…’.
    Good thing I am in school so I can learn it correctly
    It also doesn’t tell you why or anything about the country’s culture.

  13. All good points – also it doesnt recognise voice properly. I’ve sat down with a ‘real’ English to Mandarin tutor. The tutor understands me, the software doesnt. Complete waste of money.

  14. Rosetta Stone did teach me many words in Spanish and I do know how to communicate basically in Spanish, although I haven’t even tried to make a progress through their later levels yet, it does teach you ‘something’, but I’d agree the best way to learn a language isn’t through a computer, just go to school for that, there are plenty out there, because when you speak to a real person and he shows you what is THIS in Spanish and what is THAT then you learn much faster than sitting on the computer…

    I think being lazy and trying to learn a language only through the computer isn’t going to work, you really gotta communicate with people because that way you learn it the best way including writing (they do it in schools in a much better way than RS).

  15. Also, as an end note, I don’t know what you mean by “fluent” but most estimates say it takes 2 years of complete immersion to become truly conversation and 19 years to become native like. To claim that any program might get you “fluent” in months is a sad misleading of trusting people.

  16. I completely agree. It totally sucks.
    Grammar book, phrases(book/net), vocab (quizlet.com).
    That’s the ‘real’ way, and it takes work.

  17. Compatibility issues with multiple languages on the same computer

    I purchased RS French 1,2,3. I then purchased Chinese 1. After trying to install it on my MAC Book, neither will run! I get a 2122 error. Their support is terrible. It’s the type of thing where they put you on hold and transfer you and it never gets solved… I’m out over $500 bucks!

    My advice… Skip Rosetta Stone software… Too expensive for what is delivered. Not to mention compatibility issues with different versions of their software and the fact that they’re terrible at supporting it.

    Robert V.

  18. Exactly, well said.

    The biggest problem is #5. Completely useless for actually trying to learn a real language, not just random vocab.

  19. I agree Rosetta stone sucks. 2 major reasons, no 1 is it teaches you useless words and phrases that you’ll never use in real live. No 2 is when you do rememember a lot of words but to a lot lesser extend sentence structure/how you build proper sentences. These 2 reasons make this program suck major balls IMO and I don’t understand why so many people have recommended it. From my research Fluenz spanish is a much better course, I’ll find out soon cause I just ordered it. Don’t waste your time on Rosetta Stoneage style learning…

  20. I bought Rosetta Stone for my Son. It didn’t work and when I went to sell it Rosetta Stone threatened legal actions for copyright violation. With Rosetta Stone and unlike all other licensed software…you buy it and it’s yours forever!!! They are really overrated and think they are so good when the really suck!

  21. I have only been using Rosetta Stone for the past four days and I am already unimpressed with the program. I am currently learning Spanish (Spain) even though I am fairly fluent in the language (I grew up speaking it). I just wanted to see how good Rosetta Stone was in terms of pronunciation exercises. Now, I’m not sure if I have a bad microphone (probably not since it’s brand new) or I am terrible at pronunciation and I have been terrible at it for the past 20 years of my life but there is one particular speaking exercise, rather one particular lesson, that I continue to get 2/3 on. I have tried every which way to get a 3/3 but after 25 tries I still have a 2/3. I used the listening tool to see the difference between the way I said it and the way the “instructor” said it and the only difference that I saw was that my voice happened to be higher. Frustrated, I think I will give up on that particular lesson and move on. Or just move on from Rosetta Stone. Period.

  22. Having said all that, I’m always on the lookout for new and better ways of learning so I’m looking forward to reading your e-book!

  23. roseta stone sucks balls. If you want to learn a language and have a good time doing it, get a sleeping dictionary, or surriond yourself with friends from that country.

  24. Personally, I don’t think that Rosetta Stone is the best language program in the world, but for all the critsizm it got on here, I’m a little bit surprised!
    I have Latin American Spanish, and while I will never need to say “el gato es sobr√© la mesa” (the cat is on the table), I now know how to refer to other objects that are “on” things.
    Obviously one program isn’t going to teach you everything you need to know about a language, that’s why you should always have a variety of ways you are learning, but this program does have some merit to it! You just have to apply the knowledge that this program gives you to other situations (because I now know what the word for cat is, what the word for “under” is, and quite frankly if you can’t apply these concepts to real-life thoughts and sentences then maybe you shouldn’t be undertaking the process of learning another language in the first place).

  25. Two other reasons. Buggy installation software that was patched way too long after the version incorporating the bug. Very unsophisticated reaction from the software informing the user of that bug. Very unhelpful user support. Very arcane user protection scheme, especially with regard to the stringent ‘authorization’. You can have original disks, correct authorization code, but if you forgot to de-authorize, you will have to provide proof of purchase. No matter when you purchased it. Never bought such an expensive piece of software with such horrid qualities.

  26. Come on guys… have some common sense… RS is just ONE method.. I’ve been learning Turkish and I have been using RS, books and other resources. You can’t expect one approach to do it all. To be honest I use RS for light practice only. The more heavier work involves hitting the books and online resources.. and talking to friends who speak your target language natively (that really helps!)

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