No doubt you’ve heard about Rocket French (part of the Rocket Languages series).
Well, it describes itself as a ‘recognized leader in online language learning’ and it’s been popular language learning product for over 10 years.
When I first sampled Rocket French (and before that Rocket Arabic), I admit that I didn’t have high expectations of the program but I was actually seriously impressed at the high quality of its audio content and dialogues.
In fact it’s one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve ever seen for natural dialogue material.
Grammar is demonstrated rather than just being explained and instead of just being a tedious literacy-based program, it really focuses on getting you to speak and listen to French better.
Rocket French uses what’s called a ‘chunking approach’ which means that they break everything down into small pieces or segments so they can be easily absorbed and remembered. This is an approach I advocate a lot in my own writing on this site.
As well as French, Rocket currently offers: Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic (Egyptian), Italian, Hindi, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Sign Language (American) and English (for Spanish speakers).
There are 3 different pricing tiers – Premium, Combo and Works. While the Premium tier offers a lot of great content, the higher tiers offer loads more (with a significant price difference however).
To get specifics on these tiers, click on one of the languages above to see what they offer (personally I think the middle option – Combo – is more than adequate for most people).
Below I’ve listed the reasons why I think Rocket French is worth it and I’ve followed it up with a few negative points.
But first a video demonstration (this is the 2016 interface which has been slightly improved in the new 2017 edition):
Make sure to comment below if you’ve used it and share your own thoughts.
The quality and comprehensiveness of Rocket French’s audio is outstanding
The quality and comprehensiveness of its audio is what sets Rocket French apart from most other French products.
I was seriously impressed by the high quality and scope of the Rocket French audio and dialogues. By comparison, it’s miles ahead of products like Rosetta Stone (see my review here).
You’ll find naturally spoken French phrases and dialogues just as they’re used in real life by French native speakers – something that’s hard to find in many other French resources.
In Rocket French there’s a unique and wide variety of topics ranging from absolute beginner level to advanced and they cover areas such sport, literature, France-specific topics, relationships and more.
The best part is everything is accompanied by 100% natural audio to improve your listening comprehension skills.
There are two sections – ‘Language and Culture’ and ‘Interactive Audio’.
The Interactive Audio section contains tonnes of high quality dialogues.
The Language and Culture section is the part where you’ll find grammar and detailed information on culture.
Unlike other programs like Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur (see this review), Rocket presents its content in a humorous and unique way that doesn’t follow a ‘cookie cutter’ approach (all language versions are unique to France and French culture). The presenters in the audio comment on and engage with the material which makes it fun and interesting to follow.
Due to the comprehensiveness and high quality of the audio alone, I believe the price for Rocket French is absolutely justifiable.
Compared to its competitors and other French products, Rocket French’s audio content is outstanding value to serious French learners.
Rocket French’s Helpful Community and Forum
When you sign up for Rocket French you’ll find that there’s a helpful community of people to help you with your French.
There’s also a general forum for other languages.
Being able to engage with other French learners is a really great feature to help both you and for you to be able to help others.
If there are questions about grammar, vocabulary or anything else French-related that isn’t covered by the Rocket content then you may find the answers here.
It seems as though the forums are also actively moderated by native French speakers.
The Rocket French Mobile App For Android And iOS is excellent
Rocket have recently announced a fresh, new design in 2016 which I’m really looking forward to.
In the meantime, the desktop version looks a little outdated (in fact this is one of the few negative points I’d raise about Rocket Languages).
The good thing is the mobile app is incredibly simple, clean and easy to use.
I actually prefer it to the desktop version since it removes a lot of the clutter and unnecessary features, making it easier to access the French audio directly.
If you have a mobile device then you’ll love the Rocket app as you can squeeze in some study time while you’re out and about (on commutes to work, university, etc.).
Rocket French includes a handy scheduler and points system, and an amazingly useful ‘phrase finder’
This isn’t necessarily a unique feature to have but like other software (e.g. Duolingo), Rocket Languages provides these tools to keep you motivated.
They also keep you challenged.
This encourages you to have ‘study streaks’ (unbroken study over a long period) which will prevent you from losing motivation to study or giving up entirely. I can’t emphasize enough just how important this feature is.
There’s also another feature which works brilliantly called a ‘phrase finder’ which scans through the entire French course when you search for something and brings back every example of the word or phrase in their database.
Thus, it’s a bit like a contextual dictionary.
Since Rocket French is so comprehensive, it’s great that they’ve included a search tool that works so well.
You can easily download the entire Rocket French course in MP3 and PDF format
This is one of the best points about Rocket French.
Unlike other programs and websites which restrict you to using their material inside the application or on the website, you can download all of the Rocket French content as MP3’s and PDF files.
This means you can easily put the dialogue material on portable listening devices (e.g. phone, tablet or iPod) and take it with you as well as being able to read the lesson PDF on your device.
I always say that if you pay for something, you should be able to access wherever and whenever you want.
Rocket Languages is one of the few resources that makes this possible (though it’s also a feature of FrenchPod101).
A few negative points about Rocket French
Like every language product, it shouldn’t be sugarcoated.
Rocket French is fantastic but there are some features and general issues that need improving:
- Rocket affiliate marketers hurt the company’s reputation. Unfortunately, Rocket has an unchecked affiliate scheme in place that makes it possible for spammers to annoy the heck out of people with ads about Rocket products. These are NOT from the company. They are spammers.
- The desktop interface still looks very outdated but as I mentioned above, Rocket have indicated that they’re replacing this soon. This does not affect the content which is still awesome.
- Games are pointless. One of the features mentioned on the site are the language games. Trust me – they’re a waste of time. Not a big deal really but I wish they’d take them out entirely — UPDATE: These games have been removed in the 2017 edition.
- The voice recording feature isn’t that great. It’s also a step behind other products like Rosetta Stone. Again, this isn’t a huge deal because it’s an unnecessary feature that doesn’t really benefit your speaking skills anyway (you’re better of using a site like italki for speaking). — UPDATE: The voice recording and recognition system has been massively improved in the 2017 edition using the Google Web Speech API.
The great quality and comprehensiveness of Rocket French‘s audio makes it worth the investment for a serious learner
Other sites and books lose their usefulness pretty quickly.
Rocket French is a little pricey compared to some other products but trust me – you will get years of use out of it.
I’d happily recommend it because of the comprehensiveness of its content and excellent quality of its dialogues.
Some of the other features I’ve mentioned need improvement (or removal) but the natural audio is where Rocket shines.
You can try it out (they do offer a free trial on their products) by clicking here.
Please share your thoughts below if you’ve used Rocket French (or any other Rocket product) below.
Reviewed by Donovan Nagel.