The Ultimate Rocket Japanese Review

Back when I was first getting started with Japanese, I stumbled upon a website called Rocket Languages during one of their sales. So, naturally, I nabbed their Japanese course!

I studied with it every day (well, okay… almost every day!) for about year until I had completed the course. Now I’d like to write out my thoughts and experience with the course in this Rocket Japanese review.

I’ll talk about the content of the course, how they teach Japanese, some of their testing methods, and other features like the community on the site and such.

I personally used it on my computer through my web browser the entire time, but they do have an app for the phone for people who prefer to learn on the go.

Course Content

Rocket Japanese has quite a bit of content.

The entire course is divided into three levels. Within each of those three levels there are about 100 lessons each, all of them across various topics.

Some of the lessons are set within the context of a party, a business meeting, a date, and a lot more.

The course covers a wide variety of situations, and I felt like if I were to live in Japan then I would at least be familiar with any situation that I might find myself in during day to day life.

The course starts out assuming that the learner is brand new to Japanese, so there are a lot of basics covered in the beginning such as hiragana, katakana, common words, and basic grammar.

One thing that does remain constant throughout the entire course is the emphasis on speaking Japanese. I felt like the course was really designed for people who want to hold actual conversations with Japanese people.

While you do learn a fair amount about reading Japanese, the way that the lessons and testing are setup, they have you spending most of your time listening to and speaking Japanese.

Teaching Method

There are three primary types of lessons in Rocket Japanese:

  1. Interactive Audio Lessons
  2. Language & Culture Lessons
  3. Writing Lessons

The first part, Interactive Audio Lessons, are like the main bread and butter of Rocket Japanese.

In these sections there is a 20-30 minute audio lesson that starts off by going through a short conversation entirely in Japanese.

The hosts then talk about the Japanese dialog and break down all of the new words and grammar that were included.

Once you’ve gone through that lesson, you can then scroll down and see the transcript of the Japanese conversation and practice it yourself.

At the bottom of this section are some reinforcement activities where you can test yourself to see how well you remember the information.

This includes things like flash cards, hear it and see it activities, typing it in, and some others.

This means that you’re not only listening to Japanese, but you’re also using it during the learning process.

The second part, Language & Culture Lessons, are really more of an in-depth lesson on Japanese grammar.

Of course, there’s also information on the cultural aspects of Japan and the ways that Japanese people do things, but primarily this section of the course helps you better understand the new grammar patterns from the main lesson.

I thought that this was a good idea, since Japanese grammar is very different from English, and spending a little extra time on it helps understand it better.

Just like the first section, this part also has some retention activities to help you remember what you learned.

The main difference between this section and the first is that it’s primarily a blog post style instead of an audio lesson.

The third part, Writing Lessons, is where you learn all of hiragana, all of katakana, and then a fair amount of kanji.

These are nice to combine with the main lessons since they are written in Japanese (and romaji if you want) so you can learn the Japanese characters and then read them in the main lessons.

The only thing you need to do is set up your computer so that you can type in Japanese. The system will only accept Japanese input.

Rocket Record

I mentioned before that there’s an emphasis on learning how to speak Japanese throughout the course and this is further promoted by their unique Rocket Record function.

Basically how it works is that every single line of dialog has been broken down into short clips that you can listen to.

Then you can click on a button that will record you as you repeat what you heard and try to sound as close to the speaker as possible.

Their program then compares your result to that of the recording and gives you a percentage of how close you were.

This is pretty good, but I actually like the next feature of Rocket Record even more.

Once you’ve recorded yourself, you can hit a play-back button and then listen to your recording of yourself.

I found that listen to my own recording, and then listening to the speaker, and comparing the two was the best way to improve my pronunciation.

This allowed me to quickly and easily see if I was saying it just like the recording, or if I had been slightly off.

To be honest, there were many times when I thought I has said it the same way while I was doing the recording, but then when I re-listened to myself and the native speaking, I realized that I was off on some part.

Getting a good accent while speaking Japanese takes a while, but the thing I liked about this was that it really forces you to pay attention to the way you’re speaking and then focus on improving it.

If speaking Japanese well is something that you want to be able to do, then recording yourself and then listening to it is an invaluable tool.

The Community

I always enjoy talking with other language learners, and on the website there is a forum where you can ask the community question you have about anything.

There are some tutors on there as well, so sometimes you will get a professional answer to your question, but even if you don’t there are a lot of other users that are knowledgeable on Japanese.

Although it’s not super active, I would say that there’s a new post or conversation every couple of days. So, if you like to talk with other people about learning Japanese, it’s a fairly decent place to do so.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I really enjoyed using Rocket Japanese when I was first getting started in the language.

