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      December 5, 2019

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Rosetta Stone vs Pimsleur

To help you find the Best Chinese Lessons, provides you with an in-depth comparison of Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur.

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Learn Chinese with Rocket Languages Today! With more than 16% of the world's population who speak Chinese as their first language, it's no wonder that modern education is prioritizing learning Chinese as a foreign language. From immersion-based elementary schools to language learning programs found online, it is estimated that as many as 40 million non-native speakers around the globe are currently studying Chinese.

There are two primary dialects of Chinese: Mandarin, or "Standard Chinese", the official language of China and Taiwan; and Cantonese, the official language in Hong Kong and Macau and influential in the Guangdong Province. While the two are similar, Chinese students may want to focus more on one or the other, depending on their purposes for using the language.

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Chinese Lessons Reviews

4 stars
Rosetta Stone


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$179 for 12-month online access for 1 user (regular price $299)

$249 for lifetime online access for 1 user (regular price $249)

Other options available for downloading individual levels/sets

Rosetta Stone is one of the best-known names in language instruction. Their model to language learning is what they call "Dynamic Immersion": instead of teaching Chinese by translating from English to Chinese and vice-versa, or using rote memorization, Rosetta Stone Chinese emphasizes learning as naturally as possible - similar to how a child learns his or her first language.

Rosetta Stone Chinese has a free demo that presents several words - without translation, so as to be immersive - that walks the learner through several simple vocabulary matching exercises. However, there were no sample activities that used actual Chinese characters, so we were unable to determine at what point those characters are introduced, or what type of instruction is provided to help students learn to recognize and use them. And, where other Rosetta Stone demos include speech recognition activities, the Chinese trial does not; given the importance of tones in speaking proper Chinese, we had no way of telling how sensitive the speech recognition is within Rosetta Stone's instruction.

Rosetta Stone has a good guarantee/return policy: where in the past, their 30-day, no risk, money-back guarantee only applied to their CD products, it now includes any of Rosetta Stone's Personal or Homeschool editions, from online subscription to downloads and CD-ROMs.

As one of the most widely used programs for learning languages, it's no surprise that Rosetta Stone has many reviews that describe their Chinese instruction as fun, useful, and worth the investment. On the other hand, it is easy to find other reviews complaining that using Rosetta Stone does not actually result in language acquisition that is as simple as learning one's first language. Of course, no program can deliver a truly immersive experience comparable to what a person gains by living within a culture that speaks the target language.

In general, Rosetta Stone's Chinese program is likely to be useful for most language learners, especially given the number of students who have already experienced success using their methods. We recommend that prospective customers keep an eye on Rosetta Stone's pricing and make sure to take advantage of any special offers, to keep the program affordable.

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3.5 stars


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$450 for Mandarin levels 1-4 on DVD (120 lessons), audio-only available for MP3 and CD delivery

$119.95 for Cantonese Chinese I on MP3 (30 lessons), available as CD for $345

Pimsleur is a household name among language learners. Originally made famous for its basic 30-minute audio lessons, Pimsleur has expanded its offerings to include software DVDs that include flashcards, games, and other more visual methods of instruction to accompany their audio lessons.

Pimsleur is also one of a very small number of Chinese programs that offer lessons in both Mandarin and Cantonese, though the latter is only available in a 30-lesson audio format. This is important for students who may plan to use their skills strictly in Hong Kong, rather than on the mainland or in Taiwan where Mandarin is the most prevalent.

Pimsleur lets users download a free 30-minute Chinese lesson from the website, to try out their audio; we felt that we were left with a good understanding of a basic conversation in Chinese after giving it a trial run.

However, we would have liked to sample what Pimsleur provides in its DVD software, especially since Chinese characters are drastically different from English and other languages written using the Roman alphabet, and because the tonal nature of Chinese makes it valuable to be able to have one's speech evaluated in contrast with a native speaker's.

In lieu of a satisfaction guarantee, Pimsleur instead offers a Proficiency Guarantee according to some very specific terms: users must purchase a Pimsleur Level 1 program (Mandarin or Cantonese), complete the course, and take a novice-level test on an independent website. If the user fails that exam, Pimsleur will issue a full refund. We're not sure if this applies to a purchase made that included levels 1-4, or how someone studying just the audio lessons in Cantonese would then be able to take any kind of written exam on the other site.

Of all the products in our reviews, Pimsleur is the most expensive, with purchases of MP3 or audio CDs surprisingly more expensive than the DVDs that include the audio files. (Pro tip: we did notice that if we left the tab open long enough in our browser, we did get a pop-up for 30% off and free shipping on any order).

Given its primary emphasis on learning by listening, Pimsleur may be best for students who want to study their Chinese lessons on the go, with the understanding that additional effort will need to be made to grasp the written aspects of the Chinese language.

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Continued from above

From beginners learning the intonation of a simple ni hao to those looking to fine-tune their knowledge of Chinese characters and pronunciation, students have many programs from which to choose to help them better grasp the intricacies of the Chinese language. When deciding which Chinese lessons will be the best option, we recommend getting a feel for each program's methods.

The most well-rounded Chinese lessons use strategies to reach different learners - visual, auditory, and so on - through flashcards, pronunciation practice using a microphone to compare the student's speech to that of a native speaker, games, and other online resources.

On the other hand, some Chinese programs focus on a single approach to teaching the language (for example, worksheets or audio lessons) that may or may not be the best way for a particular student to learn.

When choosing a program for Chinese lessons, there are several things to consider. These include:

  • Instructional Methods. Does the format of the lessons match well with your learning style? If a free sample or trial is available, how did you feel after giving it a try?
  • Skill Level. Does the program have an option for your level, whether that is beginning, intermediate, or advanced? Can you move from one level to the next for what you purchase, or do you have to buy more levels later?
  • Value. Is the program effective? Is it worth the money necessary to purchase the program?
  • Mandarin or Cantonese. While the majority of Chinese learners and thus teaching programs focus on Mandarin, you might prefer a Cantonese program if your primary use of the language will be in Hong Kong or with speakers from that area. has reviewed and ranked the best Chinese Lessons available today. We hope these reviews help you learn the most common language around the globe quickly and easily!

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