Note: The Rocket Chinese program received some major updates in the fall of 2020 for the 2021 Version. We’ve updated our Rocket Chinese review below to reflect the changes.
With more people speaking a variation of Chinese than any other, it only seems smart that you should learn this valuable language. Among the varieties, which are mutually unintelligible to each variety’s speaker, are Mandarin, Wu, Min, Gan, Hakka, Xiang and Cantonese.
Regardless, learning to speak Chinese can be a challenging conquest. If you are considering trying to learn this language, you may be wondering the best way to do so. Check out our review of Rocket Chinese below for more information on just one of the many language-learning programs out there today.
Overview of Rocket Chinese
Rocket Chinese (Mandarin), a part of the award-winning Rocket Languages, recently released an updated version for 2021. If you have never heard of Rocket Languages, it is an online-based language learning program that offers true on-the-go learning for self-starters.
The program not only uses pinyin, but focuses on learning written Chinese characters, or Hanzi, as well. Rocket Chinese offers a number of ways to learn along with learning tools and tips. If you need a quick lesson for travel purposes, it’s easy to use their new Survival Kit to learn the basics. Other features included with Rocket Chinese include:
- audio lessons
- culture and language lessons
- learning strategies and tips to keep motivated
- track your progress
- leaderboard with other users
- forums to talk to other users
- quizzes and flash cards
Rocket Chinese: The Details
Name: Rocket Chinese
Price: One-time payment of $149.95 for Level 1 — Beginner to Intermediate; $299.90 for Levels 1 & 2 — Beginner to Advanced; $449.85 for Levels 1, 2 & 3 — Beginner to Advanced. However, you can get from $50 to $190 off these prices with special coupon codes.
A payment plan is now available for the entire lesson series — Beginner to Advanced — for just $47 a month for six months.
Operating Systems: Mac, Windows, Android, iOS
Application Category: Language Learning Program
What We Like About Rocket Chinese
No Subscription/Flexible Payment Options
Unlike most language-learning programs, Rocket Chinese does not charge a monthly subscription fee. Instead, you pay a one-time fee for the lesson, and it is completely up to you how many lessons you wish to purchase.
Additionally, if you purchase all three lessons, you can set up a monthly payment plan, so you don’t have to fork over the money all at once.
Comprehensive Lessons with Transcripts
Each audio lesson is taught by two instructors, and at least one is a native speaker. The dialogue is engaging, and you are often prompted to repeat what you hear. At the end of the lesson is a transcript of the dialogue you just went over. You can even use this to follow along during the lesson. We think that seeing what you are hearing helps to store the information to memory.
Simple and Easy-To-Use Dashboard
The newly-revamped dashboard makes the program super-easy to use. Rocket Languages listened to customer complaints about being confused with the old dashboard and took it to heart. You now have a clean, updated dashboard to check your progress on the leaderboard, personal progress, change lessons, and access all learning tools.
What We Don’t Like About Rocket Chinese
The Lessons Skip Around
By this, we mean that lessons do not always feel very linear and can jump from subject to subject. Instructors sometimes input their own jokes or takes on the lesson that aren’t necessarily relevant at that particular time, and it can take away from the instruction.
Exercises can be Repetitive
We get it, repetition is a big part of learning another language, but many of these exercises are exactly the same as others with just a few words changed up. This kind of repetition can get boring really quickly and make you less interested in pursuing your course.
Not the Best for Advanced Speakers
If you already have a good base in Chinese, you will probably need to look elsewhere for more in-depth and advanced teaching. We think Rocket Chinese can be valuable mostly for beginning to low-intermediate learners, but there is simply less content for advanced speakers.
What are the Lessons Like?
Rocket Chinese is based mostly around audio lessons and transcripts. You will also find lessons in reading and writing. The transcripts allow you to follow along with what you hear. Written lessons give quite a bit of detail about certain aspects of Chinese such as when and how to use certain words.
There are also a variety of activities that accompany lessons including Sort It!, Write It!, Hear It!/Say It!, flashcards and quizzes. These can help to practice what you’ve learned and give you some experience writing, listening and speaking. You can also keep up with your progress with regular quizzes.
Additionally, most lessons include a brief culture lesson to give you more insight into Chinese.
Rocket Chinese vs. Competition
Rocket Chinese vs. ChineseClass101
ChineseClass101 is a part of Innovative Language’s Pod101 courses. Like Rocket Chinese, it provides an in-depth learning of the Chinese language including grammar essentials, cultural norms and Chinese characters. It also builds upon each level to increase your overall understanding with a guided, academic learning pathway. ChineseClass101 has three monthly subscription levels to choose from ranging in price from $8 to $47.
Rocket Chinese vs. Pimsleur Chinese
Pimsleur Chinese is a language-learning program based upon organic learning. It consists mostly of audio lessons, which can be a drawback for learning Chinese characters, writing and reading. However, Pimsleur’s method is based on the idea that you learn another language the same way you learned your native language—by listening and repeating what you hear. There is a monthly subscription fee of $19.95 for premium service.
Rocket Chinese vs. Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is one of the classics in language learning for good reason. You can either purchase a lifetime membership or pay a monthly subscription fee. Like Rocket Chinese, it offers a structured course to learn to speak the language. We found that most of the practice exercises are multiple choice, and this doesn’t give students as much leeway to learn variations of the language.
Is Rocket Chinese a Good Investment?
With the latest updates for 2021, we have to say that Rocket Chinese is right up there with some of the most comprehensive language-learning programs. The price point is on par with other programs, and it is much cheaper than taking a college course in Chinese.
Rocket Chinese Review Summary
We like that Rocket Chinese listened to customer feedback to improve their platform. With that being said, we feel it is an easy-to-use, in-depth way to learn to read, write and speak Mandarin Chinese. The serious student should have no problem achieving fluency by completing all three courses. Since there is no recurring monthly fee, students can take their time learning and committing Chinese to memory.