Back when I first started learning Japanese, I didn’t really know what all resources were available. But one thing that I did know about was Rosetta Stone, as I’m sure most people do. Today I’ll be giving you my Rosetta Stone Japanese review.
Originally when I used it (years ago) there were three levels for Japanese learners to go through, and you had to download or install the software onto your computer.
Nowadays you can access the information through your web browser or smartphone. So, that aspect of the technology has changed, but their teaching methods and core information have remained pretty consistent throughout the years.
I recently signed up for a free trial of Rosetta Stone to check it out again, and now I’d like to share my thoughts on it.
The Philosophy Of Rosetta Stone
The company Rosetta Stone gets its name from the stone slab that was found in the town of Rosetta in 1799 which contained a decree written in three separate languages.
One of those languages was Egyptian hieroglyphics which were undeciphered at that time. By using the other languages written on the stone, they were able to finally figure out the meaning of the hieroglyphics.
It’s a pretty cool story and one that is pretty well-known around the world.
Just like how most people know about the language learning company Rosetta Stone with their immersive approach to language learning and their yellow boxes located in stores all over the place.
The basic philosophy on how Rosetta Stone teaches people languages is to recreate the environment that people learned their native languages in when they were kids.
How they do this is primarily through showing pictures of items, people, actions, and the like in combination with the target language’s words.
In this case that means that we see a scene and the Japanese language depicting that scene, but there is no English translation for people to use.
On a side note, there is a small button you can press to pull up an English translation for those times when you really need help, but you’re not really suppose to rely on those.
Instead, the process that they want you to use is to observe what is happening in the picture, listen to what the native speaker says, and then read the sentence in the target language.
By doing this your brain will make connections between the visual information and the corresponding language input that you’re receiving.
Aspects Of Their Japanese Course
When you sign up and get started, there are three levels to choose from:
This allows people who are totally new to Japanese to start out with the super basic things and start learning hiragana. It also allows for people who are already familiar with Japanese to skip ahead.
For the free trial, I went ahead and choose the highest level proficient to see what that level would be like.
The next part is to choose what kind of information you want to learn. This is called your “plan” and there are four areas within each of the difficulty levels: Travel, Family, Work, and Basics & Beyond.
I thought that choosing “work” would be the best choice to see what kind of information they teach, but for some reason it gave me a lesson on “family” instead.
I’m not sure if this was a glitch, or if it had to do with the fact that I was starting out with a brand new account, but regardless of the reason I went ahead and completed the first lesson on family.
Each plan is lined up for 30 minutes a day of studying, five days a week, for a total of six weeks.
The skills that they teach are the four big ones that you would expect from most courses. They are of course speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
I didn’t get to the writing ones, but I assume that they teach typing rather than hand writing Japanese due to the digital format of the lessons, but I could be wrong on this.
If you know, then please leave me a comment on it and let me know.
When I took the first lesson there were a lot of listen and repeat type exercises. This makes sense because of the heavy emphasis that Rosetta Stone puts on learning how to speak a new language.
There were also a lot of matching the picture with the words parts. These were aimed more at comprehension since it focuses on your understanding of the words and being able to pair them with the correct scene.
There were also some fill in the blanks exercises, some pure listening exercises, and a few anticipate type quizzes.
Contents Of The Course
The Japanese course is primarily aimed at beginners of the language and it has a variety of topics throughout the lessons in the course.
These start out with the most basic parts of Japanese like greetings & introductions, past & future tense, and talking with friends and family.
The higher level stuff is designed to help you navigate your surroundings by teaching you more words and phrases that get used in basic conversation, but it doesn’t go a lot further than that.
In other words, this is a course that would be beneficial for people who plan on traveling to Japan for a short trip and want to talk to native Japanese people, but it’s not a course that will allow you to watch native shows or read novels all in Japanese.
It’s not really designed for that, so I don’t consider it a failure or anything. I just thought it was a good idea to talk about the limits of the course since their marketing materials can be a little hard to understand.
They say that they will help you “learn a language” but what exactly does that entail?
Based on my experience with it and what I’ve heard other learners say about the course, I would say that Rosetta Stone aims to teach you enough Japanese in this course so that you can hold basic conversations with natives.
That’s pretty cool if you’re totally new to Japanese, but if you’ve been learning for a year or longer, then this might not be what you’re wanting.
In addition to their main lessons where you spend the majority of your time, there are also some other cool resources that they provide to their users.
One of them is the ability to get private tutor lessons with a native. This allows you to practice your conversational skills and get feedback on any mistakes that you make related to grammar or pronunciation.
Speaking of which, Rosetta Stone really prides itself on it’s TruAccent speech-recognition engine. This is their proprietary technology that records your voice to help you improve your accent in Japanese.
I think that it’s pretty cool that they help you work on speaking correctly, but in my experience it actually takes a lot of listening practice to be able to fully hear the subtle differences between Japanese and English phonetics.
Once you are able to fully hear and appreciate the sounds that are unique to Japanese, then you are in a much better position to work on speaking correctly in order to sound more native like.
That being said, it’s still a nice feature of the course.
There’s also a lot of mobility since you can access the course through your phone and listen to some of the lessons while you’re doing something else like driving or exercising.
My Personal Thoughts On It
One of the conclusions that I’ve come to over the years is that all Japanese courses help you learn the language. The only real difference is how much of it you learn, and how effective the teaching methods are.
Because of this, I would say that Rosetta Stone is a good course for people who are brand new to Japanese and want to learn the language in an immersive-like environment.
But I don’t personally recommend this style for Japanese specifically.
Unfortunately for English native speakers, the Japanese is so vastly different from English that I find explanations on the differences in grammar and communication styles to be an absolute essential element for building a solid foundation quickly.
Once you understand how the language works and you’re familiar with the most common words and basic grammar, then you can switch to a more Japanese-only type environment and you will get much more out of it.
If I were speaking with a close friend, I would recommend any of these other courses over Rosetta Stone.
I personally find them to have better information in their lessons and to be more effective in the learning process.
But I mean, if someone had access to Rosetta Stone already I would say to just go ahead and go through the course.
Anyway, those are just my personal thoughts on it. I’d love to hear what you have to say about Rosetta Stone. Let me know by leaving a comment down below!