Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone: Which Platform Wins?

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

We’re not sure what is harder to compare: two similar language courses or two completely different platforms.

Well, Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are worlds apart.

But in this case, one platform is generally better than the other. At least in our opinion.

Of course, it all comes down to your preferences and goals.

But if we look at each platform’s content, methods, and features, it’s possible to pick the winner.

So, Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone, which platform should you choose?

You’ll find out in a bit!

Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone: Which Platform Wins?

Duolingo is arguably the most popular language-learning app in the world.

It’s simple and easy to use, and it delivers short lessons that will help you expand your vocabulary.

And it’s quite game-like. In a way, using Duoling feels like playing a game.

Duolingo review

On the other hand, if Rosetta Stone felt like playing a game, it would be an immersive, sophisticated video game.

Rosetta Stone is a household name among language-learning platforms. And it has a quite unique approach we will present to you in a moment.

Rosetta Stone review

Nevertheless, both platforms are popular among learners from across the globe.

And one of their biggest (or the most obvious) differences is the price.

So, let’s look at their price and subscription plans first.

Pricing and Plans

As you probably already know, Duolingo offers a free plan. You just need to sign up and start learning!

That’s perhaps one of the reasons this app became so popular in the first place. The free plan makes it very accessible and, well, attractive.

However, the free version of Duolingo is quite limited. You can only make a certain number of mistakes, and you need to learn in a strictly linear fashion.

With the Duolingo Plus, you’ll have unlimited Hearts (you can lose Hearts by answering incorrectly too many times) and unlimited test outs (you can complete a skill test to jump to the next level.)

Also, Duolingo Plus is ad-free, and you can use it offline.

The subscription costs $7 per month. So, that’s actually not a lot, and you’ll get more flexibility.

Rosetta Stone, on the other hand, has a reputation for being a little pricey. But things have changed, and Rosetta Stone monthly subscription currently costs just a little bit more than Duolingo Plus.

Rosetta Stone offers the following options:

  • 3-month subscription for $12.59 per month
  • 12-month subscription for $8.28 per month
  • Lifetime subscription for $184

These prices apply to the self-study course. There’s also a self-study + coaching option – you’ll get everything from the self-study course with the addition of unlimited online sessions with native coaches.

Rosetta Stone is perhaps not that expensive anymore, but compared to Duolingo, it does feel like a long-term commitment.

However, if you take into account everything you get with each membership plan, you’ll probably think about it differently.

Structure and Features

If you purchase Rosetta Stone, you’ll receive quality content and a well-rounded, immersive language course.

Rosetta Stone is based on an intuitive teaching style. So, in each lesson, you won’t get translations and clear explanations right away. You’ll have to make your own conclusions instead.

Of course, you’ll get visual aids and hints. For instance, you’ll have to connect pictures with words.

Rosetta Stone lessons

You’ll learn new vocabulary through real-life dialogues, interactive exercises, and audio clips from native speakers.

The program also features games, challenges, and useful study tools.

And the TruAccent speech recognition technology will give you instant feedback on your pronunciation.

So, Rosetta Stone is focused on all the important things: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading, and writing.

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But even more importantly, it will teach you all of these skills in a very unique way. As we’ve already mentioned, the program is based on intuitive learning and immersion. And that’s actually a very natural way to learn a new language.

Some people don’t like this approach. They find it a bit confusing.

The thing is, we are all used to getting solutions right away. But gaining language skills doesn’t work that way, especially if you want to become a fluent speaker.

And Rosetta Stone is taking things slowly. It will force you to use your imagination and be creative.

Therefore, you won’t only improve your language comprehension but you’ll also improve your cognitive skills and boost your creativity.

The Phrasebook feature is available for selected languages, and it’s a useful tool to pronounce words and sentences in a proper way.

Rosetta Stone phrasebook

Speaking of languages, Rosetta Stone currently offers 25 languages to choose from. And compared to some other language platforms, that’s a good number.

Another great thing about Rosetta Stone is the Audio Companion – thanks to this feature, you can take a break from the screen and take your lessons on the go.

You can even download lessons and materials and use them offline.

As you can see, Rosetta Stone is a very versatile program that will provide you with everything you need for a productive yet relaxed learning journey.

