Rosetta Stone revisited–5 changes to the Totale language-learning program

In the past two years, I have purchased many of the language-learning software packages from Rosetta Stone, including the following languages:

  • Spanish, Level 4
  • French, Level 4
  • German, Level 4
  • Portuguese, Level 1-3
  • Arabic, Level 1-3

I completed the Spanish, French, and German, and then worked on the first level of Portuguese and Arabic.    Then in addition to my job search and Toastmaster club activities, I got busy with volunteer work for busy the Project Management Institute last fall.    However, I still was able to continue with my Rosetta Stone studies.   In fact, they made a nice mental break from all of the other things I had to do.   But this spring,  when I moved to Chicago after living in Los Angeles for a decade in order to help my father who was dealing with some health issues, I found myself temporarily overwhelmed and had to curtail my Rosetta Stone online subscription.

Now that my father’s health condition has (fortunately) stabilized, I have decided to go back to Rosetta Stone and I wanted to mention some of the changes in the program for those who may be interested in purchasing Rosetta Stone.

1.   Rosetta Course–Downloaded Course

The “main menu” in the Rosetta Stone Totale language-learning program is the course itself.    Many of the most popular languages that Rosetta Stone offers such as Spanish have five levels, which take you from the beginner level at level 1, to becoming fluent in the language by level 5.    Some languages such as Arabic only have levels 1 through 3, which take you from beginning to intermediate level by the time you complete.

What is different now is that you can order just the Rosetta Course alone.    This allows you to learn the language, including Rosetta Studio, which allows you to practice what you’ve learned with a native speaker.     This feature alone in my opinion makes the investment in Rosetta Stone worthwhile.    Self-study of a foreign language is possible, but you can only gain confidence if you are able to speak with an actual native speaker and make yourself understood.

2.  Rosetta Course–Online Course

The advent of smartphones, tablet devices, etc., has made accessing the online course even more convenient than before.   In parts of Europe, Rosetta Stone is no longer sold in the familiar package with CDs–it’s downloaded via the internet.    And now Rosetta Stone in the US is offering a totally online version that doesn’t even require that you download the course like you had to before.    This gives you on a subscription basis access to the entire course on a six-month or 12-month basis.   This is probably the wave of the future for Rosetta Stone to sell its programs solely on an online-access basis rather than downloading to one’s computer.

I have an iPhone and have access to the review for each lesson through Rosetta Stone; if I had a tablet device, I could access the main content of each lesson as well.    In addition, the audio portion of the program is available for listening through iTunes, which I do when I go for walks.   (I could use it while driving, but I make it a personal point not to in order to pay attention to the road.)   These features are just an added dimension to Rosetta Stone’s online course.

3.   Rosetta Studio–session length

Speaking of Rosetta Studio, it appears that they have changed the previous live 60-minute session with a 30-minute session.   This was probably done in order to make it less intimidating for those who are first trying out their new language.    I have yet to schedule a session, so I can’t say how it differs in content that before, but I intend to try it in the next week or so.

4.   Rosetta Studio–number of sessions

In the past, you could schedule an unlimited number of sessions in a month, but now it seems they have limited the number to 4 sessions you can schedule in a month.    I think this is realistic, and here’s why.    The Rosetta Stone course as I mentioned consists of 5 levels.    Each level of competency consists of 4 units, and each unit consists of 4 lessons, after which there is a review called a Milestone for that unit.    I calculated the amount of time it takes to do all the activities in a unit, and it comes out to about two weeks to complete a unit with four lessons, if you work about 30 minutes a day.    That means in a week you can finish two lessons out of that unit, and Rosetta Studio now allows you to take a session after only two lessons rather than having to complete the entire unit as before.    So if you have a modest time commitment to Rosetta Stone on a daily basis, you will be able to have 4 sessions per month, which means the completion of two units.     This pace, if continued on, would allow you to complete an entire level in two months, or the entire suite of five levels in less than a year!

5.  Rosetta World–learning through play

I think one of the most innovative features of Rosetta Stone’s Totale program isn’t the Studio–that’s like the meat and potatoes of the program.   The dessert portion of the Rosetta Course, in my opinion, is the Rosetta World, which allows you to play interactive games by yourself or with another partner, to read stories in the target language, or to even chat with someone who may be learning your language, thereby meeting somewhere in the linguistic middle between the two languages.    This seems to be easier to navigate and use, and the number of stories available to be read by the learner has also seemed to have been rounded out.

So Rosetta Stone has evolved in the half year I have been away, due to the changes in technology, and by listening to feedback from many users on what features they were using, but sometimes what features they weren’t using and why they weren’t using them.    This is the essence of quality improvement, when you find out the needs of customers and translate them into the technical features of the product that meets those needs.

I have started by reviewing the first level of Arabic this summer, so that by the time fall comes, I can start on Level 2.   I must say that it’s nice to be back studying with Rosetta Stone, although it is certainly not the only language-learning tool I use.   I have used Michel Thomas, Pimsleur, Duolingo, and the courses at the Foreign Service Institute website (, not to mention audio magazines such as the ones offered by Plango (Champs Elysees for French, Schau ins Land for German, and Puerta del Sol for Spanish), and the now discontinued Nihongo Journal for Japanese.   And no serious language learner would be remiss without mentioning the polyglot powerhouse that is Benny Lewis, the author of the website Fluent in 3 Months!

But although all of these programs have had something to say for them, I must say that Rosetta Stone is still one of my favorites for its philosophy of learning a new language by total immersion, rather than as an academic subject the way most of us have experienced the learning of a language.    Other language learning programs like Living Language by Transparent Language are copying Rosetta Stone’s formula by offering a chance to speak with native speakers as part of their program!   If you think about it, just like the old airline slogan used to say, “it’s the only way to fly!”


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