Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Livemocha lays down the smack on Rosetta Stone

In a post aptly entitled "Why Livemocha is better than Rosetta Stone" (hat tip: Kirsten Winkler), Livemocha explains just that. Here's how Kirsten sums it up:
Reason 1: Livemocha offers hundreds of hours of free courses in over 30 languages.

Reason 2: Livemocha lessons include revision of speaking and writing exercises by native speakers.

Reason 3: Livemocha has a community of over 4 million members to connect, socialize and practice with.
Here's what I think Kirsten (but not Livemocha) glossed over: price! Livemocha lets you do lots of stuff for free—most notably, in my opinion, getting in touch with lots of people in Livemocha's language-learning community (see my full review of Livemocha here)—whereas Rosetta Stone lets you do very little for free, and charges you out the wazoo for whatever they do let you do. When Livemocha does charge you, their prices are much more reasonable.

And we all know that this blog loves a little bit of snark, so I can't help but appreciate these gems from Livemocha's post:
Rosetta Stone gives you CD-ROMs. Remember those? From the 1980s?

If you pay Rosetta Stone $999 (yes, that’s one dollar short of 1,000), you can get into one of those clunky group tutoring sessions. Ahem.
The 1980s. Lulz.

Why Livemocha is better than Rosetta Stone [Livemocha]
Livemocha Aims at Rosetta Stone – and Pulls the Trigger! [Kirsten Winkler]


  1. Thanks for the mention. Yes, price is one of the biggest arguments :)
    I will try to write a neutral comparision of the two ;)

  2. I think leaving price out of the comparison is apt. If it has to be included, it should be it's own small section.


    Because if the product can't win without discussing price, it's not enough better to really be the winner.

  3. @Kirsten: I get the feeling that you might not be the most neutral judge...

    @William: I'd disagree. For something to really be a useful tool, people have to be able to get it in order to use it, plain and simple. If price puts it out of reach for most people, it's utility is greatly limited. Part of having language learning "street smarts", as it were, is getting a lot of bang for your buck, and that's why price is such an important factor.

  4. In my opinion, the only reason someone would go for Rosetta Stone is that they just don't know any better. People who aren't internet savvy, haven't spent a bit of time researching the different services that are available out there, etc. Rosetta's $1000 price tag goes into advertising and putting up kiosks at the mall so that people who aren't Internet savvy will think of Rosetta stone when they decide to start learning a language.

  5. @Phrasemix: My inclination is to agree with you, but until some third-party study comes out, there remains the possibility that Rosetta Stone could be an effective language-learning tool. Given my inclination, I'm not rushing out to get my hands on it, but if a really convincing study came out I might change my mind.

    Whether or not Rosetta Stone is effective as a language-learning tool, it does seem to be fairly effective as as business, with all those ads and kiosks serving it well. That said, you're completely right that a good chunk of that high price tag is for ads and retail. If they channelled that back into their core technology, they might be able to create a better product, but they might lose out on the business side at the same time.

  6. I just started using LiveMocha (for Japanese) after reading your earlier review. I am really loving the listening and speaking practice and getting a great review from the early lessons. Overall, I am really enjoying it.

    3 lessons in, though, I have already run across a large number of errors, as you mentioned, mostly in the Speaking sections. For instance, the romaji version of the paragraph, which most beginners are probably reading out loud from, will have completely different sentences or words than the kanji version, which the Japanese members are probably reading to grade them with. That's just the beginning.

    I have sent in some corrections, but really, the number of mistakes seems pretty big. For now I can catch them myself, but I can't imagine how confused the true beginners are, and I worry about the future lessons for myself.

  7. @pmthreads: I haven't explored the Japanese very much, but I can't say I'm completely surprised. The mistakes that I pointed out in that review weren't even fixed the last time I checked (I found the same hair color ambiguity in the Spanish version a month or two ago), so little efforts seems to be going into improving—as opposed to expanding—the content. I wouldn't be surprised if they've made a conscious decision to leave the free stuff as "good enough" while focusing efforts on the paid content. If that's the case, it of course won't resolve any of the issues you mention.

  8. Somewhat understandable... but if I were thinking about paying for the advances services & lessons, finding that many mistakes in the free lessons would quickly change my mind! What's to say the paid lessons won't have the same problems?

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