Rocket Languages Review

rocket language

Rocket Languages is a language-learning app that uses audio lessons, interactive exercises, and readings to get you to say some conversational phrases and understand more about the language. You learn greetings, words for ordering food and drink, and how to ask for directions. Within a few weeks, you could learn enough to be a polite guest in a foreign country. It is not the right app to choose, however, if you are trying to build a foundation for a language you intend to study at length. Additionally, if you are learning a language that uses a different script, Rocket Languages gives you some instruction in the app, but you will probably want to find another app to reinforce it—the service is good at presenting new scripts, but not at giving, you exercises to learn them. The key selling point for this app is that you can pay a one-time fee for lifetime access, rather than a monthly or yearly subscription.
At greatofreview, our top picks for language learning apps are Duolingo (free) and Rosetta Stone (from $36 for three months). Both are good for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced speakers. If you are starting from scratch with a language, these two programs can help you build a foundation. If you are somewhat experienced with a language, you can easily jump in and brush up on specific skills, or try the more difficult content, such as podcasts, stories, and videos. If your goal is instead to be able to speak a few words and phrases quickly (even if you cannot understand what people say when they reply), then Rocket Languages would be a good app.

What Languages Does Rocket Languages Offer?

If you are an English speaker, Rocket Languages has 13 languages for you: American Sign Language, Arabic (Egyptian), Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, English and Spanish (Latin American). Rocket Languages also has programs for learning English with instruction in Spanish or Japanese.
The American Sign Language program is the only one that is quite different from the others. It uses videos instead of audio files as the core teaching mechanism. Its pricing is different, too—as we will explain below.
This is a healthy selection of languages, but if there is one you need that is not here, we recommend trying Pimsleur, which has 50 languages, or Transparent Language Online, which has more than 100.

How Much Does Rocket Languages Cost?

Some software products are perpetually on sale. Rocket Languages is one of them, so the list price is not necessarily, what you end up paying. On the one hand, it is great that you will pay less. On the other hand, it is annoying to not have clarity about pricing up front.
When you buy the program, you pay a one-time fee for lifetime access. How much you pay depends on how many levels you need. Each language can have up to three levels of instruction. American Sign Language, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese, and Russian only have one level. Because the Sign Language course is a little different, it has unique pricing. Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish have three levels. The pricing breaks down like this:

American Sign Language ($99.95)
Level 1 ($149.95; or 6 monthly installments of $27)
Levels 1 and 2 ($299.90)
Levels 1, 2, and 3 ($449.85)

If you get a discount—and you can usually get a discount—the prices end up between $70 and $260.
Rocket Languages offers a free trial. It is not limited by time, but rather by content. You can listen to three or four lessons, and you can try out the exercises. The rest of the content is locked.
It is tough to compare Rocket Languages’ prices to those of other language-learning apps because the model is different. Most apps now charge a monthly or yearly subscription fee, usually on the order of $10-$13 per month or on the order of $99-$150 per year. With Rocket Language, you pay once and have access to the program for life.

What Do You Get With Rocket Languages?

Rocket Language has audio lessons followed by exercises. It also has culture lessons, information about writing for languages that use non-Roman scripts, and other reading material to help you learn more about the language and sometimes the culture of its speakers. The audio lessons are 20 to 30 minutes each. They are available from the web app, as well as in the mobile apps (for Android and Apple mobile devices). You can download them on any device and listen to them whenever you want.
The lessons are straightforward. You have an English-speaking host who gives you instructions, plus one or more native speakers who demonstrate the spoken language. Your job is to listen and speak aloud when asked to do so. The tone of the lessons is lighthearted and relaxed, sometimes with corny jokes. We can stomach a bad joke here and there, but in our very first Arabic lesson, we cringed when the instructor asked one of native speakers if he rode a camel, like, for transportation. It was meant as a joke, but it struck as borderline racist.
The audio lessons are the heart of the program. After you listen to one of them, you work through exercises that test what you just learned. In both the mobile apps and the website, all the lesson material is on the same page, with the audio file and player at the top. Therefore, once you finish listening, you scroll down and complete a series of exercises. It is not the most cutting-edge implementation, but it works.
The courses are well structured, and the app does a decent job of keeping track of your progress. You get a dashboard, which has icons that change color as you complete the sets of exercises for each lesson. A red icon means you completed a module but did poorly. Yellow means you did ok. Green is a sign of success.

