Gift Idea: Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software

RosettaStone can help you or your student learn 31 languages and dialects using a computer instead of books, CDs or lectures. RosettaStone’s software would make a great gift for anyone who wants to learn a language, but doesn’t want to sit through tortuous lectures. RosettaStone has it’s flaws, but I prefer it to learning languages in a classroom.

The lessons are very similar pattern to what you’d expect out of a textbook, but they are fully interactive and the software is fun to use. Each language has three levels that can be purchased separately or as a bundle. The Level 1 package is broken down into four units covering the basics of the language, greetings, work & school and shopping.

Single levels of each language are available on CD-ROM for $259 or you can buy all three levels of a language for $549. There is a web-based version available that costs $199 for a six-month subscription. There is a Mac and PC version of the software included on each CD.

I used Spanish Level 1 for a couple of weeks and really enjoyed the experience compared to my high school and college language classes. I took French for two years in high school and never did perfect my pronunciation of common phrases.

In college I switched to Spanish because I thought it’d be much more useful since I live in California. Spanish 101 went ok, but Spanish 102 was a different story. I got so frustrated with Spanish 102 that I dropped out of that class….twice. The third time was the charm and I passed with a C before finally nailing Spanish 103 on the first try with another C.

The two times I did manage to learn and use languages well enough to get around was when I studied abroad in Thailand and spent a summer in Germany. I was by no means fluent in German or Thai, but I could grunt my way through a conversation and understand just enough to get the gist of natives’ conversations. My primary challenge with learning languages is that it’s tough for me to pronounce foreign words.

RosettaStone is like having a language lab and a tutor in your notebook. comes with a USB headset with a microphone and a great pronunciation tool. When my pronunciation needed improvement RosettaStone showed me exactly what I was doing wrong.

Obviously I’m not the fastest language learner and one thing I really like about RosettaStone’s system is that it allows me to go at my own pace. There were no teachers getting frustrated when I don’t get something right. RosettaStone allows you to adjust how perfect your pronunciation needs to be to pass a section. I like this because it let me zip through a lesson the fist time with so-so pronunciation, but fine tune my pronunciation on a second pass.

Completing Level 1 can take a looooonnnggg time. While I definitely prefer RossettaStone to my lecture/lab experience from school, it is still geared for people who are looking to use Level 1 as a building block towards becoming fluent rather than getting a crash course before travelling overseas. This is a positive for students, but a negative for people like myself who travel overseas on a regular basis. Level 1 covers phrases like She has a dog” and the new house is red” instead of phrases that are much more likely to be useful in real-world situations.

RosettaStone used to offer a travelers’ version of their software and I think it’s something they should bring back so users can quickly learn phrases like:

Where is the nearest ATM”

Where is the bathroom?”

Do you speak English?”

Can you please take my photo?”

RosettaStone should also include more relevant photos in its lessons. Spanish Level 1 had photos of an Indian snake charmer and a fruit stand in Italy. This doesn’t distract from the learning process too much, but it would be nice if everything matched up a bit better.


If you’re willing to put in the hours you can definitely use RosettaStone to teach yourself a foreign language and nail pronunciations. The software isn’t perfect and it’s not the right choice for people who want a quick dose of lessons before traveling for just a short trip. RosettaStone is much more enjoyable than using text books and listening to a teacher berate you as you butcher a language.