PROS / Rosetta Stone completely immerses you in Spanish with its hallmark intuition-based approach to language learning.
CONS / You don’t have the ability to slow down recordings or turn on English subtitles and translations.
VERDICT / This software is for the truly committed Spanish student. It’s the most effective program on our side-by-side comparison chart.
Rosetta Stone is the most recognizable name when it comes to learning Spanish. It has a well-earned reputation as the most effective and immersive language learning experience. It takes a different approach than most of the products on our side-by-side comparison chart in that it teaches you Spanish the same way you learned English as a child. All its courses, exercises, games and more are totally in Spanish without any English translations to guide you. This forces you to learn words, grammar and syntax by association rather than with vocabulary lists and drills.
This Spanish learning program is geared toward serious, long-term learners who are committed to being fluent. It employs speech recognition algorithms to make sure you pronounce words and phrases correctly. It augments its core lessons with fun games, a mobile app, and even online tutors to enhance the learning experience and make you the most effective Spanish speaker you can be. For these reasons and more, it earned the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award in our review of the best Spanish learning programs.
The core lessons in Rosetta Stone are flashcard-based, image-word association exercises where you match images to their corresponding words and phrases. The first few lessons are easy enough, teaching you basic words like "man," "woman," "eat" and "drink." As the courses progress, the lessons become harder, teaching grammar, conjugation and syntax with increasingly complex phrases and their associated images. This approach teaches you to read, speak and understand the language more effectively than most of the other Spanish learning programs we reviewed.
As you complete the core Spanish learning courses in this program, you unlock the ability to play games like BuzzBingo and Picari. These games put what you’ve learned into practice and enhance your listening and word recognition skills. You can also connect and play games with other Spanish learners and read along with stories as the software tells them to you. No other Spanish learning course we reviewed can match Rosetta Stone’s breadth and scope of supplementary content.
To use this learn Spanish program, you must have a USB headset with a microphone. This is because it employs speech recognition to help you master correct Spanish pronunciation. Speaking exercises shows you words and phrases with their associated images. It then plays the matching words for you to repeat. It listens and evaluates how you’ve spoken the word or phrase. If you don’t say it correctly, it repeats the exercise until you get it right. This sort of repetition alone is invaluable to anyone trying to learn Spanish because it forces you to improve, which gives you the essential speaking skills you need when the time comes to talk to a native speaker.
One of the bonus features of Rosetta Stone is what it calls Audio Companion, which is a collection of MP3 lessons you can use with any media player. You can sync these tracks to a smartphone, tablet or another mobile device and listen to them wherever you go. It’s a great addition to the desktop version of the service that enhances the vocabulary, comprehension and listening skills needed to truly master the Spanish language.
Rosetta Stone has almost all the tools and features we look for in the best Spanish learning software, but it lacks a couple that are worth mentioning. There’s no option to turn on English subtitles or translations – mostly because it runs counter to what Rosetta Stone is built on. Still, for learners who want a direct translation, this ability would be useful.
There’s no way to change the speed at which the program plays words and phrases either. The ability to slow it down would be helpful for some students working with pronunciation. However, there are several spots in the core lessons that break words down to their components to help you learn how words and phrases are constructed in Spanish.
After you’ve completed the core lessons of Rosetta Stone, you have the option to schedule an online tutoring session with a native Spanish speaker. These sessions last about half an hour and are immensely helpful. These tutors can walk you through specific aspects of the language that you have trouble with. This also prepares you for speaking in real-world situations where theory and learning turn into actual conversations.
One of the things we like most about Rosetta Stone is that it doesn’t chain you to a chair and a computer monitor. It has an extremely versatile mobile app that you can use on a smartphone or tablet. This app has all the core lessons, games and tools found in the desktop version. All you need is an internet connection and you can learn Spanish wherever you want.
Rosetta Stone has the most comprehensive personal progress tracking tools of any of the learn Spanish programs we reviewed. It breaks down each core lesson by your pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and speaking. This way, you’ll know exactly where your strong points are and where you need to improve.
Setup & Support
There are several ways you can subscribe to Rosetta Stone. For our review, we relied on the online version, which requires no installation and can be accessed from any web browser, no matter where you are. You can still get the classic yellow-box software version, but it can only be used on a single computer.
If you ever have a customer or technical support issue, you can log on to Rosetta Stone’s website and connect to a customer support representative through its online chat service. However, most common problems can be resolved by consulting its FAQs section.
Rosetta Stone took the top spot in our review of the best Spanish learning software for several reasons. Chief among them is its unique and immersive technique for teaching a new language. It also provides multiple learning tools outside its main lessons that give you many ways to learn Spanish, like games, supplementary audio lessons and a mobile app. Rosetta Stone is the most effective program we reviewed, but you must be committed to using it regularly for it to work.