Duolingo vs. Rosetta Stone

Are you looking to learn a new language? With all of the resources available these days, choosing a platform can seem like a daunting task. While researching language learning website, there is a good chance that you are trying to decide between Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. In this article, we will breakdown the features of these learning sites to help you decide what platform is right for you.

Competitor Overview

While both companies are looking to capitalize on the same language learning market, they have different methods to accomplish their goals. It is a story as old as time: The proven veteran Rosetta Stone in one corner, and the new, flashy, hotshot Duolingo in the other corner. Here are some more specifics about how these companies are run.

Rosetta Stone

To sum up, Rosetta Stone’s business model in one word: professional. The company boasts over 25+ years of experience selling language learning software to individuals all over the world. Their website lists their ticker symbol on the “about us” page (NYSE: RST). They have a whole section of the site dedicated to testimonials from their most renowned partners. Rosetta Stone uses a unique approach to teaching called Dynamic Immersion. It involves gradually introducing sights and sounds, words, sentences, conversations, and concepts in a way that’s supposed to accelerate the learning process.

Duolingo

Duolingo is a much younger company than Rosetta Stone, and their website reflects it. The company was founded in 2011 by Luis Von Ahn and burst onto the Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) scene. On their site, Duolingo mentions it is their mission to “make learning fun.” Their website is a lot more colorful than Rosetta Stone’s, with animations to go with their descriptions. Duolingo uses gamification strategies to help users learn a foreign language. Duolingo uses the modern idea of crowdsourcing to help structure their lessons and translations. Despite being younger than Rosetta Stone, Duolingo has risen in value faster. According to CB insights, in 2015, Duolingo was valued at 2.5 times the value of Rosetta Stone. 

Language Offerings and Usability

Duolingo is available on Windows, IOS, and Android Devices. Rosetta Stone is available on Mac, Windows, IOS, and Android Devices. Both of these language learning platforms offer a wide variety of languages to choose from. Duolingo provides more language learning opportunities for English learners than Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone provides 25 total language offerings, while Duolingo provides 35 total for English speakers (3 languages are currently in beta phase). See below for the full list of languages of both companies:

Rosetta Stone’s 25 languages include:

Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dutch, English (American), English (British), Filipino (Tagalog), French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin*, Persian (Farsi), Polish, Portuguese (Brasil), Russian, Spanish (Latin America), Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese

Duolingo’s 35 languages include:

English, Latin American Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, Dutch, Swedish, Latin, Greek, Irish, Polish, Norwegian Bokmål, Hebrew, High Valyrian, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Danish, Romanian, Indonesian, Welsh, Czech, Swahili, Scottish, Gaelic, Ukrainian, Esperanto, 

For those that are taking a trip to the Far East, Rosetta Stone was traditionally seen as the platform to go to. However, within the last few years, Duolingo has bolstered their Asian language offerings with the addition of Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Hindi. English and Spanish speakers make up the majority of the Duolingo customer base. English to Spanish learning, along with Spanish to English, are the top two courses by users, respectively.

Pricing

This old vs. new matchup of language learning platforms turns into an easy vs. complicated battle when it comes to pricing.

Let’s start with the easy pricing company:

Duolingo

Duolingo is FREE for usage. When you create a Duolingo account, you have full access to their products, whether you are on your phone or your computer. There are a few payment options within Duolingo, but these are more accessory features like avoiding advertisements rather than main components.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone does have two different payment options that users can choose from. 

CD or download software option: If you are an old school learner, this option may be for you. CDs are best for users that are just getting started with either a new language or with Rosetta Stone’s platform.

You have the option to pay:

Single fee:

  • USD 124.00 to access level 1 of a language. It gives you about five to six hours of lessons.
  • USD 200.00 for levels 1-3
  • USD 250.00 for levels 1-5.

Subscription option:

The subscription is the payment model that Rosetta has been focusing on. For a recurring subscription fee, you can access all levels of a selected language for the duration of an online subscription.

Rosetta Stone offers three-month ($35.97), 12-month ($179), 24-month ($249) subscriptions or a lifetime subscription ($299). These lessons can be accessed on a computer, iOS, or Android device. 

Subscription service offers the flexibility for users to access Rosetta Stone on the go. For folks that are looking to use their platform on their commute to work or a long road trip, Rosetta Stone subscription service makes the most sense. If you spend most of your time on a laptop/computer, then the CD service may save you some dough.

No matter how you slice it, Rosetta Stone is going to be pretty expensive compared to Duolingo. But it’s not hard to find deals on Rosetta Stone that reduce the pricing quite a bit. For example, three out of the four Mandarin subscription services are currently offered at a steep discount. Rosetta Stone does offer payment plans to allow you to split up payments over time. It’s important to note that Rosetta Stone does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t like the service.

Learning Strategies

Let’s get to the heart of the debate: what platform is going to help you learn a new language the best? Or the fastest? This question leads to a more nuanced answer, as both companies have advantages and disadvantages to their services. 

