Jim here with a quick note. Rocket Languages caught our attention awhile back and we wanted to provide you guys with an honest review of the program. Our goal with product reviews is not to sell you on a program, but to share our opinion on a variety of language resources so you can decide if they’re right for you.
We will be creating a video review in the near future, but since I am an advanced Spanish-speaker, we wanted to give you a review from the perspective of an intermediate learner. So we asked our writer Madison to review the course and share her honest feedback about the program.
Take it away, Madison!
The team has been hearing a lot about the Rocket Languages program and we wanted to see how it compares to other Spanish learning resources we’ve used. This review is aimed at the beginner to intermediate Spanish student who is looking to focus on their speaking and listening skills since I feel that this particular audience is what the course is made for.
For the past few weeks I’ve used Rocket Spanish both on the computer, and as an app on my phone – and while both are helpful, let’s take a look at the breakdown. The course is essentially following conversations between a young man named Mauricio and one of his 3 friends.
Rocket Languages for Desktop Basics
The online version of Rocket Spanish is very comprehensive and is packed with features. There are 22 modules split into 3 levels of Spanish difficulty. Each module has multiple lessons that are focused on 1 of 3 things: interactive audio, language, and culture, or “survival kit” exercises (essentially, the necessities).
When you first sign up, you can choose to complete a 7-day free trial, where you have access to several modules, but not nearly as many as if you purchase the entire course.
The very first thing I did after signing up was taking the benchmark test that they offer. You can choose level 1, 2, or 3. I took the level 1 benchmark (beginner to intermediate) three times over the course of a few weeks, and I went from 50% to 80%.
While a bit intimidating at 100 questions, it goes by fairly quickly. It truly does test a range of knowledge, and like most of the lessons itself, include speaking, listening, writing, and reading, with a bit of critical thinking, which is super nice. There is a graph of every benchmark you take included so that you can track your progress.
It provides all the structure new students need. Even though I have not made it to a full 100% without getting three questions wrong, I did give the level 2 and 3 benchmarks a shot to see how they compared, and let’s just say… the test does its job. Level 3 seems so far away, but that only makes me want to continue the program that much more!
The First Lesson
Hopping right in, the first lesson is a 15 minute audio for absolute beginners, which is a conversation between two people greeting each other (that the narrator breaks down for listeners), followed by a range of activities that test your comprehension of the audio lesson.
One of my favorite features on this entire website is the closed captioning of the audio lesson. I have not personally seen this before so I loved the added touch. Instead of having to scroll along with a transcript, the words are showing up as the narrator speaks. It makes it tons easier to follow along, especially for visual learners like myself.
The audio lesson itself is very thorough and easy to follow along. It includes clear instructions for pronunciation, repetition, and other tips for beginners. There are pauses for the listener to repeat the vocabulary, as well as a break down all of the phrases word for word by the narrator. It makes it easy for students who are just learning to recognize the unique sounds of Spanish.
Speaking of recognizing sounds, this brings me to another one of my favorite features, the Rocket Record. The voice recognition technology of this program is one of the best I have personally used. It is able to tell you the syllables that you pronounced incorrectly, and has 3 levels of difficulty so that it can better adapt to your learning level. Also, it uses different colors: green, yellow, and red, along with percentages to help you identify just how difficult the pronunciation was for you.
After the audio, there is an activity that pertains to each learning style and a cool feature called “Play it!” where the student gets to act out one of the roles from the target conversation. The Rocket Record records your replies to the other person’s questions.
In this first lesson, I decided to play Amy, who is greeting Mauricio. The role play goes very quickly, but it helps you to think on your feet. You are merely talking with the computer, but one day hopefully soon you can apply the lessons to real people!
With “Play it!,” there is an option to play your own voice back from the role play so that you can identify what you need to work on: grammar, pronunciation/accent, speed, etc.
Other activities include flashcards, writing, and speaking exercises, and multiple-choice quizzes (which are awesome for the singular fact that the incorrect answers have explanations as to why it was not the best answer choice right next to them).
There is a forum available for students to use for general discussion or to answer each other’s questions.
