How is the Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish course?

How is the Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish course?

As a Spanish teacher, I am always curious about the different language learning programs out there, especially the ones for independent learners. An avid yet busy learner myself, I like to try out other languages using online resources because I don’t have the time to take a formal course. 

My students are teenagers and young adults that can dedicate most of their time to studying, yet most people out there are busy and need a program that is more flexible than a traditional course. On the other hand, there are also full-time students that really want to learn a language but can’t fit it into their academic schedule, so they need a good alternative program. If either of these categories describe you, then language learning apps such as Lingodeer, Duolingo, and Rosetta Stone may be what you are looking for!

Rosetta Stone has been a household name for almost 20 years – I remember seeing the commercials on TV when I was a kid. Spanish is one of Rosetta Stone’s strongest languages because it’s one of the first foreign languages with which the program premiered in the 1990’s. Before, I never had a reason to try it because I learned Spanish in school, but now that I am a working adult I thought I would give it a try and share my thoughts with those that are seeking the right Latin American Spanish program for them!

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Price

As of writing this review, you can buy a Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish 3 month package for $35.97, a 12-month package for $179, or a lifetime unlimited plan that includes all of Rosetta Stone’s languages for $199. This makes it the most expensive and least flexible option because customers are unable to pay per month. There is also no free version of Rosetta Stone, only a 3-day free trial (there is a longer free trial for students). 

That being said, there is some merit to having to pay more money up front. For one, people may feel more motivated and compelled to complete the lessons in order to get their money’s worth. 

Second, all features are immediately available. You can download lessons and do them offline, there are no ads, and the entire app is at your disposal. 

And last, since Rosetta Stone has been around for much longer than other programs, people are more likely to trust the lifetime plan because of the company’s established track record.

Pro

Investment motivates you to do the lessons and all features are available, such as offline mode

Con

Most expensive and least flexible of the apps

Starting Out with Rosetta Stone — Interface and User experience

When I first downloaded the Rosetta Stone app, it asked me to select a language and learning level (beginner, intermediate, proficient). From there, 4 different plans were presented to me: traveler, career builder, heritage seeker, and language lover. When looking into these plans, they weren’t all that different, but I appreciated that they had some customization.

The Latin American Spanish program starts with a quick introductory lesson that guides you through the app and how the lessons work. You can pause at any time and disable the speaking function if you can’t talk at the moment, however, Rosetta Stone has a heavy focus on speaking and pronunciation so it’s best to use it in a quiet place where you can talk.

Something that irked me though was that the app forced me to go to the Google Play review page. There was no opt out button. Of course, I didn’t have to leave a review and I could just go back to the app, but still. Annoying.

Also, the entire lesson interface is horizontal so you have to rotate your phone each time you leave the main menu and start a lesson. This is not a drawback per se, but definitely noteworthy seeing as other apps tend to be vertical. 

Pro

Con

Learning plans to suit your needs

Intro lesson shows you how to use the features

Forces you to Google Play review page

All lessons are horizontal, so you have to turn your phone

Spanish Curriculum: How Does Rosetta Stone Organize Lessons? 

Like other language learning apps, lessons are organized by topics like greetings and introductions, travel, and shopping. What’s nice about Rosetta Stone though is that you can skip around not only these topics but also the units within the topics. That means you don’t have to do everything in order and wait to unlock lessons! Of course, it’s best to do it in order, but it’s nice to have options.

Within each topic are what Rosetta Stone calls core lessons. They are quite long as far as apps go – each core lesson takes about half an hour. You can pause whenever you need, and can disable the speaking option, but I wish they were shorter so that I could do a lesson while on a quick break. Most of the activities are listening and speaking, so you need to be focused and in a quiet place in order to fully participate.

Once you power through the long lesson, the app allows you to view the individual components and focus on one thing at a time. Core lessons are divided into sections like pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading, and listening. I really enjoy this part of the app because unlike during the core lesson, you can press a button to translate words into English that you don’t understand.

Not all sub-sections are present in each lesson. For example, as you can see in these pictures, Unit 1 Lesson 1 has vocabulary and grammar, while Lesson 2 has listening as well. 

All of the subsections except for pronunciation involve some sort of matching activity. In the vocabulary section, you are given a word or sentence and have to match it to the correct image, and in grammar you are given a sample sentence then asked to match a different sentence with a similar grammatical structure to a picture. The app tries to teach you grammar with this method and by highlighting important aspects in the sentence. In the example below, the “s” and “es” are highlighted to show that both the noun and the adjective are plural.

The listening section plays audio clips that you then match to pictures.

While Rosetta Stone offers mostly matching activities, there are some activities that involve speaking into the microphone and replying to a sentence.

Pedagogy: How Does Rosetta Stone Teach Spanish Through Screen?

Rosetta Stone utilizes real pictures versus cartoons or symbols. Users match words and phrases to the appropriate picture, fill in the blank, etc. The people in the photos are diverse too! On the downside, the same photos are used in all of Rosetta Stone’s programs and therefore photos are not specific to Latin American Spanish. Unfortunately there is no cultural knowledge gained from the pictures or activities because of this.

