Rocket Languages Review: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Buying in 2024
Let’s face it: There are lots of language learning apps, programs and sites out there.
But how do you know which resources stand out from the rest?
In this review, I’m going to cover my experience trying out Rocket Languages.
Overall, I think this program is a great addition to a language learner’s repertoire, though I don’t necessarily think it should be used as one’s only learning program.
And I’m going to tell you exactly why I think so.
Let’s take a look at the program’s claims and see if it delivers.
Name: Rocket Languages
Description: Language learning since 2004 offering audio and culture lessons, pronunciation practice and flashcards.
Languages offered: 13 languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, American Sign Language, some English programs and more.
Offer price: Some free content; pricing per level, $149.95 for one level or $449.85 for three levels.
Rocket Languages is a great component of an overall language program but there doesn’t seem to be enough material or resources to take learners to total fluency or a highly proficient point.
- User friendliness - 6/106/10
- Delivers on promises - 7/107/10
- Authenticity - 9/109/10
- Value for price - 7/107/10
- Authentic audio lessons
- Each level has 60+ hours of lessons
- Has extra lessons on grammar and vocabulary
- Gamifies daily learning
- Focus on repetition makes exercises a bit boring
- “Culture” lessons don’t actually teach about culture
- Voice recognition issues and other bugs
- Rocket Languages Approach and Promises
- Rocket Languages Program Breakdown
- Audio Lessons and Interactive Exercises: The Program’s Best Feature
- Language & Culture Lessons: Useful but Not What They Seem
- Track Progress: Helpful for Keeping Up
- Apps: Great for On-the-go Learning
- Lifetime Access: Unlimited Usage and Review
- American Sign Language (ASL): A Rare Goodie
- Voice Recognition and Download Options: Bumps in the Road
- How Much Does Rocket Languages Cost?
- Does Rocket Languages Deliver on Its Promises?
- And One More Thing...
Rocket Languages Approach and Promises
Rocket Languages is a popular language-learning website and app. It was created in 2004 by Jason Oxenham and Mark Ling, and as of 2023, it boasts over 2 million users.
- Is designed for new learners who want to become proficient in a language.
- Provides mostly audio and culture lessons, with pronunciation practice and flashcards as foundational facets.
- Includes a progress tracker, leaderboard and community forum that allows learners to interact with other learners in their target language.
Rocket Languages is also available as an app (iOS/Android) for on-the-go learning.
There’s lifetime access to all lessons in the target language, and a free trial available for each language so it’s possible to “test the waters” before committing.
Currently, there are 14 options of popular and lesser-studied languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Hindi and American Sign Language.
For this review, I tried out German and a less popular language, Portuguese, for comparison purposes.
In order to see if Rocket Languages is an effective language learning program, we first need to understand what it aims to teach.
On the main web page, Rocket Languages claims to be unique by taking you “to the heart of the language” and giving you “everything you need to understand the language and the culture.”
To back this up, it says that in the program you will get:
- Pronunciation practice
- Speaking practice
- Listening practice
- Cultural understanding
Rocket Languages promises to teach you to talk “just like [locals] do.” We can assume that this means we’ll learn through authentic conversations in our target language, and that there will be targeted pronunciation exercises throughout each course.
The program also claims you will “learn how the language actually works.” This is a bit more ambiguous, but for the sake of our review, we’ll assume that the courses will include some explicit grammar instruction, and that we’ll be expected to produce the target language at some point without a guiding aide.
We’ll keep these two claims in mind as we take a look at the Rocket Languages program.
Rocket Languages Program Breakdown
So now that we know the Rocket Languages approach and what it claims to do, let’s see what features it actually offers to help us reach these goals.
Audio Lessons and Interactive Exercises: The Program’s Best Feature
The audio lessons that are the backbone of this program begin with very basic conversations. It’s a start-slow and build-up approach that makes getting into the language learning pool relatively comfortable.
Learners begin the lesson by listening to a podcast. Each podcast is between 10 and 20 minutes long, and it includes an English-speaking host as well as multiple native speakers.
As the podcast plays, learners can read along with the English and target language in the transcript as they listen. Lines are bolded as they’re spoken aloud.
For the purposes of the review, I chose the first lesson of the German Level 2 course. This is Lesson 9.1, entitled “Last Weekend.”
This lesson featured a conversation between two native German speakers, Sandra and Matias, and what they did the previous weekend. After being introduced to the topic and the native speakers, the recording also included a short, simple conversation in German.
After the dialogue, the podcast host walks the learner through the vocabulary and grammar of the conversation in English and instructs on how to participate in such a conversation in real life. The host then prompts the learner to repeat what they hear and respond to prompts with the help of native speakers.
