For those of you thinking of investing in a language-learning software, here is a general review of two of the biggest companies in the industry.
After using Rosetta Stone for approximately six months to learn Japanese as well as Babbel for a month to learn Italian, here are my overall impressions:
Learning with Rosetta Stone is a lot more challenging than learning with Babbel, because it never provides translations. It simply shows you a picture and then prints and plays the word or phrase associated with the picture. You learn the language the way you would if you were dropped smack in the middle of its native country: by reading, listening, associating, and solidifying what you absorb through conversation. In this way it can be confusing or difficult to follow at times, but just as with learning a language through immersion, with adequate practice and repetition the grammar and vocabulary stick more permanently than they often would through a different structure of study.
Babbel, on the other hand, while using images just like Rosetta Stone, incorporates a lot more of the user’s native language into the program. It explains certain grammar points, translates words and phrases, engages user in translation exercises, and thus sometimes takes on more of a classroom-like approach to learning. It provides a dose of immersion as well as what feels like a textbook accompaniment as a guide. Babbel also has a very large database for vocabulary, organized in dozens of categories such as, holiday, food and drinks, body, and many more.
Some features both programs have:
- Speech recognition
- Mobile applications to study on-the-go
- A variety of subscriptions/purchasing options
Who should use each program?
– Rosetta Stone: A user who learns best through immersion, through being challenged without the help of their native language, and who learns words and phrases best by applying them in context through mediums such as literature and conversation.
– Babbel: A user who learns best through translation and study, through the use of a dictionary and then application in conversation, and who learns words and phrases best through memorization and review.
I personally prefer Rosetta Stone because my inclination to languages makes me learn best when I am challenged to the point of having to think in the language I am learning even with the most basic understanding of it.