Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone: Which Language Giant Wins This Battle?

By Ari Helderman
March 28, 2018

pimsleur vs rosetta stone2 language courses that virtually everyone has heard of are Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone. Both are time-tested programs and are available for many languages. So the language courses work – but what if you’re on the verge between the 2 programs? What should be the better option then? In this detailed Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone review you’ll find out all the similarities and differences between the programs.

In addition, I’ll share what I like most about the programs. And in the end, there’s a detailed list of questions that you can ask yourself to become more clear which of the 2 courses is the better choice in your situation.

Every language learner is different, so it makes sense that one program that works well for you, might not work as well for the next guy. That’s why it’s important to always check what a course offers and how you learn. If you love audio, but can’t ring yourself to pick up a textbook and write down exercises – then please don’t pick a textbook for language learning.

Sounds simple, but too many people overlook that and instead just pick the first best program that friends recommend or is popular. Instead of taking an objective look at what the course does and if that aligns with how you learn.

But enough about that. I assume you already sort of know what type of learner you are. If not, don’t worry. I will add some small hints throughout the Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone comparison to help you. If that won’t work, then the questions in the end will do their job.

Before we get started: I have written in-depth reviews before about both of these programs. It was for learning Russian – but the essence of each program stays the same. Check out my reviews here:

Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone – Which suits you better?

Pimsleur is an audio course that you can listen to. You’ll hear sentences and questions and you will be prompted to answer them.

Rosetta Stone on the other hand is an online program in which you will hear a phrase in your target language – and then have to pick the right image that the sentence describes.

That is the main gist of each program. Now each offers more extra features. But this is what they both boil down to. The first thing you’ll notice is that they both use audio. Which is exactly what a good language course should do.

I’m going out on a limb here and assume that you want to learn your language because you want to speak your language. And in order to speak, it is crucial that you listen a lot.

Listening is one of the best ways to internally drill down the language. Especially if you do it with full concentration.

But that’s about it where the similarities between Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone end. SO let’s talk about each program a little bit more in detail.

Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.

What I like about Pimsleur: Slow, but effective for beginners

The main thing that I like about Pimsleur is that it takes things easy and controlled. What I mean by that is that the program focuses on teaching you not a crazy amount of words – but in an effective manner.

That makes it a good course for beginner language learners. I’m always saying that it’s very important to have a good start when learning something new. And this is especially true when learning something difficult as a new language.

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and as a consequence give up. It is estimated that maybe only 15% of people who start learning a language even get so far as level A2!

So if you have a program that works for teaching you the basics, such as Pimsleur. Then it can be very helpful. Imagine if you started the wrong program, and then got tired of learning. That would be a shame.

Another thing I like about Pimsleur is that they have a special pronunciation technique that will help you pronounce new words. First, the native teacher will say the word slowly. Then the word will be broken down by taking it backwards. It’s a novel thing that virtually no other language course does – but it can be extremely helpful if you’re just trying to find the right way to use your mouth when speaking the new word.

Another thing that works well is the lessons schemes. Every Pimsleur level is based on 1 month. What that means is that you just have to do 1 lesson every day (around half an hour), and after a month you will have completed a level. If you’re having trouble keeping to a schedule, then it might be very liberating to just do 1 single lesson every day.

To get a better view of how Pimsleur works, listen to the first lessons of their Russian course.

Unfortunately, Pimsleur does have some drawbacks. And other people share this as well. That is that the program can be a bit slow and repetitive. Now, slow and repetitive is very effective when learning if you can keep your concentration. However, this may be a bit difficult, and if you’re a faster learner than average – or you already have done some previous lessons in your language, then Pimsleur might be rather boring.

What I like about Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone works a bit different that Pimsleur. You will see several images and hear a sentence. Now, you have to guess which of the images is corelated with the sentence. After that, you hear a new sentence and this goes on until you have connected all the images with the right phrases.

It might sound a bit strange when you read it like that, but watch this video to make it more clear how Rosetta Stone works:


Alright, now that you’ve watched the video I think you’ll have a better idea of how Rosetta Stone works.

The main thing I like about this method is that it is done by audio AND visual. Using 2 parts of your brain will make it a lot more easier to learn and recall new words and phrases. After all, you will have an image connected to each phrase that will make it easier to remember.

Another thing is that it doesn’t look like too much effort. If you used to dread language classes in high school, then Rosetta Stone can be refreshing way of learning. And you can do it on your phone/tablet too. So even if you’re out and waiting for something, you can add in a couple of lessons by plugging in your earbuds.

Also, there is no English in the course. So you have nothing to fall back on. Pimsleur on the other hand, sometimes can look more like and English program. So if you don’t have unlimited time to practice, then Rosetta Stone might be better for you.

At last, Rosetta Stone also offers private tutoring. This is included in the (high) price of the course. Although only for the first 3 months. But this should be enough to get you started and through some sticking points that you might experience.

One downside though of Rosetta Stone is that there is no native vocabulary. What I mean by that is that the program simply uses the same sentences for every language course. Very efficient for the company – but a one-size-fits-all approach usually doesn’t cut it for languages. Who are very different in and of itself. It won’t matter that much if you’re in the beginning stages, but after a certain period, it might be better to use a different program.

Base your Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone decision on this:

Alright, I dropped a lot of hints in the previous paragraphs. But here’s a short overview of which program to pick:

  • Do you prefer a slower, but surer approach to language learning? Pimsleur
  • Or do you get bored fast when listening to audio courses? Go with Rosetta Stone
  • Are you alright with just audio? Pimsleur
  • Or do you need to see something in order to learn it? Rosetta Stone
  • Do you want to be able to listen to language courses in your car (while commuting for instance)? Go with Pimsleur
  • Do you want private tutoring to get over difficult points? Rosetta stone offers just that
  • Is simple scheduling for lessons important to you? Do 1 lesson per day with Pimsleur
  • Or do you want to be able to do a quick lesson whenever you have time? You can do that with Rosetta Stone

Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone conclusion

Both programs are good and have withstood the test of time. However, they are different and therefore appeal to different types of learners. I would recommend either of them if you’re a beginner. However, if you’ve already learned the language before, then Pimsleur might be a bit slow.

So there’s no clear Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone winner. I hope the question list in the previous paragraph helped you make your decision. If you want more information about each program, feel free to leave a question in the comments. Or check out the specific review that I gave you in the beginning.

If you’re interested in buying the program, you can check the following links to see if the course is available in your language:


Click here to see if Rosetta Stone is available in your language!


Or here to see if Pimsleur has the right course for you!




P.S. was this Pimsleur vs Rosetta Stone comparison helpful to you? Then please support this site and buy your program of choice through the above link. It comes at no cost to you and helps us make more amazing content for the site.

What should you do next?

Learning Russian does NOT need to be difficult. All you need is a solid plan that helps you improve the following things daily:

  • vocabulary
  • grammar
  • listening skills
  • speaking skills

That's ALL you need. If you can do this for a couple of weeks, you’ll already be making great progress in your Russian skills.

And the best part? If you improve a little bit every day, soon these practices will become daily habits.

And then you will start making progress on autopilot.

This means that learning Russian is now a part of your daily routine. So you won’t even need discipline anymore to get yourself to practice.

If you like the idea of this, but don’t know where to start, go here for more information.

About the Author

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience.   I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

Ari Helderman