Note: I received a free copy of this product for review purposes. Some links in this review might be affiliate programs, so I'll make some coffee money if you buy. You get it at the normal price though!

Rocket French Review

Reviewed by: The French Experiment

If you're really serious about learning French at home, you'll probably end up looking into the more comprehensive course at some stage. And you're going to see a lot of people singing the praises of Rocket French, by Rocket Languages.

Even though it's been around for a few years now, it's still a relative baby compared with the likes of Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur's French products.

This "baby" is giving the big kids a run for their money. PC Mag recently named Rocket French "Editor's Choice", beating Rosetta Stone to the top spot. But does it really work?

Well, let's take a look...

The interactive audio course

Generally when I hear "interactive audio course" I think "Great. They're going to teach me how to book another hotel room..." and I promptly fall asleep.

Most courses just teach you useless conversations that you have no hope of applying in regular life. I also think it's a cheap way of avoiding doing any grammar. I hate learning grammar, but I know that it's necessary if I want to master French.

But I've changed my tune a little with Rocket French's interactive audio course. I've been learning much more useful things... like how to flirt! Who doesn't want to be able to flirt in French?

Check it out... flirting! And don't worry... they do also teach you how to book a hotel room.

Rocket French Premium contains over 60 interactive audio lessons that you can download to your portable listening device, burn to CD, or play right there on your computer.

What surprises me most is how much I'm learning and remembering from these lessons. The lessons are not just dull repetition, and it doesn't progress so fast that you forget it all in an instant, or so slowly that you're driven mad. Each lesson takes around 20 minutes, which is the perfect length for me to learn a little French on my walk to work.

I've been very impressed at how much I have learned through this audio course, without ever needing to crack open a text book. I can now listen to some of my favorite French music and — for the first time — understand the words!

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.

The "language and culture" course

You could learn an awful lot of French just using the Interactive Audio Course, but if you really want to take things to the next level there's a really good grammar and vocabulary course that accompanies the interactive audio course. (They call it "Language and Culture", but it's really grammar and vocabulary — the meat and potatoes of any language course.)

This part is more like an actual "classroom" French course. What I like is that the grammar isn't drilled into you in brain-numbing fashion, but comes about gradually (like with the audio course) and is mixed in with a lot of conversation practice, vocabulary, puzzles and cultural topics to keep things interesting.

You work through this part of the course online at your own speed, but you can also print off the notes if you want to step away from the computer. This section of the course comes with a lot of that beautiful, slow, clear audio as well.

The grammar section of the course teaches you the building-blocks of French with clear explanations and audio examples (and some rather memorable cartoons).

Games and tests to reinforce your learning

Each lesson inside Rocket French comes with an impressive collection of self-testing tools, which work on all angles of fluency: Listening comprehension, speaking, translating, and being able to find the right words when you're under pressure! You also get a really useful flashcard game for every module, and you can even create your own flashcard sets. (This is incredibly useful.)

All these tools present the material you've just learned in a different way, so you can make sure you really know it. They're great for building confidence, and I've found my recall is much better after using them.

These would be good for older kids too.

What's great is that a lot of other publishers would probably try to sell these testing tools separately. (Some French courses you'll see are essentially just tools like this... and nothing else!) But at the moment these are all included when you buy Rocket French.

Flash card game: How well can you translate the English into French? Rate yourself, and keep practising until you can mark them all as "easy". You can also create custom sets of flash cards for words and phrases you want to work on. Super useful.

Improving your pronunciation

Tell the truth. Do you ever speak your French out loud? Are you afraid that when you actually have to speak... nobody will understand you?

Put those fears aside, and put on your nerd glasses, chum, because you're about to start talking to your computer. The Rocket Record tool uses voice recognition technology to see whether your pronunciation would be understood by a French speaker.

It's similar to the voice recognition that lets you make voice commands to your smartphone, so it's pretty darn clever. There are three difficulty levels: At the easiest level I could say things in a pretty bad accent and it would mostly understand me. At the harder level I needed to actually try to sound French.

