Name: Rosetta Stone Japanese
Price: Online Subscription: $59 for 3 months, $84 for 6 months, $129 for 12 months, $179 for 24 months. CD-ROM: $144 for levels 1-3 Instant Download: $89 for level 1
Japanese Level: Beginners to Low-Intermediate
Materials: Vocabulary and Grammar Lessons, Japanese Language Games, Speaking and Listening Activities
JLPT Materials: Not Recommended for the JLPT
Overall Rating: 60/ 100 – Not Recommended
Rosetta Stone Japanese Review: Worth it or Not?
Let’s not waste any time and cut to the chase. Is the Rosetta Stone Japanese worth buying? Will it teach you Japanese in the best way possible? After lots of hours using their software, the answer is a resounding no.
While the Rosetta Stone software does have its good points and can be useful in certain situations, it is not the best, nor the most efficient way to learn Japanese. In my opinion, using Rosetta Stone will actually make you learn Japanese SLOWER and LESS efficiently than other methods out there.
I wish I could say Rosetta Stone sucks and be done with this article. However, I feel that anytime you give a negative review to a product, you need to back up your opinion with reason and facts. And I do feel that using Rosetta Stone was both a waste of my time and money, so I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made. If you want to learn Japanese fast while having fun, don’t buy Rosetta Stone and use something good like Japanesepod101 instead.
With that being said, let’s get into my Rosetta Stone Japanese review and discuss all of the details you’ll need to know if you are considering buying this software.
A Quick Introduction
Rosetta Stone is one of the most popular software programs for learning a language out there. Chances are, you probably saw their products online or at a kiosk at your local mall. They offer software for 30 different languages, which uses their “immersion-based” learning methods.
Pros vs Cons
- Nice images used to learn vocabulary – Makes studying words more fun, clear, and interesting.
- The software looks good. Runs smoothly for the most part. Although I do feel that it runs a little slow on the desktop version. Check computer system requirements here.
- Pronunciation of words/phrases by Japanese speakers are very good (clear and easy to understand pronunciation)
- The app for smart devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.) is good. You need an online subscription to use it though
- Much better resources out there
- More expensive than other resources
- Doesn’t cover a lot of material
- Speech Recognition feature is horrible
- Their Immersion-Based Learning Method is not the most efficient way to learn Japanese as an adult. Other resources do a better job at teaching you Japanese
- Doing the same exercises, quizzes, and activities gets boring very quickly
- Lack of people playing the online games
How Does it Work?
Rosetta Stone uses something that they call “Dynamic Immersion,” or the “Rosetta Stone Immersion-Based Learning Method” This is a method that teaches you the language without actually explaining anything to you.
There are no explanations in English teaching you how to speak Japanese.
The foundation of the method involves using images and text to teach you vocabulary and grammar. For example, the software will show you a picture of an apple along with the Japanese word for it, “ringo.” The word is also pronounced by a native speaker (or at least someone that sounds like a native speaker), so you can hear what it sounds like.
At no point do they tell you that “ringo” means “apple.” They just show you a picture of an apple, say it in Japanese, and that’s it. You naturally assume that “ringo” means apple in Japanese. This is then repeated several times to help you remember this word.
Using this method, you learn Japanese without the use of English, even from your very first lesson. In fact, there are never any English explanations throughout the entire program. The whole program teaches you Japanese by using Japanese.
Sounds awesome right?
It sure does. Using this type of “immersion” training to learn a language sounds like it is a great idea….only it’s not.
Why The Rosetta Stone Method Doesn’t Work Well
There are 2 major reasons why the Rosetta Stone method isn’t the best.
Reason 1: Lack of Clarity and Understanding
For simple vocabulary words like “apple” or “car,” it’s very easy to understand. You see a picture of an apple, hear the speaker say “ringo,” and you instantly know that “ringo” means “apple.”
However, when you get to more complicated nouns or grammar, the lack of explanation can make this confusing, really fast.
Let’s say you’re shown a flashcard of 3 men sitting down and talking to one another while eating a sandwich. Then the Japanese speaker says, “Otoko no hitotachi ha sandoicchi wo tabeteimasu.”
What does that mean? Does it mean “3 men sitting down and eating?” Or does it mean “People talking while eating a sandwich?” That Japanese sentence could be expressing one out of a dozen different possibilities.
Since there’s no explanation, you’re stuck trying to figure out what it means on your own.
