Center for Advanced Study of Language Report on Rosetta Stone

Every now and again because I did my PhD research on second language teaching/learning I get asked what I think about Rosetta Stone.  So, I thought I’d post a link to the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language report on Rosetta Stone entitled: “Rosetta Stone V3 Falls Short of Manufacturer’s Claims.”

As it turns out, a lot of people are interested in knowing how well Rosetta Stone works because government agencies have poured a lot of money into it (It is my understanding that the US Army recently allowed their contract with Rosetta Stone to expire, but I couldn’t find relevant links to determine if this report or others like it might provide a reason why).  So, there are plenty of people who have looked through software more thoroughly than me, and I will defer to them.  All I will say is that I looked at several languages in Rosetta Stone, for example Modern Hebrew and Latin, during my PhD research.  This report pretty well sums up the way that I felt about the product, particularly about the cultural irrelevance of the pictures and the software overstating its claims.

Here’s an excerpt from conclusions of the report:

Our review of Rosetta Stone V3 reveals that while some problems with V2 have been addressed, there is still more room for improvement. Further, it is unlikely that using V3 would have had much of an effect (if any) on the outcomes of our previous empirical study, which examined the effects of V2 on language learning.

Therefore, our conclusions and recommendations remain the same.  The claims made by the Rosetta Stone manufacturers concerning the innovativeness of their product as well as the language learning outcomes possible after use are generally overstated. While it is possible that learners using this product might learn some conversational phrases, the software does not provide the dynamic environment required to practice using the language in context. Rosetta Stone might be a useful tool to supplement vocabulary acquisition in a more well-rounded language course, but as a stand-alone package it is unlikely to be the solution to the U.S. Government’s language learning needs.

If you’re considering purchasing one of Rosetta Stone’s products, you may want to give the whole report a read at the link above.  I’m not necessarily saying not to buy the software.  This report does note some positives about it.  Only, be aware that their marketing may be setting you up with very unrealistic expectations, especially considering the price that you are paying.