Most importantly, it stands as one of the most well rounded and effective courses out there for learning a new language.
In this review we take an in depth look at this unique course. We talk about the method behind it, and how it can help you learn a foreign language.
What is Rocket Languages?
Rocket Languages is an award winning language learning company originally founded in 2004. Since then the company's language learning courses are used by over 1 million users world wide.
The courses are entirely web based and are offered for over 13 different languages.
The Rocket Language method is made up of three main parts: 1) Practical vocabulary through audio lessons, 2) grammatical lessons via language and culture lessons, and 3) reinforcement activities.
The idea behind this method is that you learn what to say. Then you learn the grammar behind the phrases and words you use. After that you review and apply all of it through exercises.
The Rocket Languages Method:
The practical (vocabulary & pronunciation)
The audio lessons are the practical part of the course. Each audio lesson is built around a recorded dialogue between two native speakers.
The lesson goes through each phrase in the dialogue so that you know what phrases mean. The lessons also walk you through the pronunciation of words syllable by syllable.
The idea behind this part of the course is to learn these phrases verbatim, so that you can use them when you speak the language with real people.
As you progress through the audio lessons you will learn more and more phrases. Pretty soon you'll be able to mix and match them while speaking. Though you may not fully understand the literal meaning of what you are saying, you will be able to speak the language quickly and get your point across.
I should also point out that these audio lessons always focus on vocabulary that you are likely to use in the real world.
Many courses and textbook introduce to you words and phrases that are less than helpful in a real life conversation (Do I really need to learn the sentence "The boy eats lunch on Tuesday"?).
This isn't the case with Rocket Languages. Right from the start you'll be learning how to introduce yourself, discuss how long you've been learning the language, and talk about getting around in a city which speaks your new foreign language.
"I like what Rocket Languages teaches, focusing on vocabulary and grammar that are probably most applicable to the average person in his or her everyday life...In Rosetta Stone, by contrast, you end up mastering a lot of phrases that you'll never use. Sure, you'll quickly figure out the difference between "the duck eats rice" and "the dog eats rice," but good luck making use of those sentences."
Jill Duffy // PCMag.com
The audio lessons give you loads of helpful vocabulary, but they don't explain much in the way of grammar. So you might know what a particular phrase means, but you probably won't know why.
This is where the language and culture lessons come in. Most of these lessons are essentially grammar lessons. They take a few phrases in the foreign language and break down the grammar behind them.
This is where you learn about things like honorific language, conjugations, verbal aspects, grammatical cases, and any other grammatical features important to the language you're learning.
These grammar lessons are straight forward with no fluff. By and large they do a good job of breaking down the most challenging aspects of grammar into bite sized examples.
In addition to grammar these lessons also teach the alphabet and writing system of the language. This is one feature that really sets Rocket Languages apart, especially for languages with unique alphabets/writing systems like Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, etc.
You will learn your language's alphabet (including pronunciation and writing rules), as well as how to read and write in the language. This shifts the overall focus of Rocket Languages from simply conversational language to include literacy as well.
In addition to teaching vocabulary and grammar, the Rocket Languages also provide a way for you to review (AKA reinforce) what you learn.
Each lesson has a series of reinforcement activities which include: a series of writing and speaking exercises (Rocket Languages uses voice recognition), quizzes, flashcards, and role play dialogues.
Rocket language's voice recognition uses Google Web Speech API. This API (Which powers many apps with voice recognition features), allows Rocket Languages to compare your voice against a pre recording of a nature speaker.
What do you get in a Rocket Language Course?
The Rocket Languages courses are entirely web based, but you also have the option of purchasing the software on CD-rom.
The more popular courses (such as the Rocket Spanish course) have 3 levels (the Russian, Hindi, Korean, Arabic, and Portuguese courses only have one level). Rocket Language also offers a course for American Sign Language.
Each level has 7-8 modules of audio lessons AND language and culture lessons, each with 3-8 individual lessons. Each audio lesson is around 30 minutes long. Language and culture lessons may take you a little less time to work through.
Each level also includes what are called Survival Kit lessons. These lessons include a list of phrases centered around a specific topic such as the 300 most common words, days of the week, love and romance, business, and more. These survival lessons are especially useful in the more advanced levels, as they help you improve your vocabulary.
Extra tools and content
In addition to the core lessons you also get access to series of bonus features and tools. This includes a live forum between course members, a flashcard review system, a series of articles on language learning tips, progress tracking, as well as an online notebook.
A Closer Look
There are three main options for purchasing RL courses. You can purchase a single level for $99.95, the first two levels for $249.90, or all three levels for $259.90.
You can also purchase a physical CD version of the course. A single CD level costs $299.95.