I’m being a little too harsh here.
It’s not that unclear or vague most of the time. The Rosetta Stone Japanese software does a decent job “teaching” you basic words and grammar. They do this by showing you multiple pictures of the same scenario (e.g., 3 men eating, 3 men talking, etc.) and through repetition.
So more often than not, after looking at a few different pictures of the same scenario, you can figure out the meaning of difficult vocabulary or grammar after a few reputations.
However, unless you already know Japanese or use other resources to study with, you will never know EXACTLY what the grammar you are studying means.
This is because Rosetta Stone repeats phrases, and you just have to memorize them. You can pick up most vocabulary and grammar this way, but it is very, very, difficult to understand particles and nuances this way.
With Rosetta Stone Japanese, you’ll just repeat and remember whole sentences, without knowing WHY or HOW they are being constructed.
Particles are very important in Japanese, and it is difficult to learn even if you have a good teacher explaining it to you.
Trying to master Japanese particles with Rosetta Stone is like trying to become a race car driver by riding a bicycle with training wheels. You might be able to pick up a few skills that will help you, but you’ll never know enough to hang with the big boys.
Reason 2: Lack of Explanations = Lack of Knowledge
The second reason is that as an adult learning a new language, this method is not efficient at all. What will take 10, 20, or even 30 minutes to understand using the Rosetta Stone Japanese method can be learned in 5 minutes with a good explanation.
Instead of showing you 5 different pictures of a boy swimming in a pool to explain the grammar, “the boy is swimming,” a teacher can explain everything in detail in a few minutes.
Not only will a simple explanation be easier to understand, but you’ll also know WHY the sentence works. You’ll also know HOW to create other sentences using the same grammar or words. You’ll understand everything much better.
Even a good book or audio lessons can teach you the same material in half the time. If you want to learn Japanese fast and efficiently, Rosetta Stone is not what you are looking for.
Immersion does work to learn a language if you are truly immersed in that language.
This means that you have only native speakers communicating with you ALL THE TIME. Not for just 30 minutes of studying per day.
Since most of us don’t have the opportunity to communicate with Japanese native speakers 24 hours a day, learning with explanations will be much more efficient.
Is Rosetta Stone Japanese Useful at All?
There are 2 types of people that MIGHT find Rosetta Stone Japanese useful.
- People who studied Japanese at a beginner to low-intermediate level but forgot what they learned. The Rosetta Stone software can be an easy way to review basic grammar and vocabulary.
- People who are looking for a good mobile device app for learning Japanese. The Rosetta Stone app is pretty good. The huge negative to this is that you need to sign up for an online subscription to use this app. This makes it a very expensive app. There are better options out there, but if money is no object for you, Rosetta Stone might be an okay choice.
Who Rosetta Stone Japanese is NOT For
While I don’t recommend the Rosetta Stone software to anyone, there are certain people need avoid it like the plague. These types of people will get zero benefits out of Rosetta Stone and will even hold them back from learning.
DO NOT buy Rosetta Stone Japanese if:
- You’re brand new to Japanese – Rosetta Stone says that it’s good for beginners, but their immersion method can confuse people new to the language. There are much better ways to learn Japanese as a beginner.
- If you have a high-intermediate to advanced level of Japanese – Rosetta Stone is a waste of your time. It won’t teach you anything new.
- If you want to learn Japanese fast and efficiently. I believe that Rosetta Stone Japanese is not the most efficient way to learn Japanese. In fact, I feel that learning Japanese with Rosetta Stone will actually make you learn slower and with less understanding. There are much, much better ways to study Japanese.
- If you plan on taking the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) or any other type of proficiency test. The material you learn in Rosetta Stone Japanese will be of very little use to you. Even if you mastered all of the lessons, I would be surprised if you could pass the N4 level of the JLPT (second to the lowest level).
Rosetta Stone Japanese: An In Depth Look
First of all, let me start with the good points about the Rosetta Stone software. The software itself runs pretty smoothly and looks great. While the navigation for their online lessons can be a little bit confusing, it has a nice flow and tracks your progress well.
The pronunciation of vocabulary words and sentences sounds great. The pronunciations are clear while still sounding natural.
The speakers do say the words a little slower than normal. This will help you a lot in the beginning, but as you get more advanced, this can actually hurt you.
