Having previously tried out Rocket Portuguese and come away feeling disappointed, I was very eager to see whether Rocket Arabic was any better. Unfortunately, I found many of the same issues facing the Arabic version and consequently can’t recommend Rocket Arabic to the beginners who it is aimed at.
While the product is very well designed and feels very sleek, the content itself is not very well thought out and I find it highly unlikely that the lessons would actually get you speaking or writing Arabic to a very high level.
The audio lessons aren’t all that interesting to listen to and although they are accompanied by numerous different sections which are meant to help you to learn how to read, write, speak and comprehend Arabic; most of it is basically memorization in one form or another.
There are positives however as you learn some very interesting things about Egyptian culture and the grammar of the language and, while it may not be the best resource, beginners almost certainly will improve and learn some Arabic.
There is currently only one level of Rocket Arabic available to learners and as this is aimed at beginners; intermediates and advanced students should look elsewhere. It is important to note that all of the lessons focus on Egyptian Arabic.
Level one consists of eight different modules which are divided into various different lessons. These include 33 interactive audio lessons, 28 language and culture lessons and 29 writing lessons. There are also 10 survival kit lessons to help you out with some of the absolute basics.
There are various components to each lesson which help the learner to better engage with the material and we’ll take a closer look at these in the next section. These focus on your comprehension, speaking and writing skills, and understanding of Arabic grammar. There are short quizzes to test how well you have learned and retained the information.
In total there are over 120 hours of material for learners to go through and the expectation is that you’ll greatly improve your spoken Arabic, knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and also come away being able to write some simple sentences and phrases.
You can go through your Rocket Arabic lessons on your phone or computer, download the content or even buy the CDs. You can test out the material yourself before purchasing with their free trial.
Let’s now take an in-depth look at how to sign up and what the lessons actually involve.
Once you sign up for an account and confirm your email address, you’re ready to start learning Arabic and the Free Trial gives you access to the first three interactive audio lessons, the first two language and culture lessons and the first three writing lessons for six days.
The main dashboard is very clearly laid out and so it is easy to see where you should begin with your language lessons. Simply click on ‘Let’s Get Started!’ to listen to the first interactive audio lesson. The production quality is very high as is the look and layout of the lesson.
The first lesson, which is around twenty minutes in length, starts off with some nice Arabic music after which you are greeted in Arabic and welcomed to the course by one of the hosts. You are then introduced to the native Arabic teachers who will help you with your language learning journey.
After a couple of cheesy jokes about camels and Egypt, the hosts tell you about how the course works and how you can make the most of the resources available to you on Rocket Arabic.
A few minutes later, your hosts teach you how to count to six and these are said at a slow speed so you can easily follow. A short conversation in Arabic follows at a normal speed after which each word and sentence is broken down into more manageable chunks and is translated. You can follow the conversation by downloading the transcript that accompanies the lesson or find the list of words and phrases used beneath the audio file.
The host also explains any grammar points that come up and as there is both a male and a female native speaker taking you through the conversation you’ll get to experience various accents and voices. In addition to this, you also learn a little about the culture of the Middle East as the host explains the context of the words and phrases you’re learning.
You also learn a little about how to pronounce the words you hear and spaces are left in the audio so that you can practice them out loud. This first lesson looks at greetings and ends with a Rocket Review where the host asks you questions about the material you have just gone over and spaces are left for you to give your answer before one of the native speakers gives the correct answer.
You can practice the words and conversation afterward with the Play it! feature, where you can click on a word and hear it played out loud before recording yourself saying it and you get a rating on how well you pronounce it.
After having tested out your pronunciation skills, it is time to try the Hear it! Say it! part of the lesson. As the name indicates, you listen to a word and then try and repeat it as perfectly as possible and you are again given a rating on how well you do.
The Write it! section is next up and this part is particularly challenging for people who have just started out learning Arabic as, well, you try your best to spell out the words that are played from memory in an alphabet you haven’t yet learned.
While it is good that the platform provides you with an Arabic keyboard, at this early stage this part seems unnecessary as it is unlikely that many beginners will be able to get even one or two of them right.
The next section is Know it! and here you see a word written in English and have to say it in Arabic. This tests how much you have retained from the class as well as your pronunciation of the words.
Following on from this is a short quiz where you answer multiple choice questions about the material you covered in the lesson.
Each section is finished off with a deck of flashcards where you simply click on the card and turn it over to get the word in either English or Arabic.
As you can see each lesson has quite a few ways in which you can engage with it and you get a rating for each small section you complete. On your dashboard, each section you complete lights up your interface with a little yellow, red or green dot which indicates how well you did on that part of the material.
You may have noticed from going through that first lesson that quite a few of the sections seem pretty similar to each other, so what is Rocket Arabic like after having used it for a while?
As you continue to explore all that Rocket Arabic has to offer, you’ll notice that the production level is very high, that everything is very nicely laid out and that there are a wealth of ways in which you can engage with the course material.
While it seems like a really good package, after using it for a bit I’d actually argue that Rocket Arabic is severely lacking in a number of different ways.
The interactive audio lessons, for example, are very nicely recorded, sound very professional and do offer up some interesting insights into the culture and context in which Arabic is spoken.
Despite this I found the presentation to be a bit flat and uninspiring and there is little chemistry between the host and native speakers and this doesn’t make it that fun or engaging to listen to.
