I always knew that Rosetta Stone was over-priced and heavily marketed. As a blogger I’ve seen them offer large affiliate commissions via sites like Commission Junction, and when I travel it’s not unusual to see a large airport display with their super expensive little yellow boxes.

It wasn’t until I signed up for Live Mocha, a site that I’ve heard great things about, during an insanely cheap sale last January where they offered access to ALL their languages for just $10. I did it. I bought it. I encouraged everyone else to do it too via Facebook. We were duped (sorry guys).

The fact is, Live Mocha was about to sell to Rosetta Stone, so they were trying to drive up their membership lists. When Rosetta Stone bought the company, I thought, “Oh crap, there goes Live Mocha” but I had no idea that I was now going to be spammed by Rosetta Stone for the rest of the year.

36 emails from May 29, 2013 – Dec 17, 2013. In just over six months they have sent me an average of six emails a month.

rosetta

I don’t want to buy Rosetta Stone. If I did I would have bought it already. Let’s face it, it’s not like Rosetta Stone is an obscure brand, like Live Mocha. It’s probably the most recognizable name in language learning. So why didn’t I buy it? It’s insanely expensive and I don’t think it works. I have never met someone who was like, “Oh I am fluent in Italian. It was easy. I just used Rosetta Stone.” Never. Languages are usually learned from a combination of studying the grammar, speaking and practicing the language and for people who become advanced at the language, they typically spend at least a little time in the country.

The thing that bothered me was that they didn’t create a separate email list for just Rosetta Stone spam. If I unsubscribed, I would be removing myself from the Live Mocha list as well. So I emailed them about it. This was their response (click to open large view):

response

Nada.

So I took to Twitter.

Rosetta never responded but Live Mocha did.

 

 

 

If you go here, you can see the full conversation, where they try to appease me by manually removing me, but my objection goes unanswered.. shouldn’t people be able to opt out of Rosetta Stone spam without unsubscribing to Live Mocha? (I especially like the part where she tries to change the subject:

 

Eventually I gave up, but what does it tell you that Rosetta Stone offered 60% off their price almost all year? It’s WAY too expensive. I have no idea if it works. I just think their marketing sucks. On principle, I will never use any of their products — ever.

If you are in the market for language learning tools, here is what I recommend instead:

1. Get a good grammar book.
2. Get a good dictionary.
3. Use DuoLingo or other free language learning tools online.
4. Hire someone local to you for language lessons. Pay between $10-$20 an hour depending on how much help you need and just spend 1-4 hours a week with them (depending on your budget) to practice converation and have your pronounciation corrected.
5. If there is no one local, do it via Skype. If you google around there are lot of language-specific guides on how to do this.
6. Between lessons do a lot of self-study and be sure to cover everything: a little grammar, a little new vocabulary, a little writing, some translation, listening and practice speaking– even if you are just reading out loud.
7. As your skill increases collect materials in the source language: music, books, movies, magazines, TV shows, youtube videos. Many things are available online for free if you know where to look. Children’s books are a good place to start.

Sing it with me: This is the sale that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends. Somebody started discounting it not knowing what they've done and they've continue selling forever just because... this is the sale that never ends...
Sing it with me: This is the sale that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends. Somebody started discounting it not knowing what they’ve done and they’ll continue pushing it forever just because… this is the sale that never ends…

I should note I did take a peek at the Rosetta Stone website, and for Spanish they are selling Latin American Spanish. Which is great if you want to use the language with people from there. There isn’t a Castillian Spanish version and if you are studying Latin American Spanish with the intent of moving to Andulucia, good luck with that. But the point is they don’t care if what you are learning is useless or a bad fit. They want you to give them money. That’s the bottom line. On their Arabic page they actually lie to you and say, “Modern Standard Arabic is a popular dialect, and it happens to be our method of choice.” MSA is not a dialect, it is the literary language and not spoken — every single Arabic country uses a different spoken dialect. Is it good to learn? Yes, absolutely. Is it going to be very helpful if you are spending a holiday in Jordan? It can’t hurt but it’s not what people speak. Ever. Period. Who cares about that though! GIVE US YOUR MONEY – LAST CHANCE – ENDING SOON – WE WILL SAY ANYTHING – PLEASECOMEONWENEEDTHIS – DUOLINGO BEING FREE IS KILLING US!

What you really need:

One grammar book, one dictionary, $40-$320/mo in language lessons depending on how fast you want to go (and your budget — by the way you can make this amount zero if you are willing to barter English lessons), use the free tools and free source materials online and buy a couple more books as you go. The biggest factor isn’t the tools you use, it’s the study and practice that you do every day, little by little to get ahead. A year of 30 minutes a day is better than 160 hours in one month, even though it’s the same amount of time. Consistency matters much more than expensive, over-rated and aggressively marketed products like Rosetta Stone.

UPDATE:

Three days after posting this, I go to Rosetta Stone because surely the sale must be over now. It’s the day after Christmas. There was a counter! You can see it above, there was only TWO HOURS left to go! Um, nope. New graphic, same sale. Are we being punked by Rosetta Stone? Are they all at HQ giggling in their cubicles and saying, “OMG Bob, no you can’t do it again, you can’t just swap the image and keep the SAME SALE GOING when we just told everyone that this was their last chance.” But Bob has a really dry sense of humor and he’s just like, “Watch me.”

Screenshot from Rosetta Stone today (12/26/13). Let the scam, I mean sale, continue! (That woman on the elephant is like, wow for $274 I bought this ride on an elephant and 10 nights hotel in Thailand! THANK GOD I DIDN’T BUY ROSETTA STONE!):

rosetta2

By the way, there were 10 emails after the list above, I didn’t realize it but my spam filter started catching them. They emailed me almost twice a day leading up to Christmas. Today’s email says, “2014 starts with our best deal ever!” Somehow I doubt that.