Rocket Russian provides a course that supposedly, “Takes you from beginner to intermediate.” While its audio, reading and writing lessons do get you practicing different skills, the content is actually quite boring and repetitive to work through in my opinion. The course is probably best for beginners and those that like a mix of audio/visual content, but more advanced learners, those on a budget, or anyone interested in engaging content should probably look elsewhere.
Rocket Russian provides a course that supposedly, “Takes you from beginner to intermediate.” While its audio, reading and writing lessons do get you practicing different skills, the content is actually quite boring and repetitive to work through in my opinion.
The course is probably best for beginners and those that like a mix of audio/visual content, but more advanced learners, those on a budget, or anyone interested in engaging content should probably look elsewhere.
It’s got a sleek design and is easy to navigate, but content doesn’t feel well thought out.
While you do learn some vocabulary and grammar, you don’t really learn how to piece the language together.
There are much cheaper alternatives out there with better content.
Rocket Russian is very nicely designed and easy to use so you’ll never have trouble knowing what you’re meant to do next.
I enjoyed the Travelogue series as they used a lot more Russian and show what it would be like traveling through various parts of Russia.
In the Language and Culture Lessons, you get to learn about everything from the 2018 World Cup in Russia to Russian loan words.
I DON’T LIKE…
Rocket Russian is not very entertaining, and the various exercises become quite monotonous.
You’ll mostly learn words and phrases in isolation.
The vast majority of the content you work through is in English.
Lifetime access to Rocket Russian is available for a one-time purchase of $149.95, or $27/month for six months. There is a 6-day free trial, and the course seems to perpetually be on sale for $99.95 or $19/month for six months.
Indeed, it seems there is almost a one-size-fits-all approach to the courses that Rocket Languages offers up — I found that the Russian course had almost all of the same problems as the other two. As such, there are many Russian courses that I’d recommend using instead.
Although it is most appropriate for beginners and only has one level for you to work through, Rocket Russian also has a series of Travelogue lessons on offer which represent a serious step up in difficulty. While I appreciated the fact that these lessons place a heavier emphasis on using Russian, I’m not entirely sure how you’d ever expect to get to that level solely working through Level 1.
As with the other Rocket Languages courses, this made me question just how well-thought-out the Rocket Russian course actually was.
As you will surely notice when working through its various lessons, the platform may appear to be very well designed (and it is), but this masks what I think are some serious deficiencies in terms of the actual content.
For instance, there are loads of exercises for you to work through. While they appear in various formats, they all amount to pretty much the same thing, and the heavy emphasis on repetition becomes very tedious after a while. In addition to this, the lessons are conducted almost solely in English.
While I believe that beginners would at least learn some useful words, phrases and grammar points in Russian, I fail to see how Rocket Russian would take you very far. As such, I think you’re much better off looking into other resources, like podcasts such as RussianPod101, which is much more comprehensive in terms of what it offers.
Rocket Russian currently only has Level 1 Russian for you to work through, although reports of a Level 2 have been floating around since 2016. This level is for beginners and so most of the course content is not suitable for more advanced learners.
Level 1 is made up of seven different modules that all include Interactive Audio Lessons, Language and Culture Lessons, and Writing Lessons for you to work through. There are also a couple of Survival Kit Lessons thrown in here and there. The course finishes with a Survival Kit & Review module.
In general, there are around four or five of each type of lesson on offer in each of the modules.
In total there are 144 hours of lesson time for you to work through: 32 Interactive Audio Lessons, 40 Language and Culture Lessons, and 32 Writing Lessons.
While there are slight variations between the three main types of lessons, they all have various exercises for you to work through that should help you retain information and learn how to read, write, speak and understand the words and phrases you come across. There is also a short quiz for you to complete at the end of each lesson.
Although this sounds quite good, in practice you don’t really learn how to use the words in a sentence, and all of the various techniques and exercises to get you ‘speaking’ Russian basically amount to endless memorization just presented in different ways.