While it is great that you get to hear different accents and voices, over the twenty minutes that each lesson lasts the vast majority of the time is spent in English. Although the native speakers do break down the conversation into more digestible chunks, it would be good if the website allowed you to moderate the speed yourself or had line-by-line technology where you can follow the dialogue.
Another positive about these lessons is that over the eight modules the presenters cover a lot of different topics with many of them specifically related to Egypt itself and there are lessons on such subjects as Naquib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Museum and smoking shisha.
As we saw earlier, there are a number of different sections that accompany the main body of the interactive audio lessons and while it may seem that there is a lot there, in reality, most of the parts are pretty similar to each other.
The Play it! and Hear it! Say it! sections are pretty much identical and the rest of them have you either listening to a word and repeating it, seeing it written down and saying it and following the exact same process from one language to the other.
While it is admirable that Rocket Arabic tries to teach you speaking, writing, reading, comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary through its lessons, it may be better off focussing on a couple of them and doing them well rather than spreading themselves too thin in terms of the lesson content.
The interactive audio lesson part of Rocket Arabic essentially amounts to memorization as you aren’t given any way to actually use the words or phrases you’re learning in any other situation and the vocabulary you are given doesn’t have any other examples for you to see how else you could use it.
The language and culture lessons are slightly different as they don’t have any audio lesson for you to listen to. There is instead lots of interesting and informative text for you to read about the cultural context in which some of the words are used and the grammar rules behind what you’re learning.
For instance, the Pronouncing Arabic Words lesson looks at the differences between classical and colloquial Arabic and why the Egyptian dialect is so popular and indeed important in the Arab world. Although written in English, the text is peppered with Arabic words and you can again listen to them and practice your pronunciation of them.
While it is all useful vocabulary, you do get to listen and learn both the standard Arabic and Egyptian Arabic version of words and at this early stage, I think many people would find that confusing and unnecessary. Again, there are no example sentences given for the words you are learning.
While some of the language and culture lessons have the accompanying Hear it! Say it! and Know it! etc sections, others don’t and I’m not entirely certain why. In general, they were quite interesting but sometimes ended up being a wall of text with numerous Arabic words interspersed amongst the English explanation.
As I mentioned earlier, with the interactive audio lessons I found it a bit strange that one whole part of the accompanying sections was dedicated to writing which I felt would be almost impossible for beginners to complete.
The seven modules in the Writing Lessons section contain 29 lessons and these interestingly start off by teaching you how to write numbers rather than teaching you the alphabet. This sort of makes sense as in Arabic numbers are written from left to right like in English while normal words and phrases are written from right to left.
To practice writing, you need to do it the old-fashioned way and grab a pen and paper and sit down to copy the numbers that they teach you. The is again no audio on offer apart from how to say the number in Arabic and there is a short video for each number where you can see how it is written. In comparison with the otherwise high production value, these two or three second long videos are very basic.
In addition to the main lessons, if you check the My Tools section you can check your progress and see your dashboard lit up in a sea of greens, yellows, and reds, check any lesson notes you may have taken down, practice the flashcard packs that accompany each lesson and check any vocabulary you saved to practice later.
All of these small features give the appearance that Rocket Arabic is a well thought out product when in actual fact the main body of content is actually lacking in many respects.
While I really like Rocket Arabic’s presentation and how easy it is to use, I, unfortunately, don’t think that the content itself is worth the price that is quoted. Although beginners will certainly learn a bit of Arabic, I feel that there is almost no way that they would be able to achieve their goal of speaking and writing Arabic by only using Rocket Arabic.
This is because most of the material amounts to memorizing words and phrases and the vast majority of the added features that accompany each interactive audio lesson seem to be quite similar and not very well thought out at all. As such students would have to use Rocket Arabic in conjunction with a couple of other resources to stand any chance of learning decent Arabic.
Plans and Prices
For Rocket Arabic level one, users have two payment options available to them and other than the time frame in which you pay and the price itself; each includes exactly the same features.
It would cost $149.95 if you choose to pay for everything up front. Alternatively, you could use a six-month payment plan which costs $27/mo. There does seem to always be some kind of sale going on, lowering the price to under $100.
Aiming to take beginners up to the intermediate level, buying one of the Rocket Arabic subscriptions gives you 24/7 lifetime access, free upgrades for life, personalized progress tracking (the green, yellow and red dots), flashcards for each lesson, 25 advanced learning techniques, and Arabic Certification tests. This is of course in addition to the 122 hours of lessons that form the main bulk of the content. Possibly the most valuable part of the deal is the 60 day no questions asked money back guarantee.
While it may look like a great product, Rocket Arabic, unfortunately, comes up short in a number of ways and although beginners will learn some Arabic I doubt that it would take them up to an intermediate level.
This is because the lessons are primarily in English and only smatterings of Arabic are used while the content itself is quite repetitive and relies heavily on memorization, despite the numerous ways in which learners can engage with the material.
Although you do get some interesting insights into the cultural context in which Arabic is spoken and the grammar of the language itself, you often learn words and phrases in isolation and don’t learn how to use them in other situations and settings. While it is great that native speakers with different accents are used, this is not enough to offset the negatives.
Despite all of my issues with Rocket Arabic, it could still be worth giving their free trial a shot and seeing if you like it yourself. This is more because there aren’t as many good resources for learning Arabic as compared to other languages than a testament to their course. I personally preferred ArabicPod101 and thought it was better in just about every area.
For the high price of Rocket Arabic, you don’t get much value for the money and I would recommend you to look elsewhere.