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.
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.
There are three primary types of lessons in Rocket Japanese:
- Interactive Audio Lessons
- Language & Culture Lessons
- 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.
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.
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.
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.