Rocket German is a decent enough course but it falls short of the high praise it often receives. The audio lessons aren’t bad, but they aren’t exceptional either. The Rocket Reinforcement activities that are part of every lesson are too repetitive and boring. I’d expect it could be challenging to stick with them for the long-term. Nevertheless, it’s a fairly good course, with a nice structure, and increasing amounts of English used, with lots of clear grammar explanations and opportunities for you to practice what you’ve learned.
Nicely designed interface with pretty good lessons.
Lots of exercises but they’re all very similar and repetitive.
Pretty expensive for what you get.
Lessons use less English and you move up levels.
A nice balance between explaining grammar and pushing you to speak aloud.
Nice design to the website and app.
I DON’T LIKE…
The exercises are too repetitive and rely on rote memorization.
The audio lessons don’t feel very natural and have lots of corny jokes.
The cultural lessons are short and uninteresting.
If you read other reviews of Rocket German, you’ll find most are obnoxiously positive and hard to trust. Some of the websites claim that it’s the best course you’ll find, it’s fun, and just generally amazing.
The reason why you see so many overly positive reviews, that feel more like sales pages, is because they pay relatively high affiliate commissions.
So, if you click a link to Rocket German in this article, or nearly any link on any website, and go on to make a purchase, the owner of that website will earn a nice commission.
This obviously incentivizes people to write biased reviews and push people to sign-up for Rocket German.
Again, I don’t think it’s a bad course, but I don’t think it’s a great course either. Some people may like their teaching methods but for me, there are other more suitable resources.
In this review, I’ll take a detailed look at what it’s like to use Rocket German, highlighting aspects that I think are well-done and areas that could be improved.
Let’s get into it.
There are three levels of Rocket German, starting at the absolute beginner level and ending up near an intermediate level.
Each level contains eight modules and each module has three types of lessons:
- Interactive Audio Lessons
- Language and Culture Lessons
- Survival Kit Lessons
In total, throughout all three levels, there are 99 interactive audio lessons, 91 language and culture lessons, and 23 survival kit lessons.
We’ll now take a closer look at what’s included in each one of these lesson types, starting with the interactive audio lessons.
Interactive Audio Lessons
The first lessons you’ll find in each module are the interactive audio lessons. These typically last between 20-30 minutes.
These lessons are conversational in nature, the hosts will help you understand a dialogue in German. At the first level, there’s one foreign host an another from Germany. At levels two and three, there are three hosts – two being from Germany and the other from the United States.
They generally start out with a review of what was taught in the previous lesson and a brief introduction as to what this lesson will include. The hosts will then have a short conversation, followed by discussing the content – explaining the vocabulary and grammar.
At the first level, the vast majority of the interactive audio lessons are in English, as you move up to level three, more German is spoken, though there’s still a lot of English explanations.
These are interactive audio lessons which really just means that you’re supposed to speak throughout. So, it’s best to listen to the lessons somewhere that you’ll be comfortable speaking aloud. They leave quite a few pauses for you to repeat what you’ve heard or prompt you to recall what you’ve learned by asking questions giving you time to respond.
This works decently well I suppose. I found that it could get annoying listening to all the times they say things like;
- “What would you say if…?”
- “How would you say…?
- “You should have said….”
- “You should have answered…”
This is a pretty small thing, but it kind of builds up, and at least to me, got really annoying. I much prefer Pimsleur’s style of audio lessons in which they cut out these leading phrases.
I’ve seen people describe the lessons as entertaining and fun. I didn’t find this to be the case. For me, they were boring and their attempts at humor felt corny, inauthentic, and often times cringe-worthy. That could just be me though.
On the plus side, the hosts do model their speech very clearly. Often speaking slowly and pushing you to practice yourself. The grammar explanations, and tying in cultural elements also helps to make things more well-rounded.
After listening to the lesson, you’ll also find recordings for the conversation and an audio review. It’s a bit surprising that even at the third level, the actual conversation may only be one minute long. Luckily, the hosts use quite a bit of German while discussing the conversation.
Below this is the Play it! section in which you’ll have the opportunity to practice the conversation that you just listened to.
They have speech recognition software which does an okay job but isn’t something I’d really trust to judge my pronunciation.
You can adjust how strictly the voice recognition software grades you. The three options are easy, medium, and hard. I played around with this and didn’t really notice much difference between the three options.
Sometimes it said my recording was correct, even when I intentionally butchered it. Other times, I couldn’t get it to say things were correct, no matter how many times I tried. It would also often pick up things completely different than what I said. For example, somehow me saying “Hallo Mark” instead of “Hallo Paul” was recognized as “also.”
