After using Frenchpod101 recently, I thought I won’t be able to find a better resource for learning the language. But then, I was introduced to Rocket French which had overcome most of the shortcomings that frenchpod101 had.
Rocket French is a resource with a lot of content that covers almost everything a student would need to know. Since the material you purchase isn’t time sensitive, you can learn the language at your own pace. After you complete any level, you can expect to know almost everything there is about that module. You should be able to have some conversations in French if you stick with it. French rocket is perfect for students, tourists or even professionals hoping to learn the language for their own needs.
French Rocket offers 3 main levels of lessons. These lessons are named Premium, Premium Plus, and Platinum. Respectively, they are the first, second and the third levels as the difficulty progresses. There is also a separate travelogue pack which is directed towards tourists.
Each of these lessons (excluding the travelogue) are further divided into 3 sections. They are Interactive Audio Lessons, Language and Culture lessons and Survival Kits.
The audio lessons are then further divided into a number of modules which have a number of lessons within them related to the module. Conversely, every module also has all three of these parts. You could either complete all the modules in a section first or go module by module according to your convenience.
The final module is usually meant for you to review the whole difficulty level, so you can assure that what you have learnt has remained intact in your brain. These lessons are where you learn most about the language by speaking, writing, reading and listening.
The Cultural and Language lessons are usually written text about the French culture, grammatical rules or other language information that may speed up your learning.
Finally, the survival kit is a group of lessons that are essential to that level. Without learning these it would be impossible to converse in French. If you are in hurry, this is the place you want to visit.
The lessons need not be solved in order, but I highly recommend you do after you find out where you stand. Each of the sections in the 3 levels has an assessment or quiz at the end that helps you practice what you have just learnt. These tests are in the form of listening, writing and speaking skills that are tested through their proprietary technology.
At the end of every section, you will also find a “Rocket Certification”. This is to help you recap everything you learnt in the module while testing yourself at the same time.
To start using Rocket French, you will first need to sign up to Rocket Languages. All they need is your email ID, name and password to get you started. Initially, everyone starts out with a free trial. The free trial limits the amount of content you can access in the website to one or two lessons per pack.
If you like Rocket French, you can choose to buy the lesson pack you want. I will speak more about what each of these packs contains later on in detail. But for now, to choose a pack wisely, try using the free trial lessons to the fullest and skipping to the tests to see if you already know what they are teaching. If you can’t complete the tests of a particular level easily, I recommend you start from the level before that since the test you will be taking are the simplest ones in the level.
Another great resource you can use is the Benchmark test that lets you know where you stand with your language proficiency according to the levels. This feature is available in the free trial too, so be sure to check it out and make an informed decision about which lesson level to choose.
Once you purchase, depending on your selection, all the content in that (or those) levels will be made available to you. You will see your dashboard which will present to you your lessons according to the module. You will also have a sidebar that indicates your progress. The progress bar indicates three things – Your daily goal (and how much of that you have accomplished), Your rank according to points in the last 24 hours, and streak for the number of days you have continuously used the website.
In short, you complete the lessons to complete the module and then take the rocket certification test (merely for a recap) and move on. Finish all the modules in all sections to complete your selected level. If you feel that you want to learn more, buy the next pack!
Now to see how these lessons are structured.
Every lesson starts with the interactive audio lesson that the website is so proud of. The “interactive” part means that they will give you time during the audio to say the word out loud and practice as they are speaking. You can check your pronunciation as the phrases are repeated multiple times. During the lesson, the speakers will engage in conversation while teaching you the meanings and giving you other bits of information that may come in handy.
Each of these lessons can stretch about 20 minutes. Fortunately, you can download each of these audio files. One thing I felt was that the lesson was a bit repetitive and monotonous asking us to repeat the same phrase over and over again. But this might be because I can already speak French and thus got tired of it. It might be a great feature for slightly slower learners. Annoyingly though, the media player buttons don’t move as you scroll through the page. So, if you decide to wander around while listening, and you want to pause for a bit, you will have to scroll all the way back up to do so.
However, if you are an amateur and not a complete beginner, I suggest you skip to the part labeled “The Conversation”. This is the whole conversation in French which will be taught to you in the lesson. If you can understand everything, then I suggest you skip the audio lesson completely.
If parts of the conversation seem a bit hard to comprehend, then the next part labeled “Rocket Review” is there to help you out. As a beginner, doing these in order will be extremely helpful.
As I have mentioned several times before, one of my favorite things about Rocket French is their emphasis on speaking skills. After all, you will not go to a Foreign country and interact with them by writing down stuff on a piece of paper every time.
Once you’re done with the lessons, you start practicing your French with a segment called “Play It!”. Here, you replay the whole conversation, playing as either individual. Each phrase has the translation written for you below, so you understand what you’re saying too! In progressive levels, you can choose the difficulty of this game. While the easiest difficulty has everything written down for you, as you go higher, they start to take out words for you to fill in as you talk. The highest difficulty requires you to form the whole sentence by yourself while the English translation may be given to you for help.
To test your speaking skills, you record yourself saying the phrase. This is where “Rocket Record” comes in. You can use your device’s inbuilt microphone or connect a headset and use that. On your left, you will see the “Rocket Record Difficulty” option right below “My Progress”. Changing this setting allows you to set the level of scrutiny that your recording is put under. While Easy will allow for loose pronunciation, in Hard difficulty level, only perfect or close to perfect pronunciations will be accepted.
I suggest you build up the difficulty level as you keep learning.
