I love learning helpful phrases in other languages when I travel but I’ve always dreamed of being bilingual or at least able to speak somewhat fluently in another language. While Spanish would be more useful in Colorado, Rick and I had booked a trip to Italy so we decided to learn Italian together.
I’d used Rosetta Stone in the past for French and knew it was a well-respected language learning tool but also wanted to try something new. We found Duolingo and while both are similar, there are some pros and cons to each program. If you’re learning a new language and looking for a helpful language learning program, here’s my review of both Rosetta Stone and Duolingo and which I’d recommend.
Rosetta Stone’s philosophy is to teach you a language like a native speaker learns it. There are no translations or explanations. You just learn and build on from there. It’s like being a child again. You see a woman and then hear the word donna. You see a man and hear the word l’uomo. You begin to make the connections between the words you hear and the photos you see – like a baby does. You then add on to that with more complex sentence structures. The goal is that you’re not translating but just speaking like it’s your native language. You’re immersed in the language instead of working out translations in your head.
Pros of Rosetta Stone
- Lessons are paced well
- Breaks down individual words
- Teaches you like a native-speaker
- Puts you in real-time settings with milestone lessons
- Easy-to-use app
Cons of Rosetta Stone
- The price (though it has come down! Now it’s about $8 per month for a 24-month contract)
- The technology isn’t perfect and can’t always understand me
- Some lessons are really long and take quite a bit of time
- Some lessons are very slow (especially the first few lessons)
- Sometimes it’s hard knowing exactly what you’re learning without a translation provided
Duolingo reminds me of how I learned Spanish in middle school and high school. You see the word in English and its counterpart in the foreign language. I think Duolingo’s pace is a bit faster than Rosetta Stone. You learn the basics and then start adding on immediately. Duolingo has a great web interface and app, and adapts the lesson based on what device you’re using. For example, on the app, they have a word match section which is not used on the website.
Pros of Duolingo
- Challenges you with non-traditional sentences
- The lessons are in English and the other language, so you know what you’re learning
- You earn gems/rewards to purchase additional lessons
- They have clubs or groups to practice your skills in a real setting
- Easy-to-use app
Cons of Duolingo
- Their newly released health system is not the best, it’s like punishing you for learning (you only get five health bars and the smallest mistakes count against you)
- Lessons aren’t always grammatically correct or weird words are used
- Correct answers won’t always match the answer Duolingo is looking for
- Feel pressured to learn with the daily streak
Overall, if you really want to study a new language, I would recommend paying for Rosetta Stone. You can always supplement with Duolingo, but I’ve felt I made more progress and really understood the lessons better with Rosetta Stone. I think Duolingo makes for a great practice tool, but their health system is truly awful and doesn’t motivate me to open the app or want to practice.
I also got a great Italian for Dummies book for Christmas that I love using as a reference or refresher as I’m going through my lessons. The book also explains some of the cultural differences you’ll encounter as well as tips about regional dialects.
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