My German is terrible, but even when I tried courses like Rocket Spanish or Rocket Chinese, two languages I speak fairly well, the speech recognition software would also struggle. While it’s really useful that they have so many opportunities for you to speak and record yourself, I don’t think the technology is good enough to rely on yet.
Speechling is a good resource that would give you much better feedback on your pronunciation. Basically, you can record yourself speaking sentences and get feedback from a real tutor.
In this Play it! section, you can also practice the conversation by choosing to be one of the characters in the dialogue. The other host’s lines will automatically be played, and you’ll then record yourself saying the lines of the host you chose. Again, you’ll be graded on your pronunciation.
Next, you’ll have the Extra Vocabulary portion where you can find all of the German sentences that were used throughout the lesson. You’ll have the same options to record yourself and be grade on your pronunciation.
This is a nice addition as much of the German used in the lessons comes from outside of the main conversation.
Every type of lesson – the interactive audio lessons, language and culture lessons, and survival kit lessons all include the activities found within Rocket Reinforcement.
This is in fact, one of the major benefits of using Rocket German. Unfortunately, all of the activities are very repetitive and basically amount to rote memorization.
If you were to complete each of the Rocket Reinforcement activities for every lesson you study, you’d almost certainly come away from the lessons remembering what you learned. But, due to the repetitive and unexciting nature of these exercises, I imagine a large number of learners would lose interest and give up.
There are five types of exercises found in this section.
- Hear it! Say it!
- Write it!
- Know it!
Let’s now take a look at each of these exercises individually.
Hear it! Say it!
In the Hear it! Say it! Section, you’ll hear a phrase spoken in German and record yourself saying the same thing. Just like before, you’ll receive a grade based on how well your pronunciation was. Again, the voice recognition software isn’t amazing, but it does get you speaking out loud, so that’s a plus.
You’ll then give yourself a manual rating as well – either hard, good, or easy.
Next up is the Write it! section. These are basically dictation exercises in which you’ll hear a word or phrase being spoken and need to write it down. There’s a German keyboard that you can pop open, making it easier to write the letters that are unique to the German language.
Any mistakes you make will show up in red below. Again, you’ll grade yourself based on how difficult you found it. These exercises, while not terribly exciting, are a helpful way to improve your listening and spelling skills.
In the Know it! section, you’ll be given a word or phrase in English and need to say it in German. This gives you additional opportunities to practice what you’ve learned but in a different manner.
Just like before, you’ll be graded on your pronunciation and you’ll give yourself a grade based on how challenging the question was.
The quiz is very short, only five questions, but I actually found this part to be quite well done. They took the time to make sure that all of the answers are somewhat close, and if you haven’t learned the material, could easily make a mistake on.
Finally, we get to the final part of the Rocket Reinforcement activities – Flashcards.
I was pretty unimpressed with these. They’re incredibly basic – you’re just given a word in either English or German and need to remember what it is in the other language. You’ll flip over the card and see the correct answer, then grade yourself on whether it was hard, good, or easy.
These cards look really ugly and aren’t that useful either. At the minimum, there could be a picture somewhere to help the phrase stick into your mind a bit more.
A further problem is that by the time you finally reach this part of the Rocket Reinforcement, you’ve already practiced these sentences a number of times. It’s unlikely you’ll have much trouble remembering them. I guess that’s okay though, you could just fly through this section quickly.
A much more efficient way of studying with flashcards would be by using a program like Anki or Memrise that uses spaced repetition software (SRS). These programs bring up cards at differing intervals depending on how well you were able to remember them. So, the cards you struggle with show up more often, and the ones that you get right every time show up less and less.
Rocket German, on the other hand, is very old-school and basically relies on the brute force method. Sure, it’ll work, but there are easier ways to do things.
Additionally, the material that you most need to review isn’t what you’ve just spent the entire lesson drilling. You need to review stuff you’ve already learned and moved on from. Reviewing the material from several lessons back would be a much better use of time.
It’d be much more useful if the review of previous lessons was naturally included with Rocket German. Instead, you’ll need to decide for yourself to go back and review those lessons periodically.
Language and Culture Lessons
The second type of lessons on Rocket German is the Language and Culture Lessons. There are a total of 91 of these included in the three levels.
These split into two parts. The first being about the German language – things like idioms, grammar, or pronunciation.
I found this first part, the language section, to be one of the better parts of Rocket German. It’s somewhat similar to a textbook and goes into great detail. During the pronunciation lesson, for example, lots of clear descriptions are given about how to pronounce various sounds in German.