Articles on advanced learning techniques such as identifying your learning style through Neil Fleming’s VARK model (Visual, Aural, Reading/Writing, or Kinesthetic) are also accessible on the website. This type of advice could be vital in finding out how to increase your rate of growth within your target language.
Reminiscent of Anki, there is also a flashcard tool where you can view public card sets that people have made or you can make your own.
Now to some, this next feature may be a huge habit-forming benefit to the whole course. An interactive feature, Rocket Spanish allows you to accrue points daily, be placed upon the leader board, and maintain a daily streak. For every activity you do, you earn points ( just after the first lesson I reached nearly 500 points, 400 more than my daily goal).
You can see how you compare to other Rocket Spanish learners (currently I am in 19th place), and also to those studying all Rocket Language courses (currently I am 66th). I am pretty sure I started at like 2000th place, so I’ll take it!
How the Rocket Languages App Compares
The app is just a less overwhelming version of the online platform, which is the case for most language resources. I actually found that I enjoyed doing the audio lessons on my laptop (as the closed captioning is not available on the app), and then switching to doing most of the activities on the app because it was just a better flow from one question to the next with minimal clicking.
But you can only complete lessons and see your place on the leader board with the app. Most other tools and features are unavailable.
What I Didn’t Like
Now, while the whole point system is a cool feature that some may love, it is not a deal-breaker for me. I do not need that type of motivation if I am already invested, but for those who like games, this might be a great motivator.
And I have to be honest, while the information offered in the course is comprehensive, I found some of the information to just be a little too repetitive and dry. I prefer a quick pace and the audio lessons are a bit slow, so I found myself skipping through them sometimes.
A few of the other tools, such as the flashcards and vocabulary sections (helping you to maintain your own list of words to work on), seemed to be a poor copy of other platforms like Anki and Duolingo.
Unfortunately, a big downside for many students to this particular platform is that it focuses solely on Latin American Spanish. So if you are learning Spanish as spoken in Spain, this course is NOT for you. Personally, I loved this aspect though since I am learning Spanish as spoken in Mexico. It’s nice to not have to deal with both dialects and learning several words for the same thing. Sometimes that is just plain confusing!
Lastly, the interface of the course is 100% navigable and not confusing in the slightest, but it does not quite compare to the aesthetic of other resources that I have used extensively, like italki and Duolingo. Their websites have an exciting aesthetic to them in my opinion. A part of that as well would be the absence of visuals on Rocket Spanish. A nice addition to the program would be some complementary visuals.
This course definitely maintains a focus on speaking and listening, and as a result, there are not really any videos on the site and only basic photos. So be aware of what kind of learner you are and if the plunge into the world of Rocket Languages is for you.
What I Recommend
As with most learning resources, Rocket Spanish is not perfect, but I do think it is worth it for beginner students who value structure and need that sort of comprehensive learning available to them in one space. You also have to be committed to using the online version with all the available tools. The app alone would not be worth it.
One recommendation I have for a complete beginner is to combine different resources. For example, try to spend some time learning words and phrases in a fun, simple format such as Duolingo, and then start using Rocket Spanish, you’ll get more out of your lessons. Or combine Rocket Languages with other lesson material such as reading Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish along with more visual formats such as watching YouTube or Netflix in your target language for even faster results.
And don’t forget to supplement your learning with practice with a native Spanish-speaker. We recommend Live Lingua for 1-on-1 classes, where you get your first one free, or italki where you can find hundreds of teachers from all over the Spanish-speaking world.
Not everything has to cost an arm and a leg, but I do think paid courses provide the structure and motivation that people need sometimes. When I was first starting to learn Spanish, paying for italki classes, joining the Lingoda program, and reading Madrigal’s book were the most essential factors for my growth. Check out Jim’s full review of the Lingoda Sprint if you’re up for a big challenge.
But as always, the number one way you will learn is by speaking to native speakers! You have to put the effort into applying what you learn in real life.
The creators of Rocket Spanish certainly know what they are doing when it comes to teaching the language students of the world. If it seems like the right program for you, we hope that you all reach out to us and tell you what you think about the course as well! You can buy the program here.