Babbel vs. Rosetta Stone Review

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.

To learn more about each software, please visit their respective websites:
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24 Comments

    • I have tried both Babbel and Yabla to polish up my German, and I must say the best method is to do both in a combined plan of study. Each one compliments the other. I used to be quite fluent in German years ago and wanted a course to help brush up. I like Babbel because I want to know WHY something is like it is; then I can apply the rule and construct my own sentences and phrases based upon the rules of construction. Babbel also has a method of programmed progression where each module builds upon the last resulting in a program of increased difficulty and hitting all aspects of the language. Yabla is a bit all over the place, as the user can select videos to watch at random with no connection to each other. I suppose real life is like this, but not the best way for me to learn a language. I have always been skeptical of the “immersion” technique – I think it is over-hyped. I often feel overwhelmed and the language is just a bunch of strange sounds that I cannot connect or anchor to anything. Just a blast of sound. But, that is my learning style – I need to know the underlying concepts – then I will get the surface details. I suspect it can be compared to people who can play piano by ear – same skill as being good at learning by immersion – you can just “tune in” and start picking it up. Not me, I need to know the concepts and rules begind. Thus, if I had a choice of one – I’d recommend Babbel.

      • I like your review and contrast for learning a language. I sm like you in that I want to understand why it works the way it does. Total immersion may be more effective if you are in that country and you have no choice but to immerse yourself in that language.

        I an going to try Babbel for 4-6 weeks then do the same with Rosetta Stone. Thanks for your review snd insights.

  1. I find that I start learning a language using the Babbel method. For those languages where I’ve been immersed in the culture for a time adequate to absorb the basics, the extension of my knowledge is best served by the Rosetta approach. Above analysis has clarified this difference for me. Thanks.

  2. I have had both for the past year….I renewed my subscription to Babbel. I found using both enhanced my learning but I like to knw the why and how and I got that from Babbel…then I could apply what I learned to Rosetta Stone. I find Babbel to be FUN and I enjoy studying each day…Rosetta Stone was a chore at times. Again, both worked well together, but I get more bang from my bucks with Babbel.

  3. RS is not the same as being immersed in a culture. The pictures are ambiguous and out of context. It is not possible to ask questions or ask for clarification. The give and take of struggling with someone who might know no or a very few words of English is totally unlike RS. Beyond that, RS does not differentiate according the gender of the speaker or other things that vary across languages (e.g., Korean has two number systems and rarely uses plural forms). Native speakers have told me that the language (e.g., Russian and Korean) used is unnatural.

    • Thank you for your comment. You are definitely right that Rosetta Stone does not imitate the experience of being immersed in a culture, and some languages are much harder to capture through software than others. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to travel and truly experience immersion, so what I meant to express was that if one had to choose between these two programs, Rosetta Stone is closer to the experience of language immersion than Babbel is. Hope you enjoy our blog! 🙂

  4. Best review yet. Thank you much. Assisted me greatly in determining which to use for my learning needs and when, and since needs periodically vary, both will be used.

  5. Unless you are traveling to Brazil, don’t bother with Rosetta Stone or Babbel’s Brazilian version of Portuguese. It is not the real Portuguese language spoken in the Azores or in Portugal.
    Pronunciations, words are not all the same.

    • Thank you for reading and for visiting our website 🙂 . Brazilian Portuguese is spoken by millions of people. The phonetics and words may differ from that of the language spoken in Portugal, but it does not make the language less “real”. I am sure that someone learning Portuguese with Rosetta Stone/Babbel will fare well in Portugal, not to mention their accent will adjust appropriately after spending time there. Have a great day!

  6. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely
    donate to this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

    I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site
    with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  7. I think if you want continental Portuguese, Pimsler is your answer. As with Spanish, I prefer the Castilian accent. Not that you wouldn’t be understood in Mexico o Puerto Rico.

  8. Thanks for this excellent info. I tried the immersion method by planning to spend the month of September in Guatemala. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, I was forced to return home after one week. I found the immersion method very confusing. Especially living with a family where no English was spoken. Without your review, I would have made the mistake of purchasing RS which uses the same method. Based upon your review, I’m confident that Babbel will best fit my learning style.

  9. Thank you very much!
    This review has been exceptionally helpful! I am best served by a classroom–detailed type of learning. I wind up being frustrated with online language learning software programs because I am never sure to what kind of learner they are geared. This has been of great benefit. I will definitely be going with Babbel.

  10. Thank you for your review. I’ve been struggling with RS for the past few weeks trying to learn French. I’m able to say a few things and know some vocabulary words now, but I was constantly between that and Google Translate. I tried the free trial of Babel and am already happy.

  11. I have previously purchasec A RS complete course in Spanish and this past year also enrolled in a classroom based lSpanish class. Iunfortunately, i have had only moderate success using both. The language class was in the evening after work and aftawr a while, i did not continue the RS course (technical issues associated with changing laptops). I still want to pursue learnng new languages, so i will give Babbel a try. Thank you for your comparison review.

  12. Great advice from ALL!!! I was going to dive right into Rosetta Stone and purchase because it is very popular and well advertised. I have recently learned to ALWAYS check reviews! I am glad to say this review is well educated and helpful to me in my journey. Thank you.

  13. Need more clarification. My strong New Orleans accent makes it hard for me to pronunciation different words in Spanish when Im just read a word more times than not….the word doesn’t sound or come across right or understandable because of my incorrect pronunciation…I need to know what I’m saying and hear the word or phrase that I am wanting to converse to the other person Will Babble be able to help me with that.

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