I got a really good foundation in the language from grammar, to commonly used phrases, to actually speaking Japanese and improving pronunciation.

If Rocket Japanese sounds like something you’d like to try out, then you can check out their free trial and see for yourself.

If you have any thoughts or experience that you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

33 thoughts on “The Ultimate Rocket Japanese Review”

  1. Thank you so much for the elaborated review. I also enjoyed reading other people’s comments and your replies to them – this is very helpful with making a decision on what app/company I want to use. I would like to ask you though, is there anything you do not particularly like about Rocket Japanese?

    Reply
    • That’s a fair question. I would say that I’m not a big fan of having Kenny speaking in the first level since he has an English accent when he speaks Japanese. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but ideally you would want to only listen to natives when you’re learning. They changed this for levels 2 & 3 which only have native speakers, but you still gotta put up with it at first.

      I also think their lessons on kanji are pretty weak. For me, I was learning how to read kanji through some books I got off Amazon, so it didn’t hinder me overall, but it’s still a weak point for the course.

      Finally, I guess I would say that even though there is a community form that people can ask questions on, it always seemed like the tutors would take a couple of days to respond, so you could never really get a prompt response.

      Those are the things that I think they could have done better in the course, but again that’s just my opinion on it.

      Reply
    • You can buy the CD version and have it shipped to your house, but it increases the price quite a bit if you do.

      Most people (including myself) just buy the digital version which you access online through your computer or phone and go through it that way. I highly recommend that you choose this method if you’re on the fence, as it will save you a lot of money for essentially the same information.

      Reply
  2. This Ultimate Rocket Japanese language training course sounds very complete after reading your thorough review, thanks for your recommendation.
    It always baffled me why no schools around our area taught Japanese when I was at school considering how influential Japan is to the world however one thing is learning the language and speaking it correctly, the other hurdle is learning how to read and write in Japanese.
    I can therefore imagine a few years of determined hard work learning with this quality of training will get towards being fluent. How did you find the training with regards to reading and writing, is it straightforward to learn?
    Thanks again, you’ve inspired me,
    Simon.

    Reply
    • Yeah when you look at the numbers, there’s only like 1% of so Americans learning Japanese. On the other hand there’s around 50 million learning Spanish, so it’s obvious why every school has a Spanish class, but very few have one on learning Japanese.

      The course presents all of the dialog in both the Japanese written system, and also English letters. So there is plenty of practice with regards to learning how to read Japanese.

      They also have a second that teaches you the correct stroke order for hiragana, katakana, and a fair amount of kanji. So to answer your question, the course does a great job at teaching written Japanese as well.

      Having said that, I believe that the true power of this course in particular is in the fact that it gets people speaking and understanding Japanese with its primary lessons and recording software.

      Reply
  3. It was a very clear and throughout review. As I am one of the people who has trouble with spoken language when learning languages this seems like a very useful program 🙂

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think that most people have the hardest time with learning how to speak new languages at a high level. Contrary to what you might naturally assume, learning how to read a new language is usually the easier of the two tasks.

      Reply
    • It’s a good question and one that I’m happy to address.

      The first level of Rocket Japanese is taught by a Japanese native and a guy from England. Her accent it perfect (of course), but his is definitely a British one when he speaks Japanese.

      This isn’t really ideal, as you kind of want to listen to native Japanese people speaking so that you can mimic what it naturally sounds like.

      That being said, the first level is actually the shortest one, with levels 2 & 3 being much, much longer. AND there are two new people who do all of the example sentences for levels 2 & 3 and they are both native Japanese.

      So while it’s not super great that one of the conversation partners speaks Japanese with an accent in level-1, it is (in my mind) not really all that big a deal since his lines make up approximately 10% of the entire course.

      This means that you are going to get a little exposure to what Japanese sounds like from a non-native, which is good, but primarily you are going to be listening to natives speaking Japanese in this course.

      It’s a totally valid concern, but one that I feel is only experienced by people who have used the course for less that 10 hours and never made it beyond the first level. Once you’re past the initial beginner stuff, it becomes a non-issue.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
  4. Very good review, Nick.

    Did this course also teach you to write in Japanese? Because obviously, it’s one thing to speak a language and another thing entirely to write in it.

    And with several other online courses out there, in your opinion, what makes this one stand out?

    In your review, you gave two reasons why people do not learn to speak Japanese very fluently. While your reasons are true, I also think Japan as a nation should do more to export their language and culture.

    Regards.

    Reply
    • Yeah, good question. So it actually does teach you how to write Hiragana, Katakana, and several dozen kanji during the written exercise parts. It includes videos so that you can also learn the correct stroke order, which is pretty cool.

