In today’s post we’re going to look at some of the challenges language learners will face if they use Rosetta Stone to learn Vietnamese.
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea when reading this review. As a whole Rosetta Stone language courses aren’t horrible. While they’re never my first recommendation, they have their strengths and some people really do enjoy them. You can read our full review of the Rosetta Stone method for all languages here.
In this post we’re simply looking at whether or not the Rosetta Stone method works well for Vietnamese learners. Vietnamese is a unique language. So a course that works for Spanish or French might not work well for learning Vietnamese. That’s certainly the case with Rosetta Stone.
Let's dive into the review 😉
Reasons we don’t recommend Rosetta Stone Vietnamese
The method doesn’t fit the language
Vietnamese grammar and vocabulary aren’t significantly more difficult than other foreign languages. In fact it’s even easier than some other Asian languages (like Japanese for example). What makes Vietnamese difficult is it’s pronunciation. Vietnamese is a tonal language. Meaning your intonation while saying a word will change it’s meaning completely. If you don’t know how to pronounce Vietnamese well, no one will be able to understand what you are saying.
The problem with Rosetta Stone Vietnamese is that it offers little to no coaching for pronunciation. You are shown pictures alongside recorded phrases and you repeat them. That’s it. Rosetta Stone doesn’t break longer sentences into individual words, or words into syllables. There’s no mention of the tones in Vietnamese. You’re pretty much just given a bunch of pictures and prerecorded audio and left to fend for yourself.
It gives beginners a bad start
Rosetta Stone Vietnamese doesn’t explain the pronunciation system. Nor does it provide any kind of dependable feedback to check your accent against. Sentences are very unclear for anyone new to the language. You’ll pretty much have to guess your way through the lessons and even then you’re not sure what was said. If you do manage to work your way through the course, it’s highly likely that you’ll develop bad pronunciation habits. Having no instruction or training in correct pronunciation will come back to haunt you when it’s time to talk with native Vietnamese speakers.
Also Rosetta Stone’s method uses zero English. There are no translations or explanations. Everything is in Vietnamese. This might sound cool, but things can get confusing fast. It’s often hard to tell what exactly a word or phrase means. You might pick up the general idea, but you won’t know exactly what you’re saying. This makes for a shaky foundation in the language.
In my opinion Rosetta Stone courses are overpriced in general. It feels like you're paying more for their marketing budget than for a quality language course. That’s especially true of Rosetta Stone Vietnamese. It’s lack of explanation on grammar and pronunciation make it worth much less than it’s premium price tag. Last time I checked you could get a monthly subscription for $60 a month or buy the course outright for around $200. It’s not that hard to find a better Vietnamese course at a better price (which is what the next section is all about).
Alternatives to Rosetta Stone Vietnamese
While I don’t recommend Rosetta Stone for learning Vietnamese. Here are a few other courses I do recommend.
This audio course is built around pronunciation, which makes it great for learning Vietnamese. Unlike Rosetta each lesson in Pimsleur teaches phrases one syllable at a time. The course will even point out differences between the Vietnamese sounds and English sounds. Once you’ve practiced saying whole phrases the lessons throw prompts at you. You will have to answer and ask questions in Vietnamese on the fly, using what you’ve learned.
The prompts mix and match phases, so you’re never quite sure what will be asked. You have a limited amount of time to answer before the correct response is given. This prompt-recall-feedback method comes very close to simulating a real conversation with a Vietnamese speaker. It forces you to think and speak in Vietnamese, versus simply translating phrases from English in your head. The only downside of Pimsleur Vietnamese is that there’s only one course level.
If you want to be able to speak basic Vietnamese phrases clearly and easily,then you should check this app out.
Vietnamesepod101 has several hundred Vietnamese lessons spread across five difficulty levels, ranging from beginner to advanced. Each lesson unit is a podcast season. Each episode works with a dialogue between real Vietnamese speakers. The hosts of the show introduce the conversation and point out important grammar and vocabulary. They also help explain difficult concepts, so that they’re easier to understand.
In addition to their hundreds of podcasts lessons, Vietnamesepod101 also features additional resources. There’s video lessons, downloadable ebooks (including a pronunciation guide, audio phrase lists, grammar guides, and more.
Learn Vietnamese with Master Ling
Master Ling uses native speaker audio to teach Vietnamese phrases with minigames and exercises. Each lesson teaches vocabulary centered around a specific topic like family, weather, etc. The minigames range from matching, to listening comprehension. Two of my favorite things about the app is that there are full Vietnamese dialogues you can listen to and practice with. There’s also the option to practice what you know in a conversation with a Vietnamese chatbot, which is pretty cool.
Rosetta Stone Vietnamese often does more harm than good for learners who are new to the language. The course’s lack of grammar explanations and pronunciation training are huge impediments to anyone learning Vietnamese. A language course should make it easier to learn a foreign language. Rosetta Stone Vietnamese is the rare case that actually makes it more difficult.