Below the audio lesson player is a “Play It!” box, which allows learners to see the translations of the dialogue as they hear just the conversation, with the additional option to practice speaking via the microphone for either person’s lines. Below this is a “Lesson Vocabulary” box with the important phrases from the conversation.
There’s a casual informality in the conversations that comprise these lessons. They almost feel as if you’re chatting with friends rather than studying. In short, they make the learning experience light and friendly.
While I didn’t find these dialogues and podcasts particularly exciting, the fact that they’re teaching highly useful conversational language is undeniable.
Rather than learning standard phrases that a university textbook might teach you, Rocket Languages teaches you the language that native speakers actually use—even slang! These types of audio lessons would definitely help any learner become conversational in their target language.
A clear strength of these lessons is the use of native speakers who model proper pronunciation. During the podcast and in the subsequent dialogue and extra vocabulary breakdowns, learners hear their target language pronounced properly and clearly, and voice recognition software lets users record their own speech to know how their pronunciation stacks up.
After the podcast and dialogue material, learners engage in a number of interactive exercises that provide the opportunity to practice. Exercises include:
- Flashcards — Learners see English words and phrases and quiz themselves on the target language translation, with the option to play target language audio upon reveal or see the target language first. Flashcards can be tagged for later review by clicking the “Easy,” “Good” or “Hard” buttons below the card.
- Hear It! Say It! — Learners listen to a word or phrase in the target language and then record their own audio.
- Write It! — Learners listen to a word or phrase in the target language and then type it out in that language. Any special alphabetical symbols are available on the screen for users to click and insert.
- Know It! — Learners read an English translation of a word or phrase and then record their translation in the target language.
- Quiz — Learners answer multiple-choice questions to test their knowledge of target language vocabulary and usage.
While I found these exercises a little boring since they all deal with the same words and phrases over and over again, Rocket Languages knows that repetition is key, and each repetition of a word or phrase solidifies it in the learner’s brain.
There are two further benefits to this:
- Lessons gradually increase in difficulty as you move through each level, so making use of the exercises is an excellent way to ensure readiness for subsequent lessons.
- Lessons build on one another, so you’re learning new material while constantly reinforcing old material.
Because of this, I imagine one could reach a respectable level in their target language. Rocket Languages levels typically have 60+ hours of lessons each, so there’s lots of material to learn.
Additionally, learners are able to repeat lessons as many times as necessary. This is beneficial when reviewing material or if there’s been a break in schedule. Forget a key lesson? Just go back and redo it!
Language & Culture Lessons: Useful but Not What They Seem
Originally, Rocket Languages simply called these “Culture Lessons,” but after taking some user feedback into consideration, they’re now called “Language & Culture Lessons.”
This is a step in the right direction, because I always associate “culture” with art, music, traditions and food. But these lessons are designed mostly to show how the target language works, focusing on fundamentals like grammar and vocabulary.
Culture content includes audio of thousands of common words and phrases, and also covers navigating various language topics. In short, it teaches how to discuss past events, nail down proper pronunciation and other essentials that aren’t fully explained in the lessons themselves.
These lessons also have the same five types of exercises as regular lessons to aid with understanding and reinforcement.
So, while the lessons may not deal with “culture” in a literal sense (or in a semantic sense), they are vital to a well-rounded learning regimen with Rocket Languages.
If you want to learn about the nuances of the language you’re learning, authentic videos like the ones on FluentU give you a peek into the language and culture with the help of multiple language learning tools.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Track Progress: Helpful for Keeping Up
Rocket Languages has done a super job of making it easy for learners to see how they’re doing.
Progress is clearly noted on the dashboard page—and it’s simple to resume with lessons wherever you left off. I liked that I could see what I’d done, how I did and what I needed to do next all from one page.
Learners accumulate points to earn various badges, which is a fun incentive to keep studying your target language. It feels a little like a game. Coupled with a leader board that allows users to view their progress in comparison to others, this progress and competition feature has its appeal.
And for those who believe their biggest competition is themselves, the program keeps track of streaks in order to keep self-motivated individuals consistently coming back. The streaks show how many continuous days a learner uses the program. Personally, I like this motivation tool!
Apps: Great for On-the-go Learning
We’re all so busy that any program that features a way to take language learning on the move is worth checking out. Sometimes a fantastic app can be a language learner’s best friend!
The Rocket Languages app makes this program totally mobile. It’s possible to learn and practice anywhere and anytime.
Random pockets of time all have language learning potential, after all. Also, it’s possible to download lessons so even if you’re in a situation without internet access you’re able to access some content.
Rocket Languages is available for iOS and Android.
Lifetime Access: Unlimited Usage and Review
There are no monthly subscription fees with this program. Learners pay one price that allows them unlimited, lifetime access to materials.