For the most part, this feature works well. However, I have seen sometimes, the recorder just can’t pick up what you’re saying no matter how many times you say it correctly. This problem is especially prominent in “Hard” difficulty level for the rocket record. I hope to see a few more upgrades to this in the near future. Unfortunately, smarter software might mean that the recorder will say you’re correct even if your pronunciation is off. This puts them in a tricky spot.
This isn’t a unique feature with Rocket French though. Every language learning program that uses a form of voice recognition software has these same problems. In the future, these may be resolved, but for now, I’d suggest trying Speechling (save 10% with the promo code “ALR123”) where you can get feedback on your pronunciation by a real person or finding a tutor on italki.
Once you’re done with this, you will see some “Extra Vocabulary” below it. It has the same format as the previous exercise. However, I strongly suggest you go through this carefully as it contains some useful phrases that haven’t been mentioned in the conversation. Moreover, they are usually alternate phrases to use in similar situations, so they will always come in handy. Thus, even amateurs should go for it. After all, one’s pronunciation of a non-native language can never be too good.
Finally, your learning period ends, and it is time to test yourself with “Rocket Reinforcement”. There are usually five sections to this – ‘Hear it! Say it!”, “Write it!”, “Know it!”, “Quiz”, and “Flash Cards”
As the name suggests, “Hear it! Say it!” is where you repeat whatever you hear, and your pronunciation is tested.
“Write it!” is similar but instead, you write down whatever you hear. Again, here it has overcome FrenchPod101’s shortcomings by including a virtual keyboard that lets you easily add accents to the letters.
“Know it!” is a translation game where you read the word in English, but you need to speak the French translation and record it.
Flash cards help you recall the words and phrases you have learnt in the lesson. All the above have about 25 to 25 questions that need answering. Consequently, you will get a chance to select how you found that question – easy or hard, with a number of levels in between. Accordingly, they will be setting a separate word bank for you where you will get to review them later whenever you want.
The Quiz on the other hand, usually has 5 questions related to translation. They’re relatively simple, but the cumulative testing procedure makes up for that. All of it may seem redundant and repetitive, but believe me, this is what will have you speaking French like a pro at the end of the day.
Doing these tests gets you points that allow you meet your daily goal. You can customize your daily goal whenever you want. To register that day in your streak, all you need to do is attempt any one question from these, without actually meeting your daily goal. These points that you earn allow you to get new badges that represent your expertise in the language. Consequently, the more points you earn, the higher rank you get on the leaderboard. These small things give you enough motivation to keep you coming back day after day.
Your evaluations don’t end there. There is another feature about Rocket French which I adore. It is known as the Benchmark test. In short, it allows you track your progress through your course of learning. They’ll be asking you a serious of continuous questions and you have three lives. If you go wrong thrice or if you mark anything as not “easy”, you lose a life. Your benchmark is set according to the number of questions you can answer before you lose all your lives. Technically, you can take this test every day, but I recommend taking it once a week or every other week to see some actual progress.
Plans and Prices
There are 3 plans available currently. They are – Premium, Premium Plus, and Platinum Plans. There is also a travelogue plan separately available for tourists who need to know the essentials while traveling.
Each of these plans supposedly costs $149 each, or $449.85 in total.
I say supposedly because they seem to always be on sale, and I do mean always. So, the real prices are $99.95 for level 1, $249.90 for levels 1 and 2, and $259.90 for all three levels.
If you want to get physical CD’s, you can, but you’ll have to pay an insane premium for them. The pack for levels 1, 2, and 3 would cost $899.85. Obviously, this isn’t worth the price.
These plans give you lifetime access which can be both good and bad. Good in the sense that you don’t have to worry, and you can take your time to learn the language. Bad because you lack the motivation of running out of time and thus you may never get around to completing the lessons.
Similarly, the free trial gives you lifetime access too. However, the number of lessons is limited to about five to six per plan (so you get an experience of all the plans including the travelogue one). Unfortunately, the survival kits can’t be accessed through this. However, all other features are accessible.
The only difference between the plans is the difficulty level or the content they teach. While premium focuses on the basics, you will start to learn how to converse about more complicated stuff in the platinum plan. Moreover, you will feel a significant difference in the way they speak as well. While in premium level, they will speak at slower than normal pace, the platinum plan speakers kick it up several notches.
You can also get a full refund on any purchase within the first 60 days for any reason.
The app is missing a few features
Rocket languages has its own app for you to use which gives you access to all the languages in their arsenal. However, the app doesn’t include all the features of the website. There are a few missing, but all the essentials are still there. Fortunately, the app is quite intuitive otherwise and I loved using it.
I tried using the website on a mobile device with the browser. It gives you access to all the features, unlike the mobile app. However, it is quite buggy and some of the graphics (and functions) haven’t adapted well to the smaller screen.
Thus, I recommend you use the mobile app over the mobile version of the site. If you ever want to use features like the benchmark test, just log on through your computer every once in a while.
After using Frenchpod101, I felt that I wouldn’t find a better language resource. But I stand corrected. Rocket French has successfully solved the problems that I faced while using Frenchpod101. Sure, there are a few things here and there that might annoy you a bit, but that doesn’t compromise the quality of education.
While Frenchpod101 had a vast collection of bundles (of lessons) to choose from, the content frequently overlapped each other. Rocket French lacks these bundles, but the content coverage is more or less the same.
The only true downside I see is the price tag. However, given that it’s a one-off purchase and doesn’t require a monthly subscription, the price is still fair. You shouldn’t take my word for it though. You can try out the lessons yourself and see if Rocket French is suitable for your learning style.