Rocket Italian is one of the more popular online audio courses for learning Italian and has in many ways been a market leader now for over 13 years.
The team behind Rocket Italian recently provided me with full access to all three tiers of their course in exchange for a detailed and honest review. Since I’ve spent time living in Italy doing Italian immersion, produced my own language course and write language product reviews professionally, I was more than happy to oblige.
I’ve gone through the course with a fine-tooth comb and looked at all the pros and cons below.
With Rocket Italian, you have the option of 3 different pricing tiers – Premium, Combo and Works. There’s an enormous difference between the lowest tier (66 lessons) and highest tier (183 lessons) both in terms of price and overall lesson content/value.
You can find specifics on each of these tiers here.
Full disclaimer: I do use affiliate links on this site from time to time so if my reviews help you make an informed decision to purchase a language product, I make a small commission. This helps support my site and enables me to continue to produce great content.
Make sure to comment below if you’ve used Rocket Italian before and share your experience with it.
As a side note, Rocket also has courses for several other languages: French, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, German, Chinese, Sign Language (American) and English (for Spanish speakers).
On to the review.
NOTE: Spammers do harm to Rocket Italian’s reputation
You may have landed here on this page after looking around for a Rocket Italian review and had to sift through a heap of fake videos or sites full of misleading points. It really is infuriating.
I avoided Rocket Italian for a long time because of this.
While the product itself is good, the company’s reputation has been hurt severely because of careless 3rd party affiliates.
Just be aware that these spammers don’t represent Rocket Languages and are no indication of the quality level of the course (they’re trying to mislead people for profit).
What is Rocket Italian and what sets it apart?
Although well-known, they receive frequent criticism for their limited style and usability (e.g. RS doesn’t provide explanations but instead relies on ‘intuition’ and Pimsleur is 100% audio-based).
They suit a specific niche of learner types and are therefore ineffective for a lot of other learners.
Rocket Italian on the other hand is unique in that it’s a structured and graded course where you have the option to learn in a linear fashion (i.e. lesson 1 -> lesson 2 -> lesson 3, etc.) or to jump right ahead and focus on the topics you need.
It has what I consider to be a minimal grammar focus where the Italian language is instead demonstrated using natural audio dialogues instead of dry textbook explanations.
You’re learning the language in context rather than having to memorize complicated rules.
One of the most important differences that sets Rocket Italian apart (and one of its biggest selling points in my opinion) is that the course content is 100% downloadable. This means that you own what you pay for by being able to download the MP3 and PDF material to use offline.
This is very different to programs like Rosetta Stone where you’re totally restricted by the software or online membership.
With Rocket, you can either use the website or mobile app (see below), or you can just save the entire course to be used offline.
Rocket Italian’s sheer volume of content stands out
As I mentioned above, the highest tier package for Rocket Italian (called ‘The Works’) provides you with 183 lessons in total across three difficulty levels.
The breadth and scope of the content is indeed large and depending on the amount of time you spend studying in a typical week, would probably be something you could continue referring to over a period of years rather than weeks or months.
In addition to a Survival Kit of foundational terms and expressions, the content is broken down into 2 main sections:
1) Interactive Audio Lessons
These are theme-based lessons delivered in a podcast-style format by lesson hosts Alex and Maria. The audio lessons are humorous and engage with the content of each topic.
2) Language and Culture Lessons
These lessons deal specifically with Italian grammar and touch on various aspects of Italian culture (e.g. polite phrases, shopping, going to the bank in Italy, etc.).
Since there is so much covered and on such a wide array of topics, Rocket Italian is a suitable learning tool for most objectives whether it be tourism, business, relationships or general interest.
What it lacks however are video lessons (similar to what you’d find in a program like ItalianPod101). For visual learners, this is something that Rocket could and should add in a future release.
Rocket Italian and the Google Web Speech API
With the 2016-2017 editions of Rocket Languages, they finally introduced voice recognition based on Google’s Web Speech API.
Previously, they were using very outdated technology for the speaking/voice recognition component of their courses which put competitors like Rosetta Stone light years ahead.
Now they’re using Google’s own technology for speech recognition which is superbly accurate and gives an immediate ‘grade’ as to how close your pronunciation is to the native Italian speaker.
I’ve personally never been a fan of technology teaching you how to pronounce words correctly (you improve through practice!) but this is still a very helpful feature for many people wanting to get their Italian pronunciation right.
I would still recommend getting a cheap tutor or practice partner on italki to improve your Italian pronunciation rather than relying on a computer to tell you though.
The Rocket Italian iOS and Android app
I was surprised that the Rocket Italian app wasn’t a separate feature being charged for.
When you create a Premium course membership, it includes free use of their mobile app which gives you complete access to the web course wherever you are.
I actually personally prefer the app over the web version. It runs seamlessly and all features (including the Web Speech API mentioned above) work without any issues I’ve seen.
Having the entire 183 lesson course available on my Android tablet or wife’s iPhone means that I can take it outside or relax on the couch while working through the material.
Since I also have access to other Rocket language courses, I can connect to any of them through the app as well.
Rocket Italian lessons’ effective delivery style
As mentioned above, Rocket Italian lessons are delivered primarily as podcast chats or casual explanations.
You have two hosts, Alex (American) and Maria (Italian native) who bring up an Italian topic (being in a cafe, pharmacy or post office for example), and then walk you through typical scenarios and language used in those scenarios.
What I like about this is that the lessons are interesting both from a language and cultural point of view.
They’re not dry, boring grammar lessons but rather thematic and practical.
If you find the English discussion too distracting then you also have the option of only listening to the Italian dialogues too.
Additional features that are part of the Rocket Italian package
There are 3 useful additions to the Rocket Italian course content worth mentioning here.
There’s a great little extrinsic motivator built into the course that enables you to compete with other members and aim for ‘study streaks’.
As you complete lessons and modules, as well as other course tasks, you receive points which move you up the ladder. You get awarded titles (similar to Duolingo) for reaching certain levels.
This is a handy way to stay motivated and to help encourage you to keep coming back.
2) The ‘My Vocab’ search tool
This may not seem like much at first glance but the ability to be able to search for any term or expression within the course is a powerful addition.
You can input any word and the search tool will not only show you a definition but it will also provide contextual examples with audio to listen to. Very useful indeed.
3) Flashcard app
Rocket Italian has an in-built flashcard app.
The good thing about this is that you can add anything from the course instantly to your flashcard deck (including in the ‘My Vocab’ tool) so you can study it later.
The verdict: Rocket Italian’s content scope, natural audio quality and flexible learning style confirm it as a rock-solid market leader
Household names in language learning tend to lose their usefulness quickly due to either a) restricted use (mentioned above) or b) insufficient breadth of content.
Despite the slightly high-end cost of Rocket Italian, it offers an enormous amount of content and is a flexible learning tool. Best of all, you own what you pay for in being able to download the entire course for offline use.
The natural Italian dialogues they use and lesson comprehensiveness make it a strong market competitor.
While there are some minor issues that need improvement, overall I think it’s a quality course and good value for money for any serious learner of Italian.
Here’s a video demo I put together of last year’s edition of the French, Spanish and Arabic versions. The more recent 2017 edition has significant improvements since this was made:
Used Rocket Italian already? What did you think?
Reviewed by Donovan Nagel.