Rocket Spanish is an online Spanish course by Rocket Languages. It's the biggest selling course in the Rocket Languages lineup — particularly popular for folks wanting casual, conversational Latin American Spanish.
The idea behind Rocket Spanish is that it supposedly focuses on the most useful grammar and vocabulary first, rather than bogging you down with stuff you don't need to begin with.
For instance, they say that if you don't know the word for "pencil" you can point to a pencil and ask a Spanish speaker, "how do you say this?" But if you don't know how to say "how do you say this?" then you're not going to get very far. So the focus isn't so much on learning endless vocabulary, but on learning the building blocks so you can be functional in Spanish faster. Later lessons and levels allow you to dig down deeper.
Rocket Spanish doesn't quite have the profile of big players like Rosetta Stone, and it isn't quite as flashy as Fluenz or Duolingo. So how does it stack up?
Let's take a look...
The thing with audio courses is that they always teach you how to book a hotel room. It drives me nuts. Everybody does that online now anyway.
So I was quite pleased to find that one of the very first interactive audio lessons in Rocket Spanish taught me how to order a coffee. Thanks Rocket Spanish, that's 100 times more useful in my day-to-day life.
There are 31 interactive audio lessons, averaging around 20 minutes each. Each lesson is structured around a conversation. The two hosts play it out, and then break it down for you to explain the meaning and practice the pronunciation.
The conversations start off quite basic — introductions and “pleased to meet you”s — but then they start to get less ordinary.
Winning the Academy Award for "most realistic language course dialog", by the end of module 7 the two hosts are arguing over whose job it is to clean the bathroom.
Each lesson covers a bunch of grammar and vocabulary, and during the lesson the two hosts will go off on tangents and explain how this is similar to that, and why you need to be careful about that other thing.
For me, learning the grammar and vocab in context like this seems a lot easier and more natural. I found it quite impressive how much I learned just from these lessons, without even needing to dip into the other component of Rocket Spanish — the "Language and Culture" lessons.
I would go so far as to say that if you're heading on vacation and you just need some survival Spanish, the audio course might be all you need. But if you're wanting to work towards full proficiency, you'll need something that goes into a bit more depth.
That's where the next component of Rocket Spanish comes in handy...
In addition to the 31 audio lessons, Rocket Spanish also comes with 33 "language and culture" lessons. (I think they're trying to avoid saying "grammar" because it's a dirty word. But that's what it is — grammar and vocabulary: the heart and soul of any decent language course.)
This is more like a traditional classroom Spanish course, but with more technology and audio built in. The lessons are written (rather than audio lessons), with a lot of slow and clear audio examples. They do a good job of explaining the grammar points in plain English, and there's plenty of conversation practice, vocabulary, cultural discussion and quizzes to keep you interested.
Tip: The course is divided into modules, and each module starts with a few interactive audio lessons, followed by these "language and culture" lessons.
Rocket Spanish doesn't force you to complete lessons before you move onto the next, so you can hop around. But I strongly recommend that you do actually go through the Interactive Audio courses before you jump into the grammar lessons.
I found that the Interactive Audio lessons gently introduced me to so much grammar that when I came to do the "language and culture" lessons, it already seemed familiar.
Rocket Spanish comes with a pretty good collection of practice exercises to make sure you've mastered the material from all angles: Reading, writing, listening, speaking, and being able to find the right words when you're under pressure!
These tests use spaced repetition and keep presenting you with the stuff you've been tripping up on until you master it completely.
One of my biggest weaknesses when learning a language is moving too fast through the material and not actually learning it properly. I've found these exercises challenge me to slow down and really learn the material, and my recall and confidence is better.
One of my favorite tools is the flash card game — simple but effective.
One of my biggest fears when learning a new language is that nobody will understand me. It's kind of a problem when you're teaching yourself and you don't have access to a tutor or classmates to give you feedback.
So the Rocket Record tool inside Rocket Spanish is kind of cool.
It uses voice recognition technology to check whether a Spanish speaker would actually understand you. It's similar technology to the voice recognition technology that your smartphone uses when you give it voice commands — except imagine your smartphone only speaks Spanish.
When you finish speaking, it will give you a score out of 100, and highlight the parts that you got wrong, or that it didn't understand.
I found this worked quite well — either my pronunciation is awesome, or the tool is quite generous. In either case, it was a pretty good boost to my confidence.
Rocket Spanish teaches Latin American Spanish, as opposed to the Spanish spoken in Spain. The difference is similar to the difference between British English and American English. If anything, Latin American Spanish is just a little more "polite".
Just like English speakers can understand other kinds of English, speakers of European Spanish can understand Latin American Spanish just fine, and vice versa. You can still use Rocket Spanish if you're looking to visit Europe or other Spanish-speaking parts of the world.