Before I start my review I want to give you a little background. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Washington. I've taught English to Japanese students in Japan from grade 6 through 12, then college age students from Nagasaki University. I've also taught American English speakers Beginning Japanese classes at the local community college for two semesters, with students ranging in age from about 18 to age 60.
I'm reviewing Rosetta Stone Japanese based on my experience as a Japanese language learner, a Japanese language teacher and an English language teacher for Japanese people.
There are three parts to learning with Rosetta Stone included with the cost of this set:
Rosetta Course - Select images and text on the screen by speaking, clicking or typing the answer.
Rosetta Studio (online for 9 months) - Converse and interact online with a native Japanese speaker using the same vocabulary and lessons in Rosetta Stone.
Rosetta World (online for 9 months) - Interact with other Japanese language learners through conversation and games, or do the language games and activities alone.
To me, the greatest aspect to Rosetta Stone is that you get a well-rounded experience of listening, speaking, interacting with other students, plus interaction with a native speaker -- as opposed to some language courses where you only listen to an audio and try to repeat what's said, like with Pimsleur. The screens of vocabulary and dialogue do seem like flash cards, but it's more complex than just flash cards. HEARING is so important to establish new pathways in your brain for a totally different language like Japanese. Flash Cards are writing based -- not the same.
** I think it's important to note that Japanese is a not like learning a European language (I've also studied Portuguese and Spanish) where you can have a basic grasp or understanding of sentence structure and the grammar, then by just exchanging vocabulary words you can still get the gist of what's being said. Listening to conversation and learning *patterns* for speaking, pronunciation and intonation is very important to communicate in Japanese.**
For those of you who feel learning the Japanese writing system is very important, IMO it's helpful to a point. However, when it comes to communicating with native speakers, learning thousands of characters does not help unless your goal is to be a translator -- the only time I used those hundreds of hours of study and memorization (I will say learning hiragana and katakana is a help).
In fact, when I went to Japan I had three years of Japanese language learning -- mostly grammar, memorizing characters and translating -- and it took me six months to get up to speed in order to hold a real conversation, say, in a teacher meeting, with my colleagues. I wish I had something like Rosetta Stone back then!
That said, for those who want it, Rosetta Stone does have some writing lessons included. You can't write on the screen, so basically it's still a multiple choice setup. Rosetta Stone does give you the option to read along with the lessons and you can read using the alphabet, using what is called Hiragana. You may also use Kanji characters or you may use Kanji characters with some pronunciation help from what's called Furigana.
Grammar-wise, there is no guide or explanation of even basic grammar. This program is designed to mimic learning a language much like a child does, by listening and learning patterns. There are lessons in RS that focus on what are called "particles" in Japanese grammar, such as wa, de and ni. If you are a true beginner in Japanese, a basic book on grammar may help you get a feel for it. Many Japanese learners highly recommend the free "Genki" lessons online.
Finally, IMO, Rosetta Stone Japanese _is_ a good value. The hours of lessons (that you can repeat anytime), additional practice with other students, with the opportunity for live tutoring sessions is well worth the cost (this used to be over $1,200 through Rosetta Stone - it's less than half that now).
Compare that to offline with a course at a local community college. For a 3-credit course per semester you're looking at about $200-$300 per course. You're probably going to spend about $500+ and learn basic grammar, rudimentary writing, and probably a small amount of speaking and hearing. From my experience, that's certainly not enough to communicate beyond introductions and a few helpful phrases, if you decide to go to Japan.
Rosetta Stone seems ideal for a student who has some basic Japanese grammar (on your own is fine) and who is planning to go over to Japan, say, for work or to study as an exchange student. If my child were heading to Japan as an exchange student, I certainly would consider having them study the Rosetta Stone Japanese course prior to going to give them a basic feel for the language, proper pronunciation, listening practice and the chance to speak with a native speaker.
on April 17, 2012
About me: I have been using Rosetta Stone (v3) Japanese for about 3 months, and am on Level 2 Unit 4. I studied Japanese with a private tutor for 6 months about two years before I started using Rosetta Stone, and I have a Japanese boyfriend. I have free access to Rosetta Stone courtesy of my school.
In short: I have enjoyed using Rosetta Stone for free, and finding the motivation to do daily Rosetta Stone sessions is very easy. However, the longer I spend learning with Rosetta Stone, the more concerned I am that I am not actually learning Japanese, I am just learning Japanese translations of English. I firmly believe that Rosetta Stone must be used with supplemental learning materials that address usage, culture, grammar and vocabulary. Given how much is missing from this language learning solution, it is definitely not worth the sticker price. If you can access it for free, though, you might find it worth your time ... or not.