      As for what makes this one different from other courses, I would say the most courses take a vocabulary based approach (they teach one word at a time and use lots of pictures) where as Rocket Japanese takes a more conversational sentences approach (they teach you words ad grammar from a normal conversation).

      The other thing that really stands out about Rocket Japanese is their software for recording yourself. This is INCREDIBLY helpful since you can immediately check how you did compared to the native speaker!

      If you’ve never recorded yourself speaking Japanese before, and then analyzed it, you will probably be shocked at the kinds of mistakes you are regularly making and are not aware of. 

      Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that’s hard to notice when nobody else points it out, or you don’t take the time to listen to yourself from a third person perspective.

      As for your final point, I agree! I think that more people in the world should speak Japanese and get to enjoy their amazing culture!

      Anything that Japan does to help, is a powerful step in that direction. That being said, I myself am a native English speaker, so I feel that I can do the most good by helping other native English speakers learn and understand Japanese.

      Thanks! 

      Reply
  5. Thank you for the thorough Rocket Japanese review. This seems to be a great deal especially if getting the complete course at the special price you have mentioned. Do you know who has developed the Japanese course at Rocket Japanese? Are these some native Japanese people? I personally think that the native people can teach the language the best – what is your view about this? There is something about the language on the subconscious level that can’t be taught.

    Reply
    • Yeah, so the courses were designed in tandem with the Japanese instructors, which you will notice right away with all of the cultural notes that you encounter during the lessons. 

      What they do is teach you a Japanese phrase, explain the English translations, and then go into the similarities and differences between the two languages so that you can get a firm grasp on how the two languages are similar and how they are different from on another.

      As for my view on who can teach Japanese the best, I’ve got some pretty in depth thoughts, but I don’t want to go too much into it since it’s just a comment and not an entire post. Let me just list a few points:

      When it comes to teaching Japanese to people who’s native language is English, the best teaches are English natives. 

      Why?

      Because they know where you are coming from! They know your struggles since they went through the exact same things!

      Native Japanese people don’t quite get this since “Japanese” is normal to them. 

      Although I do believe that there are wonderful Japanese people who teach their language to non-natives. 

      Having said that, the best people to listen to so that you mimic them and learn the language are of course, native Japanese people.

      This goes on to what you touched upon – using the language unconsciously.

      Generally speaking, English natives leak their speaking habits into Japanese. Things like syllable stress, and how ideas are expressed.

      Japanese people obviously use the language correctly all the time, so it’s best to just follow their lead.

      So to wrap it up, my personal opinion is to have an English native explain the language to you, but listen to natives speaking the example phrases.

      I hope that helps! 

      Reply
  6. I’ve always wanted to learn Japanese and it seems like this is a great chance. I have friends that have started learning Japanese years ago and now they’re so fluent!!

    I’m Turkish and we share the same language family root with Japanese, that’s why it’s much more easier for us to learn it. I think I will think about Rocket Japanese 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey, that’s really interesting! I actually had no idea about Turkish and Japanese sharing the same language family root. No doubt it would help a lot when it comes to picking up the language.

      I believe that’s actually one of the reasons that Japanese is so notoriously hard for native English speakers: The vast structural difference between languages!

      I always say take every advantage you can get, so you’re already one step ahead of the game when it comes to nihongo.

      Reply
  7. Hello Nick!
    Being a huge anime fan for years and having my anime theories website has made me want to learn Japanese so badly. However, the lack of time has prevented me from doing so, so far. These Rocket Japanese courses seem like a great place to start since I’m the one responsible for the time and the hours of the day I’ll spend on learning. It seems like a great tool that I’ll be using very soon!

    Reply
    • Yeah, that’s a good point. It does take a commitment of time to fully learn a language. There’s both the daily time that you need to put in, and there’s also a longer time frame that you’ll have to devote as well (months/year).

      I feel like there’s really no “need” to learn the Japanese language in today’s world since it is really only used in a few places on this planet, primarily Japan of course. So when a person decide to learn the language, it is definitely a very personal goal that they have to set for themselves for whatever reason makes the most sense for them.

      So there’s no rush, come back and check this information out again sometime in the future if you decide that it’s the right time to commit to learning Japanese.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  8. There is a certain fascination about oriental languages, and in particular Japanese. This is something that i may be considering in the near future as i have been thinking about learning the language for a long time. I have a brief knowledge of Spanish and French and now Japanese looks prominent.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I’ve always thought it would be cool to speak languages that were from opposite sides of the world. So an Asian language, and a Western European language, and a Slavic language, etc.

