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Rocket Korean Review – Meh, Not My First Choice

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Quick Review

Summary:

After trying Rocket Korean, I came away pretty disappointed. They don’t do a great job of teaching hangeul, leaving learners unable to read even very basic Korean. This, coupled with the repetitive exercises, makes Rocket Korean uninspiring. There are better courses that will help you build a sturdier foundation while also being more enjoyable to use.

Quality

Very repetitive review exercises that aren’t particularly well-done.

Thoroughnes

Does a poor job accounting for a different writing system.

Value

Too expensive without being good enough to justify the cost.

Price

There’s only one level of Rocket Korean which costs $99.95. You can also pay in six-month installments which costs $19/month.

Alternatives: 90 Day Korean is a much better-structured (and more enjoyable) course that will give you a better foundation.

KoreanClass101 has audio lessons which are more fun to listen to and is also much cheaper.

Having previously tried several of the Rocket Language courses, I had a good idea of what to expect from Rocket Korean. That said, it’s a bit different than the courses for other languages, some parts are better done, and others need some serious improvement.

Like many platforms that teach several different languages, Rocket Languages struggles a bit to provide good, comprehensive materials for languages that aren’t written using romanized letters.

Compared with other Korean courses, such as 90 Day Korean, I found that Rocket Korean to be lacking in a lot of ways.

This review will take an in-depth look at everything Rocket Korean has to offer, including both the good and the bad.

Course Overview

Unlike many of the other courses offered by Rocket Languages, there’s only one level to Rocket Korean. This makes it only suitable for beginner level students.

Throughout this course, there are eight modules. These modules contain four types of lessons:

  • Interactive Audio Lessons
  • Language and Culture Lessons
  • Writing Lessons
  • Survival Kit Lessons

In total, throughout the eight modules, there are 31 interactive audio lessons, 32 language and culture lessons, 26 writing lessons, and 10 survival kit lessons.

With the exception of the writing lessons, each type of lesson also includes their Rocket Reinforcement. This is a way to practice what you’ve learned by completing a variety of exercises. We’ll get into this a bit later.

For now, let’s take a look at their interactive audio lessons.

Interactive Audio Lessons

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These lessons typically last between 20-30 minutes. There are three hosts, two of which are Korean, and the third is from the United States. The Korean hosts will speak Korean throughout, while the American host will explain things in English.

These lessons start out by reviewing what you had learned in previous lessons and finish with a Rocket Review, which acts as a review of what was taught in the current lesson.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rocket Korean wasn’t stuffed with corny and cringe-worthy jokes that are constant throughout many other languages taught by Rocket Languages. This made the lessons flow much smoother and more naturally. Still though, compared to a resource like KoreanClass101, the lessons are pretty dry.

The audio lessons often start with a dialogue which is then broken down and discussed – providing translations with slow and clear pronunciation of words and phrases.

They’re interactive in the sense that you’re meant to participate and speak throughout. In fact, you probably won’t get much out of them if you don’t speak along with the lessons. In this regard, they’re a bit similar to Pimsleur, though Pimsleur will give you stronger speaking skills and Rocket Korean will give you a better base in grammar and the written language.

I liked the way that the hosts explained the grammar throughout. They also did a nice job of adding in interesting cultural elements along the way.

Following the audio lesson, there’s the Play It! section in which you can practice the dialogue by speaking the role of either host. Here, the host whom you didn’t select will have their lines played automatically, you’re then meant to fill in the other person’s lines.

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In this section, and throughout Rocket Korean, you’ll record yourself speaking Korean. Their voice recognition software will give you a grade based on how well you were able to say the lines.

It’s a nice way to encourage you to speak more Korean, but just like the voice recognition software for any language learning resource, it’s not all that great. And although you can adjust how strictly it grades you, I didn’t notice too much of a difference between the easy, medium, or hard levels.

I definitely wouldn’t want to trust it as my sole source of feedback. You’d be much better off finding a tutor from italki to work with for this.

The Korean hosts also speak more Korean than just what’s included in the main dialogue. While it’s definitely hard to understand for beginners, this will get easier, plus you can see and re-listen to the extra stuff that was spoken in the Extra Vocabulary section below.

