Rocket Spanish is an online Spanish course and app 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.
This is helpful for building your confidence and getting you quickly using your Spanish in real-world situations (which is where the best learning happens).
But rather than stopping there, Rocket Spanish backs up this "once over quickly" approach with a full grammar course (included in the price) that aims to give you a more nuanced understanding of how Spanish actually works.
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?
(Before we dive in, I recommend signing up for your free trial of Rocket Spanish so that you can follow along with this review. You don't need a credit card, and you'll get the first few modules of the course to play with.)
Done? Let's take a look...
The very first few lessons in Rocket Spanish (if you follow the lessons in order) are these "interactive audio" style lessons.
This is similar to a podcast-style course (like you might get with SpanishPod101). You can download them to your phone, or listen directly on your computer.
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.
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.
And then 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.
Compared to some other podcast-style courses that are a bit more off-the-cuff, these audio lessons feel quite scripted, and the jokes are occasionally corny. (This is something of a trend across all Rocket Languages courses.) They can also be a bit slow, especially in the first few lessons.
But I was impressed at how much I learned just from these lessons. Because they're scripted, they're better structured than more informal podcasts. They cover a lot of ground.
I would go so far as to say that if 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.
It seems that Rocket Spanish agrees with this, because they also give you another kind of lesson...
Alongside the 31 audio lessons, there are 33 'Language and Culture' lessons. (I think Rocket Spanish is trying to avoid saying "grammar" like it's a dirty word.)
This is a good, solid, traditional language course.
These lessons are straightforward and comprehensive, and cover all the important building-blocks of Spanish.
The explanations are written in a friendly and empathetic way — not dull and dry like a textbook. And every lesson has a lot of audio examples to play with.
This mostly feels like it's been thrown in to justify the Culture part of 'Language and Culture'.
Part of the problem is that Latin America is a huge place. What goes for Argentina might not go for Bolivia. So Rocket Spanish has chosen not to go too deep into any one culture.
But to be honest... you're probably not here for the cultural lessons, are you? The language part of the Language and Culture lessons is great, and that's the important part.
These lessons are mixed in alongside the audio (podcast) lessons, so if you want to follow Rocket Spanish's recommended path, you'll do a few audio lessons, and then some more explicit grammar and vocabulary through these lessons.
Having said that, I've found the two types of lesson don't necessarily follow on from each other. They operate like two separate courses. So if you find the grammar lessons too dry in the beginning, you can skip over them and focus on the interactive audio lessons without missing out on any major plot points.
Ok, so we've got audio lessons. We've got language lessons (and culture lessons, such as they are). The third major component to Rocket Spanish is all the extra tools that sit alongside this core lesson material.
Every lesson in Rocket Spanish comes with a range of 'Rocket Reinforcement' tests to make sure you master the material from all angles: Reading, writing, listening, speaking, and recall.
These game-like tests use spaced repetition and keep presenting you with the stuff you've been tripping up on until you ace it. 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.
Most of the tests are self-graded. The tool will tell you whether you got it right or wrong, but you choose whether you found it "easy", "good" or "hard". You'll keep practicing until you mark them all as "easy".
Like the rest of the Rocket Spanish course, they don't force you to keep working on something until you master it. You're free to hop around and skip anything you don't like.
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.
The Rocket Spanish solution to this is called "Rocket Record".
In every single audio example in the course, you're given the option to record your pronunciation.
When you finish speaking, it will give you a score out of 100, and highlight the parts that didn't sound quite right.
Some people find this to be hit or miss. If your internet connection has a little burp mid-word, the tool will mishear you. It's also only ever going to "hear" actual Spanish words, so it won't be very precise with highlighting your areas for improvement. If you're looking for a tool that will tell you if your vowels are a bit flat, or your emphasis a bit off... this won't help you very much.
A more accurate way of assessing your pronunciation is to record yourself, and compare your recording to an example from a native speaker. Rocket Spanish provides both options in the same tool (you can turn off the grades in the tool settings), so choose the method that works best for you.
It bears repeating: This tool is built into every single audio example in the course. I looked it up — that's 2666 voice comparison phrases.
If you're going to be using this tool a lot, I recommend doing it through the app for iPhone or Android. You can do it through your computer browser, but you can run into annoying permission errors, depending on your browser.
On your phone or tablet, it just works.
(Remember, you can sign up for a free trial of Rocket Spanish to try this out for yourself.)
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.
When it comes to delivering a whole lot of learning and enjoyment for not all that much money, Rocket Spanish does a great job.
The audio course is fantastic for building confidence. The language and culture lessons do a good job of explaining things in more detail when you're ready to dive deeper, and the testing tools are great for getting that knowledge into your head.
Rocket Spanish is especially good at getting results quickly because it focuses on giving you the important and essential language first. But the addition of the full, detailed grammar course means that it can also be as comprehensive as you need it to be.
When you consider the number of tools you get, the effectiveness of the material and the low cost, Rocket Spanish is still one of the best value interactive Spanish courses on the market at the moment.