Pros / Its immersive teaching style helps you learn new concepts quickly and retain information.
Cons / The live tutoring feature costs extra.
Verdict / Rosetta Stone is the most effective language learning software we tested.
Rosetta Stone takes a different approach to teaching than most of the Spanish learning software we tested. It teaches you Spanish the same way you learned English as a child – by total immersion. All its courses, exercises and games are completely 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. During testing, our reviewers found immersion was the most effective teaching style.
One of Rosetta Stone’s standout features is its companion mobile app. The mobile app has the same lessons and functionality as the desktop application, but the company updates the mobile version with new content and features more frequently.
The app is convenient for people who enjoy learning on the go because you can download fully functional, interactive lessons to your mobile device and access them without using Wi-Fi or cellular data. Other programs we tested only let you download audio versions of their lessons to listen to when you don’t have internet access.
Rosetta Stone recently started selling its software as a subscription. This may seem more expensive than purchasing a perpetual license, but you only need to subscribe to the service for as long as you plan to use it. For instance, if you’re planning a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, you can purchase a three-month subscription for less than $50 to prepare, then cancel at any time without penalty.
Each unit in Rosetta Stone has four core lessons that use flashcards to teach image-word associations. In these exercises, you match images to their corresponding words and phrases. The first few lessons are easy enough, teaching you basic words like "boy," "girl," "eat" and "drink." You use the words and phrases from the core lessons in the grammar, reading, writing and pronunciation modules. This linear learning path creates a solid foundation to build on with more complex concepts in later units.
This is one of only two programs we tested that offer virtual face-to-face lessons with a live tutor, the other program being Pimsleur. It costs extra to work with Rosetta Stone’s live tutors when you purchase the consumer-level subscription, but it comes standard with the enterprise and business subscriptions.
Rosetta Stone has the most comprehensive progress tracking tools of any Spanish teaching program we reviewed. It breaks down your performance in each core lesson by your pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and speaking. This way, you know exactly what your strengths are and where you need to improve. If your pronunciation or speaking need improvement, a 30-minute session with a live tutor could be a great way to quickly catch up.
The program’s speaking exercises use TruAccent speech recognition technology to compare your pronunciation to that of a pool of thousands of native speakers. It gives you instant feedback, and if you pronounce the word wrong, the software repeats the exercise until you get it right. In Rosetta Stone, the playback of the native speaker’s voice sounds more authentic and is more useable than the recordings in the other programs we tested.
If you have a hard time pronouncing common words or phrases, Rosetta Stone’s phrasebook is a good resource for practicing outside the prescribed lesson plan. It has a list of hundreds of common phrases to help you speak with a waiter, find the subway or navigate the airport. The phrasebook plays an example of a native speaker saying the phrase, and you can record your voice and compare the two.
Rosetta Stone is the best Spanish learning software we tested. Its lessons cover all the important language subjects, and it is easy to use. The software’s mobile app is also the best we tested, and it allows you to complete full lessons from anywhere, regardless of whether you have access to Wi-Fi or cellular data. The cost of a subscription may seem expensive, but it is a good option for people who want to become fluent quickly, as well as those who need the program for a short time to learn Spanish for a business trip or vacation.