Japanese is one of the most popular foreign languages to learn for native English speakers (especially those from the US). Only Spanish and French command greater interest.
You'd think with such a high demand for Japanese language resources, there would be an abundance of quality courses out there for language learning. Sadly the truth is, there just aren't.
That's why I'm excited about today's post. We're going to look at one of the best options for a stand alone Japanese course: Rocket Japanese.
Rocket Japanese accomplishes what so few Japanese courses do: it provides an effective and efficient way to learn Japanese.
In this Rocket Japanese review we'll talk about the specific strengths of the course, and we'll also point out some of its shortcomings (no course is perfect after all).
If you want to check out our most thorough and intense review of the method behind Rocket Languages courses you can check out our general Rocket Languages review here.
Is Rocket Japanese the right course for you?
If you're a beginner to intermediate learner
Barring the most advanced Japanese learners, this course is thorough enough to be helpful to all students of Japanese. Beginners stand the most to gain, as the course is designed to take you from a beginning level of Japanese to an upper intermediate level.
The material in the later levels cater to the needs of many intermediate students as well.
If you're looking for a comprehensive course
This course thoroughly covers all aspects of Japanese language learning, including: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It also helps you improve your conversational ability, while learning grammar as well.
If you're looking for a supplemental tool
For most people this course is too thorough and expensive to be a simple Japanese learning tool you use on the side. If you're looking for a supplementary learning tool, this may not be the best way to learn Japanese for you.
If you're an advanced student
Advanced students will probably benefit more from immersion in the Japanese language and through conversations with native speakers, than they would from this course.
Rocket Japanese Method
Rocket Japanese follows a straightforward and effective method. Users are taught vocabulary and grammar simultaneously through two lesson types: the interactive audio lessons and the language culture lessons.
The audio lessons are built around a recorded conversation between two Japanese speakers. New words and phrases are then explained in the lesson and users get the chance to practice with different review activities (more on the review activities later).
The main advantage of these audio lessons is that you learn new Japanese words in the context of an actual conversation, instead of through a list of translations given in a textbook.
The audio lessons also let you playback words at different speeds so you can hear pronunciation better.
Language and culture lessons
These lessons focus specifically on grammar. These lessons provide a sample text and break down the grammar being used.
Users are given examples and thorough explanations on how the grammar works. Finally users are given the chance to practice what they’ve studied, and start making sentences of their own using the grammar from the lesson.
In addition to grammar these lessons also discuss different aspects of Japanese culture.
Both lesson types include a collection of review activities. There is an audio role play activity, where the user must answer audio prompts using words learned in a lesson. There’s also writing activities where users must respond to a written prompt.
To help you speak Japanese and practice pronunciation, Rocket Japanese uses voice recognition technology.
Rocket Japanese also includes a flashcard system, where users can add flashcards from a lesson or create flashcards of their own. This flashcard system is especially helpful when reviewing kanji.
What’s included in Rocket Japanese
There are a total for three course levels available in Rocket Japanese. Each level has around 7-8 modules of interactive audio lessons, and another 7-8 modules of language and culture lessons. Each module will have between 3-8 lessons in it.
Survival kit lessons
Each course level in Rocket Japanese also includes a bonus section called survival kit lessons. These are essentially audio phrase books in the form of course lessons. Each lesson has to do with a specific topic such as around the house vocabulary, love and romance phrases, etc.
What makes Rocket Japanese so valuable
It does justice to Japanese grammar
Japanese is consistently ranked as one of the most difficult languages to learn for native English speakers. This is due to the fact that the two languages share little to no similarities in grammar or vocabulary.
We won't get into the finer details of grammar here. Suffice to say in many ways Japanese and English are worlds apart linguistically.
Unfortunately many language learning companies take a best selling Spanish or French course, and swap out the material for basic Japanese.
The problem is that a method or system that works well for a language closely related to English (like Spanish or French), doesn't necessarily work for teaching Japanese. Often times some of the most significant aspects of grammar aren't even explained in these types of courses! (Here's looking to you Rosetta Stone)
Not so with Rocket Japanese. As mentioned before rocket Japanese lessons are divided into one of two categories.
The audio lessons are great for learning practical Japanese vocabulary, but it's the other lesson type I want to draw attention to.
The language culture lessons essentially break down and explain an individual aspect of grammar and teach you how to use it.
These lessons cover an array of grammar based topics such as using honorific language, mimetic expressions, verb pairing, and many other topics. This course does not shy away from the nitty gritty of the Japanese language!
It teaches the Japanese writing system
Do to the complexity of written Japanese, this important aspect of language is often conveniently overlooked by Japanese courses. At best kanji and kana are only minimally covered.