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Again, you can record yourself speaking these lines and you’ll receive a score based on how accurate you are.

After reviewing the extra vocabulary section, you’ll find the Rocket Reinforcement.

Rocket Reinforcement

The Rocket Reinforcement is a major part of the interactive audio lessons, language and culture lessons, and survival kit lessons. This is likely to be the part of Rocket Korean where you spend the majority of your time.

Unfortunately, it’s not especially good.

You’ll review what you had learned previously by completing numerous exercises. But, they’re all rather dull and basically amount to rote memorization.

The Rocket Reinforcement includes the following components…

  • Hear it! Say it!
  • Write it!
  • Know it!
  • Quiz
  • Flashcards

Now we’ll look at each of these, one by one.

Hear it! Say it!

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First, you’ll listen to a word or phrase in Korean and then record yourself saying the same thing. Again, you’ll receive a grade based on how accurate your pronunciation is. Additionally, you’ll also grade yourself, either hard, good, or easy based on your own thoughts on the difficulty.

Write It!

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Next up, you’ll listen to a word or phrase in Korean and write what you’ve heard – basically a dictation exercise. Unfortunately, Rocket Languages completely dropped the ball here.

You’re asked to write a phrase in Korean without ever being taught how to write in Korean. With a language like Spanish, this is fine, but writing in Korean is obviously so much different than writing in English.

Making matters worse, even if you are able to memorize the romanization of the hangeul, you’ll be marked incorrect.

Interestingly, there is a typing lesson, but that’s not until lesson 7.8 – near the end of the course.

Know It!

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In the next type of exercise, you’ll practice your ability to produce Korean from English. Simply enough, you’re given a word or phrase in English and then have to say it in Korean.

Quiz

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Next, you’ll have a five-question quiz. Again, it’s pretty simple, but actually pretty well-done. Most of the questions will have a few different answers that could be easily mistaken for the correct one if you hadn’t completed the lessons.

Flashcards

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Although there are a few different options for how you utilize their flashcards, they’re not particularly exciting. Basically, you’re just given a word and need to think of the translation. You’ll then flip the card and give yourself a grade.

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The fact that the cards are so ugly doesn’t help, but it’s not even my biggest issue here. I think flashcards are really useful for studying, but most people would be better off using a platform like Memrise or Anki instead.

Those platforms are much “smarter” than Rocket Korean. Instead of just using brute force and repetition to memorize things, as Rocket Korean does, those other platforms utilize a spaced repetition system (SRS). That basically means that the more often you remember a card correctly, the longer the interval before you see it again. Likewise, if you make a mistake on a certain card, that card will show up more often.

This can save you a lot of time and help you study more efficiently.

Furthermore, it’s important to review materials from all lessons, not just your current lesson as Rocket Korean does. There’s a good chance that by the time you get to this point, you’ll be pretty comfortable with the material found in the flashcards.

But, how well will you remember what you learned four weeks ago if you don’t review it? It’d be nice if Rocket Korean made reviewing older material a bit more natural.

Language and Culture Lessons

This section is split into two parts. The first part teaches the Korean language – things like pronunciation, the past tense, or prepositions. The second part highlights some interesting part of Korean culture.

Both sections are pretty well done.

First, the language part is pretty similar to what you might find in a textbook. There are lots of grammar points that are explained clearly. In addition, there are lots of examples with audio that you can play and practice speaking yourself.

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Just like before, you’ll have all of the Rocket Reinforcement activities that we talked about earlier. These get tiring and probably aren’t the most effective way to learn Korean.

There are a lot of words and phrases you drill in this manner, but at this point, you still haven’t learned much about Hangeul, so reading and recognizing the Korean is nearly impossible.

Moving on to the culture section, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and depth they offered.

While trying other Rocket Languages’ courses, I was really disappointed with how short and uninteresting the culture lessons were. The Korean course does far better than the other languages. Here, the culture lessons are very detailed and interesting.

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Writing Lessons

The next type of lesson you’ll find in Rocket Korean teaches writing. In part, I’m happy that they’ve included a writing portion, but I don’t think it’s terribly well done or structured in a way that’s particularly helpful.

