Indeed it seems as there is almost a one-size-fits-all approach to the courses that Rocket Languages offers up as I found that the Russian course had almost all of the same problems as the other two.
Although it is mostly aimed at 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. While I appreciated the fact that in these they place a heavier emphasis on using Russian, I’m not entirely sure how you’d ever expect to get to that level through 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 some serious deficiencies in terms of the actual content.
For instance, there are loads of exercises for you to work through but 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 again believe that beginners would learn at least some useful words, phrases and grammar points in Russian, I fail to see how Rocket Russian would take you very far. As such you are much better off into looking into other resources such as RussianPod101 which is much more comprehensive in terms of what it offers up.
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 aimed at absolute beginners and so most of the course content is not suitable for more advanced learners.
Level 1 is made up of eight different modules and each of them includes Interactive Audio Lessons, Language and Culture Lessons and Writing Lessons for you to work through while a couple of Survival Kit Lessons are also thrown in here and there.
In general, there are around four or five of each type of lesson on offer in each of the modules. The eighth and final module however simply has one lesson where you can check out all of the conversations that you have gone over while following the course.
In total there are 144 hours of lesson time for you to work through with there respectively being 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, all of them have various exercises for you to work through that focus on you retaining the information and learning how to read, write, speak and understand the words and phrases you come across in the classes and at the end of each lesson there is a short quiz for you to complete.
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 whereby 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 a more in-depth look at what the lessons actually involve. For this review, I signed up for the 6-day free trial and this gets you access to the first three lessons of each type in Module 1.
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 and there are quite a number of different ones for you to choose from ranging from English and Hindi to Japanese and Russian.
After clicking on your language of choice, so in this case Russian, you are taken to your home page where you can then start to explore the platform.
You will immediately notice however that there is quite a sizeable ‘Early Bird Sale’ banner at the bottom of the page and now that you’ve given Rocket Languages your email, you will, unfortunately, be bombarded with emails from them encouraging you to purchase a subscription.
To get started you can either watch a short seven-minute video which 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 up by simply working through the lessons, the video is quite thorough and so it may be worth watching just so you know absolutely 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 up.
After clicking on the audio, you’re first introduced to your presenter and two native speakers before being told that each lesson involves ‘listening, repeating, comparing, learning and having fun’ – the latter said in the most monotonous, non-expressive voice ever.
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’ where the presenter asks you 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.
Once you have finished listening to the audio, you then have a number of exercises for you to work through and these help you engage with the material in various ways.
First up is the ‘Play it!’ section where you 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 as 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.
You then have some extra vocabulary for you to work your way through before the next section which is called ‘Hear it! Say it!’. In this part of the lesson, you hear a recording of the words and phrases that featured in the lesson play and you then say it out loud yourself whereby you are again given a rating of how well you pronounced it.
After this comes the ‘Know it!’ section which is 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 quiz for you to complete which again tests just how much of the content you have retained and to really hammer home all of the vocabulary you have gone over. There is then a deck of flashcards for you to work through and you’re meant to rate how hard you found it to either say or remember each word or phrase.
The final section is the ‘Write it!’ section and here you are asked to write out the words you hear in the Cyrillic alphabet. Obviously, you can skip this section if you haven’t yet learned how to write down all of the characters.
As you can see there are quite a number of different ways that you can work through the material and as you get a rating for each section you complete, you’ll soon find that your dashboard is full of yellows, reds and greens which show how well you did on each part of each lesson.
Let’s now take a look at what some of the later lessons look like and what else the platform has to offer up.
Lessons on Rocket Russian
Apart from the presenters being generally quite expressionless and monotonous, the sheer amount of English used was disheartening and 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.
After the first fifteen minute-long lesson, for example, you can opt to listen to the dialogue you have just listened to and this amounts to all of ten seconds.
While I realize that it’s the first lesson and you’re being introduced to a new language, I still found the time of actual spoken Russian to be very low and things don’t improve much in the second twenty minute-long lesson as this time it amounts to just thirty seconds.
While 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 severely lacking and poorly thought-out.
Each lesson, for instance, has numerous ways which you can interact with the material but as we’ve seen above, all of the various features pretty much get you memorising the same thing over and over again just in different formats.
While they do get you reading, writing down, listening and pronouncing the various words and phrases that you cover in each class, they never really build upon one another and so you end up learning them all in isolation. This means that you essentially end up memorizing them and can then only use them in the specific scenarios which you are familiar with.
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 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 try and do everything but not to a high standard.
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 the exercises that they have to offer up, I’m almost certain they don’t as the exercises we mentioned above remain the same throughout all the lessons that are available through the trial.
After working your way through the first few Interactive Lessons you can then make your way onto the Language and Culture Lessons and here you learn about various aspects of Russian grammar and culture.
Instead of listening to an audio, 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 about how you can use them in a sentence.
Unfortunately another interminable round of Hear it! Say it! and then Know it! pops up before you then go over the same material again in the quiz which is followed by uninspiring flashcards.
The third type of lessons that make up the main bulk of the course are the Writing Lessons 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 and, well, that’s actually all these lessons amount to and 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 again eight modules with each of them being made up of four classes which 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 as you also find whole paragraphs written in the Cyrillic alphabet for you to decipher.
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 through solely using 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.
While I generally liked the content and the dialogues that they took you through, annoyingly enough there was nowhere where you could just listen to the whole conversation in one go.
As such, you had to either listen to various words and phrases in isolation or play the role of one of the people in the conversation without actually ever having heard how to say the sentence before.
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?’.
These classes, however, were great for introducing you to a lot more vocabulary with much of it being very practical things which you’d need to use while traveling around Russia. The downside though was that each class was again accompanied by numerous Rocket Reinforcement exercises which I imagine any sane person would be fed up with by now.
After this, you also have the My Tools section which you can check out.
While there’s not much 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 also have your own flashcards section and your own vocabulary section where you can add various words and phrases you’ve come across during the course.
All in all, I came away with the impression that Rocket Russian looks really good and is very easy to use but that the core content is severely lacking in quality.
The lessons, for example, just don’t seem that well-thought-out and the myriad of different exercises which 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 and 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 such as the cost, the boredom factor and the learning method for it to be worthwhile and 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 it’s content and teaching methods useful and want to continue once your free 6-day trial expires.
As you will come to notice, the platform is constantly flashing up banners of various sales and should you not choose to sign up immediately, you’ll also receive emails from time to time with their latest offer.
Consequently, it is very unlikely that anyone actually ever pays the full amount and just clicking on their ‘Early Bird Sale’ and their ‘Back to School Sale’ – literally one day after the other – saw the price drop around $40. As such it is a bit hard to say for certain what prices you’ll find at any one time for the Rocket Russian course.
In general, however, on the one day of the year where there are no sales, an Online Access 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 and this includes 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 and this will work out at $27/ per month or $10.80 or $19 depending 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 other resources.
Due to its many deficiencies, it is impossible to recommend Rocket Russian to prospective learners as the content just isn’t that good and you can certainly find way better resources which are much better value if you just shop around a bit.
While Rocket Russian is sleek 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 it is 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 classes 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.