Using Rosetta Stone as an ESL Tool

cropped eslA Rosetta Stone software developer by day, I also teach an English class in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which is organized by Skyline Literacy. The four students in the class are women from four different Latin American countries. At the beginning of May, not entirely satisfied with our progress after eight months of instruction, I gave each of my students a laptop with Rosetta Stone English software installed. We started from the beginning, and while the students had seen most of the words and grammar before, they had mastered very little of it.

Immediately and for the first time, I felt that I was able to assign useful homework. The practice activities in the textbook we had been using were ineffective because my students were not able to learn from any type of written activity–their reading and writing skills were limited, and they lacked independent study habits. My students needed guided activities, focusing on listening and speaking, which is exactly what they got from Rosetta Stone. The first lesson in Rosetta Stone includes sentences like “The boy is running.” and “The women are running.” I had covered the proper use of “is” and “are” many times before, but each time we revisited those structures, it seemed that we were starting over again from scratch. Using the software, my students started to get progressively more consistent using “is” and “are.” Finally my students were internalizing that pattern, rather than learning it only to forget it.

Rosetta Stone also made it much easier for me to prepare for classes. This was my first time teaching English in the United States, and I found my past experience teaching abroad to be only marginally useful. It was stressful for me to prepare two quality lessons per week using the textbook, and I often fell short. With Rosetta Stone, I had a curriculum that felt relevant and logical as well as a library of images I could use to guide classroom activities. In addition, my students could preview material before we covered it in class, which made our time together more efficient.

The main challenge I encountered in using Rosetta Stone was my students’ lack of computer literacy. Two of my students had experience using computers, and they both hit the ground running once they had the software. They were checking off lessons and even getting ahead of what we were practicing in class. The other two women had essentially no computer experience. One of them struggled at first but picked things up quickly. The other has still failed to consistently turn her computer on and get Rosetta Stone running independently at home.  For Rosetta Stone to work for her, she would need focused, one-on-one time to make sure she was comfortable using Rosetta Stone outside of class.

Rosetta Stone has made life easier for me as a teacher and has made class more beneficial for my students, particularly those who are comfortable with a computer. Skyline Literacy and similar organizations bring together a community of teachers and students who may be highly motivated but who still face significant obstacles to achieving English proficiency. Students may not be fully literate and have weak educational backgrounds. Teachers may be untrained and limited in the time they can commit to teaching. A well-run program has the potential to bring out the best in these students and their teachers.

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  • vibram five fingers

    Hi, i just thought i’d post and let you know your blogs layout is not looking good with the Safari browser. Anyhow keep up the good work. I’ll be back for more..

  • Valentijn

    I’ve been using Rosetta Stone for about a year now to learn Dutch, and it’s been much easier, faster, and more enjoyable than when I was learning Spanish in high school and college. The grammar really does come naturally after a while, and I really do think grammar is the hardest part. Although my vocabulary is naturally still missing a lot of words, with my current grasp of grammar and basic vocabulary I’m confident that I’ll have a much easier time learning more Dutch when I move to the Netherlands next week. Are there any plans to add levels 4 and 5?

    • rvoiceadmin

      @Valentijn. Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we don’t have any immediate plans to release Rosetta Stone Dutch Levels 4 & 5, however, please submit your request here: We do take customer feedback into account when deciding which languages to produce. And keep up the good work!

  • iTod

    I am looking for tools to speak spanish and I found Rosetta Stone to have the best Graphical User Interface (GUI) then all the other tools. However, I was looking to see if Rosetta Stone had any plans to develop an Application for the Apple iPad. This would be the ideal learning environment for me. along with a monthly subscription rate as abosed then paying a one time fee of $700.00.

    • rvoiceadmin

      @iTod. Hi. While we haven’t made any official announcements about the iPad, we are excited about the possibilities for Rosetta Stone learners and the iPad. And look for our iPhone/iTouch app later this year.

  • part time jobs

    i enjoyed this post so much.

  • Well

    Hi, I have been teaching English for a while now and all the methodologies that I have used so far leave a lot to be desired. When I was first introduced to RS I have to admit that I fell in love with it. Truly amazing and efficient.

    I am approached on a daily basis by people from all walks of life asking me to teach them English. I wonder if with RS I’d be able to do that efficiently and If so, what’s the best approach?

  • Joel

    First I’d like to say that this is a great post Nate. I’d also like to mention that I was unaware of this forum, but I’m very glad to have found it now.

    I could go on and on about the merits of using RS as an ESL tool.

    Here are a few reasons:

    With beginners the program can be a great attention grabber and invaluable for eliciting a response from those extremely shy, quiet kids.

    As mentioned above, is and are can be a huge problem even for more advanced students who didn’t master usage before advancing to other things. The intensive drilling in the early units is very useful.

    Through constant reminders, student focus can be redirected to how sentences are phrased, where high and low points are and speed when listening and repeating in the speaking and pronunciation sections or in general. This problem of intonation and rhythm is difficult to address, but with RS it becomes more easy.

    Using the workbooks in conjunction with the lessons is a great way to make sure the student or students have understood the new vocabulary. I would like to add, with respect, and in no way to diminish their use or to insult anyone, the workbooks have many typos and omissions. Even so, the workbooks are great and should be used.

    As I said before, I could go on and on.

    RS is a great tool for learning and teaching

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