You’ll need to hear Japanese being spoken at a “normal” speed. If you ever go to Japan, people will talk faster than what is being spoken on the Rosetta Stone lessons. But overall, they did a great job with the pronunciations.
Now let’s look at the bad. As mentioned above, the biggest negative about the Rosetta Stone Japanese lessons is that it just isn’t a good way to learn. It actually holds you back from learning Japanese faster and more efficiently. In addition to this, the repetitive lesson gets boring really quickly. There are much better resources for learning Japanese out there.
Another negative is that there isn’t a lot of material covered by this software. For other languages, Rosetta Stone has 5 levels. However, for others, it only goes up to level 3. Japanese is one of those languages with only 3 levels.
This translates to 12 units, with each unit taking around 6- 7 hours to complete. This means that it will take you around 72 – 84hours to complete all of the lessons. That is not a lot at all.
In fact, even if you mastered every lesson, you probably will still have difficulty speaking to native speakers. You might be able to hold a conversation, but it will be a very basic, and very short one.
You’ll be able to introduce yourself, talk about things you like/dislike, and maybe describe some of your past experiences. In English, this is what the conversation would sound like:
John (Rosetta Stone student): Hello. Nice to meet you. My name is John.
Ken (Japanese native speaker): Nice to meet you, John. I’m Ken.
John: Do you like music? I like Japanese music.
Ken: Yes, I like music. My favorite group is the Beatles.
John: Have you ever been to England?
Ken: No, I haven’t.
John: I want to go to England. Okay, see you.
Ken: See you…
I’m only exaggerating a little bit. Some of you might be able to hold a better conversation than this with the Rosetta Stone material. However, I’m willing to bet a lot of people won’t even be able to handle this basic level of conversation.
Another drawback is that Rosetta Stone isn’t thorough with teaching you how to write in Japanese. You do learn how to read basic characters, but that is not nearly enough.
It’s true that in this day and age, you don’t need to know how to write Japanese to be able to speak it. Just being able to read it is enough for most situations in Japan.
However, Rosetta Stone doesn’t even teach you enough to get through daily situations in Japan.
Rosetta Stone Japanese focuses on speaking rather than writing, but for the price they are charging, it seems strange that they aren’t thorough with their course.
Reading and writing are essential to becoming good at Japanese, period. As you get better at Japanese, you’ll need to be able to read to improve. Rosetta Stone simply doesn’t do a good job at this.
Their “TruACCENT™” speech recognition software is supposed to help you perfect your pronunciation and accent.
This is absolutely bul$#*t.
First of all, I couldn’t get it to work on my computer. I tried 3 different microphones, and none of them worked. When I checked my settings, everything was in working order. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’s something wrong on my end.
However, I did use their voice recognition software many years ago. It wasn’t good at all. Guess what? It still is horrible.
So horrible that it’s laughable.
I thought after all these years Rosetta Stone would improve their speech recognition technology, but it appears that they haven’t.
I installed their app on my iPad and smartphone. This is how bad their TruACCENT™ voice recognition software is.
For the speaking section, I had to repeat a sentence said in Japanese. I literally said, “blah blah blah, ba ba, ho ho,” and it passed for the correct answer. So I took it up a level.
For the next sentence, I just hummed. I did try to match the tone and flow of the sentence, but I made no effort whatsoever to pronounce any of the words.
I pretty much said, “hmm mm mmm hmmm mmmmmm mm.”
It said that was a good answer.
But I saved the best for last.
For the next question, I was at my sink washing my hands. The “clink” of my soap dispenser and the splashing of the water against my hands registered a correct answer. WTF!? You disappoint me, Rosetta Stone.
To make things worse, I tried to be serious and say a sentence correctly. Now I’m not a native speaker, but I think my pronunciation is pretty good. Japanese native speakers have said that they thought I was Japanese after speaking to them for a few minutes (5 minutes is usually my limit. After this they start to suspect I’m not Japanese :P).
Well, I failed 70-80% of the time.
So I went to an actual native Japanese speaker. It took him a few tries before he could get the answer correct. He had to slow down say each word at a unnatural speed to get a correct answer. But maybe you might have more luck with it than me.
Rosetta Stone Price
There are 3 options when purchasing the Rosetta Stone Japanese software.