Duolingo

The new kid on the block narrative also fits Duolingo’s teaching style. What Duolingo’s looks to accomplish is to help the user learn a language in the context of a real-life situation. For example, some lessons will focus on ordering food at a restaurant because this is a situation a user would likely find themselves in.

As mentioned in Duolingo’s overview, the company’s vision is for participants to learn the language through “gamification.” If you are expecting a lesson plan in the classroom lecture style, then you will be in for a surprise! Duolingo’s motto from their website:

“Learning is easier when you are having fun.”

An essential point about Duolingo’s platform is that they keep a bilingual dialogue through many levels of their platform. It will be more welcoming for beginners that are still looking to fall back on their native tongue. Many users have found this style of learning to be quicker and more straightforward but less immersive. This is similar to having a conversation with a bilingual speaker who can correct your Spanish mistakes in English. 

Duolingo does not have strict lesson plans for grammar and language rule memorization. Their approach is that users should focus on learning a language the same way a child does as they grow older. It is a tactic known as “implicit learning.” For example, Duolingo would include common Spanish phrases like “¿Dónde está el baño?” (Where is the bathroom) in a lot of their lessons. The thought is that these phrases are again beneficial in real-life situations a user might find themselves in. The user would learn enough of these phrases to help them learn a language’s grammar and rules. 

Duolingo does offer some flexibility to fit different types of learning styles. If the user wants a more explicit learning experience, Duolingo does offer tips and tricks for explanations during lessons. As a modern, crowdsourced learning platform, Duolingo believes they can personalize learning for all of their 300+ million visitors. They boast a machine learning Algorithm that will pair a user with their proper level of learning. It is also important to note that Duolingo offers many different levels within their lesson plans. It would likely take years for a user to complete every level within a language from start to finish.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone takes a bit more of a traditional (serious?) approach to language learning. One massive difference between Rosetta Stone and Duolingo is that Rosetta Stone does NOT offer a translation back to a user’s native tongue. It certainly creates a challenge upfront for a new language learner. However, what Rosetta Stone wants is for the user to be reading, hearing, speaking, and writing with this foreign language alone. This is a deep, immersive dive that the Duolingo experience does not provide. Rosetta Stone throws you into a foreign country where no one around you speaks your native language. 

Rosetta Stone boasts unique features that Duolingo does not have. Users benefit from a speech recognition engine called Trueaccent that can help a user with pronunciation. As one might imagine, pronunciation is critical for a learner that will be using a language verbally. Trueaccent looks to teach pronunciation in a manner that written text simply cannot. Rosetta Stone has a deep staff of tutors, and offers live tutoring sessions for its members. This is more typical of a classroom setting for users that learn better through personal interactions. On their very own website, Rosetta Stone gives an interesting perspective on their paid-for services.

One FAQ addresses the question of why use Rosetta Stone if there are free language learning services already available. They respond by saying their staff is made up of professional linguists rather than from a crowdsource background with unknown qualifications. Rosetta Stone is looking to capitalize on users that have tried free language learning platforms. They are looking for those that want the immersive, deep dive into learning a language thoroughly.

The Verdict

So if you have made it this far, you are probably dying to know the answer. What service do I choose? As much as I dislike the “cop-out” answer, my verdict is that it depends. What is your reason for wanting to learn a new language?

For Travellers

If you are traveling to a foreign country for a week or two and want to get the basics, Duolingo would seem to be the best option for you. Their whole gamification strategy revolves around you learning in scenarios that you would face in real life. Plus, Duolingo is completely free, so what do you have to lose? For the novice looking to get their feet wet with language learning, Duolingo is the platform that seems to make the most sense.

For Work and Study Abroad

Now, if you are studying abroad for a semester in a foreign land, or are going to relocate for a job in another country, your decision will be different. If you are going to an area where your native language is still spoken regularly, maybe you can get away with using Duolingo. But if you truly want to commit to fully immersing yourself in a foreign language, giving Rosetta Stone a shot makes sense.

Rosetta Stone offers many resources that you simply won’t find at Duolingo. Trueaccent is a tool that can help you nail down proper pronunciation, a skill that is crucial for your ability to interact in person. You can have a tutoring session with a live Rosetta Stone teacher to test out your language repertoire. While Rosetta Stone’s services come with a cost, there is a good reason for this. The company has been a household name in language learning services for over 25 years. Rosetta Stone has built a long-lasting reputation for guiding individuals in the language learning process.

In Summary

This heavyweight language clash ends in a split decision. Duolingo has done an unbelievable job taking market share from Rosetta Stone and making a name for themselves. Yet it seems unlikely that Duolingo will be offering up the kind of white-glove service Rosetta Stone currently offers to their paying customers. In the language learning arena, there is room for two all-star caliber companies. If you prefer to learn a language in one-on-one tuition online, than iTalki is the way to go for you.



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