Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rosetta Stone takes on LiveMocha + Sponsored "Review" on TechCrunch

In a bid to stave off competitors like Livemocha (reviewed here) and Busuu, TechCrunch is "reporting" (I use the term loosely) that Rosetta Stone has finally taken their first major step into using social networking for language learning:
Their new system, called TOTALe, adds two interactive ingredients to the mix. The first is the Rosetta Studio, a live lesson area where you and two other students at your skill level work one-on-one with a live, native speaker.
Sounds like they're taking a cue from the Michel Thomas method here.
The second ingredient is Rosetta World, a matching service that connects a native speaker of one language with a learner of the other and, in some cases, vice versa.
And let's not forget the juicy price.
TOTALe will be available on [July 28, 2009,] and will cost $999 for a twelve month subscription. This includes Studio sessions and you can repeat sessions as necessary. After the introductory period it will cost $1,200.
And that's no typo.

So that's the crux of the news story. Unlike Time, however, John Biggs at TechCrunch found himself utterly unable to not gush over Rosetta Stone. However, you might be able to forgive him since Rosetta Stone sponsored the post.

The cringe-inducing gushing, after the jump.

After a truly fawning "review" (the only thing mentioned as a downside was the price tag, and, really, how could you even think of maintaining any modicum of objectivity and not hold that out as a minus?), this is where I really got my cringe on:
Rosetta Stone has been an effective teaching tool for over two decades.
So who exactly is calling this effective? Let me guess: Rosetta Stone. Moreover, even if we assume that's true, as they like to say in investment literature, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The quality of the lessons is extremely high and the chance to work with a native speaker is unrivaled except in face-to-face schools.
Oh jeez... It sure sounds like someone was writing copy from a press kit. Extremely high compared to what? Rosetta Stone is only "unrivaled" in "the chance to work with a native speaker" if you forget about going to where the language is actually spoken! And even then I'm pretty sure it's rivaled by Livemocha and the other websites John himself sites (more on that below), but doesn't appear to have researched very well. (And we'll assume that by "face-to-face schools" John means language schools, because we sure know there aren't that many native speakers in the average school.)
This social, human aspect really brings the lessons home and adds an amazing amount of value to the program.
"Amazing!" Just oozing with objectivity.

John continues:
This idea isn't new.
Well at least he admits that.
Sites like Livemocha, Babalah, Palabea, Busuu, and Learn10 are all trying to create similar solutions. However, Rosetta Stone has a bit more budget and experience behind their TOTALe system.
Budget, probably, but experience? I'm not sure you've got the right experience when your primary product has long been mail-order software on CDs, highly advertised on late-night TV.

Finally, if you managed to read through to the very last paragraph, you learn that TechCrunch isn't exactly a neutral third party in this:
Incidentally, if you made it this far into the post you’re eligible to win one of ten year-long subscriptions courtesy of Rosetta Stone. Comment below using your real email address in the correct field and I’ll pick ten comments at random on Wednesday.
Luckily, I think one of the commenters on TechCrunch nails it on the head:
i’ve used rosetta stone before (the old program without the new social features) and i’ve used livemocha. livemocha was almost the same exact program as rosetta stone except with social features. So i don’t know what kind of an idiot would pay $999 for something they could get for free. rosetta stone might be a *little* bit better, but $999 worth?
And that, my friends, is the rub.

P.S. Here's an actual Rosetta Stone press release, just for comparison's sake.


  1. Excellent post. I am aware of Live Mocha and Totale. I just signed up (on June 27th) for Totale and it does cost a pretty penny. I am tempted to do some lessons on Live Mocha but after paying for Totale I need to give it all my attention. Rosetta stone claims that their program is all I will need. We shall see. I plan on getting through the whole course within the allotted time frame. If I am lucky enough for you to get me a free subscription my wife and I would be VERY happy and I will definetely use the product and share my learning experience with you every step of the way if you would like. :-)

    Thank you and have a wonderful 4th of July,

  2. so how did it go with totale and livemocha?
    so how do the two compare?