Rosetta Stone also offers live tutoring. And that’s something that Duolingo lacks.

If you opt for the subscription plan that included live coaching, Rosetta Stone’s coach will guide you through activities that inspire conversation and reinforce your new language skills.

But these options vary depending on the language you’re learning.

Generally, there are three types of Rosetta Stone Coaching sessions:

  • On-Demand Videos
  • Live Lessons
  • Live Coaching Sessions

Live Lessons are daily 15-20 minute live-stream sessions led by a Rosetta Stone coach. They will help you review and strengthen the skills you learned in your regular Rosetta Stone lessons.

And Live Coaching Sessions will allow you to have private virtual lessons or small group classes. All Live Coaching sessions are 25 minutes long.

Whatever type of lessons you choose, you’ll benefit a lot from them.

Duolingo, however, takes a completely different approach to teaching languages.

As we’ve already mentioned, Duolingo has many game-like features. In fact, the app looks like a game itself.

Duolingo lessons

You’ll be completing levels, and collecting Hearts, XP, and badges.

Lessons are very short and simple, and they are based on translation. Some translations might be kind of weird though. Don’t be surprised if you come across a sentence that doesn’t make any sense.

Lessons are also tailored to help you learn at just the right level and pace. Or at least that’s what Duolingo claims.

Each lesson is about 5 to 10 minutes long. And there are all kinds of drills and short exercises.

Drills include fill-in-the-blanks, matching pairs, listening drills, and so on.

Nevertheless, people seem to like Duolingo because it’s very practical and easy to use. You can use it every day and have a feeling that you’re making progress.

The app is also full of graphics and animations, which is good news for visual learners.

However, there are some concerns about their crowd-sourced translation model. Apparently, while you’re doing Duolingo fill-in-the-blank exercises, you’re actually submitting translations and they’re partnering with other companies and selling them.

Also, Duolingo outsourced its translation services for years, and according to some online sources, that’s why there are so many awkward sentences in there.

But despite all of these drawbacks, Duolingo has grown and evolved over the years.

There are many different Duolingo sections now. There’s a Duolingo podcast, an active and fresh-looking Duolingo blog, and useful Duolingo Stories.

Duolingo podcast

Plus, you can attend live events and get in touch with fellow learners.

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Duolingo has a strong community and, consequently, very loyal users. People evidently love it, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

Levels and topics

Even though it’s simple and cute, Duolingo won’t help you build strong conversational skills.

It might be a good learning source if you want to expand your vocabulary and learn how to structure basic sentences. But that’s not enough, especially if you want to reach proficiency levels.

The app covers popular topics, but it’s not always like that. Sometimes you’ll come across words and phrases you’ll probably never going to use in real life. Unless you want to drink whiskey with the Loch Ness monster.

But even though people tend to make fun of Duolingo’s silly sentences, they can actually help you memorize some things better. There’s no way the picture of the Loch Ness monster with a glass of whiskey won’t stay in your brain for a while.

Moreover, Duolingo describes that as a quirky sense of humor and lighthearted learning.

Either way, you won’t get bored with the Duolingo app, at least not very quickly. And it definitely won’t overwhelm you with complex grammar rules or too much information at the same time. Quite the opposite.

When it comes to levels, you go up a level every time you earn a certain amount of experience points. And at some point, Duolingo introduced Crown levels.

Crown Levels give you tougher exercises at higher levels. Now each skill begins at the introduction level (level 0) and when you complete all the lessons, the skill is leveled-up and the next row of skills is unlocked.

The point of the leveling-up system is to allow learners to see more challenging content without forcing them to go through it.

Rosetta Stone, of course, works in a different way.

The program is divided into units, and the number of units depends on the language you’re learning. Unfortunately, that’s often the case with online courses – popular languages get more attention and detail.

Nonetheless, Rosetta Stone has a better level structure than Duolingo. It’s based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), and that’s arguably the most widely used standard for understanding proficiency levels.

On the Rosetta Stone website, you can find the number of units (and levels) of your target language. Everything is very clear and straightforward, and you can check what each course covers. There’s also an index of phrases and vocabulary.

All courses cover a wide range of topics, but they are mostly centered around practical vocabulary useful for traveling and everyday situations.

