I’ve always wanted to speak French, but I’ve never had time to actually attend a language class. Because of this, I consider the existence of language-learning apps a great gift indeed. Imagine not having to commit to hours in a physical class, fighting off exhaustion after a day’s work. Instead, you conveniently practice through your phone anytime you’re free—whether you’re taking your snack, waiting in line, or having your bathroom break. Oh, did I mention a lot of these apps are free, too?
But language learning apps are not created equal. Some are good, while some could be better. In this post, we look at Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, two of the most popular apps in the market today. Both have more than four stars out of five in iTunes and Google Play. They also have almost the same languages on offer.
For the record, I have used Duolingo before, but that was more than a year ago. I also never made it past the basics. For me to come up with a reliable decision, I opted to compare the two apps in these areas:
Moreover, I compared only their first basic lessons in French. Duolingo’s lessons differed a bit from that of Rosetta Stone’s, but they did have similar starter topics. This allowed me to avoid comparing apples to oranges, so to speak. That said, let’s proceed to the comparison.
Both apps use a simple, minimalist interface which helps keep the focus on the lesson. However, I’d give Duolingo the point in this area for a number of reasons. One, it was easier to understand the examples it gave. Duolingo used flat graphics, while Rosetta Stone used stock images. This would have been great except sometimes, it got confusing whether the image was depicting a young man or a slightly older boy from far away.
Second, it took fewer taps to navigate through Rosetta Stone. This is great if you don’t like the idea of tapping just to get to the next page. Not so much if you want to take your time. At times, I found Rosetta to be moving so fast for beginner me. In contrast, Duolingo’s repetitive stops gave me time to review whatever I just learned before moving on.
Learning to pronounce the words is one of the most important parts of learning French—or any language for that matter. In this area, I’d give the point to Rosetta Stone. The app made you pronounce words properly before letting you go forward. The speech recognition technology was great, too, as it really did pick up even minor pronunciation errors. Duolingo’s was a little more lenient, I felt. The app didn’t even let me practice speech until the basic lessons were over.
Both apps introduced a fair share of French words, but Duolingo gets this one. Its starter lesson was about as long as Rosetta Stones’ but was divided into four smaller lessons. In the end, it added way more to my germinating French vocabulary than Rosetta Stone did.
This is something many ignore in favor of being generally understood. I am a firm believer in the importance of following grammar rules. Needless to say, I took this area seriously. I’d like to make this a tie but in the end, I’ll say Duolingo did this better.
Rosetta Stone incorporated verb variations into the basic lesson. Apparently, this is one of the trickiest aspects of learning French, so introducing it early on is a huge point. The problem is that Rosetta focused way too much on words and phrases instead of forming complete sentences. This was what Duolingo got right. They will have you stringing words together to form sentences from the onset
This is great because you learn how to position specific words in sentences, like how you describe nouns properly using adjectives. The exercises will give you a solid foundation on the basic structure of French sentences.
Rosetta Stone expertly uses repetition to ensure that you remember your lesson well. The same words and phrases are repeated several times until recalling their meaning takes less effort. Duolingo tried to do this, but Rosetta simply did it better.
Duolingo is designed like a game, so it captures and maintains your attention the way a game does. In the end, the experience becomes fun. It will even pause a bit to give you a word or two of encouragement. Rosetta Stone, being too fast at times and offering little else, can be boring.
Duolingo wins this hands down. Rosetta Stone is usable for free. In fact, it offers an astonishingly significant amount of knowledge for a free app. But you need to pay a hefty price to get access to everything it offers. Duolingo is free in every sense of the word. There are features you need to pay for, but you do so using a currency you earn while you learn.
Rosetta Stone has its perks and may even be a better deal than Duolingo if you find quirky graphics too distracting. It looks and feels more serious and that’s not a bad thing entirely. If you want an app that helps you remember and pronounce words, then this is the obvious choice.
Duolingo offers more technical advantages while keeping the entire experience fun. If you like the idea of learning and competing with your friends, this app is for you. The same is true if you like your apps entirely free. Just remember that the developers have to earn, too, so be prepared for a lot of ads.
Rosetta Stone as well as Duolingo are household names when it comes to learning foreign languages. Aside from those two, there are about a hundred others available all with different teaching methods such as live tutors, flash cards or online games to name a few. You may want to check our Language Learning page: some of the solutions listed there will definitely surprise you!
Text by RJ