But, there’s actually a nice benefit over a textbook, which is that you’re given lots of examples with audio that you can listen to, record yourself saying, and then get a grade for – just like in the other exercises.
While I feel that the first part of the Language and Culture Lessons is among the best of what Rocket German offers, the second part, about the culture was very disappointing.
This section is horribly short and feels like somebody put it together in fifteen minutes and included it at the last moment. There are so many possibilities to include interesting information here that could really help you understand German culture more, make you think, and really surprise you. But instead, they’re boring and you can read through them in a minute.
Just like before, you’ll have the Rocket Reinforcement exercises to practice what you learned in the first part of these lessons.
If you’re not sick of those review exercises yet, you definitely will be by the time you finish the next type of lessons.
Survival Kit Lessons
The third and final type of lessons included in Rocket German is the Survival Kit Lessons. However, I don’t think it’s really fair to consider these to be lessons. They’re much less than that.
Here, you’ll basically drill vocab without any context, or even example sentences. Just pure memorization.
This has to be the absolute worst way to learn vocabulary. You’d be much better off reading or listening to something at your level.
While LingQ isn’t perfect, it’d be a much more enjoyable and effective way to learn vocabulary – by reading and listening to content in German that’s suitable to your level.
Just like every other lesson in this course, you’ll practice them with the same five components of the Rocket Reinforcement.
Is Rocket German worth it?
As I mentioned before, there are three levels of Rocket German, though you can’t purchase them individually, but rather only as separate packs.
They seem to be on perpetual sale, so although Level 1 supposedly costs $149.95, I’ve never seen it sold for more than $99.95. Levels 1 & 2 costs $249.90 while Levels 1,2 & 3 costs $259.90.
I wouldn’t purchase Rocket German for myself, so it’d be pretty shady for me to recommend you to buy it. I know I personally wouldn’t be able to make myself do all of the Rocket Reinforcement activities. I would definitely get bored of it and either give up on learning German or move onto other resources.
If that learning style sounds like something that would work for you, then by all means, Rocket German would be a good purchase.
- Lessons use less and less English as you move up levels.
- Well designed app and website.
- Lessons encourage you to participate and speak aloud.
- The grammar section is explained well.
- If you don’t give up on it, you’ll make solid progress.
- The Rocket Reinforcement section where you review is so painfully repetitive that I can’t imagine sticking with it for a long duration of time.
- The audio lessons are pretty boring and the jokes are overly cheesy.
- The cultural lessons feel like they were an afterthought and you won’t get much out of them.
- It’s not cheap or sufficient by itself to get you to a high German level.
- Old-school review strategy that requires brute-force rather than using smarter ways to study like SRS.
I’ve put together this list of over 130 resources that could help you to learn German. While I wouldn’t personally use Rocket German to study German, there are a number of resources that I would happily pay for.
In many ways, smarterGerman is the exact opposite of Rocket German. Whereas Rocket German revolves a lot on spoonfeeding you information and memorization, smarterGerman requires a ton of critical thinking. Michael, the course creator, really does a great job of giving you space to learn German. It’s a challenging course, but one that I really liked and is much different than any language learning course I’ve come across.
Pimsleur is a product I used to never recommend because I thought it was too expensive but they’ve added a subscription option that is very affordable. Pimsleur is a bit different than other courses because they completely ignore grammar and focus on speaking and listening. Because of this, you’ll likely find some gaps in your grammar skills, but at the same time, improve your speaking and listening quicker than with most other resources.
Babbel is an app much like Duolingo, but I think it’s quite a bit better. It teaches German in small digestible chunks with a variety of exercise types to practice what you’ve learned. There are good grammar explanations, clear audio recordings, and it’s all around solid.
This review has been pretty critical of Rocket German but that’s because I believe you’ll find it more helpful if you know everything I dislike about it, rather than constantly stressing every little positive thing they do.
Rocket German isn’t bad but I also don’t think it’s great. It’s a fairly good course that some people will like, but I’m just not one of them. There are too many other online German courses that I think are better than Rocket German.
I like that they do a good job of balancing the oral language with grammar. This will give you a nice and solid foundation going forward. The language part of the Language and Culture Lessons are very well done. The clarity and depth there is excellent.
Unfortunately, the reliance on rote memorization to learn words is both repetitive and boring. For me, this is a deal-breaker. The audio lessons aren’t terrible or great, they’re just sort of average. You can find similar, and better audio lessons from other sources for much less money.
Of course, this is all just my opinion and quite a few people do seem to genuinely like Rocket German. If you’re interested, you can try a free trial yourself without giving them any payment information.
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