- Low stress level (there is almost no challenge; it is always very easy, so you never worry that you're going to 'fail')
- Option to switch between romaji, kana, kanji, and kanji with furigana at any time
- Professional photography (when the models don't look corny, the photos are almost always extremely beautiful)
- Polished software (relatively bug-free, but not without typos or speech recognition difficulties)
- Intuitive interface (for me, but not for everybody)
- Copy-and-paste from other languages: Rosetta Stone takes a copy-and-paste method to producing their software for different languages. You end up learning a lot of vocabulary that is American or Western, like salad, sandwich and bed, but not sushi, unagi or futon.
- No emphasis on special features of Japanese: This is a result of the copy-and-paste method. Japanese is quite different from English and the Romance languages, but Rosetta Stone almost completely fails to acknowledge these differences. One specific example: Japanese months are numbered regularly using numbers, not names. So January is '1 month', September is '9 month', etc. However, Rosetta Stone insists on drilling you on the 'names' of the months, even though you learned the numbers 1-12 many units ago. Moreover, Japanese days of the month are numbered using two separate numbering schemes (native and Chinese), but there is no attempt to teach you the days of month systematically. Instead you find out incidentally along the way that some days of the month are not constructed as you expect. There are many other examples: style (levels of politeness and formality), adjective conjugation, etc.
- Inaccurate usage: Again, a result of the copy-and-paste method. One specific example: Rosetta Stone presents 'ii deshita' as 'was good'. This is a literal translation of the English (or Romance language), but no Japanese ever says that. They say 'yokatta desu'. (It is the adjective that is given the past tense, not the auxiliary verb.) There are many other examples: putting subjects into almost every sentence (when Japanese typically omit subjects), using 'gomennasai' instead of 'sumimasen' in some contexts, no emphasis on in-group vs out-group vocabulary, etc.
- No cultural awareness: All languages are highly intertwined with culture, but the culture you see in Rosetta Stone is completely American or at most, Western. For example, when refusing an invitation, a Japanese would almost never say 'no' straight out, but present very polite excuses.
- Writing practice is rudimentary
- 'Milestone' activities at the end of the unit are too close-ended. They have a pre-written script that you must follow in order to be graded as correct; however, in a real conversation, there is always more than one way of saying something. There are many appropriate responses you could make, and while accounting for all of them is obviously impractical, there often at least two or three ways that would be common given the material already taught. The milestones would be a lot more enjoyable and realistic if the script allowed a few variations when appropriate.
Note that I do not comment at all about the 'immersion' approach taken by Rosetta Stone. It is up to you how fun/effective that approach is for you, and how much time pressure you're under. I think Rosetta Stone does a decent job at the immersion approach, but I'm no expert.
Recommendation: Do your research to find out if Rosetta Stone is worth your time or money. There are a lot of language blogs out there who have pretty negative reviews, and they go into detailed reasons as to why. In my opinion, Rosetta Stone Japanese would not work well for absolute beginners or advanced students. It would only work well for advanced beginners, those who are still beginners but who already have some Japanese learning. Japanese is a relatively unique language, and the differences you are used to seeing between English and other Romance languages are not the relevant differences between Japanese and English. It is important to know about certain unique features before embarking on learning Japanese using Rosetta Stone, otherwise you might be extremely confused (or not even know what you're missing), which is why I don't recommend Rosetta Stone for absolute beginners. Second, even Japanese Level 3 is extremely simplistic, and Rosetta Stone does not teach many important aspects of Japanese language usage, so I would not recommend this software for advanced learners either.
