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Rosetta Stone Swahili Review: How I learned Swahili

Rosetta stone swahili

Swahili is one of the best languages to learn for travellers heading to East Africa, particularly Tanzania. This Rosetta Stone Swahili review will not only tell you why Rosetta Stone is the best language learning program, but why it’s the best way to learn Swahili online.

Rosetta Stone Swahili Review

Why should you learn a new language?

Have you ever wanted to travel, move or study abroad, but felt held back by the logistics of negotiating a language barrier? This is actually a frequent question I receive on my instagram and blog.

A recent survey confirmed this worry, noting that despite growing technology offering travellers “the world at their fingertips”, anxieties surrounding how to cope with a language barrier prevent many from actually going abroad (source).

Although there are ways to navigate a language barrier, such as using google translate or making friends with locals, wouldn’t it be much easier if you could just speak the language yourself? From recent personal experience, I highly recommend Rosetta Stone as the best language learning program.

Rosetta stone swahili

I recognize learning a language is not always feasible if you are traveling from country to country and getting exposure to multiple languages in a short period of time. It also may not be realistic if you only have a short vacation abroad.

However, I truly believe there is a significant shift that takes place when you begin to engage with others in a new language. Not only can you gain new understandings of that culture and that society, but you might begin to notice things in a new way; to see that place through new eyes.

I recently moved to Tanzania to start a year-long gender equity project here in partnership with a local NGO. I knew I would need Swahili language skills to show cultural awareness and respect to my research participants, and to gain insight into my presence as a white, English-speaking foreigner.

I decided to prepare for my move by using the Rosetta Stone Swahili program.

My story

Rosetta Stone Swahili

Mwanza, Tanzania — aka “Rock City”

Many of you are aware of my home away from home in Tanzania. Two years ago, I first arrived in Mwanza, a city on the North Western shores of Lake Victoria, to do an internship with a Tanzanian non-governmental organization which aims to promote women’s economic empowerment. It was this experience which first peaked my interest in the research I do now, and my desire to learn Tanzania’s national language of Swahili.

To be honest, the latter was really out of necessity. The language barrier was so thick that I found myself experiencing culture shock, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed by basic daily tasks like buying groceries or getting a taxi. (This is why I recommend Swahili as one of the best languages to learn for travellers coming to East Africa).

Rosetta stone swahili

Taking a local water taxi in Western Tanzania

At the time, I picked up a little Swahili here and there, enough to get by, but the experience was enough to shake me awake. In Tanzania, a country still feeling the impacts of colonization, the English language represents more than just words spoken. As East African writer and scholar Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o wrote, “language carries culture; to engage in the languages of Africa, is to engage in an anti-imperialist struggle”.

I realized I couldn’t attempt to live in Tanzania and understand the culture and society without also immersing myself in Swahili. I had a new goal to build my Swahili language skills before I returned and decided to try Rosetta Stone.

How does Rosetta Stone work?

rosetta stone swahili

Rosetta Stone was designed by linguists to introduce your new language to you through immersion, in ways that stimulate the language centre of your brain. It also uses TruAccent, the world’s best speech recognition technology, to help you improve your pronunciation. What I really appreciate about the program, is the ways it caters to multiple learning styles, offering visual, auditory and tactile opportunities to learn.

Rosetta stone swahili

For example, you will be able to see photos and match them to words, to hear words and repeat them, and to complete typing exercises. The program even includes pronunciation training through speech recognition technology.

Rosetta stone swahili review

Photo curtesy of Rosetta Stone

As a PhD student, blogger and freelance writer, my life is already busy, and I was worried that I wouldn’t have time to practice. I was pleasantly surprised at how short and simple the lessons were. Plus, most languages are available on the Rosetta Stone Mobile app, making it quite feasible to incorporate language learning into your schedule.

Based on my success, I put together a few tips to help you find success with Rosetta Stone!

How to learn a new language with Rosetta Stone 

Rosetta stone swahili

Get to know your “optimal learning time”

I quickly learned that after a long day of working, the last thing my brain wanted to do was take in more information. Typically, after about 7:00pm, my brain would shut off for the night and any Swahili I attempted to practice was not retained. Once I shifted my practice earlier, I was able to fully take advantage of the lessons.

Get to know your “optimal learning style”

I am very visual and tend to retain information if I write it down. I’ve always been this way and remember cramming for exams by making notes and cue cards. I kept a little notebook while using the program and wrote down the things I was struggling with. I even put post-it notes around my apartment. This was a reminder to revisit the concepts I was struggling with in the Rosetta Stone program, and also another way for my brain to understand the language.

Use downtime as an opportunity to practice

I began to use down time, like my bus commute or chores at home, as opportunities to learn. For example, you can download Rosetta Stone lessons to use offline or use their “audio companion” during times when speaking is not desirable (such as sitting on a bus or in a waiting room).

I took advantage of Rosetta Stone’s Phrasebook while I did chores at home. With the phrasebook, you can listen to and learn to speak key phrases that are actually practical to use in “real-life” situations.

For me, practicing pronunciation exercises while preparing and cooking dinner felt more attainable and less intimidating then actually sitting down at the computer for an hour to do homework. 

Use Rosetta Stone’s quizzes, chatroom and stories

Another reason Rosetta Stone is the best language learning program is that they have so many diverse ways of testing your knowledge, such as chapter quizzes, chatrooms and stories.

At the end of each Rosetta Stone lesson, their quizzes are a great way to test your knowledge and skills, or to revisit material if you have taken a break from the program.

Their chatroom service offers you a virtual way to use your language skills conversationally, which is also an important way to retain the information you are learning. You can also read stories aloud and have your pronunciation compared and graded to that of a ‘native speaker’.

Use it in combination with immersion

Now that I am in Tanzania, I have the ultimate opportunity to practice my skills through immersion. I am forced to use Swahili every day when I go out in the community and it is a great marker of my success with Rosetta Stone. If you are not yet in a new country, you could join a language club or meet a bilingual friend for coffee to practice in person.

Rosetta Stone Swahili

Watching the sun set over Lake Victoria in Mwanza

Overall, Rosetta Stone has helped me learn the foundations of the Swahili language. I have felt a huge shift in how I am able to engage with others in the community and build rapport easily through sharing a common language. I also feel a transformation in myself and realize the empowerment that comes through speaking a new language.

I hope you found this Rosetta Stone Swahili review helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me or try a free Rosetta Stone demo.

So are you ready to take the Rosetta Stone challenge and find out why they are the best language learning program?

Click to Shop all Rosetta Stone Programs

Can you speak another language? Which one do you want to learn?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Rosetta stone swahili

This post was sponsored by Rosetta Stone.

As always, I only recommend products that I’ve personally used and love!

Read next:

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Ukerewe Island: A weekend from Mwanza, Tanzania

Malaika Beach Resort: Mwanza, Tanzania

Amazing wildlife photos from Serengeti National Park

How to Choose the best Safari tours in Tanzania

Backpacking Africa: Overland travel from South Africa to Tanzania

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Eoin said:
That's pretty cool Steph, especially Swahili talk about making it difficult! Hope the PHD is coming along good.
September 7, 2018 at 3:57 pm