Rosetta Stone looks to the cloud with $8.5M acquisition of language learning site Livemocha

Rosetta Stone, one of the biggest names in language learning, has picked up Seattle-based startup Livemocha.  In an announcement Tuesday, the 20-plus-year-old company said the $8.5 million acquisition is intended to help it move more quickly into the cloud.

Rosetta Stone, which charges between $350 and $500 for its language courses, is largely known for offering CD-ROM-based courses in its signature yellow boxes. More recently, it has moved online and to mobile. But as companies across all kinds of industries embrace the cloud and more people look for educational content on digital platforms, it makes sense that the company wants to update its products with new technology.

Livemocha, which has 16 million users globally, will remain in Seattle. But Rosetta Stone said its technology will form the foundation of the next wave of the company’s products. Launched in 2007, Livemocha offers free online lessons, as well as premium access to live classes and tutors.

The news comes as competition in the language learning space seems to be heating up. Last month, Berlin-based language learning service Babbel acquired PlaySay, a small Silicon Valley language-learning app, and raised $10 million for international expansion. Other emerging rivals include community-based language site Busuu and Duolingo, a free online service that helps people learn languages while also translating real-world content from the web.

While Rosetta Stone already has a strong presence in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, the company said Livemocha’s users in China, Russia and South America, as well as its several offices in the US, will complement its global footprint.

To date, Livemocha had raised $14 million from August Capital and Maveron.