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Rosetta Stone: How to Learn a Foreign Language

Updated on February 21, 2009

We've all seen the ads about the fastest way to learn a new language using Rosetta Stone, endorsed by the US State Department and Military. But does it work?

I have the program for levels 1 and 2 for Spanish, which is for an English speaking person one of the easier langauges to learn. I purchased it used for about $100, which is much cheaper than buying directly from the company (over $500). Go to, which frequently have used copies in mint condition.

Once loaded onto your computer, you are immediately immersed in Spanish. At Level 1, you will find yourself repeating the classes over and over and over because there is no English translation.There will be four photos and a spanish speaker reciting a word or phrase\sentence. You will select which photo is the correct and until you do, it will just repeat. This process continues through both levels but there is more. You can simply go a particular section of a lesson to review once you have mastered earlier sections. You can speak and practice your pronounciation with the authentic voice until you have mastered it. You can repeat the lessons but this time you will write in Spanish the phrase or sentence spoken. This forces you to learn how to write in the language. If the text is not perfect, complete with with accents, you have to try again.

The levels become more involved in sentence structure as you move deeper. from, "The dog runs fast" to "the dog runs fast and chases a person on a red motorcyle in the city". Eventually, you have to deal with small and medium sized paragraphs on a variety of topics. You can turn off the phrase spoken as it appears on the screen and therefore, you only hear the voice, or, you can turn off the voice and see only the text.

As a user, the only drawback is that at times, the user needs to know a translation to be sure they understand correctly what is being said instead of guessing. This option would be nice. Other drawbacks include there is just no way all the dialects and their nuances can be taught. Also, the speakers speak at a set learning pace, which fine, but in real life, native speakers zoom and trying to comprehend without asking them to slow down or repeat is an issue. It would be nice to have a selection of native speakers speak at different speeds, which would finetune your ear to native speakers that rattle so fast you only understand the first few words.

As with any CBT progam, Roseeta stone works only if you allocate 1-2 hours or more daily, you a dedicated to learning the langauge. Take it seriously. As you go about your daily routine, think of the foreign words learned. For instance, as you drive, think of a sentence about driving based upon the foreign words you know. Review in your head words or phrases learned.

Rosetta Stone works because of the repetition factor and it builds upon the previous lesson with photos, a native speaker speaking, the phrase in the native language and you have no reference in the beginning of what is being said. The lessons in the level vary, but there are at least 20 or more. The difficulty is gradual and you do retain the language if you practice.

The real test is when encountering a real person speaking the language you have learned. You want to try it and yet shy to open your mouth in fear of making a fool of yourself. This will be the greatest hurdle and one that the Rosetta Stone cannot even address. Up to this point, you have listened and translated in your mind or in words, practiced pronounciation but carrying on a conversation in real time you have not.

Overall, Rosetta Stone does teach you a language as much as one can. Most languages have four levels. Whether you can become fluent using Rosetta Stone, I doubt it. At best, the user understands the language basics and structure, its words, in the formal sense. You will be able to understand a native speak in general and maybe respond in a basic manner, whether in writing or verbally. However, slang is not even addressed nor are idioms etc. A user of this or any CBT language program would be lost if the native speaker included any commonly used (versus the proper ones) words. Having tested my skills with Spanish speaking friends, we all had a good laugh when I was tossed even a few different dialects or slang into a sentence. I was lost. If the spoken word was done using the proper way, I was able to understand and create some sort of answer.

I will say it is worth buying used and it does help even if you end up not being fluent. It is all about repetition and dedication.


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