Additional reviews of Rosetta Stone (Amazon won't let me link, so I'll just name them and you can Google):
- Fluent in 3 months (very detailed review, not particularly of Japanese, with responses from Rosetta Stone included)
- Tofugu (funny review with lots of interesting alternatives listed, including a free(!) Rosetta Stone clone)
- Japanese LinguaLift
on January 14, 2011
I bought this item directly from Rosetta Stone, paying, unfortunately, more than I would have had I bought it directly from Amazon. Live, learn, and expect a (usually) better buy from Amazon! Apart from my negative feelings on the price, I have the following comments on the program: it is very slow to load and run. It does, as other reviewers have said, freeze without warning. When that happens, I can only go to another section of the lesson I am on to get it back to responding again. And, it usually freezes at the same place in the program. So, the program has bugs in it. Yes, as one reviewer has said, the pictures of some activities are too small to determine what response the program expects of me. Fine differences make for drastically different expected responses. The program is, as advertised, total immersion; there is no English language help available in the program, and all questions, answers, and expected responses are all in Japanese. So, anyone expecting any hand holding from the program in the way of English language help is going to be greatly disappointed. That said, the program is excellent in presenting situations one might encounter and hearing the language spoken for that situation. I quickly learned the difference between language used when speaking of men and women, their friends, male and female children, activities such as eating, walking, riding, cooking, shopping, reading from books and magazines, grammar, and such other essentials. After going to bed each night, after doing my lesson for the day, I remembered many things that I had always wondered about. My wife is a native Japanese, and she helps me with the finer points of the program. I took four courses of college Japanese, and can say that this program has taught me more than all of those courses combined. Overall, it meets my needs and is a very interesting, interactive program -- but buggy.
First I'd like to say I agree with what appears to be the consensus on this product: a bit overpriced, but does what it claims. The Rosetta Stone language philosophy is: Language immersion through learning + feedback through a well-rounded (and fun) program which reinforces comprehension & pronunciation (including accents).
ROSETTA STONE APPROACH:
I am a far cry from being a language expert, but I have used other language programs (and other Rosetta Stone program), and I believe the have a very solid product.
Many users have complained about the "immersion" approach - so here's my quick 2 cents on that: There are several language theories, and I tend to agree with immersion. I have some academic reasons for this (I've studied Chomsky, linguistics, semiotics, etc, in graduate school), but for me the proof is in the pudding when I watch my 1-year old child acquire cognitive tasks like language. She obviously does not use flash cards or try to memorize words one at a time - she is immersed in the language every day (hearing it, seeing it, trying it out, reacting to our feedback) and picks it up like a champ.
The apprehension from Rosetta Stone users (I believe) is that Japanese is *so* foreign from the Romance Languages (English, Spanish, French, etc) and there is NO English (zero, as far as I've seen) in the program. So if this makes you apprehensive, and/or if this isn't your learning style (hey - everybody learns differently), then I would suggest avoiding all immersion-based softwares (not just Rosetta - that includes most of the top companies). But for me, this is my preference.
The program has 3 parts: The course/software itself, the "studio" (get 9 months with your license - interact with native speakers), and the Rosetta "world" (also 9 months - play games, etc). The three together (theoretically) provide a well-rounded language experience. However, please note that you are paying for the extras - the software itself is fairly similar to much less expensive alternatives (like the Instant Immersion brand).
There were some problems with the software (running on a new Windows 7 laptop). It was a bit clunky, runs slow, and even crashed my system a few times.
The larger issue for me (as with all Rosetta Stone products) is the licensing. You are only allowed to load the program twice (theoretically, one copy on your desktop and one on your laptop). But if you have a crash, a stolen laptop, if you need to reinstall due to Windows errors, then you are basically up the creek - you have to buy another copy.
In my opinion this severely limits the use of your program (and as one user put it, you never really "own" it). Another user encouraged me to look at it another way: This is a course (like a college course) - and you should spend 9 months with it and then never need it again. Learning a language is not really like an operating system or photo editing software, where you basically use the same functions every day for several years - you progress through the program then you're done.
All I can say is, the licensing restrictions really make me feel uncomfortable. At heart, I really believe if I buy a product (and have the serial number), I should have unrestricted personal use of the product. I should be able to transfer ownership (put it on my wife's computer when I'm done with it), resell it, load it onto my next computer, etc. And this raises another limitation - I can't use it on my netbook (which I travel with) because I've already used my 2 installs, but also because the CD-Rom has to be in place to use it. So if you plan to use it while traveling, or even at work, for example, you can't unless you also carry around the discs.
Some users have reported that the early levels don't really teach you relevant phrases, and I tend to agree with that.
Also, the headset is cheap - not a big deal in my book, but it really makes me curious why Rosetta Stone would sell a top shelf program and include a dollar store headset.
This product is NOT for you if: (a) Any of the issues I mention give you pause, or (b) you're wanting to learn casually - and not serious about jumping right into the program. Also, if you're looking for an effective yet less expensive alternative, they're out there.
You won't find any other out-of-the-box product as comprehensive as Rosetta Stone, but you can definitely piece together your own learning program (i.e., Instant Immersion for $10, then Google for language free games, audible feedback, etc). Other reviewers have mentioned several other options.