Pros and Cons of the courses
What we like about Rocket Languages
The course is super flexible
I really love the fact that Rocket Languages teaches conversational language AND grammar. What I like even more is that the course is setup so that you can switch freely between learning conversational phrases and learning the grammar behind them.
This gives the course a high level of flexibility. You can work through the course sequential step by step, pairing one audio lesson with one grammar lesson.
Or you can focus on the audio lessons for awhile, then after a week or so focus on the language and culture lessons.
This makes it easy to combine other forms of learning with the course, or simply use the course as a stand alone resource.
The course is holistic
With RL you learn a language through writing, reading, listening, and even a bit of speaking. Very few language learning courses focus on all four aspects of learning a language. Usually you find an audio course that pays no mind to reading or writing, or a written text that has little to no listening and speaking.
Rocket Languages does their best to provide a well rounded learning experience.
"The quality and comprehensiveness of Rocket Language’s audio is excellent...
...I was genuinely impressed by the overall comprehensiveness and quality of the audio and dialogue content for the Egyptian Arabic version I sampled.
Firstly, the very fact that it teaches a spoken dialect rather than standard dialect puts it miles ahead of Rosetta Stone."
It works for beginners and intermediate students
In the world of language learning, beginners have their pick of courses, but it can be hard for more advanced students to find appropriate resources.
Most companies release a beginner's course in a foreign language and then call it day. Not so with the RL team.
Many language learners have had success with Rocket Languages
The three course levels will take you up through the intermediate level in a foreign language. If you purchase one of these courses, you're likely to get a lot of miles out of it. I can't say the same for other courses (most notably Rosetta Stone).
What we don't like about Rocket Languages
Sometimes the course can seem dry
I don't believe that every part of the language learning journey can or should be fun. In my opinion language learning is a great experience, but there's simply no getting around the study and practice it takes to become fluent.
That being said, RL is an exceptional course. It teaches you a language well. But it doesn't make much of an effort to do anything more than that. It can seem a bit dull over awhile.
You won't find the game-ified format popular with other language courses. Don't by this course if you're looking to be entertained.
It's more of a course than tool
RL is an effective and comprehensive course, and its price tag reflects that. While its price point is comparable to Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, and other stand alone courses; it's a bit high if you're looking for a tool to supplement your learning.
Best way to use Rocket Languages
These courses were designed to be comprehensive stand alone language courses, and that's how they are best used. It's best to work through the lessons sequentially, moving on to new material only after you're fairly comfortable with what you just learned.
While RL is a great way to learn vocabulary and grammar, it's best to supplement it with some one on one practice with native speakers.
Nothing beats using what you know to have real conversations. Practicing with a friend, teacher, or language partner while working through the RL courses will help you get the most out of what you learn in the course.
An example of a good schedule for this kind of learning might look like this:
Recommend schedule while using this course
Four days per week
Work through Rocket Language lessons
One to Two days per week
Practice your new language with a native speaker
30 minutes - 1 hour
Obviously you can change this schedule to increase or decrease the time you spend studying. This is just to give you an idea on one way you can effectively use the course.
Alternatives to Rocket Languages
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Innovative Language's series of Pod101 language courses feature audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary.
Each lesson is designed around a conversation between native speakers of the foreign language, and the teachers do a great job of keeping things engaging.
More than just courses, the Pod101s are effective learning tools. The sites feature transcripts, an in-site flashcard system, and many other useful features.
30 minutes a day
Pimsleur is probably the second most popular language course behind Rosetta Stone. Pimsleur is an entirely audio based course 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 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
Italki is an online market place that connects language learners with language teachers for one-on-one language classes via video or audio chat.
You can connect with language speakers from around the world and practice your speaking skills. There are literally thousands of teachers on Italki, with lessons in over 40 languages!
*with a purchase of $10 or more. After your first purchased lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account
Language Specific Reviews of Rocket Languages
The effectiveness of a language course can vary widely depending on which language it's teaching. Click below to read our language specific reviews of the Rocket Languages courses.
*We haven't included the course on American Sign Language but we hope to soon!
Rocket Languages produces some of the most effective and comprehensive courses on the market.
The main drawback of the courses is that they can seem a bit bland after awhile (even though you're likely to learn a lot with them). Also some languages don't have the full three levels that the company usually offers.
The price could also deter those looking for a more affordable option.
These courses are ideal for those who want a stand alone language resource (your go to method of learning a language). It fits this role well and does an excellent job of teaching all aspects of a foreign language.
The wealth of modules and lessons in each level means that you will be able to use Rocket Languages throughout your language learning journey.
You can sign up for a free trial (no credit card required), and try out some of their lessons for free. I recommend you take full advantage of this to help you decide if Rocket Languages is right for you!