User experience
Value for money
Read Rosetta Stone review
$7.99per month
User experience
Value for money
Read Duolingo review
$6.99per month

Rosetta Stone vs Duolingo


Rosetta Stone is one of the oldest and most tried and tested solutions for language learning. It immerses you in interactive core lessons conducted entirely in the target language and provides speech technology to get you speaking in your chosen language quickly and correctly. Rosetta Stone lets you choose both your level and your reasons for pursuing a language and if you purchase Lifetime Plus, you can access regular small group lessons with a live tutor.

Duolingo is the world’s most popular language learning app. You can use it for free to learn as many languages as you want with only a few limitations over the paid version. Duolingo combines bite sized activities with gamification to make education fun and to help you set up a daily learning habit. It also uses an algorithm that adapts to your learning and provides material at just the right difficulty level along with content you need to revisit.

  • Very immersive, you see, hear and read only in your target language in true to life scenarios
  • Speech technology to fine tune your accent and object recognition which allows you to point at an object with your phone camera to identify it and have a conversation about it in your target language
  • Allows you to personalize your language goals
  • Provides In depth progress reports
  • Flexible - available in desktop and device versions
  • Regular small group lessons with live tutors for Lifetime Plus subscribers
  • Good user experience
  • It’s free with only a few limitations and there’s no limit on how many languages you can learn at the same time
  • Gamification keeps you engaged and motivated
  • Uses an algorithm that adapts to your level and learning style and provides personal recommendations to level up your skills
  • A Practice Hub for reviewing mistakes, correcting pronunciation (Super Duolingo only)
  • Fun to use with well structured exercises that target listening, reading and writing
  • You can skip lessons and levels that are too easy
  • Can feel rather repetitive
  • Not great for grammar, writing or cultural context
  • No placement test
  • Full immersion in the target language may be off putting for some
  • Weak focus on speaking activities
  • Pronunciation of single words is quite robotic
  • Quantity and range of material varies by language
  • Not brilliant for grammar or gaining cultural insights
Best for

Best for: Those looking to learn a new language from scratch or seeking to improve their speaking and pronunciation. Most suitable for those happy to learn purely in the target language and to learn intuitively rather than in a structured analytical way.

Best for: Though it’s designed to have a universal appeal, Duolingo is best suited to those wanting to learn a new language from scratch. That said, it could serve as a good refresher for those with some existing knowledge as you can skip lessons and levels that are too easy. Would especially suit those who enjoy a competitive approach to their learning.


From $7.99 per month

From $6.99 per month

Number of users

500,000 active users

5 milion active users


Overall: Rosetta Stone propels your language-learning forward by adapting a program of courses to suit your learning aims. It immerses you in the target language (combined with visual and audio clues) so you can learn instinctively and without relying on translations. It also stands out by offering additional features such as voice and object recognition.

To provider

Overall: Duolingo is great fun and can definitely help you develop a secure level of knowledge in a variety of languages. It’s also habit forming, thanks to gamification, so it really motivates you to build a daily learning habit and make incremental progress. But, if you want to become fluent, or just hold more than very basic conversations, you’ll likely need to strengthen your understanding of grammar and your speaking skills elsewhere - or at least sample the paid for version which provides more support in these areas.

To provider
Supported languages

Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Filipino, English (US), Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese

Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Navajo, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish, Zulu as well as Esparanto, High Valyrian and Klingon.


Rosetta Stone is a language e-learning service founded in 1992 with the aim of unlocking the secrets of language learning success. This is why it was named after the actual Rosetta Stone (which unlocked the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphics).

It's now one of the oldest and best known names in the industry with 500k+ active subscribers.

As well as having platforms designed for personal and business use, Rosetta Stone has a K-12 educational platform. Around 15% of schools in the US subscribe to one of Rosetta Stone's products.

Rosetta Stone is very immersive and uses only the target language (combined with audio, images and speech recognition) to teach you from the very start.

Duolingo was founded in 2011 with a mission to make language learning accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.

It’s now the most popular way to learn languages with 5 million people using it actively everyday and the mobile app having 500+ million downloads.

Duolingo combines bite sized activities with gamification to make education motivating, easy and fun. You earn rewards (such as gems and badges) for achieving different objectives and gain points to help you scale the rankings on a leaderboard of other randomly selected users. It also uses an algorithm that adapts to your learning and provides material at just the right difficulty level, as well as resurfacing content you need to revisit.

How it works

To get started on Rosetta Stone you choose the language you want to learn and either go for a three day free trial or subscribe to one of the options (see costs below).

Following this, you choose your proficiency level and your learning aim (travel, work, etc.). Rosetta Stone will then present you with a learning plan based on your answers:

These plans are the core part of the program. The overall aim is to teach you useful vocabulary and phrases that match your learning aims.

Each lesson is split into bite-sized parts which challenge you in different ways and help to keep up your engagement.

Rosetta Stone also offers a range of supporting features such as:

  • Speech recognition to hone pronounciation
  • Seek and speak (object recognition)
  • Phrasebooks
  • Stories
  • On demand videos
  • Live tuition with expert coaches and native speakers (for Lifetime Plus subscribers)

All of these are described in detail in the features section below.

To provider

Duolingo offers a freemium model and a subscription (Super Duolingo) which provides additional features and does not show ads.

To get started, you simply select the language you want to learn, answer a few questions about your goals, then sign up for a free account using Google, Facebook or an email account.