However, if the cost doesn't bother you, & if you're OK with buying another copy should your laptop get stolen or computer crashes, then I say go for it! I truly give it 4.5 - 5 stars based on its merits.
on July 19, 2011
I see a lot of negative feedback for the Japanese version of Rosetta Stone. While I believe everyone may have their different views about this program, I believe that this programs is a GREAT supplement to help a student study japanese. Will someone become fluent with this program? NO. Will it accelerate a students speaking and understand of the japanese language by a great deal? YES.
While books are great for learning rules of a language, they do not help in saying the words correctly and understanding what is being said out loud. This is where RS comes in. This program can help students get used to saying japanese words out loud and saying them CORRECTLY. After level 1 unit 1 of this program, I saw a dramatic increasing in my understanding of the spoken language. Even though I could not understanding what was exactly being said, I could understand where words ended and began. I could understand the sentence structure. And I could know if it was a question or a demand.
For best results, I would study White Rabbits flashcards for the Kana everyday. Then, I had the Genki textbooks for japanese that I did 2 chapters a month. Together with RS, I was able to ACTUALLY talk to Japanese students at my university. I could introduce myself, see how their day is going, and tell them some stories ALL in japanese.
If you want more motivation to learn a language, spending $400 dollars on RS will MAKE you want to LEARN it. lol I studied Japanese on and off for 3 months before I got RS, but after I sank in the $400 dollars I studied EVERYDAY. I was going to get my moneys worth.
Also if you hate the program, you can always return it within 6 months for a FULL refund. AMAZING.
If you are getting money for college, borrowing money for college, or planning on going to college-- you will be used to spending a lot of money for your education. And learning a language should be no different. If you are serious, I would buy as much as you can to help you learn and achieve your desired level.
Would I recommend?
I would also recommend a japanese dictionary, japanese textbook, kana flash cards, and may be a separate grammar book.
If you are really adventurous, I would add japanese podcast 101 to listen to in the car, japanese music and movies to enjoy, and finding japanese people to speak with.
I hope this review helps everyone. If you have any questions, you can give a comment for me to reply back to.
on October 4, 2014
Rosetta Stone Japanese is a great way to learn new vocabulary and practice pronouncing new Japanese words, but it's important that Rosetta Stone isn't your only resource in learning this language. It is most important for beginners to learn Hiragana and Katakana first. I learned these with the book "Japanese Hiragana & Katakana: The First Steps to Mastering the Japanese Writing System". This book is great because it gives you mnemonics to help you remember the correct sound to the correct symbol. I also use the book "Japanese From Zero" to help with learning the grammar correctly. Since Rosetta Stone is picture based the grammar can get confusing at times. That's why it's important to use multiple resources. Don't give up! This is a great program, just remember to use other resources!
on May 19, 2011
As someone who lived in Japan for three years and has successfully completed all three levels of Rosetta Stone Japanese with high scores, I cannot give more than two out of five stars given the programs cost versus its effectiveness. (For beginners, I would highly recommend Human Japanese as the software is excellent and less than $30!)
I'm not sure how effective RS may or may not be for European languages, but it seems to me that both the Chinese and Japanese are merely translations of a basic program used mostly for European languages. I found many of their sentence structures to be accurately translated, but seldom used in natural conversation. The photos can often easily be misinterpreted, especially in the very last activities of each section. There is a lot of repetition and redundancy built into the program, which can be helpful, but can also seem quite tedious. I would value the program at maybe $50 or so if one were to pay what it's worth, but even then, it would be hard to justify a four star rating. For the $300-$500 one must shell out, a combination of other materials--books, CDs, websites, etc., would be much more effective.
Finally, if you are a true beginner, this product is not for you. I would recommend knowing hiragana and katakana at least, as well as having an idea of basic Japanese sentence structure before even considering the purchase of Rosetta Stone Japanese.
on October 22, 2015
As a supplement to a school course or with text books, it can work fine, even if it is a expensive. Alone though? No way. I refuse to believe anyone was able to become fluent on this alone. Hell, even able to hold a conversation, or god forbid, read.
Let me explain a bit about myself. I decided to get this because I wanted to play a Japanese game, but no fan translations were out and the only people working on it said they might finish in two or three years. At that point I thought "hell, might as well just learn the language". So my main goal is to be able to read Japanese.