Rocket Japanese includes reading and writing lessons which teach both kana and kanji. There's even an in site flashcard system you can use to review characters.
It distinguishes between politeness levels
Like some other Asian languages (most notably Korean), the Japanese language uses varying levels of politeness. This means that the grammar and words forms you use often changed based on your relationship to the person you're talking to or about.
In just about every language, courses often err on the side of more formal or polite language. This is also the case with Rocket Japanese.
However many Japanese courses don't make a differentiation between the most formal Japanese and some of the less formal levels of politeness. Often times a student to not even be exposed to less formal Japanese at all.
Rocket Japanese makes the important distinction between politeness levels. Though the course does focus more on being polite, you will be exposed to less formal uses of the language, and you will also be conscious of how polite the phrases you're using are.
Great options for auditory learners
Rocket Japanese is a standout course for those who have an auditory learning style. It would be tough to find a Japanese audio course more comprehensive than Rocket Japanese (we’ve certainly looked).
Also the quality of the audio recordings is great to the point that you feel like you are listening to someone speak Japanese in real life.
Accessible online or via app
You can access the course through the online course portal on the Rocket Languages website, or through their Japanese mobile app.
While the course was originally designed for the online desktop experience years ago, the folks behind Rocket Japanese have made the mobile app version just as comfortable and easy to use. All course content will be available to you regardless of the platform you use.
Some challenges with Rocket Japanese
There's a lot of praise for Rocket Japanese in this review, however the course isn't with out its downsides.
It's not particularly entertaining
This course is an effective way to learn Japanese, but to be honest it's not always the most engaging. The material is covered thoroughly and represented well, but if you're looking for a novel and engaging way to learn Japanese this course might not cut it.
In the end you will half to apply yourself and work through the material if you want results. Sometimes after a lot of work, the audio lessons and grammar explanations can get dull.
It's best to use this course in conjunction with some supplemental resources, in order to spice things up once in awhile.
It's a great primary resource, but the best supplementary resource
This course is designed to be a comprehensive stand alone course for learning Japanese.
If you're looking for a supplemental resource, tool or app, the offerings of Rocket Language will probably feel like overkill. Also the price tag is a little high to justify this course as a mere learning tool.
Great audio course, visual course...not so much
Rocket Japanese is a great option for auditory learners. Visual learners however, will not find the course as appealing. The visual layout of the course is practical and easy to navigate, but there is little to no visual content to go alongside the actual lessons.
What other people are saying about Rocket Japanese
Rocket Japanese is arguably one of the most comprehensive audio courses for Japanese available (in terms of its sheer volume of material).
In other words, there’s a tonne of content in all 3 levels of the program combined....
...With the possible exception of JapanesePod101 (which is a less comprehensive, podcast-style audio course), Rocket Japanese stands out as one of the only worthy contenders for online course options.
If learning Japanese is a goal of yours, then I definitely think Rocket Japanese is a worthwhile investment. It my experience it gives the most bang for your buck in terms of all the learn at home courses that are on the market. Backed by the money-back guarantee and excellent customer service, you really can’t get much better.
Alternatives to Rocket Japanese
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Japanesepod101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary. Each lesson is designed around a Japanese conversation between native speakers, and the teachers do a great job of keeping things engaging.
As we mention in our review of Japanesepod101, the podcast is not as structured as other courses like Rocket Japanese or Rosetta Stone, but it's still a substantial learning tool (it's also much cheaper too). The site features transcripts, an in-site flashcard system, and many other useful features.
30 minutes a day
The Japanese Pimsleur course is probably the second most popular language course behind Rosetta Stone Japanese. Pimsleur is entirely audio based and is specifically designed to develop your conversational skills.
They use a unique and effective question/recall/respond technique to get you on your feet in your new foreign language. With Pimsleur You'll learn a limited but functional vocabulary and have a good sense of pronunciation.
$6+ per hour (varies between teachers)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
You can connect with language speakers from around the world and practice your speaking skills. There are over 200+ Japanese teachers and tutors on Italki.
*with a purchase of $20 or more. After you complete your first lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account
Rocket Japanese is an excellent option for serious learners who are looking for a stand alone course for learning a new language.
Yes the course can seem dry after awhile, and it's a bit too thorough and expensive to be used as a learning tool on the side. However this course is easily one of the most effective and comprehensive online Japanese courses on the market.
Rocket Languages offers a few lessons from their courses for free. If you're interested in their course for Japanese make sure to check out the free lessons and deciding for yourself if the course is right for you!
1 level starts at $99.95 for lifetime access