Even the free trial offers unlimited access to the first few lessons for life.
American Sign Language (ASL): A Rare Goodie
ASL isn’t offered by a lot of language learning sites, so having it here is a unique option. It’s sure to have wide appeal for those who have been waiting for it, myself included.
Due to the nature of the language, this course relies on video rather than audio for its lessons.
Voice Recognition and Download Options: Bumps in the Road
Voice recognition software is almost essential for language learners. It really assists with correct pronunciation.
Unfortunately, this program’s voice recognition feature was mildly disappointing. It just didn’t always recognize the voice on each first attempt. I wondered if it was my voice, specifically, that gave it issues so I asked two others to try it out and they had similar experiences.
My other issue with Rocket Languages is minor, but when you’re learning a language, it’s nice to be able to have your learning content in the form you want it in.
If you’re not keen on downloading the whole app to your phone, there’s not many download options. On your computer, you can download the full audio track of lessons, but that’s about it.
It would be nice to be able to export a vocabulary list, or even the transcript of the audio as well, but so far, this is not an option on Rocket Languages.
How Much Does Rocket Languages Cost?
Price is often a big consideration for language learners, and I understand why. Language learning programs can be expensive.
Rocket Languages’ free trial seems to be indefinite, but it only allows learners to access select lessons of each level.
Other features are available during the free trial, such as most resources under the “Tools” menu, but in order to unlock all lessons and levels, a one-time price is charged per language for unlimited lifetime access.
For languages that offer multiple levels, such as Spanish or German, learners can opt to pay for only the first level, the first two levels or all three levels. For languages where only one level is available, paying for the one level is the only payment option.
Prices are quite steep, even if users only want one level of lessons. For German, the first level is about $150. If buying more than one level of lessons, prices are discounted rather than multiplied. Even still, Rocket Languages’ pricing is similar to that of other major language learning programs and monthly subscription-based services.
If you’re interested in Rocket Languages, however, keep an eye out for deals. On the day that I checked out Rocket Languages’ pricing, an instant coupon was available for all three levels of the German course that would have knocked the price from $450 to $260.
Does Rocket Languages Deliver on Its Promises?
Remember Rocket Languages’ two claims that we examined at the beginning of the post? To recap, Rocket Languages promises that its program will get you talking like a native speaker, and that you will understand how your target language actually works.
So, will you really end up talking like a native?
Based on what I’ve experienced, I think it’s safe to say that if you stick with the program all the way to the end, then yes, Rocket Languages can get learners speaking properly in their target language.
There are some conditions, however.
Mainly, I think this depends on the language you’re studying. For German, Spanish or French, for instance, the courses are quite expansive with lots of lessons. Because of this, you’ll hear many authentic conversations and have numerous opportunities to practice term pronunciations.
For a language like Hindi, however, your studies may fall a bit short of this claim. There aren’t always enough lessons in a single level to cover enough listening and speaking materials.
However, your lifetime membership may allow you to see your target language’s program built out, as has happened with the Rocket Languages Portuguese option.
Now, will you really understand how your target language works after completing your Rocket Languages course?
The simple answer to this question is “no.”
Sure, some Rocket Languages courses will get learners to have comfortable conversations on common topics in their target language, but to say they will truly understand the mechanics of the language itself is a stretch.
The grammar lessons included in the Language & Culture sections are helpful, to be sure. But overall, Rocket Languages definitely stands up to its “new learner” angle, meaning comprehensive grammar instruction is not the focus.
Further, opportunities for producing the language on your own are limited. Learners can only repeat after native speakers and answer predetermined questions aloud. That’s very far from the reality of actually speaking a language, where conversations can be unpredictable and learners may find themselves needing more than just what Rocket Languages has taught them.
In the same vein, Rocket Languages doesn’t give much opportunity for reading and writing, largely considered essential for truly proving that one understands the mechanics of a language.
Sure, learners must read in order to complete Rocket Languages lessons, but most of this reading is in English or transcripts of lesson dialogues. There’s no actual reading of real-world material in the target language.
Writing is limited to only lesson exercises where a one- or two-word translation is required, rather than sentences or essays that require grammatical knowledge.
In short, Rocket Languages is a great component of an overall language learning program, but there doesn’t seem to be enough material or resources to take learners to total fluency or even a highly proficient point.
In conclusion, Rocket Languages offers a lot of benefits for language learners.
The material is engaging, informative and interactive. It’s a solid resource that makes learning fast, focused and fun. Better yet, in conjunction with other language learning resources, Rocket Languages is an excellent addition to any language learning regimen.
After my positive experiences with German and Portuguese, I’m looking forward to trying my hand at ASL next. For beginners, Rocket Languages does know how to launch language learners towards success!
And One More Thing...
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