Rosetta Stone lessons and topics

If the language you’re learning has a different writing system, there are lessons dedicated to the alphabet. The alphabet feature allows you to view and listen to the characters.

All things considered, Rosetta Stone will teach you how to speak, write, and read. It’s well-rounded and thorough, and we can’t say the same for Duolingo.

Therefore, if you want a more serious and complete online education, Rosetta Stone would be a better option.

What about design?

And if you want a fun and relaxed learning experience and Duolingo the owl as your learning buddy, you can opt for Duolingo.

Duolingo’s mascot (and the whole app design) became iconic. And with so many apps on the market, that’s not an easy goal to achieve.

Rosetta Stone is, on the other hand, more serious. But it’s actually beautifully and thoughtfully designed.

Everything looks very fresh and attractive. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, it’s also very functional, so you won’t waste time figuring out what to do next.

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Design is definitely one of the Rosetta Stone’s obvious benefits.

But more importantly, the program has a unique approach to teaching languages.

While Rosetta Stone’s intuitive teaching might be a bit overwhelming or complicated, it’s actually quite effective.

After all, context and immersion are arguably the best ways to learn a foreign language. Not to mention more natural.

Rosetta Stone will allow you to learn in the context of everyday situations. And with the help of visual aids and versatile tools, you’ll be sure to memorize everything quite easily.

Rosetta Stone language learning program

It’s a slow process though, at least compared to Duolingo. But if you want to take your language learning seriously, it’s the only way.

Another huge advantage of Rosetta Stone is the live classes option. Live coaching will give you a chance to learn from a real teacher, get valuable feedback, and ask questions.

Pronunciation practice is another of Rosetta Stone’s strengths. Speech recognition engines don’t have the same effect as speaking to a real native speaker, but they are very helpful.

Duolingo also has many benefits. After all, it’s a superstar among language-learning apps.

But if you take into account the fact that it’s free, that comes as no surprise.

Duolingo is also incredibly simple and it has many gamification elements. And people generally love that.

But turning language learning into a game isn’t necessarily a good thing. It all depends on your goals and expectations.

In a way, Duolingo managed to blend fun and productivity. Because despite all its simplicity and gamification, you’ll still going to learn a lot. Maybe you won’t become fluent, but you shouldn’t expect that from an app anyway.

Furthermore, Duolingo currently teaches 19 languages (including some fictional languages like Dothraki and Klingon.) It’s less than Rosetta Stone, but it’s a good selection.

And last but not least, as a Duolingo user, you will feel involved. Duolingo has a strong online community, and it’s quite active on social media. You can always count on a good comment on recent events.

Duolingo Tweet about Elon Musk

What Do Users Say?

And what do other people say about Duolingo and Rosetta Stone?

Well, as we’ve already mentioned, people generally enjoy using Duolingo. They find it practical, fun, and easy to use.

However, many users made a complaint about incorrect translations and unnatural sentences. And that can really feel discouraging.

There are similar complaints about Rosetta Stone. Some users reported that their program is completely buggy, and others complained about irrelevant vocabulary.

Of course, numerous Rosetta Stone reviews on the Trustpilot tackle the program’s methods. But that shouldn’t be taken as a bad thing – after all, people have different learning styles and expectations.

If you don’t like guessing words and learning in an intuitive way, Rosetta Stone clearly isn’t for you.

On the other note, many users find Rosetta Stone’s approach very interesting. And they obviously find the program very helpful and immersive.

Final Verdict

Hopefully, our Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone comparison article helped you make the right decision.

At the end of the day, you should pick a platform that fits your goals and needs.

If you like gamified apps and a relaxed learning environment, you can give Duolingo a try.

But if you want to build a solid foundation, you should opt for Rosetta Stone.

Generally speaking, Rosetta Stone is definitely more complete, technically competent, and comprehensive.

Yes, you’ll have to rely on your instincts and creativity, but you’re going to learn a lot. And if you like highly intuitive programs, you’ll enjoy Rosetta Stone.

On the other hand, both platforms have their drawbacks. In our opinion, there are better resources out there for you to explore.

But if we had to pick a winner today, it would be Rosetta Stone.