Getting Into Rocket Languages

We have used Rocket Languages in the past to study Italian, Spanish, and Arabic. To test it with fresh eyes, we went through some of the Korean lessons. We also returned to Italian to see if anything had changed and remind myself of how the program works when using a Roman script. For Arabic, Korean, and other non-Roman script languages, Rocket Languages gives you the option to view both native and transliterated text and only the native script. The writing was by far the hardest part of the Arabic and Korean courses, but we will get to that in a moment.
The audio lessons are mostly great. The narrators are professional and yet personal, especially in the higher levels. Every so often, you might hear a background rustle or some pages being turned, but for the most part, quality is high all around.
You learn new words at a slow pace, and the instructors chat from time to time. Compared with other audio-based language-learning programs, such as Pimsleur and Michel Thomas, Rocket Languages feels less formal but also less rigorous. As a point of comparison, Pimsleur lessons are powerfully intentional. Everything about the lesson has a purpose, from which words you learn to how often you repeat them. This is because the Pimsleur Method focuses on spaced repetition, or using precise intervals of time between when you last used a word and when you need to recall it again. You are constantly being asked to tap into your memory from two minutes ago, two days ago, and two weeks ago. Lessons in Rocket Languages do not drill you nearly as thoroughly.
After you finish an audio lesson, you scroll down to find several sets of exercises. One has you practice speaking in a dialogue. Another has you speak individual words and phrases. There is a writing module, and others, too. The course is heaviest on speaking and listening, with writing/spelling a distant second, and no extensive reading at all. You can jump around at will, so you do not have to follow the lessons in sequential order.

The Rocket Languages Experience

The Italian lessons we did were breezy. Level 1 has seven modules (similar to units) with 4 to 5 lessons in each, for 32 lessons. By module 6, the lessons still felt relatively easy. “I’ll have the pesto lasagna!” Did you know tiramisu means “lift me up?” It is fun and not too serious.
The Korean courses were much harder for us. Each lesson packs in a lot of new sounds and words. While you can back up the audio and listen to it multiple times, the native Korean speakers do not go through long words syllable by syllable, which we desperately wanted them to do. Even when looking at the transliterations, the Korean sounds do not match up to English sounds, and we really needed to hear each word spoken part by part. It was too fast for us, but we still managed to pick up some phrases.
The Arabic course is better on this point. The first time the instructors introduce a new word they usually break it down, although it still felt fast to us. There was not as much repetition in the audio lesson as we would have liked, and by the time we got to practicing in the exercises, there was no slow mode button to hear a word or phrase at half speed. Many other language-learning apps have one.
The scripts were another can of worms. Rocket has plenty of resources for showing you each Korean letter, telling you its name and the sound it makes, as well as a video for each one teaching you how to write it. However, not all this material is packaged into an app-like experience. It does not help you identify the letters through quizzes or have you write them on the screen to practice. The materials are good, but you have to take charge of teaching yourself what to do with the material to learn it.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As mentioned, Rocket Languages covers listening and speaking more than other skills by way of interactive exercises. There are also exercises that use flashcards and a quiz. For listening and speaking practice, you hear a short audio clip in the foreign language and then you record yourself repeating it. Your recording goes through speech analysis, and you get a score. You can adjust how accurate you need to be by choosing easy, medium, or hard. The app then shows you the written version of what you just said, uses green and red type to indicate the parts you said correctly, and where your pronunciation needs work. There is one big problem with this design: It does not work for anyone with red-green color blindness, which is the most common type.
Rocket Languages uses a lot of self-assessment. Instead of the program marking your answers right or wrong, you rate yourself on a scale to show if you thought coming up with the answer felt easy, good, or hard. Again, it is not the most technologically advanced way to implement learning in an app, but it gets the job done.
In the writing exercises, you listen to a short audio clip and transcribe it in the foreign language. We loved this in Italian and hated it in Korean and Arabic because we did not have a firm grasp of the script yet. We gave it a shot in Arabic. Written Arabic is especially tough for beginners because the letters change depending on what letter follows it. We opened an on-screen keyboard so that we could more easily choose the letters we needed, but if you do not know how Arabic script behaves, it is impossible to do these exercises. Luckily, we remembered this experience when we tried the Korean lessons and ended up simply skipping the writing portions all together. Even in the very first lesson, it is impossible to write Korean if you do not know the script yet.
Another section called “Play It!” is a dialogue between two people, with each person’s lines written down. You read it as one person and then the other, with the app recording what you say. You can play it back or just move onto the next set of exercises when you have had enough of it.

Is Rocket Languages for You?

Rocket Languages is a useful language-learning app if you are looking to pick up some travel phrases and intend to come back to the software every few months or years to brush up again. It is not great at helping you develop a foundation for learning a language, and it does not do a good job of teaching foreign scripts. That said, it does have many resources for reading about the language and even learning about the writing system, but how you use those resources is up to you. It is not really built into the software. The cost of Rocket Languages is attractive to anyone who hates subscription fees and prefers to pay once and own something forever.
Rosetta Stone and Duolingo remain our Editors’ Choice apps for paid and free language learning. They are both polished and do a better job of helping you build a foundation. They are not as chatty and relaxed as Rocket Languages’ lessons, so if that is more your speed, give it a go with the free trial.

PROS
Materials are online, downloadable, and in mobile apps
Courses in 12 languages
Blends audio instruction with interactive exercises
One-time fee for lifetime access
CONS
Clunky practice exercises
Doesn’t provide enough structure for mastering non-Roman scripts

BOTTOM LINE

If you want to be able to say a few phrases quickly, and hate subscription fees, Rocket Languages is a good language-learning app.

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