Duolingo VS Rosetta Stone - Which Language Learning Tool Is Best?

So, you want to learn a language, but you get bored easily, lack motivation, or haven’t found the right tool yet. Maybe you’ve heard about Duolingo or Rosetta Stone - both are very successful software companies design to help you learn a new language. In this piece, we take you through a comprehensive Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone comparison.

Choosing between the two platforms can be tricky, as they both have plenty of accolades and success stories; today, we’ll be pitting Duo and Rosetta against each other in a showdown to determine which interface will have you speaking a new language, to some degree, first.

Now, on the surface, both apps are pretty similar. They both have an online or a mobile option for studying, with the ability to choose between multiple languages, being taught in the format of quick mini “lessons” - but does one service come out on top?

Read on to discover the benefits and possible downsides of each, including several details you might not have thought of. After hours of research and fairly trialing both systems, it’s safe to say we know what we’re talking about.

Basic Functionality - How Do They Work?

So, in this Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone article, we will start with basic functionality.

Using Duolingo most days myself, I can tell you that it takes a lot of inspiration from video games - you begin each day with five hearts, your ‘lives’ - fail to complete an exercise correctly and you’ll lose a life. Lose them all and it’s Game Over!

Well, not exactly… you just have to wait a couple of hours for your lives to replenish. That is unless you plump for a premium membership, which gives you full access to all of the features you want, unlimited lives, and downloading levels for offline access.

You’ll be asked initially what level of existing language knowledge you have if any. Either start as an absolute beginner or take a quick quiz to determine whether or not you’ll begin from a more advanced part of the course.

Learning styles

Exercises include pairing images and vocabulary, reading sentences aloud, listening to the pronunciation, ordering sentences, filling in blanks, and recording your voice to practice speaking. Successfully completing each one gets you some XP points!

When you connect with your friends and join public leaderboards, you can be randomly put up against 30 competing users. Gain the most XP to rise through the ranks and level up to a new league. Don’t gain enough, and you’ll be demoted!

By completing exercises, you gain in-game gems or lingots, the currency with which users purchase extras like bonus levels and streak freezes. Also, you get badges for completing certain achievements, which also nets you some lingots.


Rosetta Stone is divided into language levels - there can be five in total, and each level has four units each. Some units only have one or two levels thus far, and others have been discontinued so won’t receive any updates in the future.

Having been an established language learning provider for nearly 30 years, the teaching methods of this program are very structured. They are reflective of the normally taught curriculum, as well as being, for the most part, entirely immersive.

What I mean by this is that there is pretty much zero English used. Most exercises involve grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, and vocabulary. These are usually communicated via audio clips from native, authentic speakers - no computerized robot voices here!

For instance, you may see four images and one piece of vocabulary. You then choose the image that you associate with that word. This is tricky if you’re a brand new student, but it’s the best way to learn!

Taking plenty of inspiration from the culture behind the language you’re learning, research would indicate that this is the best way to take in information; plus, if you’re struggling, all you need to do is hit the lightbulb icon for some contextual clues.

At the point of sign-up, you are asked what your general language learning goal would be. Choose whether you’re looking to learn for travel, your career, heritage reasons, or just because you’re interested.

You can also assign yourself a difficulty level, choosing between beginner, intermediate, or advanced based on where you think you’re at personally. You’ll be able to change this later if you need to, so don’t worry about it too much!

Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone: Benefits to Each Service

Duolingo allows you to “test out” earlier, easier levels if you’re looking for more of a challenge. However, you will need to complete a test and pass with a good grade to demonstrate that you’re ready to take on advanced content!

Furthermore, it provides lessons for many languages that Rosetta doesn’t teach. These include Danish, Norwegian, Welsh (the Rosetta Stone lessons were discontinued), Hawaiian, and Swahili. There’s more variety, and also no limit on how many you study at once!

For those ambitious learners who are a little afraid of technology and prefer a more old-fashioned approach, you can access Rosetta Stone as a CD-ROM course or digital download, as well as via the app. Furthermore, all of their iterations are easy to use though!

You also have the opportunity to add some online webinar-style live instructor tutoring to your course with Rosetta. A group session for 25 minutes will run you $14, or save and get two lessons for $19. Private classes are $19, or $29 for two.

Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone: Any Potential Downsides?

Duolingo is completely free to use in its entirety (besides offline access and unlimited lives, only accessible via premium membership). However, many Rosetta Stone features hide behind subscription fees, with the free version very limited.

Rosetta is much more extensive in its teaching. It immerses you in not just a language, but also in the culture. Duolingo can fall short and often ignores the different dialects and multiple definitions some languages have.

That being said, both Duolingo and Rosetta Stone can be guilty of missing cultural context and using the same cute graphics and digital art to represent words on all of the courses, leaving them quite similar besides the obvious changes.


So, now to sum up this Duolingo vs Rosetta Stone comparison. Both programs are popular with users in the millions across the world. There’s no denying that each is at the very least worth giving a try! If you’re looking for a contemporary, quick-paced, and easy-to-navigate experience, Duolingo is definitely the app for you. Those seeking more of a challenge and a better look at the cultures informing languages, try Rosetta Stone.