Rocket Portuguese is a subpar course
After having used PortuguesePod101 and Semantica for the first time recently, I was very eager to explore what Rocket Portuguese had to offer…Unfortunately, it was a complete disappointment and I’m a bit shocked at the prices they quote for what I consider to be a below par product.
Rocket Portuguese offers a number of audio and reading lessons for beginners looking to further their knowledge and understanding of Brazilian Portuguese.
Each lesson has a writing, pronunciation and comprehension section for users to practice what they have learnt.
When you complete a section you are given a rating depending on how well you did: green for ‘easy’, yellow for ‘good’ and red for ‘hard’. The idea behind this is to motivate you to master each section and turn your whole dashboard into a sea of green.
The platform itself is quite easy to navigate and the structure of each lesson appears to be well-thought-out. If you scrape below the surface, however, the content leaves a lot to be desired.
Whereas PortuguesePod101 goes above and beyond to provide their users with in-depth analysis of grammar, vocabulary and the culture of Brazil, Rocket Portuguese only skims the surface in comparison.
Both are quite similar in terms of their set-up though the former is quite successful in what they achieve while the latter leaves a lot to be desired.
Alternatively, Semantica manages to have comprehensive lessons that are both entertaining and pack a lot of cultural information.
It’s a shame to see people waste their money on Rocket Portuguese when other, excellent resources exist.
While some users may find the repetitive format of Rocket Portuguese to be useful and the color-coded rating motivating, the reality is that the price and content make this a poor product.
Someone with absolutely no knowledge of Portuguese will progress but they would do much better spending their money and time elsewhere.
There’s only one level of Rocket Portuguese
There is only one level of Rocket Portuguese which is aimed at beginners looking to gain their first introduction to Brazilian Portuguese.
The expectation is that by following the course they will increase their understanding and knowledge of the language while improving their speaking and writing skills.
At the end of the level, they should be at the intermediate level. As there is only one level, however, intermediate and advanced learners should look elsewhere to continue their studies.
Level one of Rocket Portuguese contains eight modules which vary in terms of how many lessons they contain.
The lessons are divided between interactive audio lessons and ones that focus on language and culture. In total there are 34 audio lessons and 36 language and culture lessons spanning over 140 hours of lesson time.
Each lesson offers the learner a number of ways to engage with the course material. We will look at this in more depth in the next section.
The interactive parts of the lessons aren’t particularly well made
For writing this review, I signed up for the free trial that gives you access to the first three interactive audio lessons and the first three language and culture lessons. This is only for six days but that is more than enough time to go through the available material.
If you were happy with the product you would then possibly contemplate signing up with one of the subscription plans. When I first went to sign up for a trial account, just clicking on another tab led the Rocket Portuguese page to implore me to stay and consider paying for one of their packages.
While I didn’t like the product, I think that they have done a good job in making the user platform quite friendly to navigate.
It is easy to start the first lesson and at different times a ‘take the tour’ option pops up which should instruct any new users on how to use the platform.
As there is only one level available, you do not have an option to make the lessons harder.
Each lesson has a number of ways for you to engage with the material. As you answer questions and complete small quizzes you get a rating after each completed section of the lesson.
Your dashboard will therefore soon be filled with yellow, red and green markers indicating how you did on that part of the lesson.
Once you have clicked on the audio lesson you will see a brief introduction to the subject of the lesson. The play button for the audio lesson is near the top of the page and it is very simple to download the MP3 for offline use.
The lessons are usually around 25 minutes in length.
Listening to the audio you can either follow along by downloading the PDF of the lesson or by following the dialogue underneath the introduction.
In the lesson, they go through the dialogue before explaining it and going through it again at a slower pace. There is also an audio file of just the conversation without any English included.
Below that is their Play it! feature.
Here, you act as either one of the hosts and say their part of the dialogue into your phone or computer’s microphone. This is the interactive part of the lesson!
The microphone then picks up your voice and gives you a rating how accurately you have pronounced the word or sentences in Portuguese.
After a section that gives you some extra vocabulary to explore comes the Hear it! Say it! part.
This is again aimed at improving your pronunciation. A recording plays a word or sentence for you to repeat and you are again given a rating in terms of how accurate you were.
Next up is the Write it! section where (yep you guessed it) you practice writing what you hear.
Here you are meant to improve your writing and comprehension skills as you listen to the audio and write down what you hear.
For some reason, no corrections of any mistakes I made ever appeared.
The Know it! section is a chance for you to show how much you have remembered of the lesson.
Words and phrases are written in English and it is up to you to speak the Portuguese equivalent into the microphone. This part rates your knowledge as well as your pronunciation of what you remembered.
Each audio lesson has a quiz which tests the user’s memory of both the language and content included in the class.
Finally, at the end of each lesson, there are a bunch of flashcards at the bottom for learners to practice everything that they have just learnt.
Usefully there is a ‘My notes’ section just below this where users can note down anything they felt regarding the lesson.
The language and culture lessons largely follow the same format. The only difference is that written notes on grammar points replace the audio lesson. Apart from that, each of them has a Hear it! Say it! Write it! section, etc.
Rocket Portuguese offers a polished look that hides a bootleg second-rate product underneath
The variety of ways that you can interact with the learning material would seem to indicate that this is a well-thought-out language platform.
Despite its appearance though, there are a number of reasons why I think Rocket Portuguese is a substandard product.
While Rocket Portuguese does indeed give you a number of ways to practice speaking, writing and understanding Portuguese, the main and indeed massive problem is that none of them are done particularly well.
First of all the audio lessons are quite long and do not cover that much material.