On top of the main bulk of the lessons, there are also some Travelogue lessons for you to work through where you follow Natalya and Ivan as they travel around Russia. These are split into eight chapters which have four lessons each and they use much, much more Russian than the main part of the course.
Now that we’ve had a quick look at just how much content is on the Rocket Russian platform, let’s take more of an in-depth look at what the lessons actually involve. For this review, I signed up for the 6-day free trial, which includes access to a few different lessons.
Once you’ve signed up to the Rocket Languages platform and have confirmed your email, you’re all set to get started with whatever language you’re interested in learning. There are quite a few different languages to choose from: English, Hindi, Japanese and Russian are just a handful of the 14 on offer.
After clicking on your language of choice — Russian, in this case — you are taken to your home page where you can then start to explore the platform.
To get started you can either watch a short seven-minute video that introduces you to Rocket Russian’s various features or head straight to your Dashboard where you will find all of the Level 1 lessons.
While you will almost certainly discover most of what the course and its various exercises and sections have to offer by simply working through the lessons, the video is quite thorough. It may be worth watching just so you absolutely know all the ways you can make the most of Rocket Russian.
Your dashboard is where you’ll find everything neatly laid out and each level has Interactive Audio Lessons, Language and Culture Lessons and Writing Lessons for you to work through.
Let’s take a look at the first Interactive Lesson to see what it has to offer.
Interactive Audio Lessons
After clicking on the audio, you’ll first be introduced to your presenter and two native speakers before being told that each lesson involves ‘listening, repeating, comparing, learning and having fun’ – in one of the most monotonous, non-expressive voices I’ve ever heard.
You’re then taught a couple of greetings and introductions in Russian with some explanations and grammar points thrown in before we hear our first conversation, which is then broken down into more manageable blocks.
After having gone through all of the words and phrases used in the conversation, the last couple of minutes of the fifteen-minute lesson are dedicated to the ‘Rocket Review.’ This is where the presenter asks you about some of the vocabulary you’ve just gone over, and it’s up to you to give the correct answer before a native speaker either confirms or corrects what you just said.
After listening to the audio lesson, you get to take part in some practice exercises. The first up is called Play it!
In this exercise, you get to take the place of one of the native Russian speakers in the conversation and pronounce the words as best you can, going through the dialogue with the other native speaker replying to what you’ve said.
The technology seemed to work really well for me; it only took a few seconds to go through the conversation, and the platform gives you a rating on how well you’ve pronounced the words and phrases in Russian.
The next section is called Extra Vocabulary and contains words and phrases from the lesson.
You’ll be able to listen to a recording of each word, see the English translation, and record yourself speaking.
Once you have finished listening to the audio and practicing pronunciation, you then have a number of exercises for you to work through. They’re called Rocket Reinforcement activities, and they help you engage with the material in various ways. You’ll find these at the end of each lesson.
The first activity uses Flashcards to help you practice what you’ve just learned.
They’re really basic — see a word or phrase in either Russian or English, click to reveal the translation, grade yourself on how difficult you found it. These flashcards only provide practice on the current lesson.
The next one is called Hear it! Say it!
In this part of the lesson, you hear a recording of a word or phrase from the lesson and then say it out loud yourself, receiving a rating of how well you pronounced it.
After this comes the ‘Know it!’ section. It’s very similar in nature, but this time you see the words and phrases in English and have to say the Russian equivalent to see if you have remembered it correctly.
Following this is a short multiple-choice quiz that tests just how much of the content you have retained and really hammers home all of the vocabulary you have gone over.
Following the Rocket Reinforcement section in some lessons is an Extra Testing section with an activity for practicing Cyrillic called Sort it!
It’s a basic sorting exercise where you listen to a Russian phrase and have to put the Cyrillic words in the correct order.
As you can see, there are quite a number of different ways that you can work through the material.
Now let’s take a look at what some of the later lessons look like and what else the platform has to offer.
