Our Review of Rocket Languages
Rocket Languages is not your typical language app, incorporating audio lessons, conversational dialogues and flashcard memorization. The content is good, but it's much pricier than most language apps on the market, and lacks options for users.
Ease of Use5
Engagement and Motivation4
Value for Cost6
Rocket Languages is not your typical language app. It employs a unique blend of features, such as podcast-style audio lessons, practice activities and flashcards to help you learn and retain new material.
Overall, it feels like a modern take on a traditional classroom approach, though lessons can at times feel tedious and there isn’t much user flexibility within the program.
What is Rocket Languages?
Rocket Languages is a unique language platform that incorporates many of the traditional learning methods you’ll find in other apps, including guided audio lessons, conversational dialogues and flashcard memorization. Rocket Languages differentiates itself from other apps with its emphasis on helping learners reach conversational fluency through voice-recognition technology and speaking activities.
How many languages does Rocket Languages offer?
At the time of writing, Rocket Languages has 12 languages available for English speakers:
Spanish (Latin America)
American Sign Language (ASL)
Rocket Languages offers beginner, intermediate and advanced-level courses (Levels 1-3) for most of the above languages, however a few languages only have Level 1 available (Portuguese, Hindi, Arabic and Korean).
How much does Rocket Languages cost?
Rocket Languages is a bit more pricey than other language apps on the market. Instead of a monthly subscription model, which most language apps have, Rocket Languages requires you to purchase each course individually. The prices are as follows:
- Level 1: $149.95
- Level 1 and 2: $299.90
- Levels 1, 2 and 3: $449.85
Rocket Languages runs promotions frequently, meaning you’ll likely never pay full price for any of the above-mentioned courses.
Oddly enough, it seems you can’t individually purchase courses for higher levels. If you’re studying a language at advanced-level proficiency and just want to purchase Level 3, you’re out of luck – you’ll still have to purchase Levels 1 and 2.
We couldn’t find a way to only purchase Level 2 or Level 3, so we decided not to purchase the Russian course.
It’s unfortunate that users can’t pick and choose the higher-level courses. If you’re studying at an intermediate or advanced level, we’d recommend choosing another app (see our full list of reviews here).
How does Rocket Languages work?
Rocket Languages combines multiple language learning methods into one platform, offering an all-in-one course that trains your grammar, listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Courses are divided into “Modules” (Rocket Languages Arabic has seven), each of which contains a handful of Lessons. Beginner-level Modules also contain “Language & Culture Lessons” and some languages have “Writing Lessons.”
Each Rocket Languages Lesson is based around a conversational dialogue. You’ll start out by listening to an Audio Lesson in which a narrator introduces you to the “characters” and explains what you’ll learn today. Afterwards, you’ll be prompted to walk through a number of learning activities to begin memorizing the new vocabulary and phrases introduced in the lesson, such as:
- Play it! – read and listen to the dialogue introduced in the Audio Lesson. You can play one of the characters and practice recording yourself.
- Flashcards – begin memorizing the new vocabulary and phrases introduced in the dialogue.
- Hear it! Say it! – a speaking activity that prompts you to listen to a word or phrase and practice pronouncing it using voice recognition.
- Know it! – similar to the above activity, except you’re given the English word and prompted to say the correct word in your target language.
Rocket Languages learning activities are a great concept in that they help you memorize the lesson material by training a variety of skills (listening, reading, speaking, etc.), however we noticed one major flaw: it’s impossible to mark a word or phrase as “already known” within the Lesson.
When we completed one of the advanced-level Russian Lessons, we found that 32 of the 40 vocab words were things we already knew (and mostly beginner-level words like “great!” and “bye-bye!”). We found it really, really frustrating to have to scroll through all 40 vocab words for each learning activity (Flashcards, Hear it! Say it!, and Know it!). If you’re at an elementary level in your target language this likely won’t be an issue, however intermediate and advanced-level learners might find this issue distracting and annoying.
Rocket Languages for Beginners
We tried Rocket Arabic – Level 1 as absolute beginners with no prior experience studying Arabic.
We appreciated that Rocket’s course teaches the Egyptian dialect rather than MSA (Modern Standard Arabic). As we understand it, the Egyptian dialect of Arabic is one of the more widely-understood dialects across the Arab world due to the popularity of Egyptian TV and films. MSA, the formal form of Arabic taught in many apps/classrooms, is mainly used for official political or religious texts and is not widely used for everyday conversation.
Rocket Languages provides a well-rounded introduction for beginners
Most Rocket Languages lessons begin with an audio lesson. In the Arabic course, the first audio lesson was about 20 minutes long. The narrator and two Arabic-speaking hosts, Amira and Hani, introduced us to a basic conversation then broke it down word-by-word so we could get a grasp of the pronunciation. The narrator highlighted important linguistic and cultural notes, such as the differences in various pronunciations and the role of gender in forming words.
Study activities help you practice new lesson material
After completing the audio lesson, we worked through several study activities designed to help us begin memorizing our newly learned lesson material. The first activity, called “Play it!” lets you practice the lesson dialogue by listening or by playing as one of the characters.
Some of the other study activities included are:
- Play it! – Practice the lesson dialogue (shown above).