Rocket Record: At the hardest difficulty setting the voice recognition thought I was apologising for being a drag, rather than just late. Time to work on that pronunciation!

I must say, this is much more useful than the old Rocket Record (which just played your voice back to you). Part of me thinks that if this voice recognition technology can understand me, then a real French-speaking human should DEFINITELY be able to understand me.

That's a pretty potent confidence booster!

There's a little example for you to play with about halfway down the page on the Rocket French website, if you want to give it a go. (If it doesn't work for you, it's because of the security settings in your web browser. I use Chrome and it took me AGES to figure out I had to click the little video camera icon in my address bar. After that it worked perfectly!)

Tracking your progress

One of the things often missing from home-study programs is feedback, reporting, and that feeling that you're actually getting somewhere. If the nerd in you is itching to be top of the class, Rocket French has a variety of assessments built in to chart your progress.

  • Quizzes and tests at the end of each lesson to check whether you've grasped it all.
  • A rating system where you can track how well you've mastered the material in a lesson. This is great for spotting lessons that you could improve on, so you can come back to them later.
  • A community leaderboard, badges, and awards for reaching certain achievements.

Who is Rocket French suitable for?

I would say that Rocket French is suitable for absolute beginners through to reasonably advanced students of French. There's enough material here to keep you going for a long time. The course is also interesting enough to be suitable for older children... particularly the games.

The things I really like are...

  • It quickly gets you understanding and speaking real, usable French. If you're traveling to French-speaking destinations and all you managed to get through was the interactive audio course before you left, I think you'd be pretty well prepared compared to the average phrasebook-toting tourist.

  • It appeals to all learning styles. Regardless of whether you're a visual learner, or someone who learns better by listening, by immersion ... they've got all bases covered.

  • Entertaining real life situations. I've found myself laughing out loud a number of times while listening to the interactive audio course ... "Be careful not to confuse "boisson" (drink) with "poisson" (fish)... " etc.

  • Play lessons on your mp3 player, or burn them to CD to play in your car. The lessons are around 20 minutes long, which is long enough to get into it, not so long that it fries your brain.

  • Friendly and engaging — even when you're knees deep in conjugations. Nothing about Rocket French is dull. The ridiculous cartoons are good for a chuckle.

  • Listening comprehension and speaking practice — covered! These are usually a weakness of home-study courses, but the games, tests and voice comparison feature in Rocket French tackle these areas well.

  • Available online, and via smartphone app: If you're using Rocket French on your computer, there's no software to install, and it works on both PC and Mac. There's also an app for iOS and Android which gives you access to the full course on your phone or tablet.

  • Extremely reasonably priced. At the time of writing this, Rocket French Premium was clocking in at under a hundred bucks — and that's for what I consider to be a beginners and intermediate course rolled into one. With the other "big name" products you wouldn't even pick up a "level 1 French" product for this price, and certainly not anything with as many features as Rocket French.

  • 60 day money-back guarantee: If you don't think it suits you or your learning style, you can just ask for a refund. There's no risk of being stuck with a dud here.

Any bad points?

  • It's not available in shops — Only online through the Rocket Languages website. You can get a 20-disc physical copy of the entire course, but it's considerably more expensive than the online version. (They do offer free shipping anywhere in the world though, which is a nice touch.)

  • Occasional difficulty getting voice recognition to work: As mentioned above, if you're using the course on a desktop computer it might be a bit fiddly to get your microphone to work when you want to use Rocket Record. (This is because of your browser's security settings.) There are instructions inside Rocket French that show you how to make it work, but it's easy to miss if you're one of these know-it-alls (like me) who don't read instructions!

In conclusion?

In my opinion, Rocket French is by far the most comprehensive, well thought out learn French product on the market. It caters for all learning styles and will take you from beginner to reasonably advanced without having to purchase additional products.

With a strong focus on grammar, real-world conversations and listening comprehension, you'll develop written and spoken fluency at the same time.

In my books, this program would still be the best on the market at twice the price they're asking. Gold star for you, Rocket French!

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