      But from what I understand, a lot of people who are polyglots (speak about 5+ languages) like to take on an entire language family at one time so that they can add 3-5 new languages at a fluent level within a single year!

      I think it’s a pretty cool thing, although for myself I am only really interested in Japanese right now. Perhaps in the future I’ll also look at another language to learn!

      Reply
  9. Great review on Rocket Japanese! I have been learning different languages for about 7 years now so I am always interested in finding new software that will help me learn quicker.

    How would you compare this program to the free sites like Duolingo?

    One thing that I struggled with when trying to learn Russian and Arabic was learning the different alphabet, does this course go through and explain what the different symbols mean?

    Reply
    • Hey Nicki, that totally awesome that you’ve been studying languages for so long! 

      I’ve tried out the Japanese version of Duolingo, but it was still in Beta mode so it had some glitches and wasn’t really ready for new people to use to learn Japanese. That being said, I also tried out the Italian version and thought it was pretty good.

      The main difference I would say between Duolingo and Rocket Languages is the methods they use to teach. When I used Duolingo there was a feeling of playing a game when you had to match what you heard with the correct picture. 

      However, I felt that the majority of learning occurred during the parts where you were giving a sentence in you native language, and then individual words in the target language, and then you had to piece them together to create the same sentence in the language you were learning.

      It felt like translation work. I personally don’t really like that way of learning because it seemed kind of slow and tedious, but it might be a better fit for other people.

      As for Rocket Japanese, it teaches you words and phrases within the context of a real life sentence, so when you learn, it’s kind of like you’re an actor or actress and you take on the role of the characters. For me, this was an incredible way to learn quickly because you not only see, hear, and then speak the words, but you also visualize yourself in the situation and feel the emotions of the characters.

      It is (in my experience) a much more involved method of learning, and as studies have shown, the more involved you can get during the learning process, the better your brain takes in the new information and the longer you remember it.

      Kind of a long answer, I know!

      Let me briefly answer your last question: Yes – Rocket Japanese teaches you how to both read and write the Japanese alphabet as you progress through the course. By the second level, you are able to read and understand all Hiragana, all Katakana, and a fair amount of Kanji (there are over 2,000 Kanji in total, so it’s a lot!).

      I hope those answers were helpful!

      Reply
  10. Thank you for writing this product review for Rocket Japanese. A 3-hour course in cheap public 4-year institutions is much more likely to cost between $1,500 and $2,000, and that’s with a teacher who can not afford to give you individual attention. Does Rocket have a proposed daily or weekly schedule? I know you said the course could be learned in a year, but I am curious if they put out any guidelines.

    Reply
    • Rocket Japanese doesn’t really have a proposed scheduled per se, but what they do have are two things that help you to create your own schedule:

      (1) – The layout and organization of lessons are setup in a easy to understand and logical way, so that you can clearly see what kind of lessons are ready for you to tackle next, and decided how you want to approach it on a day to day basis. It’s a structured process that allows you to focus on learning, rather than the back-end stuff.

      (2) – They have a points system that rewards you each time you record a phrase, or complete one of the testing methods. What this does is allows you to set a goal (such as 400 points per day) that will then require you to practice a certain amount each day in order to accomplish it.

      So with those two things in mind, you can figure out for yourself approximately how much time per day you want to commit to studying Japanese, and then set the system up to help support you.

      There is also a “daily streak” which goes up when you study each day. It’s a great way to build consistency into your routine!

      Reply
  11. Wow. This is very cool. I have never heard of the Rocket Language courses. I have heard of some other companies but never Rocket. It appears to be a very dynamic program teaching how to really function in the real world of that language. It sounds like this would be a good company to go with for someone like myself who is fluent in only English but would like to learn other languages. How many different languages are currently available for training with Rocket?

    Reply
    • Yeah, that’s also one of the things that I noticed too, that nobody really knows much about them! Even I knew nothing and only stumbled upon them by accident one day. 

      As of now, they teach 12 different languages to people who are fluent in English. They actually teach English to people who speak Spanish and Japanese as their mother tongue, which is pretty cool!

      Hopefully with my work here on the blog I can introduce many new people to Rocket Japanese, and if it’s a good fit then everybody wins!

      Thanks! 

      Reply
  12. This looks like an amazing program. I wonder if it would be appropriate for children? Do you think it would keep their interest?
    Does rocket Japanese have a children’s version? My son of 10 has interest in learning Japanese but I haven’t found a program that teaches all aspects of the language nor one that will keep his interest. What suggestions do you have?

    Reply
    • Hmm, yeah that’s a really good question. I think this course is really more designed for people who are self-learners, or people with a drive to learn the language. I say that mainly because there is no penalty for missing a day or a week of studying. You truly get to set your own pace for learning the language.