So, how did Rosette Stone do? Well, I did learn some words and phrases. I also learned a tiny bit (2-3) of kana because of some exercises but that's about it. Look, I am no idiot. I speak Spanish fluently and can speak French, though lack of practice left me rusty. I have learned languages through "true" immersion and classes. The problem is that Rosette Stone doesn't really immerse you in the language nor explain anything. I get the concept, you are supposed to recognize patterns, but how can I when I couldn't read Kana? With a language like Japanese, I need some explanation. I found myself getting the gist of the sentence and answering, getting 95% to 100% on all the work, but I couldn't form my own sentences or read any kana, getting nowhere closer to my goal. The lessons for learning the Japanese writing system might as well not even be there, you won't learn anything from them. They are too few and far between. Using Romanji might mitigate some of the issues of recognizing patterns, but I am here to learn to read Japanese, and that won't do me any good.
Look, the "Full Immersion" gimmick is nonsense. Full Immersion is how I learned Spanish and French. Having many family members who only speak Spanish as well as spending extended amounts of time in Latin America and Spain. French I took classes in France and stayed there for 8 months. That is Full Immersion, being surrounded by the language all day long. Not listening to a program for 30 minutes to an hour and then English the rest of the day.
Honestly, Its the fact that Rosetta Stone refuses to explain any grammar concepts is the main problem. If I was given no explanation and it just leaves me repeating what I hear while having little idea of how the sentence is structured or what I am truly saying. I hear two words I recognize and click on the picture, get it right. Great, now what? I am what exactly is being said and how to build a sentence using other words. It's this confusion yet still getting perfect scores the got me discouraged and why I quit Rosette stone.
I ended up getting a Japanese text book called 'Japanese from Zero! 1: Proven Techniques to Learn Japanese for Students and Professionals (Volume 1) (Japanese Edition)' and some Hiragana flash cards from Culture Japan. Bam, got Hiragana down and now understand all the things that I just could not get from Rosetta stone. It's simple to understand and you actually are expected to write your own sentences in Kana, to reinforce grammar as well a Kana. The point is that getting a text book might seem boring and not as fun as an interactive program, but come on, nothing in life comes easy. You can't expect to learn a language by clicking pictures. You need to understand the fundamental aspects of a language and build upon that. A boring old text book and dedication is the best thing. Genki is another good text book. That is what I am sticking too know, working with text books and workbooks. I have been able to learn more than I ever was with Rosetta Stone.
I can't recommend Rosette Stone. It is too expensive and does very little. What's good is that you can hear Japanese being spoken and it helps you get an ear for it, but honestly, just watch Japanese movies, TV, or Anime. It's cheaper that way.
on July 13, 2014
If you have no connection to a Japanese teacher or Japanese friends, I would not recommend this to any one. If you think you can just pick this up and learn the language you are sorely mistaken. I would expect most people would give up before the first CD. The program never explains sentence structures or never translates what it is saying. I says a sentence in Japanese and you have to match it with the picture. That is all the program does, over and over. So you get a general idea of what you are saying or studying but you never truly know. When I get my Japanese friends to translate I am often surprised by what the program is staying. Also another fault would be the actually content of what it is saying. For example, The horse is wet. Why in the world would I need to say that in Japan? I have been there and that would rarely be used.
The program is useful for getting a ear for the language. I also like the way it helps you learn the alphabets. Also the continuous repeats of the vocabulary will help you memorized better and increase your vocabulary.
If you have a gasp for the language or have actual Japanese friend like I do, the program will help you. It will be frustrating though. If you know nothing about the language and just want to pick this up and learn it, well don't waste your money. I would guess that you would quit before you make it past the first CD. The Japanese language is completely different from English and Rosetta Stone just doesn't explain anything in detail. With other languages (like European) I would guess it is much better since you will already have a grasp from the grammar side of it. That is my review hope it helps.
on December 1, 2015
People are right about one thing, so very wrong about another.. Let me explain. You absolutely do need to know hiragana and probably katakana as well. These are not hard to learn took me only two weeks while I had three other college classes, my IQ does not break the bank. So wrong about the "poor voice recognition" because I have a proper gaming headset not the cheap plastic bits that always come free with every device no matter the cost. They are no more guilty than other huge and popular device makers. Buy your own! Buy good ones! Mine were 150 and have a very cool color changing symbol on the side in addition to a HIGH QUALITY microphone! This is the most important thing.. If you have a friend or kid who has a set borrow and try.. Worth the investment to get everything out of this expensive software. Four stars not five because my install was pretty rocky.. But it works quite well after a few error messages the first time I updated it.