Duolingo then presents you with a learning path divided into units such as:

  • Greeting people and Introducing yourself
  • Using the present tense and talking about activities
  • Days of the week
  • Saying what you want, etc.

    Each unit contains a series of ‘stepping stones’ that hold a series of fun bite sized lessons and challenges designed to meet the unit objective.

Some languages have a placement test meaning that you can skip the easier units. But you always have the choice to start at the beginning, skip ahead or redo units you’ve already taken.

Units follow a curriculum based on an international standard and activities are designed to make sure that new learning gets embedded in long term memory.

As you progress Duolingo’s algorithm will adjust to your learning and vary the level of challenge. To make sure learning ‘sticks’ you will revisit earlier learning at optimum times. New words are highlighted and you often need to figure out intuitively what these might mean.

You can review what you've learned by clicking on the dumbbell icon which provides a practice test.

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What a lesson is like

Generally, whatever the level or language, Rosetta Stone’s lessons are structured in a similar way.

They are grouped around communication topics depending on your purpose for learning (eg: business, travel, etc.) and designed to teach useful vocabulary and phrases which you then practise.

Lessons themselves are split into bite sized exercises conducted entirely in the target language.

You’ll usually hear and see a word or phrase along with a number of pictures and try to match them together. The aim is to get you learning actively and intuitively, rather than just memorizing words and translations. You’ll also be asked to repeat words and phrases using voice recognition.

Lessons are short and sharp - usually only about 3-5 minutes long. They mainly focus on translating - either from your native into your target language or vice versa.

To do this you might:

  • Match spoken or written words with their meanings
  • Type words and phrases using the keyboard/keypad
  • Place words from a selection in the correct order
  • Tap or type what you hear
  • Provide missing words
  • Identify the correct spelling of a word from a choice of four

    You will also use flashcards to learn new vocabulary, take quizzes, review content and be given the option to make things harder or easier.

For some languages there are stories with comprehension activities as well as podcasts. In the podcasts, native speakers tell stories but with simplified vocabulary and grammar and at a slower, clearer speed. These are supported with some assistance with unusual words or context.

There’s not a strong focus on speaking activities. Where they are available, AI voice recognition grades your pronunciation. During my two weeks using Duolingo, I came across a few speaking activities in French but none in Welsh, despite completing several units.

Who is it good for?

Rosetta Stone's learning style would suit anyone who's:

  • Learning a new language from scratch
  • Keen to improve their skills in another language
  • Happy to learn purely in the target language
  • Like to learn intuitively rather than in an analytical way
  • Appreciative of consistent, predictable content
  • Interested in applying language-learning to real-life scenarios
  • Keen to join regular small group live tutorials
  • Needing to learn flexibly on any device

Duolingo is an appealing, fun language learning platform that would best suit the following learners:

Anyone who’s:

  • Learning a new language from scratch
  • Wants to refresh or level up existing basic skills
  • Appreciates short, sharp bite sized lessons
  • Is strongly motivated by gamified features such as leaderboards, streaks, rewards etc
  • Needing to learn flexibly on any device
  • Personalized learning
  • Flexible learning
  • Speech recognition
  • Seek and Speak - object recognition
  • Phrasebooks and stories
  • Regular live small group classes led by a tutor
  • Gamification
  • Personalized approach
  • Practice Hub for reinforcing learned content
  • Podcast series to aide language immersion
  • Flexible learning with offline mode
  • Speech recognition technology for pronunciation practice
Is it worth it?

A lot depends on the type of learner you are.

If you like to work things out for yourself and are happy to plunge right into your chosen language then Rosetta Stone's dynamic immersive approach is likely to suit you well.

It will teach you the vocabulary and phrases you need to achieve your language learning goals. And though its core lessons can feel a little repetitive, Rosetta Stone gives you the freedom to jump ahead or focus on the specifics that interest you. It also provides lots of fun resources to help you actively practice the language.

And if you subscribe to Lifetime Plus you'll be able to boost your learning real time feedback with live tutorials from expert native speaking coaches.

But if you are a very analytical person who wants to understand the grammatical structure of a language, or you want a strong focus on writing, it may not be the best choice for you.

While I'm nowhere near proficient in speaking French, after a few hours on Rosetta Stone I was speaking more confidently and precisely than before. Also, the additional features such as seek and speak, stories and videos were a great way of immersing myself in the language outside of core lessons.

Overall, with a free trial option for three days, I think Rosetta Stone is worth trying out. After choosing your goals, you can get a feel for the site by taking a few lessons. As most users agree, it's a helpful place to start and gets you speaking actively in your new language.

Well, it depends on your goals.

If you want to develop a solid foundation in a language and enjoy an element of competition in your learning, Duolingo is likely to suit your purposes. It’s super fun and its extensive use of gamification makes it very habit forming - which is great for making steady progress in a language. What’s more, its algorithm learns what works for you and calibrates lessons appropriately.

I found I had committed a good range of words and phrases to memory during my trial of Duolingo and certainly got as far as being able to introduce myself and ask and respond to simple questions like, how are you? What is your name? Etc.

But if you want to become fluent or hold more complex conversations, I don’t think Duolingo will help you achieve that. At least not the free version. Speaking activities are not available in all languages. And even where they are, they do not feature prominently. The Practice Hub in Super Duolingo provides more in the way of speaking opportunities. But if you are willing to commit to a subscription you may find that other apps like Babbel or Mondly are better value.

My advice is to try the free version. If you love it, there is a 14 day free trial for Super Duolingo which gives you a decent amount of time to find out if it’s the right learning platform for you.