Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone  is a second-language learning software which pairs a combination of images, text, and sound with new language vocabulary. This removes the ‘translation’ step and allows the learner to attach the new language to real objects rather than their native language words.  This approach more closely mimics how people learn their first language as children. The projected total revenue of $245.0 to $248.0 million of 2009 includes their recent (April 15, 2009) IPO on the NYSE under the symbol RST. (from

Face 1 – Market Focus

Rosetta Stone claims to be “a leading provider of technology-based language learning solutions”. A large portion of their sales is to retail outlets for consumer training but they offer online versions and various bundling options for schools and corporations.

Face 2 –  Types of Offerings

Rosetta Stone offers pre-packaged content for second language learners starting with beginner levels up to common conversational.

Face 3 – Who is the Buyer?

Retail buyers are purchasing the products directly for their own use.  Schools and corporations purchase licenses for their students or employees.

Face 4 – Global Markets

Rosetta Stone’s products are sold in 150 countries, teaching over 30 languages.  It has an international focus and fills wired Anglophone countries, European countries with English language skills, European countries requiring translation, and Asian countries with quality internet.

Face 5 – Development of the Market

In the case of Rosetta Stone the “Market Supports Export Oriented Learning Technologies and Substitution of Imports” is the most representative.  Other companies can (and do) make language-learning software but Rosetta Stone is a leader in many markets.

Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

As a prepackaged product, Rosetta Stone products are often a substitute for other forms of learning. In a school or corporate setting the technology may be used to support other systems of learning.


1 David Vogt { 09.23.09 at 6:50 pm }

Good summary, Sharon –

I first encountered Rosetta in about 1997 when they were really trying to understand their transition from a purely CD-based product into a blended or fully online product. I was advising them to go fully online. They were more cautious – and probably exactly right. A very good company.

I think a lot of their customers buy the product to supplement the learning they get in other contexts, mostly traditional classroom-based situations. Learners can make quick strides forward on their own, making them feel better about their classroom or real world experiences. This enables Rosetta Stone to go forward very profitably without creating classroom solutions themselves, or directly partnering with such solutions, to provide social support.

2 Sharon Hann { 09.23.09 at 7:40 pm }

I used their packaged retail product prior to a trip without any classes or alternative. My Italian vocab was probably 200 words or so before I left, maybe 400 when I returned – today 1! Ciao!

3 Sean McMinn { 09.23.09 at 10:12 pm }

Hi Sharon,

Having been introduced to Rosetta in 2002 when I worked in Beijing, it was nice reading your analysis. The school that I worked at used Rosetta in a blended atmosphere, f2f lessons followed by Rosetta time. I wasn’t a part of this course, but my understanding of it was that the instructors were using it for assessment.


4 Sharon Hann { 09.24.09 at 5:46 am }

Rosetta Stone seems to have hit the ‘magic mark’ and come up with a business model which has them producing a packaged product that the consumer customizes for their own purposes. Now why didn’t I think of it??!! Sharon

5 Omar Ramroop { 09.24.09 at 11:36 am }

Hi Sharon,

Excellent write-up. I used Rosetta Stone a number of times in my travels to Central and South America. This new customized packaging model has me quite intrigued. I will definitely look into it some more for future use.


6 Barrie Carter { 09.26.09 at 7:48 pm }

Hello Sharon:

My previous school uses Rosetta Stone for EAL students.

However, we had come to discover that the students prefer the interactive nature of a typical classroom where the students and the teacher were routinely engaged in conversations, oral presentations, group interactions, and communication activities and games.

But, with budget cuts, lack of teaching space, and lack of a district-wide ESL program, Rosetta Stone is used to replace the teacher-student learning process, rather than complement it. Here, it is easier and cheaper to stick students in front of a computer and wish them the best of luck.

Herein lies the danger of learning technologies, which is not the fault of the technologies themselves, but the way in which they are implemented, used, and executed.

Lastly, the said students did well on the graduated/levelled lessons, but they did not do well interacting with English speakers in the classroom. Here, the EAL students remained shy,apprehensive, and/or reluctant. After all, Rosetta Stone does not build confidence in young middle school children.

I would still use and recommend Rosetta Stone as a viable complement to any language program, but with the understanding that it must be in concert with a program that places the student first, not the technology, which has been indicated in your post.



7 Colin Cheng { 09.27.09 at 12:41 pm }

Just to add to what Barrie said, I have also seen Rosetta Stone used in an ESL setting, particularly at the elementary level. Personally, I have taken a Rosetta Stone workshop where a representative of the software presented it to a class of teachers. The software is quite advanced in that it can correct intonations of speech, test for comprehension as well as improve vocabulary. I can see the benefits of such a software package but I don’t think that it can ever replace face-to-face interaction.

On a side note, my mother has been using it for years trying to learn Spanish and I don’t think she could get much farther than saying good day to someone.

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