1. CD-ROM set (levels 1-3) for $144.00
2. Instant download of level 1 for $89.00 (level 2 & 3 are not available)
3. Online subscription (online lessons): 3 months for $59.00, 6 months for $84.00, 12 months for $129.00, and 24 months for $179.00
*Prices and information as of August 29th, 2017
Paying for a subscription seems like a waste of money since you don’t own the product. Once your subscription runs out, you won’t have access to the lessons.
However, there are a few benefits of purchasing the online subscription. The biggest benefit is that you can access the lessons on any device, and not just your computer.
If you have a smartphone, iPad, or any device that can use their app, you can study Japanese anywhere you go. You cannot access the lessons via the app if you purchase the CD-ROM set or the instant download.
You also will have access to any updates and new features that they add. I have a feeling that for the Rosetta Stone Japanese software, updates are rare though.
You will also have the option of purchasing live tutoring sessions with native speakers.
If you read any of my other “learning Japanese” posts, you know that I highly recommend you hire a private tutor or teacher to practice speaking. So it’s nice to see that Rosetta Stone has added this feature into their system, even though it does cost $19.99 per session.
However, at that price, I recommend you hire a tutor on italki instead. You can even find an experienced, licensed teacher for that price.
Their prices used to be unbelievably high, so I’m glad to see they opened their eyes and lowered their prices to “normal” levels. That being said, for the amount of information that is taught combined with the boring and ineffective teaching style, even $10 per month is not worth it.
I also tested the Rosetta Stone Japanese on both my smartphone and my iPad. I was a little impressed here.
The app might even be better than the desktop version. I felt as if the app ran smoother and faster. It was also easier to understand, and an overall more enjoyable experience.
In fact, I think Rosetta Stone should just sell their Japanese software as an app for $25.00 – $50.00. Sure, it would be pricey for an app, but I think it would be worth it. The app version made it a lot more enjoyable to learn than the slower, clunkier desktop version.
I could see myself using the app the study while on the train, bus, or chilling in my bed.
However, since you have to buy an online subscription to use the app, I would pass. $59.00 for 3 months just to use the app is way too expensive in my opinion.
Rosetta Stone Extended Learning Feature
If you sign up for an online subscription, you’ll also have access to their “Extended Learning” section. This is a section that has games and activities you can do to further your learning. There a “play” section with games, a “talk” section, which are games with multiple players, and a “read” section.
First, let me talk about the Rosetta Stone games.
The games are very simple, but are pretty good. You’ll find games like concentration (matching the cards), bingo, and other listening games. While not the most exciting games in the world, they are interesting and can help you in learning Japanese. So I’ll take my hat off to them for that.
Now for the “talk” section, you can “practice your conversational skills with new friends around the world.” Now that got me excited. It would be really cool if you could practice Japanese with people all over the world by playing games.
Well, my excitement came to a screeching halt when no other players could be found. I tried to find other players at different times of the day for a few weeks. I never even found one other person to play a game with. How sad.
I tried finding another person to play with dozens of times at different times during the day, but the program would always say that no match could be found. So pretty much that section is completely useless.
The “read” section is decent. Boring, but decent. First of all, it took forever to load, if it even loaded at all. Is it worth the wait? Not really.
While it does have some cool recording capabilities to see how well you can read, it’s not something you could do every day. It’s boring, doesn’t work well, and did I mention boring? That’s all I need to say about that.
On the online version, there is a small chat room with other Rosetta Stone Japanese learners in it. That normally would be a good thing, since studying with a group usually helps you.
However, there ‘s only a handful of members online at a time, and it’s very, very quiet. Hardly anyone talks. So it’s pretty much there for decoration, and probably won’t be useful to you at all.
What Are the Best Resources to Learn Japanese?
The best program I have used to learn Japanese is the audio lessons found on Japanesepod101. Their app is great for listening to the lessons on your mobile device.
The iKnow mobile app doesn’t use images and only teaches you vocabulary (with example sentences), but it’s cheaper than Rosetta Stone.
If you were planning on buying private lessons on Rosetta Stone, go to italki instead. They have a lot of really good teachers that can help you learn Japanese faster than most traditional methods.
If you’re a beginner to Japanese, check out our learning Japanese for absolute beginners guide.
While the Rosetta Stone Japanese lessons do have some good points, there are much better options out there. The app for smart devices is pretty good, but can be very expensive in the long-run. Unless you have lots of money to burn through, don’t buy the Rosetta Stone Japanese lessons.
Do you have any experience using the Rosetta Stone Japanese lessons? What was your take on it? Let us know in the comments below.