Rosetta Stone Bonus Pack Bundle | $320 | Amazon
Learning Spanish is important to me. It’s not a cultural heritage thing—I’m white as all hell—but my significant other is from a Spanish speaking country and I think it’s a good idea to be able to speak to his family properly. Sure, they might also know English, but who really wants to be that American who goes to other countries and demands the locals speak your own native tongue?
There was just one little problem—Duolingo wasn’t cutting it for me. The owl was too oppressive, and while the “free” app focuses on learning vocabulary, it fell short of actually helping me string sentences together. That’s sort of an important aspect of being fluent in a language! (Insert your preferred “I can’t even speak/write English” joke here.)
Thus, I decided to toss my coin to the most popular language-learning service out there: Rosetta Stone. In fact, I went the extra mile and grabbed a Rosetta Stone bundle off Amazon, which includes a key for lifetime access to ALL of their languages, as well as some Barron’s books for Latin America Spanish.
I was more than a little worried at first—the Amazon page for Rosetta Stone is loaded with bad reviews. Granted, a cursory glance at Duolingo reviews are the same. Actually, it seems like reviews for every single way to learn a language you can imagine are bad, which feels like an Onion article waiting to happen. Every method of learning a language that doesn’t involve moving to another country is wrong! And while yes, it’s always best to speak to native speakers to become REALLY fluent, I think most people would agree that you need a fundamental understanding of the language in order to get there. You can’t even listen to Lupa without knowing how to conjugate your verbs.
So after hours of inner monologue debates, I decided to say screw it and drop $200 on the Rosetta Stone bundle. Was it worth it? Yeah, I’d say so.
The Spanish bundle I bought came with the code to activate Rosetta Stone online (in a bulky box, because why not), Barron’s Spanish to English dictionary, and Barron’s Spanish Grammar guide. Just to get this out of the way—I haven’t cracked open the dictionary, nor will I ever. It looks nice on my bookshelf, but with the Power of the Internet™, it’s a lot easier to look up a word than it is to thumb through a dictionary.
Barron’s grammar guide, on the other hand, is fantastic. It’s pocket-sized and has very helpful tips about Spanish grammar you may not pick up on if you’re a native English speaker. Things from masculine versus feminine usage, idioms, conjugating verbs, and more are in this guide, and it’s very informative to flip through and absorb some of the dense information within. And, due to its size, it’s also easy to pack!
But we all know what the star of this show is—the Rosetta Stone software itself. After redeeming the enclosed activation key, the online app asked me why I was learning Spanish. Answering the prompt honestly will personalize your lessons with, for example, a Travel plan, complete with customary phrases to help you communicate properly while a Family plan focusing more on pronunciation and word recognition. I assume these tweaks are made under the assumption you’ll be speaking with family and friends, in which case it’s a little easier to string together broken sentences at first than it is if you’re trying to ask directions from a stranger. The attention to detail is striking.
Rosetta’s Stone teaching material feels pretty varied, too. There’s a mix of flash card-like content, matching pictures to words, and testing your pronunciation syllable-by-syllable. Duolingo has similar features, but Rosetta Stone feels more complete, and I definitely feel I’m retaining more information than I had with Duolingo. But man, Rosetta Stone’s voice recognition HATES ME. Like absolutely despises my voice. I know I’m saying ‘Mujeres’ correctly, Rosetta Stone. I confirmed with my S.O. that I’m saying it right. I’ve tweaked the settings. I’ve tried it on my desktop and on my phone with the microphone on full blast. Please Rosetta Stone, PLEASE LET ME MOVE ON—
... Anyway, other than a few audio-related hiccups, everything works as I’d hoped. There’s more to Rosetta Stone than the lessons alone, too. Live streams give you the chance to hear native speakers teach classes, interactive videos let you immerse yourself in demonstrations, and much, much more. I’m no Spanish master yet, but honestly, Rosetta Stone is helping me get there, more so than Duolingo ever was. That damn owl can send me passive-aggressive notifications all day long, but it’s simply not going to win, not when I have to pay for a subscription in order to learn for as long as I want. Rosetta Stone supplies the baseline knowledge needed to start learning a new language. All you have to do is put in the work.