In these lessons, you’ll look at two characters at a time. The lessons are disappointingly basic. You’ll learn the name for each of the letters, some advice on how to pronounce it, watch a 2-4 second video showing how to write it, and are given some example words containing that character.

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Perhaps my biggest point of frustration with these lessons, and Rocket Korean in general, is that it doesn’t teach you how to read Korean. It’s also a bit strange the way that you’re only taught two characters per lesson.

This doesn’t make much sense to me. I understand wanting to go somewhat slow as to not stress students out, but compared with the audio lessons, these go very quickly and are far too simple.

A major issue I have is that you’re simply taught each of these characters, and then given some words that contain them, without ever being taught to read Korean. Screen Shot 2018 12 25 at 5.55.53 PM

It’d be like being taught the name for the letter ‘n’, shown how to write it, taught the sound it makes, and are then given the following words as examples:

  • Necklace
  • Nose
  • Never

You never learn how to actually read any of these words. So basically, you can look at each of these words and notice it has an ‘n’ and that there’s probably an /n/ sound. But, how helpful is this really?

This is perhaps my least favorite part about Rocket Korean. Because you never learn to read hangeul, Korean words remain as these confusing and complicated mysteries, making them that much harder to remember.

The sad part is that learning to read Korean is a pretty easy thing to do. I felt like 90 Day Korean did an awesome job with this part, which made each subsequent step feel that much easier. I didn’t have the same feeling with Rocket Korean. It just always felt like an important part was missing.

Survival Kit Lessons

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The final type of lessons is also pretty uninspiring. In these lessons, you’ll basically just be given lists of words and phrases and then memorize them through the Rocket Reinforcement exercises.

I feel like Rocket Korean is a bit old-school in this regard. It’s sort of like if you were to just find a list of words related to whatever topic and then try to memorize them all. Sure, it may work, but it’ll be boring and without strong associations in your mind, they’ll be easier to forget.

I think you’d be much better off learning words from context – whether that’s from textbook dialogues, reading on an app like LingQ, or audio lessons from somewhere like KoreanClass101. It’s much more effective and enjoyable to learn words in the context of a sentence and not just in isolation.

How much does Rocket Korean cost and is it worth paying for?

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Rocket Korean seems to constantly be on sale, so although the original price is listed as $149.95, I’ve never seen it cost more than $99.95. You could also choose to pay as a monthly plan, which costs $19 per month.

Since this is a one-off purchase and not a subscription, you’ll get access to the materials forever.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend buying Rocket Korean.

If there were no other options, then sure, Rocket Korean would be fine and you could learn a great deal from it. I just like other Korean courses much more.

90 Day Korean is an excellent course and one that I prefer by a large margin. I felt like with their course that I was making much quicker progress with Korean and building a much sturdier foundation. And although it starts at the absolute beginner level, there are actually four 90-day modules, meaning you’ll be able to stick with it even as your Korean level gets higher.

KoreanClass101 is another good resource for learning Korean. They have tons of audio lessons, with accompanying study materials, for all levels. I personally find their lessons much more enjoyable to work through. Better still, the basic plan starts at only $8 per month, making it very affordable.

Final Thoughts

I’m disappointed that I can’t really recommend Rocket Korean. Although the interactive audio lessons and language and culture lessons are pretty solid, the other sections of Rocket Korean fell short.

I think they struggled largely because of how different the Korean writing system is compared to English. By not teaching you how to read Korean, you’re left in an awkward situation where you may recognize parts of words, but aren’t able to read anything. This just makes everything much harder than it needs to be.

Another issue is that the Rocket Reinforcement exercises are just too repetitive. I could see a lot of learners getting bored and losing motivation. I also think that their brute-force method of memorizing words wouldn’t be a very effective or efficient way to study.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is that the quality of a course can’t be measured in isolation. In a world where there aren’t other options, then Rocket Korean is amazing. But, fortunately, there are better courses available, my favorite of them being 90 Day Korean.

Still, if you’d like to try Rocket Korean, you can get a free trial without needing to give them any payment information.

Still looking for more resources to help you study Korean? Check out these podcasts.

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