Whether you plan to compete in today’s global market or simply want to try something new, speaking Japanese is an essential language skill to acquire in the modern world. Spoken primarily in Japan as the national language, approximately 128 million people speak Japanese as a first language.
Written Japanese uses the Chinese characters (kanji), and much of its compound words (made of 2 or more characters) were originally derived from Chinese.
Mostly a phonetic language, Japanese does not use any articles. Nouns do not have a masculine or feminine connotation, and verbs are generally only conjugated for tense. Sentence structure is topic-comment format, which can be a bit confusing as the ‘topic’ is not always the ‘subject.’
If you are ready to give learning to speak Japanese a shot, check out our comprehensive Rocket Japanese review below.
Rocket Japanese Review: Summary
Price: Available only as a one-time lifetime payment: Level 1 ($149.95), levels 1 & 2 ($299.90), levels 1, 2 & 3 ($449.85). Coupons exist and they offer a generous 60-day returns policy.
Description: The award-winning Rocket Languages brings you Rocket Japanese for students of Japanese. The company promises (and mostly delivers) a powerful language learning platform with practical lessons that are proven to work. Boasting their Mastery Method, Rocket Japanese builds on research of those who speak more than one language and actual science to effectively teach Japanese.
In a Nutshell: The course is well-structured, comprehensive and thorough, covering everything you need from writing to culture. Though expensive, the authentic dialogues and fully downloadable audio lessons are invaluable for any serious learner of Japanese, providing years of progression through the 3 difficulty levels.
Quality of Learning Materials:
Quantity of Lessons:
Effective and Efficient:
Teaches Useful Phrases:
Overall Score: 3.6
Rocket Japanese Review: Overview
So is Rocket Japanese really worth your time and money?
First, let’s dive right into how the course works. You can try everything out for yourself free of charge for the first 7 days by only giving them your email. You’ll have access to the first few lessons of each level to try out for yourself.
Initially, you’ll be taken to the main dashboard. On the left you can see the 3 difficulty levels (beginner to advanced). Clicking on each level will reveal the 3 lesson types and survival kit, which are:
You can filter out a specific lesson type by clicking on one of them, otherwise you can access the full course on the right, & scroll through all the different modules. There are 21 modules in total, spread evenly across the 3 levels – an enormous 380 hours of lesson time. Let’s have a look at each lesson type in more detail.
The Pros: Good Points Of Rocket Japanese
The efficiency and flexibility of the program won it major points with us. Here’s what we liked best:
Pro #1: Mobile and Desktop Applications
We like that Rocket Japanese has a well-developed app for learning on-the-go. This allows you to listen to your lessons while stuck in traffic or on the subway. When you are at home or on break at the office, you can use the desktop platform.
Pro #2: Short and Flexible Lessons
If you would like to go over the vocabulary list prior to taking the lesson, no problem! Rocket Japanese lets you customize the way you learn. You can even download PDF files to study over at a later time offline. Learning tools accompanying the lessons are innovative and allow you to speak and be spoken to by native speakers.
Pro #3: Balances All Skill Types
We love how the program is broken down into these different lesson types, giving you a chance to practice everything in a varied fashion. It also prevents you from getting too bored by mixing things up just when you need a break.
Pro #4: Covers Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana & Romanji
Unlike other language programs, all the Japanese writing styles are covered in Rocket Japanese, including the Hiragana and Katakana. Special effort has been made also to allow you to toggle on and off the writing systems as you need. By having the different lesson types you get introduced to the writing system right from the beginning which really helps to tie everything together.
Pro #5: Great Customer Support
Once you commit to a lifetime membership, you can be confident that the program is going to continually improve and grow. Rather than a stagnant course, it’s more of an encyclopedia with content being added all the time and new updates coming out. The support team are available through chat to answer any questions and are generally very responsive and helpful.
The Cons: Bad Points Of Rocket Japanese
There were a few things we didn’t love about Rocket Japanese. Here’s what stood out to us:
Con #1: Too Much Time Spent on Explanations
A Japanese portion of the lesson is spoken and then an English explanation is given. These explanations can be a little wordy and include corny jokes — so if you don’t share the humor, it can be frustrating. Users have reported being distracted by this and forgetting the previous section they just learned in Japanese.
Con #2: Slow Pace, Too Much English
Again, the audio lessons are far from perfect. We found the pace to be on the slow end, and unfortunately many learners might get bored before finishing the lesson. Most of the audio is in English – explaining all the content. Whilst this does help to clarify everything, it’s important when learning a language to be immersed in authentic material as much as possible, so we’d like to see more content in authentic Japanese.