The host is a bit lifeless when it comes to presenting the material and, over the three lessons I had access to, I got quite bored listening to her. They are not fun to listen to and do not provide you with the in-depth grammar, vocabulary and cultural lessons that other platforms like Semantica does.
Each lesson has the dialogue below the introduction. While it is useful that you can easily listen to individual parts of the dialogue, you only learn these words and phrases in the context of the class.
They do not provide you with other examples of how the words and sentences might be used in other contexts in Brazil.
The extra vocabulary, while welcome, is also provided in isolation; you get the English translation but no sense of how to actually use it in Portuguese.
It would be useful to have a number of examples for each word that clearly shows how it can be used in different ways.
Possibly one of the best features of the platform is that you can record your voice speaking Portuguese to see how well you are doing with your pronunciation. In theory, this should be great, in practice though it leaves a lot to be desired; at times I completely butchered the words and phrases and was still given a 100% rating for my pronunciation.
This is also the only speaking practice you get. A serious student would be much better off looking for a tutor from italki to give them feedback on their pronunciation.
While you do learn how to say words and sentences, it is essentially memorization and I don’t think you would know how to use them in other contexts.
I also had a few issues with the Write it! section. The platform never seemed to pick up on what I had actually written and I was never given confirmation of whether what I had written was correct or false.
You are again tested on your listening comprehension and right from the early lessons, the words and phrases were at times quite tough for beginners to follow.
The Know it! section again relies on you recording your voice and testing your pronunciation and memory of the words included in the dialogue and vocabulary list. The problem with the voice recognition technology, unfortunately, remains throughout all the speaking exercises.
The quiz at the end of each section tests some of the grammar points you have learnt as well as the actual content of the lessons themselves. Unfortunately, the multiple choice answers again show the lack of detail that plague the product.
Upon answering the question, at times all of the answers come with an English explanation and at others they are absent. It is just a small detail but it would be nice if there were some consistency throughout the platform.
The final part of each lesson is the flashcard section. While useful it would be great if you could curate your own database of flashcards somewhere on your dashboard. As it is, you always need to return to the lesson and find the particular set of flashcards that you are looking for.
In addition, you can only find the vocabulary lists as part of the lesson; there is no way to compile useful vocab in one place for you to return to.
As the lessons will probably fail to inspire most learners, a lot of the motivation for studying the material comes from the colour-coded ratings that you receive after each section.
There is also a leaderboard where you can see how many points you have accumulated over a certain period and compare how you are doing against other learners. Simply pressing a dialogue button gives you some points and sees you jump a few places up the leaderboard!
This game-like quality of the platform could be very useful though for some learners struggling to motivate themselves.
As you can see, there are quite a lot of things that I think could be improved with Rocket Portuguese. In my mind, they offer a polished ‘look’ that hides a bootleg second-rate product underneath.
It is similar in many respects to PortuguesePod101 which is hugely superior when it comes to how entertaining the lessons are and how much detail they go into. What Rocket Portuguese does better though is that it provides you with opportunities to practice speaking and writing. As mentioned above, however, these do have their own flaws.
Simply put, the price is astronomical for the ill-thought-out lessons and content that Rocket Portuguese provides. I don’t think it would be worth using even if it were free.
Rocket Portuguese is expensive but I wouldn’t use it even if it were free
For Level one Rocket Portuguese there are a number of different payment plans that give you access to all the materials on the platform. The only difference, therefore, is whether you choose to pay all up front immediately and whether you would like the set of 20CDs included in the price.
All of the packages include the following features:
Of these, only a couple are actually useful. 24/7 access to all the lessons comes in handy while the flashcards will certainly appeal to some learners.
Other than that there really seems no justification for the prices they are asking.
I don’t really see the difference between ‘personalized progress tracking’, ‘progress tracking’ and ‘benchmarking and Portuguese Certification tests’: they are all just different ways to say the same thing.
The free upgrades for life is useless as the presenter has mentioned a couple of times in the forum that there are no plans to add to any of the materials currently hosted on the platform.
The only extra thing of value is the 60-day money back guarantee.
So the main plan they offer is the Online Access subscription plan which normally costs $149.95. This is where you pay everything in one go up front. I imagine though that there is always a promotion offering you a better deal. One day I checked and the offer was $99.95 while two days later it was suddenly $89.95.
Alternatively, there is the Online Access Payment Plan where you pay $27/month for six months. In the end, this works out as more expensive than the first plan. Again I have seen various deductions on offer ranging from $17-19/month.
The most expensive of the plans is the ‘20CD pack+Online Access’ one which includes everything that the other ones do PLUS 20 CD with all the audio lessons on them. You also get PDFs of all the lessons too. The price for this is always $299.95.
I simply can’t recommend any of these packages. They are way too expensive for what they include and I don’t think the lessons would even be worth following if they were free.
I made the mistake of checking out the Portuguese forum on the platform. NEW! is sadly written next to posts that are over five years old. No one has posted in years and it just furthered my impression that no one cares for the rest of the Portuguese resources.
I actually felt annoyed at using Rocket Portuguese.
It was easy to use (most of the time) and I liked that it was simple to navigate and gave learners various ways to engage with the material.
The main problem was that the content itself was pretty bad.
All of its issues stemmed from the lack of care and thought that had gone into what they were providing. I found this really frustrating considering the insane prices they are asking for the resources.
I have to reluctantly admit though that beginners will undoubtedly learn some Portuguese if they do use it. This doesn’t mean however that their time and money wouldn’t be best spent elsewhere.
In my opinion, learners looking to further their understanding, knowledge, and usage of Brazilian Portuguese should look anywhere but here for their language learning. Harsh but I believe fair.
For learners looking for a platform that is thorough, fun, and will help you understand Brazilian culture, I’d highly recommend checking out Semantica.