- Flashcards – A few dozen cards from your vocabulary.
- Hear it! Say it! – Listen to the audio and pronounce what you heard.
- Know it! – Read the English translation and say the word in your target language.
- Quiz – Simple multiple choice questions from your lesson.
- Sort it! – Listen to the audio and put the words in order.
Voice recognition and emphasis on speaking
Rocket Languages places a heavy emphasis on speaking during lessons. The program uses voice
recognition exercises frequently throughout lessons to give users a chance to practice speaking.
Voice recognition exercises are indicated by a red microphone icon, and clicking on the icon will begin recording. The program will listen to your speech and tell you whether you were correct or incorrect. You can listen to the recording of your voice (green audio button) and then compare it to the native speaker (blue button) to improve your pronunciation.
Rocket Languages for Intermediate and Advanced Learners
Rocket Languages has intermediate and advanced level material for 7 of the 12 languages offered: Spanish (Latin America), French, Italian, German, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Russian.
Some languages have additional intermediate/advanced courses available outside of the standard curriculum, for example:
- Play the Part (German) – “The Rocket German Play the Part series enhances your knowledge of German by following native German speaker Simon as he navigates everyday life in Germany. It’s light on grammar but heavy on getting you speaking like a native.”
- Travelogue (Spanish, Russian, French, Italian) – “The Rocket Russian Travelogue series enhances your knowledge of Russian by following native Russian speakers as they navigate everyday life in Russia. It’s light on grammar but heavy on getting you speaking like a native.”
Travelogue – learn to navigate everyday situations
We tried out Rocket’s Russian Travelogue course, which includes 8 Chapters designed to expose learners to everyday vocabulary and phrases. Travelogue courses consist of audio lessons, transcripts and interactive study activities (i.e. flashcards, quizzes) to help you learn the practical skills necessary for ordering food, making reservations and asking for directions.
Each chapter in the Travelogue course has four Lessons. The first Chapter of the Russian Travelogue course focuses on booking a trip, flying to Russia and checking into a hotel. Lessons follow the same structure as in other parts of the course: an audio lesson that introduces a conversation or dialogue followed by study exercises to help you learn the new vocab and phrases.
Engaging storylines help you remember better
The Russian Travelogue course is built around a central storyline of two characters on a trip to Russia. In the first lesson we meet the characters: “Natalya Dubrov and her husband Ivan. Both originally come from Russia but moved to the UK as children, after the USSR collapsed.”
The lesson then walks us through a conversation between the couple and their travel agent as they organize a trip to Russia:
Each lesson within the Travelogue course introduces a new situation involving the two characters introduced at the beginning. For example, you’ll work through lessons like “2.2 Ivan and Natalya take the Metro” or “Ivan and Natalya visit Sochi and the Black Sea.” As learners, we’re significantly more likely to learn (and retain) things we study within context. Contextual learning (i.e. incorporating real-life situations and stories) helps learners stay motivated and engaged when studying, and also improves our long-term retention.
Practice activities: helpful but flawed
Rocket Languages has quite a few practice activities designed to help users learn and retain lesson vocabulary, however we found a number of flaws which ultimately limited their overall effectiveness.
First, each practice activity includes the entire lesson vocabulary list, which might include a total of 35 or 40 terms. We found this to be pretty overwhelming when starting out a new language like Arabic. It would be more effective to focus on smaller chunks, for example 5-10 words at a time.
Additionally, there’s currently no way to “hide” a vocabulary word from your practice activities if you’re already familiar with it, meaning you’ll encounter the same word repeatedly during practice. This was frustrating for us when working on the Russian Travelogue practice activities: we already knew 32 of the 40 vocabulary words but there was no way to focus on just the words we needed to learn. We had to continuously scroll through beginner-level words like “Hello!” which doesn’t make sense for an intermediate-level course.
Finally, Rocket Language doesn’t have a spaced repetition algorithm to ensure users consistently practice vocabulary every day. Instead, users must manually navigate to specific lessons and practice the related vocabulary, which makes the learning process feel inefficient and cumbersome.
Overall, we found Rocket Languages’ lesson material quite useful but the practice activities too poorly designed to be of any value.
The bottom line – can you learn a language with Rocket Languages?
Is Rocket Languages worth your time and money? Can you really learn a language with Rocket Languages? The answer is: sort of, but it’s definitely not the best program on the market.
Rocket Languages offers a substantial amount of lesson material across 12 different study lessons. Lessons include audio instruction, native-speaker voiceover, speech recognition practice, and a number of practice exercises, however lessons can at times feel very tedious.
Rocket Languages feels like a mix between a traditional classroom approach and a modern language app. The program makes use of audio buttons and voice-to-text speech recognition, but the lack of user options and flexibility drastically limits its effectiveness.
Given that each Level on Rocket Languages must be purchased separately (i.e. no subscription option) we wouldn’t recommend the program to most users. For our full list of language learning programs, see our article below.
– written by Drew Grubba for Smarter Language. Drew has ACTFL-certified proficiency in Swedish, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish. He’s also studied Mandarin Chinese, Norwegian and Dutch, and is currently learning Russian.