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Pros: Intuitive methods and straightforward interface make language learning accessible.
Cons: Lessons are limited in the free version, and pricing and access for the paid version is less than transparent.
Bottom Line: A terrific but pricey way to learn a language on a tablet.
Use Rosetta Course for additional practice in the introductory language classroom, either as homework or for small-group practice in the classroom. Encourage kids who want to explore a new language to start with these simple lessons.
Rosetta Stone is one of the most widely used digital language-learning tools around, and Rosetta Course is meant to offer on-the-go access for registered users. The design for the tablet is thoughtfully done: Users select correct answers, and unobtrusive help buttons offer updates on their progress through the lessons. In each lesson, users learn through immersion. The course dives right in, showing images that pantomime actions (girl running, men eating) and playing audio to match. Lessons include the Core Lesson (which builds basic vocabulary and previews the full unit), Pronunciation, Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading, and Listening and Reading. Users can also customize the course experience by choosing to learn reading, writing, speaking, and/or listening skills, and it’s possible to adjust the speech precision, voice type, and user feedback options through the Settings menu on the app’s main page.
In the free version, users have access to the first set of lessons for more than 20 languages. Users can upgrade to a full Rosetta Stone course through the publisher’s website; they can’t buy full access through the app.
Rosetta Course is a strong approach to learning a language. Tasks immerse users in the language from the very beginning, and are structured to steadily build knowledge and vocabulary. This isn’t a great fit for learners who prefer to get a structured overview of vocabulary and verb conjugations, but it’s a great choice for learners who prefer to dive right into the words and phrases they’ll use in real life.
Images feature people of a wide range of ages and from many ethnic backgrounds, so the app feels appropriately inclusive and international. While the images are sometimes reused across languages, each course features an approach appropriate to that language's complexity. It's also possible to turn on lessons for learning letters, characters, and sounds -- a feature critical for learning some languages.
The pace of play on a mobile device can be a little fast in languages that use non-Latin alphabets. Words fly by in the Russian, Arabic, and Mandarin courses at the same speed used in French and Spanish; there’s not much time to examine and reflect on the differences among unfamiliar characters. Features for reference and further reflection would offer even more opportunities for solidifying knowledge and understanding.
Full access to the app is available only by purchasing a Rosetta Stone Online Access subscription, which costs upwards of $300. That being said, if this approach feels especially rewarding and effective for a user, it would be worth every penny.