Can you learn Spanish from looking at photos?

Sometimes it can be hard to see the details in the picture on my tiny screen and I misunderstand what the picture is trying to convey, which could lead to an inaccurate interpretation of the Spanish word being taught. Since during the lesson there are no English translations available, not to mention the fact that English translation is discouraged and you have to go out of your way to find it in the app, misunderstandings are more likely to occur than with other programs. 

Can you learn Spanish from immersion only?

Full immersion with no English is what this program champions, which has its positives and negatives. As a Spanish teacher, I believe that hearing and speaking only the target language is an effective method to learn a foreign language and I highly recommend it for the formal classroom. That being said, not everyone responds well to full immersion and it can be confusing for those starting out, not to mention frustrating if you are not understanding the material. There is no teacher to answer your questions and phrase things in a different way, so the immersion method is at times not as successful outside of the classroom. 

Can you learn grammar on Rosetta Stone?

Lastly, Rosetta Stone does not offer explicit grammar instruction or writing activities in the lessons. The goal is that you will pick up the grammar on your own and begin to recognize some of the patterns without it having to be spelled out directly.

Pro

Con

Full language immersion

Activities use diverse photos of real life people and situations 

Core lessons are long, 30 minutes each

No writing activities

Speech recognition to improve pronunciation, great speaking and listening activities

No explicit grammar explanation in lessons, no translation of words until after the lesson

Photos are generic and do not teach anything about Latin America

Speech Recognition: How Does Rosetta Stone Help You Speak Spanish?

Since conversational Spanish is the focus of this program, the speech recognition technology should be excellent. Personally I would say that it is very good, but not perfect. 

This is in part because Rosetta Stone’s audience is not going to be able to sit in a quiet room all of the time, yet the speaking portion of the lessons works best if the microphone only picks up on your voice. When I first tried the speaking portion I had the TV on in the background and had to mute the TV in order for the app to work well. I also tried to do a lesson on the train on the way to work but the background noise was too much for the app to handle. 

While it makes sense that the app needs to hear just my voice to accurately correct my pronunciation, it was a bit inconvenient. I often had to disable the speech feature so that I could do the lesson. The app usually has you repeat each new word or say the proper response to a situation, but when the speaking portion is disabled, it becomes a slideshow and is no longer interactive.

Ideal conditions aside, I enjoyed the speech activities and how Rosetta Stone coached me to pronounce Spanish words. The initial lesson prompts you to repeat entire words and phrases, and the pronunciation “sub-lesson” that is available after the core lesson breaks down longer words into syllables. The voices have clear, authentic Latin American accents that are easy to mimic. As a Spanish speaker, I had to tone down my regional accent and use a more neutral way of speaking, however, this is great for newbies who need to learn to speak in the standard accent.

To successfully complete Rosetta Stone lessons, you need to be able to hear the audio and speak clearly into the microphone. I recommend using a nice set of headphones – maybe if you have a good microphone it will work on your commute!

Pro

Con

Hear and learn to speak in the Latin American accent

Conversational nature of the app forces you to set aside time and focus on the lesson

When speech is disabled, the speaking portion of the lesson is no longer interactive

It’s hard to do lessons casually because the room has to be quiet

Extra Features

In addition to the language lessons, Rosetta Stone offers a few other features for Latin American Spanish. On the lesson page, the app will tell you if there is a live video lesson that day performed by a language tutor. Pretty cool!

In the “Extended Learning” tab, you will find a travel phrasebook that is set up in a flashcard format, a stories section where you can read and listen to short stories, and an audio companion that lets you download lesson audio to listen to offline. It seems like they realized that they were lacking in the reading and writing areas and added some of these sections relatively recently, and they do not correspond to any particular lesson.

One final feature is the “On Demand” tab. It features videos done by language tutors that show conversational situations, culture, and language lectures. The language lectures are the only grammar resource available on Rosetta Stone and are not interactive – they are also not available for every language.

Pro

Con

Live videos and “On Demand” videos are updated with new information

There is some reading practice available

Culture and grammar are separate from the language lessons

Not interactive resources

Final Thoughts

Can you become fluent with Rosetta Stone? The answer is most likely not. While some reading is involved, Rosetta Stone could be helpful for people whose main goal is to converse in Spanish. Their speech recognition technology coaches you on pronunciation and is used when you repeat words and sentences into the microphone and when you answer a question out loud. If you want to speak with the Latin American Spanish accent, this program will train you well and you will be understood by locals.

Speaking and listening are the primary focus, so I would not recommend this program to those that want to learn how to read and write in Spanish. Activities are limited too, and could be designed more creatively. Rosetta Stone is less for the casual learner and more for people that are able to set aside an hour a day to study.

If you are looking for a shorter experience that is cheaper/free with a variety of activities, LingoDeer and Duolingo would be a better fit for you.

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