Lessons on Rocket Russian
Apart from the presenters being generally quite expressionless and monotonous, the sheer amount of English used was disheartening. I really think that other platforms would use the time more wisely to introduce you to more words and phrases and really immerse you in the language.
In the first fifteen minute-long lesson, for example, the actual dialogue that’s the focus of the lesson is only ten seconds long.
While I realize that it’s the first lesson and you’re being introduced to a new language, I still found the time spent speaking Russian to be very low, and things don’t improve much in the second twenty minute-long lesson.
The production value of the Rocket Language courses is typically very high; in the Russian one they dot random photos that I suppose are meant to be linked to Russia in some way or another around the platform.
Although it is nice to add a bit of color to the site, as with these Honour Guards above, they really are just random photos as they aren’t connected to anything you’re learning at all. For me, this just goes to show how at the surface level Rocket Russian appears all shiny and well-designed but that the actual content is lacking and poorly thought out.
Each lesson has numerous ways in which you can interact with the material, but as we’ve seen above, all of the various features pretty much just get you memorizing the same thing over and over again, just in different formats.
While they do get you reading, writing, listening and pronouncing the various words and phrases that you cover in each class, they never really build upon one another — you end up learning them all in isolation.
While I do think it’s great that Rocket Russian has lots of different exercises for you to work through, the fact that they are exactly the same in every single lesson makes them quite monotonous and the sheer amount of repetition really does start to grate after a while.
As such, I think they’d be better off doing a couple of things well (which numerous other language learning platforms do) rather than trying to do it all.
Over the eight modules, the Interactive Lessons certainly cover a lot of different topics which range from going shopping and talking about the weather to ordering drinks and catching the bus.
While I can’t say for certain whether the later lessons vary much in terms of practice exercises, I didn’t come across anything that indicates that they would.
Language and Culture Lessons
After working your way through the first few Interactive Lessons, you can then make your way onto the Language and Culture Lessons. This is where you’ll learn about various aspects of Russian grammar and culture.
Instead of listening to an audio lesson, you are instead greeted with a wall of text which goes into a bit more depth about various grammar points before another large paragraph towards the bottom of the page introduces you to the cultural topic of the week.
In general, the information isn’t presented in a very appealing manner. While it again has various words and phrases that you can both listen to and practice saying out loud, this part of the course basically amounts to a pretty boring textbook.
The example words are again given out of context and so you are again lumped with all these random words and phrases to learn with no idea how you can use them in a sentence.
Unfortunately, another interminable round of Rocket Reinforcement activities concludes each lesson.
The third main type of lesson is the Writing Lesson, where you learn how to write the Cyrillic alphabet.
These are again quite underwhelming to work through and each of them has a very short video for you to watch which teaches you how various letters are written.
These videos look strangely bootleg considering the otherwise high production value of Rocket Russian; you can almost certainly find something better on YouTube that’ll teach you the Cyrillic alphabet.
Next up are the Travelogue classes, which I think are probably the best feature on the Rocket Russian platform, although I’m not entirely sure if they’re actually part of the main course or are just a random unexplained bonus for you to work through.
In any case, there are eight modules each, made up of four classes that deal with various topics related to traveling around Russia.
Much more Russian is used in these lessons than in the Interactive ones and for me, they certainly represent a step up in difficulty.
While I appreciate that the course seemingly progresses in difficulty, I just don’t understand how you’re ever meant to get to that level with the Rocket Russian course. It may be that the later Interactive Lessons and Language and Culture Lessons get a lot harder towards the end but, although I can’t be certain, the substandard material of the earlier lessons doesn’t fill me with hope that this is the case.
In this part of the course I found the audio technology to be a bit dodgy because although it picked up my voice very quickly, the accuracy rating of how I pronounced certain Russian words was definitely off as it still gave me 100% ratings after having butchered something like ‘Vy mozhete mne prinesti?’.
