Rosetta Stone is probably the most popular brand name when it comes to language courses. The company has a bittersweet reputation among language learners, with some loving and it and others hating it.
We cover the features and method of Rosetta Stone (its pros and cons) in our Ultimate Rosetta Stone Review.
Rosetta Stone offers courses on many languages, but they aren’t all created equal. The effectiveness and quality of the course depends largely on the language being taught.
In this post we take a look how well the Rosetta Stone teaches Italian, and how some of Italian’s unique features relate to using the course.
Review of: Rosetta Stone Italian
Use: Language learning software
Works well with simple grammar but not with more complex grammar
Rosetta Stone has recently lowered their prices, but their courses are still a little on the expensive side
1 Lesson typically takes 30 minutes
Ease of Use
Extremely user friendly
Highly structured and walks you through a language step by step
- Easy to use
- Good for absolute beginners
- Good for basic use of Italian
I Don't Like
- Doesn't prepare you for speaking
- Vocabulary is often impractical
- Not for intermediate/advanced learners
Rosetta Stone works well for basic Italian because it's closely related to English (compared to other languages). If you work through it with zero knowledge of the language you'll leave with an understanding of basic grammar and vocabulary.
Beginners have the most to gain form the course, but intermediate and advance students best look elsewhere. Like most Rosetta Stone courses there isn't much in the material that prepares you for real life conversations.
Is Rosetta Stone Italian right for you?
Yes if you’re new to Italian
Rosetta Stone works best for beginners who are completely new to the language. Their courses are catered to people with no language learning experience. If you’re nervous or unsure of how to start learning Italian then Rosetta Stone may be right for you.
Yes if you need a foundational knowledge of Italian
If you work through all 5 levels of Rosetta Stone Italian you will walk away with a working knowledge of basic Italian grammar and vocabulary. You won’t be fluent, but you will have a solid foundation you can build on.
No if you’re an intermediate or advanced learner
Because it caters to beginners Rosetta Stone doesn’t have much to offer Italian learners with higher abilities in the language. If you want to move past the basics Rosetta Stone isn’t for you.
No if you want to speak Italian right away
Rosetta Stone does teach Italian, but not in a way that helps you start speaking it in real life situations. The vocabulary is often impractical, and there is little to no pressure for you to produce your own phrases or sentences.
Rosetta Stone works better for the Romantic languages
There is good reason to believe that Rosetta Stone was designed for one of the Romantic languages, and then the method was copied for all their other languages.
If you're curious here's some more info on the Romance languages
In addition to Rosetta Stone’s design this is also because the Romantic languages share many similarities with English like word order, shared vocabulary, and alphabets. This is certainly true of Italian.
Italian is a phonetic language
While there are some exceptions Italian is largely a phonetic language. This means that it’s usually pretty easy to figure out how a word is pronounced based on how it’s spelled.
This makes Italian easier to learn and remember no matter what language course you use, but it’s also helpful when using Rosetta Stone.
If you can remember trying to learn how to read and write in English as kid then you probably appreciate working with a phonetic language.
In Italian there are no spelling exceptions or incongruences like in English’s “their, they’re, and there”. 9 times out of 10 an Italian word is spelled the way it’s spoken and vice versa.
Italian and English alphabets are similar
As we said before the Romantic languages share similar alphabets with English.
At first glance this may not seem like a big deal, but ask anyone learning a language like Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, or Arabic and they will tell you that having a similar script makes a huge difference when learning a language.
Rosetta Stone’s method doesn’t do a very good job of teaching foreign scripts, so Italian learners who use it have a big advantage over students of other languages.
Doesn’t prepare you for native speakers
One common critique of Rosetta Stone is that is doesn’t prepare you for real life conversations with normal speakers. Their method simply doesn’t do a good job of getting you to produce the language, nor does it put much pressure on you to recall what you’ve learned.
This becomes problematic for Italian students because native speakers usually speak pretty fast. The sounds of words and phrases morph and get reduced or combined when spoken.
This means you can learn thousands of Italian words on paper but not be able to understand or pick them out in real speech.
If you work through Rosetta Stone Italian you will learn a significant portion of Italian, but you won’t have any experience in actually speaking it, so be aware.
Vocabulary is usually impractical
Like so many other Italian courses and classes Rosetta Stone teaches vocabulary in way that isn’t very practical. It teaches based on grammar concepts and not on the words and phrases you’ll need to speak the language and express yourself.
You’ll be learning sentences like “The children have bicycles” instead more useful ones like “I am learning Italian because….”.
What other people are saying about Rosetta Stone Italian
"Rosetta Stone is fun. You'll learn some vocabulary, and you'll feel like you're making good progress — so it's good for staying motivated and developing good habits with your Italian.
The problem is that there are lots of things in life that cannot be demonstrated by a picture, so you can forget about discussing philosophy over a cappuccino. You'll be limited to things like "the woman drinks a coffee."
"Now, the program is touted as the natural way to learn a language. But note that it is named after a discovery that allowed linguists to learn a forgotten language in a most unnatural way.
And remember that learning a language by repeating stock responses to phrases and pictures is only the natural way to learn a language when you're two...
The exercises in Rosetta Stone introduce the student systematically to grammatical gender, conjugations, declensions, irregular verbs and nouns, rules of syntax, etc., but you have to notice the details and draw up the rules yourself.."
Alternatives to Rosetta Stone Italian
20+ minutes a day
Rocket Italian is built around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is great for conversational Italian).
The Rocket Italian method isn't quite as gradual as the Rosetta Stone method. Overall Rocket Italian is a more comprehensive course that does a good job of incorporating speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing.
30 minutes a day
Pimsleur is probably the second most popular language course behind Rosetta Stone. Pimsleur is entirely audio based and is specifically designed to develop your conversational skills.
They use a unique and effective question/recall/respond technique to get you on your feet in conversational Italian. With Pimsleur You'll learn a limited but functional vocabulary and have a good sense of Italian pronunciation.
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Italianpod101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary. Each lesson is designed around an Italian conversation between native speakers, and the teachers do a great job of keeping things engaging.
While it's not as structured as Rosetta Stone it's still a substantial Italian learning tool (it's also much cheaper too). The site features transcripts, an in-site flashcard system, and many other useful features.
Rosetta Stone Italian is best for beginning Italian students who are looking to dip their toes in the language. It’s not recommended for those who are serious about speaking the language right away.
Advanced and intermediate students aren't likely to find much value in these courses.
Because Italian shares some similarities with English Rosetta Stone works better with Italian than other languages.