Con #3: Rocket Record Barely Works
The idea behind the voice recognition technology is great, however it doesn’t seem to work properly and isn’t very useful. We tested it out by making basic deliberate errors and it still gave us a score of 100, and likewise a perfect pronunciation sometimes gets a score of 50 or less for no reason. Despite this, it’s still very useful to at least playback your own audio so you can compare your pronunciation alongside a native speaker.
Con #4: Inactive Forum
We found many of the articles to be quite old and many posts were left unanswered. This means that either there’s not a huge number of learners using the forum or that there’s a more preferable forum elsewhere for students to ask questions and share ideas. This is a shame since the forum could be an excellent resource if kept up-to-date with an active community of learners.
Con #5: Memorisation-Heavy
All of the practice activities and drilling methods rely solely on memorisation – an outdated learning method that doesn’t work for everyone. If you complete all the lessons and exercises then for sure you will develop an excellent understanding of Japanese, well on the way to fluency. However, it’s likely that boredom will quickly set in with all the memorisation activities.
Other courses use clever mnemonic devices, songs, stories and videos to reinforce what you’ve learnt. Unfortunately, Rocket Japanese is quite old fashioned in this regard and relies too heavily on brute force memory tactics.
What are the Lessons Like?
Each lesson type focuses on a different aspect of the language and they alternate throughout the course, keeping everything fresh and interesting.
1) Audio Lessons
The first type of lessons focuses specifically on listening and speaking skills, centered around an authentic everyday conversation. You are provided with an audio track in which the tutor(s) break down the dialogue, reviews previous content and introduces new vocabulary and phrases. They can vary in length from 15 minutes up to an hour and can be played in both the desktop version and the app.
Next you have the ‘Play it’ feature, which walks you through the dialogue and allows you to record yourself and get graded out of 100 using their voice recognition software. We like how you can actually participate in the dialogue by selecting a specific role and saying only those parts of the dialogue.
You then have a long list of vocabulary that has the same recording function as the lines in the dialogue.
2) Language & Culture Lessons
These lessons go deep into the grammar, breaking down how the language works and providing you with the building blocks to construct your own sentences (very essential for such a unique language like Japanese). Again, you can use rocket record to practice out loud the examples that are given.
We like the ‘Action Replay’ section at the bottom which nicely summarises everything in the lesson. Below that, you’ll find the culture lesson which teaches you about Japanese traditions, culture and history. For example, you’ll learn all about the origin of the Japanese characters, Japan’s strict respect culture, and eating etiquette.
3) Writing Lessons
The writing lessons slowly introduce you to the Japanese script, starting with Hiragana, Katakana, and then finally the Kanji characters. There’s an interactive tool that allows you to draw the characters using the correct stroke order. You get a mark out of 100 on this too, just like the rocket record.
4) Reinforcement Activities
Finally the reinforcement activities are at the end of every lesson (all 3 types), called ‘Rocket Reinforcement’. This is how they expect you to drill what you’ve learnt and test yourself on your newly-acquired knowledge. The activities are as follows:
- Flashcards: Translate between Japanese & English, rating each word on how difficult you found it.
- Hear it! Say it! Similar to flashcards, you have to say each word and rate it on how difficult it was for you to pronounce.
- Know it! You are given the English and you have to translate & pronounce the word in Japanese (the answer is blurred out until you hit ‘reveal’).
- Quiz: Multiple choice questions to test what you’ve learnt.
- Play it! Jumps back up to the dialogue again.
There’s also some extra testing tools for characters that might not have been covered in the lesson. These are:
- Sort it! Kana: Hear the Japanese and sort the characters into the correct order.
- Sort it! Kanji: Sort the characters as they would normally be written in Japan (in Kanji).
5) Survival Kit Lessons
The survival kit lessons aren’t really lessons at all but rather lists of useful vocab and phrases. You can dip into them at any time since unlike the other lessons they don’t build upon each other.
Extra Features & Learning Tools
There’s a few other handy features that’s built directly into the program to aid you in your learning and motivate you along your studies.
Firstly, you can save a word or phrase at any time during the lessons using the ‘Save Vocab’ tool (you simply highlight a word and select ‘save vocab’). All of the saved items will appear in your toolkit for you to review at any time. You can also add notes to any item. Once you’ve highlighted a word, the program will also suggest possible alternatives that you can add too.
Next, you have the notes feature. You can find this on the left hand side during any lesson. Your notes will automatically be saved for you to pick up again whenever you re-enter that lesson. All your notes are also saved in one place in your toolkit (under settings).
It’s nice to see that they’ve included a leaderboard that displays your current position, how many points you’ve earnt (by completing lessons), and your current learning streak – just like in Duolingo, for example. This is a great way to keep you motivated and build a regular study habit. You can see your progress visually in a handy graph.