I do think, however, that these lessons could be great for introducing you to a lot more vocabulary, much of it being very practical things which you’d need to use while traveling around Russia. Of course, these lessons finish with more Rocket Reinforcement activities, which you may well be totally sick of at this point.
Rocket Russian Tools
Rocket Russian also offers a few extra tools to help you get more out of your study time.
While there’s not a ton of use here, you can see how you’re ranking in comparison to other people, and I imagine some people would find it quite motivating to see themselves fly up the leaderboard.
In addition to this, you have a function for saving notes and vocab from lessons, but the custom flashcards feature isn’t available yet.
All in all, I came away with the impression that Rocket Russian looks really good and is very easy to use, but the core content is severely lacking in quality.
The lessons, for example, just don’t seem that well thought out, and the myriad different exercises you are asked to do at the end of each one really are too similar to each other to make them any fun. In addition to this, the presenters are quite lifeless and expressionless which only contributes to the dull and monotonous feel to the material.
As such, I feel that you’re better off avoiding Rocket Russian completely; I’m not even sure I’d recommend signing up for the free 6-day trial, as you’ll be inundated with various offers and sales until you eventually cave in or unsubscribe.
While beginners will certainly get something from the course, there are too many negatives — the cost, the boredom factor and the learning method — for it to be worthwhile. There are definitely way better resources out there, like RussianPod101 or Red Kalinka, for instance.
If you did actually use Rocket Russian for a while, you would certainly have to use it alongside a textbook or two or maybe even private classes if you ever really wanted to learn the language properly. Consequently, I think Rocket Russian is best avoided as it’s just not worth the time, effort and money.
Plans and Prices
Rocket Russian has a couple of different subscription plans for you to choose from if you do actually find its content and teaching methods useful.
It’s important to note that the subscriptions seem to always be on sale. I think it’s very unlikely that anyone has actually ever paid the full amount for a subscription. I have seen the price drop around $40 in one day when they switched from the ‘Early Bird Sale’ to a ‘Back to School Sale’, so it may be worth keeping an eye on the current deal.
The theoretical list price for a subscription to Rocket Russian should cost you $149.95 if you pay in one go. This gives you lifetime access to all of the resources, including 144 hours of lesson time, the 32 Interactive Audio Lessons, 40 Language and Culture Lessons, and 32 Writing Lessons as aforementioned, 4210 phrases with voice recognition and a BONUS Survival Kit which is apparently worth $49.95.
Alternatively, you can always split the payment for the Online Access subscription over six months. This works out to $27/ per month or $10.80 or $19 depending on whatever discount is on offer at the time. Both of these subscription plans give you exactly the same thing; the only difference is whether you pay in one go or over six months.
With Online Access you can use Rocket Russian on a phone, computer or tablet and the lifetime offer also includes free updates for life, a 24/7 forum (it’s completely dead), 24/7 email access (could be useful) and a 60 days no-questions-asked-money-back-guarantee (definitely useful).
Despite all the various offers, I still found the prices for Rocket Russian to be a bit steep considering what’s included, and I don’t think I’d really recommend the course to anyone even if it were free.
Although beginners will certainly learn some basic words and phrases as well as a bit about the country, I think that you’d definitely have more success with a different course.
Due to its many deficiencies, I find it impossible to recommend Rocket Russian to prospective learners — the content just isn’t that good, and you can certainly find much better resources for better value if you just shop around a bit.
While Rocket Russian is easy to use and appears to be very well designed, more time and effort, unfortunately, seems to have gone into making it look good rather than making it be good.
Although beginners will definitely learn some basic Russian words and phrases, one of the main problems is that you learn everything in isolation, and so I think it’s unlikely you’d be able to actually use them in a sentence. While there are lots of different exercises for you to work through, these all rely heavily on memorization, and the repetitive nature of the lessons means that Rocket Russian quickly gets quite boring to use.
As you would have to use it alongside at least another resource or two to stand any chance of progressing beyond a beginner level, for the price quoted and the quality of the material itself, I think you’re probably better off giving Rocket Russian a skip.
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