      Based off of the behavior of my siblings, cousins, and other family members that are around the age of ten, I think the hardest thing is (like you mentioned) keeping them interested in the learning material, and also consistent with studying each day. This course might not actually be the perfect thing for them for the reasons I mentioned above.

      Perhaps the best way would be to find something that he’s interested in that is all in Japanese (a video game, a manga, an anime, etc.) and get that for him, and then also get him some sort of study material that he could do for a short amount of time each day (to avoid getting bored) of like, 10-20 minutes.

      That way he can have something good to study with (in this case it could be Rocket Japanese), and also have some fun materiel in Japanese that would be a good motivating drive to keep him committed to his studies.

      So it’s a two pronged attack: 1) – Cool Japanese things that interest and motivate. 2) – Good Japanese materials that educate.

      It’s actually pretty interesting that you ask me this question right now, because I ordered a book of off Amazon last Friday about “Raising Bi-Lingual Kids” since I felt that it was one area of language learning/teaching that I was lacking in knowledge. 

      I’m going to read the book and then come back here to give you some better advice on how to go about it with your son and Japanese. Check back here for a better answer (sorry!) in about a week or so.

      Reply
    • Hey, I wanted to come back and just talk briefly about the book I read about raising bi-lingual kids.

      The book is really designed for parents who already speak more than one language and can be the primary teacher in the child’s education, so it might not contain the kind of advice you were looking for. That being said, there were two things that the author talked about that I think are worth mentioning.

      He said that in order for your kid to learn a second language, there has to be a need for it, and there has to be lots of exposure to it.

      So if you can get a little creative, and find or create an environment where those two things exist, there is a pretty good chance that your kid will work on his own towards learning the language.

      I’m not sure of your exact situation, so I don’t want to take any wild guesses. But keep asking yourself those two questions and see what answers you find.

      1 – “How can I make learning Japanese something that my son feels like he needs to do?” (Remember, it can be centered around fun)
      2 – “How can I provide him with sufficient exposure to the language in both written and spoken form?”

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
  13. Hi,
    This Japanese course seems very comprehensive and they must be very sure of their product with a 60 day money back guarantee as opposed to other providers. It seems very practical for spoken Japanese, but I am wondering how it works for written Japanese if you have never had exposure to Japanese characters or keyboards.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Yeah, that’s a valid point. 

      The writing lessons teach you how to both read and write all of the two phonetic systems that Japanese uses (Hiragana & Katanata) and then it teaches you several dozen useful kanji in the more advanced lessons.

      In addition to that, each and every phrase that you learn is presented to you with the audio (of course) and then it is written in several different ways so that you can read it yourself no matter what level you are at. Here is an example of what I mean by that:

      – また おこし ください。

      – またお越し下さい。

      – Mata okoshi kudasai.

      – Please come again.

      So as you can see, the first line is written in just the phonetic script Hiragana, and it includes spaces so that you can easily see each word. Katakana would also be shown here when appropriate.

      The second line is the complete Japanese written system, with all the correct Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana (when it makes sense) and there are no spaces between words. This is what you will eventually work you way up to with repeated practice.

      The third line is the Japanese phrase, but it is written in the English alphabet so that people who are totally new to learning Japanese can still read along and learn the phrase without any problems.

      And then that final line is the English translation of the Japanese phrase.

      So even though I talked mostly about how Rocket Japanese will teach you the spoken part of the language, you actually do learn the written part as well. 

      I just wanted to focus most of my review on what I believe to be the greatest part of Rocket Japanese, teaching you how to speak it at a normal conversational level and speed, because that is what most students struggle with the most when learning the language.

      P.S. When it comes to typing Japanese characters, it’s actually super simple. All you have to do is activate the Japanese keyboard option on your PC or Mac and then when you type the English letters, they will be converted into the Japanese characters.

      Reply
  14. I’ve used Rocket Japanese in the past and felt it was pretty good. One of the things I liked about it was that you could “favorite” any word or sentence that you wanted to, and then later you could create a custom flash cards deck out of those same sentences. I always had a pretty good sized deck so that I could review everything in one place. It made it really easy.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I totally agree!

      And also, they actually just upgraded the flash cards for the new 2018-Edition of Rocket Japanese. In addition to what you could do before, you can now hear the audio clips for every phrase when they come up. This is nice since you can then mimic the native’s pronunciation.

      One other thing is that you can now upload images to the flash cards, which will help you to visualize what the word or phrase means. So for example, if the phrase was about a dog running, you could go to Google Images and grab a picture of a dog running to put into the flash card.

      Reply

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