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Saturday, August 20th
Everyone knows Rosetta Stone! Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have used this platform to start learning a new language, from Portuguese to German and even those picking up English for the first time. Should you use Rosetta Stone to learn Russian? Read on and decide for yourself.
Easy to access a 3-day free trial
You could just jump in and subscribe to Rosetta Stone's Russian lessons. After all, is there any bigger name in language learning? But, if you're like most of us, you'd rather give it a try first and see how it actually feels to use their program. Right? No problem: just go to the Rosetta Stone homepage, and scroll down towards the bottom. You'll see a dropdown box and a place to enter an email address; just choose Russian and type in an email to access a 3-day free trial.
Provide accurate info to get best lesson plan
First, you'll need to choose your level: beginner, intermediate, or proficient. Next, select your purpose for studying Russian (e.g. travel, family, work, basics and beyond) because your lessons will focus on the vocabulary you'll need most. From there, you'll be taken to the first lesson in your plan. When we chose a proficient language level and "family" as our focus, we were given a study plan that included vocabulary related to correspondence, careers, invitations and apologies, and dining in/out. You can change your plan at any time and the content will shift accordingly: as a beginner learning Russian for travel purposes, your first week's lessons will be basic sentences and everyday items.
Speech recognition tool
Rosetta Stone uses speech recognition as a key component of teaching languages. That's why you'll have to set up your profile as an adult male, adult female, or child. You'll be prompted to do that before going into your first lesson.
Immersion-based learning is difficult in Russian
This language platform is well-known for its immersion-based approach to teaching. When you start learning Russian, you'll be shown images of boys, girls, men and women, matched with verbs like "eats" , "drinks" , "reads" and "runs" (all in Russian, of course!). There's no transliteration, so you're going to have to do your best to imitate the sounds you hear and map it to the Cyrillic words on the screen. This approach works well for languages that use the Roman alphabet, but less so for Cyrillic or languages that use other characters unfamiliar to most English speakers: Just 14 screens into the Russian lessons here, we found ourselves with a splitting headache!
Move freely through topics if needed
They don't make it obvious, but you can jump around in topics. Click on "Explore All Content" inside your dashboard to see your options. There's an alphabet tool that shows you each letter and several words that include it, an "audio companion" with downloadable MP3 files you can listen to on the go, stories to read (or read along with!), and several other features (that, frankly, felt like they'd be best held in reserve for a later date when we were feeling less lost in the language!).
Much better pricing than before
One big improvement that Rosetta Stone has made is in pricing. In the past, you had to buy it only on CD-ROM and it was extremely expensive - out of range of most learners' budgets. Now, you can get Russian lessons completely online and at a price that is really affordable: $35.97 for 3 months of access to Russian, $95.88 for 12 months, or $299 for lifetime access to Rosetta Stone's complete language library. We've visited the site regularly, and a few times we spotted a promo price of just $179 for that lifetime account, so keep your eyes open if you really love this platform.
Too difficult for beginners learning Russian
For some languages, we really love using Rosetta Stone. The company has even earned our highest recommendation in some categories. However, for learning Russian, this was not a favorite. While we understand the value of an immersion-based approach, most people will need at least a little bit of reference back to English to wrap their head around Russian: tell us how it would look if the sounds were written in letters we already understand, please! For those who already understand some Russian and/or have a basic grasp of Cyrillic, Rosetta Stone might be more comfortable. But, for the average brand-new student, these Russian lessons will likely feel more than a little overwhelming.
If you're interested in learning the language, you likely already realize that it's going to be more challenging than some. First off, Russian uses a completely different alphabet, Cyrillic, from what you're using right now to read in English. Training your mind to recognize the new symbols and the sounds they make (or to make different sounds using letters that look similar between Cyrillc and the Roman alphabet) can take some time.
You'll also have to master a grammatical system that's quite different from English. Do you know the difference between the nominative case and the dative case? It's okay if you don't - because of the six cases used in Russian, we only use three in modern English.
Feeling discouraged? Don't be! Russian is ranked as a Level III language by the US State Department, marking it merely as a "hard" language and not as difficult as Level IV languages like Arabic or Chinese. Whew! And with the right type of Russian lessons, you could find yourself reading, writing, understanding and speaking the language more fluently than you imagined.
So, what makes a Russian language program the "right type" ? Some of that depends on you. Do you learn best by reading detailed explanations of grammar or by learning useful words and phrases in context? Do you like your learning to feel like playing games or do you prefer a more straightforward, traditional approach? If you're not sure about the answers to any of those questions, that's fine: most Russian lessons have a free lesson or give you limited access to the platform so you can try it for yourself. Put a few providers to the test and see which ones keep coming to mind - or which approach helps what you've learned to "stick" the best!
Generally speaking, there are a few factors that can make a particular system for learning Russian better than another. Those include:
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