Rocket Languages

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Catch Phrase
“Speak and understand French faster"

The Background
Rocket Languages has been selling comparatively inexpensive CD versions of their software for years. Now they've ported it to the Internet, polished it up, and, most intriguingly, have added iPhone and Android versions for study-on-the-go. Is it a rocket in your pocket? I look at both the PC and mobile versions here.

The Approach
If you like the phase-memorization approach to learning language, you'll find this rocket is headed in your direction. The core of the program is, depending on the level you purchase, from 33 to 99 half-hour-ish conversations, much like your old Pimsleur tapes, to which Rocket adds the ability to record (and play back) your own spoken French, see the French text, and assume the roll of one of the players. Added to that are a dashboard to help you track your progress and pick up where you left off, some electronic flashcards, a few dozen language lessons that tackle gender and forming questions, and some other features that I suspect aren't used too frequently, such as earning badges, a forum, and the ability to keep your own vocabulary list.They do have what they call a "voice comparison" feature, where you can audibly and visually compare your spoken French to the native speaker, but they don't offer any kind of speech recognition - it's up to you to decide if you're properly gurgling your French R and I've never found those vocal graph prints to be useful, on any product.

My hopes that Rocket would change a couple of really annoying things from the previous version were dashed straightaway: Every lesson still begins, unfathomably, with an annoying 15-second clip of "Bolero" (which by lesson 3 feels longer) that will be stuck in your head all day long, and some unnecessary, corny patter with the occasional phony laugh by an English-speaking host. There is a lot of English in this course (this is not by any means an immersion course), but again, it depends on how you feel about that sort of thing.

Rocket In Your Pocket The thing I liked best about Rocket is that every web purchase comes with a free mobile version.

It integrates with your web-based dashboard, and works surprisingly well, even if it did occasionally hang up my iPhone for a few seconds while it loaded something or other.  So now you have no excuse to not be studying French all day long -- in the bus, in the car, while your boss thinks your doing the payroll...
Fairly extensive

Hot New Feature
Mobile version included.

The Skinny
  • Pros
    1. Good (but not as good as it used to be) content/cost ratio
    2. Mobile version included
    3. Free 5-lesson, 6-day sample course so you can try before you buy
    4. 60-day return policy
    5. They get points for offering American Sign Language
  • Cons
    1. Audio courses may remind you of high-school language lab
    2. Too much English, both oral and written
    3. No instructor-led online classes
    4. No voice recognition/validation software
  • Available languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, American Sign Language
  • Version reviewed: Level 1 (Premium)
  • Cost: $100 for Level 1 to $260 to Level 3.
  • Verdict: Rosetta Stone price cuts by almost half during their frequent sales have made Rocket less of a bargain than it used to be - except that Rocket occasionally has their own sales, but hop on the free trial and see if it feels right.

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