Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rocket Languages

Over the summer I was asked if I would review Rocket Languages, a language learning company that sells online and physical media for language learning. I'm not typically the language course type (I prefer to buy grammars and dictionaries and dig through them with no hope of ever speaking the language conversationally), but I had a lot of fun poking around the online course I was given access to (the Premium online version of the Beginning German course). I found the site set up easy to navigate, with a simple table-of-contents style interface to choose lessons from. I've checked out sites in the past that make it virtually impossible to do one thing at a time and then come back to the content later, so this was a plus for me. As always, I wanted more overt grammatical content (one of the reasons I've never tried Rosetta Stone), but overall there was a decent balance between learning conversational phrases and looking at things like verb conjugations (biased towards the former, as with most popular language courses). There's also a handy "My Vocabulary" section where you can save words you find interesting or difficult to memorize for later reference. The feature I was able to use the least (because of my own busy schedule) is probably also the most exciting: the site has a community section where people can post about their language learning experiences. I think this is a great feature of Rocket Languages, and one I haven't yet encountered elsewhere (though surely it has been done before). The only way to learn a language is to use it, so the forum feature is in my opinion a necessary component to online course, even though many lack it.

In summary: if what you're looking for is an online language course, I can recommend Rocket Languages more than most. Note that for those who are looking for CDs, these are included at the higher levels. As with any online course, you're not going to be a fluent speaker just because you completed the course, but the forum feature goes some way toward encouraging learning to actually use the language rather than just reading about it. While this is no replacement for oral conversation, it's definitely a step up from just reading and listening on your own. For those who are turned off by the high price tag ($299.95 for physical media, $149.95 for online), they have a promotion through November 7 where you can gain access to the online version for $99.95.

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