Finally, there’s a forum for students to post their own articles or ask questions about their learning or anything to do with the Japanese language. We found lots of interesting topics like how covid has affected people’s learning, interesting words found only in the Japanese language, and beautiful places to visit in Japan.
What’s New In Rocket Japanese For 2023?
Since 2019 when we wrote our original review (in the sections below), there’s been some pretty big updates to Rocket Japanese in 2020 and 2021.
Here are some of the most notable updates:
We were able to test out the new features and were impressed with the time and thought that they’ve put in.
It seems like they’ve listened to past criticism and specifically improved those aspects. For example, improving the notations and literal translations, and making sure the level components correspond to levels on the JLPT. These are the biggest improvements in our opinion.
The Draw It Kanji practice function (screenshot below) is also a welcome improvement, and works well if you’re studying on a tablet or mobile. That said, it’s not really workable if you study with a regular laptop and trackpad.
Who Is Rocket Japanese For?
Rocket Japanese is recommended for anyone who:
Who Is Rocket Japanese NOT For?
Language learning software is hardly a one-size-fits-all investment. Those who might not benefit from something like Rocket Japanese include those who:
Rocket Japanese vs. The Competition
You can find quite a few free and subscription-based programs that claim to quickly and effectively teach you to speak Japanese. Which ones are worth the hype and how does Rocket Japanese compare? Let’s take a look at some competitors.
Rocket Japanese vs. JapanesePod101
One of the most well-known programs out there, and probably one of the first language programs you will find when searching is JapanesePod101. It is set up very much like Rocket Japanese with immersive learning from a logical standpoint that builds upon previous lessons.
They break down their syllabus into individual lesson ‘pathways’ that each focus on a different topic or skill. The lessons are audio or video based, following a similar structure to Rocket Japanese, with an authentic dialogue, vocab list, cultural insights and grammar bank.
Both programs offer substantial content with both apps and desktop versions, so you can learn anywhere. The biggest difference between the two is that JapanesePod101 has a monthly subscription service instead of one-time payment.
Rocket Japanese vs. FluentU
FluentU takes a unique approach to language learning by adding subtitles and interactive captions to mostly YouTube videos. While this can certainly be entertaining, comprehensive content with grammar lessons is lacking. There is no real structure to this approach and though it could definitely be used as a secondary program, it really isn’t suited for beginners seeking fluency. FluentU also charges on a monthly or yearly basis.
Rocket Japanese vs. Rosetta Stone Japanese
Rosetta Stone Japanese offers both a monthly subscription plan and a lifetime access plan so you have options. Like Rocket Japanese, they offer an integrated voice recognition tool to help you fine-tune your pronunciation. Lessons can be learned on desktop or mobile app and are as short as 10 minutes long. Tutoring is available for an additional monthly fee.
Is Rocket Japanese Worth the Money?
When you consider the amount of learning material included with Rocket Japanese, we think it’s worth the money. If you were to compare the cost of attending a language learning class at a college or university, Rocket Japanese ends up being many times more affordable.
One thing we really liked about Rocket Japanese is that they offer a free trial, so you can see if their course fits your learning style.
Rocket Japanese Review: Conclusion
Overall, Rocket Japanese is a great learning resource made for motivated students of Japanese. Whilst it does have it’s issues, it’s an all encompassing comprehensive course with everything you need to reach fluency in the Japanese language.
They’ve already come a long way in terms of improving the course, however in the future, we’d like to see some more issues being ironed out – for example we’d like to see the flashcard feature being able to test you on everything you’ve learnt from the other lessons, not just the current lessons. Better assessments, especially for writing would be very beneficial also. The content, generally, could also do with a facelift, especially compared with it’s far more engaging competitor, JapanesePod101.
The one-time fee (as opposed to a monthly subscription model) means that you set the timeline on your learning and you’re free to jump around the lessons as you wish. At any time, you can take the benchmark test to check your level and see how your language level has progressed.
All in all, whilst pricey, Rocket Japanese is one of the more comprehensive courses out there for learning Japanese, especially at the lower levels. It does everything very well (from culture to grammar, vocab to writing), but nothing exceptionally. Their ‘Mastery Method’, whilst clunky, does provide a logical way to learn, retain and use Japanese in everyday life.
For beginners in Japanese, we can safely recommend Rocket Japanese as a great comprehensive program. All that said, for more advanced Japanese learners, Rocket Japanese might not have enough content for your level, and we might instead recommend JapanesePod101.
Our Editorial Team is a group of language learning enthusiasts who are passionate about testing new apps and finding the best ways to learn a language.