Is Rosetta Stone Mandarin Worth the Money?

I often am asked by people wanting to learn Mandarin if Rosetta Stone Mandarin is worth investing in. This product is very widely known. Rosetta Stone does a lot of advertising in mainstream media and it seems they are quite successful at marketing their products.

But Rosetta Stone's software for learning Chinese is very expensive by most any standard. So it becomes important to ask whether it is worth the bucks. Let me try to answer.

I’ve come to my conclusions by playing around with the software myself, and also by hearing from others who have bought it and used it extensively themselves.

The findings are pretty consistent. And like most things, it’s not all good and it’s not all bad.

Chinese bone script

The 'Cool' Factor

If you expect Rosetta Stone Mandarin to be the answer to all your Mandarin learning needs, you may be disappointed – or you will at least have to adjust your expectations after you use it for a bit.

It is good for some things, however.

Rosetta Stone’s Chinese software will help you to learn some basic words and expressions in a novel and engaging way. You will be enjoying an attractive and comfortable interface, excellent audio, perfect Mandarin pronunciation and a somewhat original approach to language learning that will encourage you to get into a semi-immersive learning ‘zone’.

This is all good. It's very good, in fact, when you consider that they must compete against a quality product like Pimsleur's Chinese program, for example, which is less expensive, but lacks some of Rosetta Stone's gloss.

Still, Rosetta Stone is not the magic Mandarin pill. It will not help you ‘learn Chinese as a baby learns its first language’ anymore than a host of other teaching methods will. You will not become fluent using this tool alone.

Where's the Culture?

One of the joys of learning Mandarin Chinese is the cultural understanding that you gain through experiencing and learning the language. The way to greet someone in Chinese, for example, is to ask them “Have you eaten?” Or even the (to Westerners) seemingly intrusive, “Where are you going?”

I don’t think this kind of stuff should be absent from introductory level lessons in Mandarin. This is one example to show you one of the ways that Rosetta Stone does not deliver a complete solution for learning Chinese, in my opinion.

Test Drive It

It's a shame they seem to have no free trial of a Rosetta Stone package, though if you gather up all the goods within six months after purchasing, then pay out of your pocket to ship the stuff back to them, they will refund your money.

Now that's not so bad, but then again, not so great when you consider some of their top competitors do much better here.

One example is Rocket Chinese. These guys give you six days to play with their wares without requiring any more than an email address. Then if you buy, you've got another 60 days to opt for a refund.

In fact, seeing that Rocket Chinese has put together a much less expensive program that seems to nail the right  mix of user friendliness, Chinese culture, and actually teaching the language, I'm left wondering how it is that Rosetta Stone has managed to remain such a big player in this space.

I suppose it's that baby-language claim which is pretty powerful, if you can be convinced of it.

Money to Burn?

Now if you still  feel that the advantages of Rosetta Stone's product mentioned above – mainly having a somewhat novel tool that will indeed help you get a leg up on some basic vocabulary, and in gaining a feel for the sounds of spoken Mandarin, (and money is no object) then I encourage you to invest in Rosetta Stone Mandarin.

However, if you expect, given the price tag as well as the bold claims made by Rosetta Stone’s marketing efforts that you can learn Mandarin effortlessly as a child learns his first language, if you expect that Rosetta Stone software for learning Chinese will deliver those goods, you will likely be let down.

So you make the call on whether it’s worth it or not to shell out the bucks. I hope this bare-bones review of Rosetta Stone Mandarin has helped you be more informed about your decision.


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