Rocket Japanese is an innovative online Japanese course. We’re big fans of this program, but please remember that the best way to learn Japanese differs for everybody. We’ve tried to set out both the pros and the cons of Rocket Japanese here to give a balanced review. If you’re interested in learning Japanese online, have a read through our review and see if it could be right for you.
By the way, it’s worth nothing that Rocket Japanese has made some pretty major upgrades over the last couple of years, so don’t rely on an older write-up. This is a fresh new review of the Rocket Japanese 2017 Edition.
How do I learn Japanese?
Learning a language can be hard. Everybody knows that. Sadly scientists have not yet invented a way to plug a memory chip into your brain and download a new language. It takes time and consistency to become fluent in another language.
If you’re serious about learning to speak Japanese, you need to make it fun. You need to make sure your studying habits are effective.
Without this, you’re just wasting your time – and you’ll likely get bored and quit.
Rocket Japanese know this.
Their unique online Japanese language learning software is based on years of research and development. It’s designed to get you speaking and understanding Japanese as quickly and as effectively as possible.
What’s more, the course is full of different bite-sized tasks, activities and audio tracks to keep you interested and motivated. There’s no point plugging through a dry textbook when you could be learning through interactive and immersive activities.
The course is also structured to fit into a busy lifestyle. Study what you want, when you want, and take things at your own pace.
This is why, after thorough testing, we’re happy to recommend Rocket Japanese as our #1 pick for the best way to learn Japanese online.
If this sounds good so far, you can always check it out with a no-commitment free trial here (no credit card required: all you need is an email address).
The core of each lesson is an audio lesson of approximately 30 minutes. Each audio lesson is structured around a short conversation in Japanese between the two presenters.
Your teachers for the first few lessons are Kenny and Sayaka, but more presenters are introduced later to keep things interesting.
The two presenters model the conversation and explain new words, grammar points and cultural insights. As you get further on through the course, each lesson will also review previous lessons.
Each conversation is based around an everyday situation you might encounter in Japan. Throughout the course you’ll cover everything: from social events such as going to a sushi bar, karaoke place or cherry blossom viewing party, to the practical situations that are essential if you live in Japan or ever plan to move there, such opening a bank account, going to hospital, and even attending a job interview.
You can either listen to the audio lessons through the Rocket Japanese interface, or download it onto your phone or media player to listen on the go. This is really handy for commuters!
After (or during) the main audio lesson, you can check the transcript down below the audio file. Here you can review and practise what you’ve learned by replaying the conversation one line at a time. This section also has each line written out in Japanese, romaji and English – great for visual learners who don’t want to rely on audio alone.
What’s more, you can record and play back yourself saying each line, to compare your accent to the teachers!
In our opinion, this line-by-line replayable transcript in one of the best features of Rocket Japanese. It really helps you memorise and practise each new phrase.
You can also download a PDF with the full transcript of each conversation, plus lesson notes and extra vocabulary.
Then, you have a whole range of different tests, quizzes and interactive activities, designed to solidify your new words.
What else do I need to know about Rocket Japanese lessons?
In total, each lesson takes roughly between an hour and 90 minutes to complete. That includes the 30 minutes audio, plus time going through the supplementary activities to memorise the vocab and practise what you’ve learned.
In practise, it’s probably best to break this up over several days, since research shows we learn things better when we constantly come back to them. The structure of Rocket Japanese – with its many bite-sized tasks – is perfect for this.
The modules are all designed to build on previous lessons, so it’s best to go through them in order. However, paid members can hop around and access any module at any time.
This is useful if you want to skip ahead to certain content (for example, maybe you need to learn airport vocabulary before a trip), or simply browse through to get excited about what’s coming.
This is one feature that sets Rocket Japanese apart from similar language learning programs, where you’re often locked out of advanced modules until you’ve completed the early ones.
Alongside the main audio-based lessons, the Rocket Japanese program has a whole other supplementary course in Japanese culture.
These lessons will teach you essential cultural knowledge such as when and how to use ‘san’ after somebody’s name, what’s the deal with bowing in Japan, and how to use different politeness levels in Japanese speech.
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll know that politeness and formality are way more important than in many other countries. In our opinion, you can’t learn Japanese without also developing this kind of cultural awareness. This is another thing that sets Rocket Japanese apart.
So, what do you actually get?
Each and every Rocket Japanese lesson has all of the following features:
- Main audio lesson of around 30 minutes: listen online or download. You can actually download all audio lessons in one go (unlike some courses where you have to do it one by one). This is a great feature that allows you to load up your phone and study on the go.
- Downloadable PDF with the lesson’s new words and phrases: great for printing out and reviewing on the go!
- Conversation transcripts: replay the new phrases line-by-line until you learn how to say them.
- Voice recognition software to help you improve your accent, even without a native speaker to correct you! Record yourself and play back to compare to the teacher’s voice. It will also give you a score so you can see how close you are.
- Additional audio: related new words and phrases that were not covered in the main conversation.
- Hear it! Say it! feature to test your listening skills.
- Short tests for your reading, writing and memory.
- Multiple choice quizzes to check your learning.
- Play it! This is a really cool feature that lets you take part in an actual conversation. Say you want to practise Kenny’s role. Sayaka’s audio will play, and you will be prompted to respond. There are 5 different levels, so you start out reading Kenny’s part as written and progress to saying the whole thing.
These are not part of the individual lesson modules but they are part of the overall Rocket Japanese course.
- Dashboard: shows which lessons you’ve completed and which are still to come.
- Writing modules: these are separate to the main lessons. There are lessons to teach you each of the three main Japanese scripts: hiragana, katakana and kanji. There are videos teaching the stroke order for each character, so you’ll not only learn what each character should look like, but also how to write it correctly yourself.
- Forums: run your questions or comments by other students and professional tutors.
- Survival kit: these are special modules for cramming vocabulary related to certain topics such as food, health and travel. Ideal if you’re planning a trip or need to brush up on essential Japanese quickly. These survival kits actually sell separately on the Rocket Languages website for $49.95 each, but they currently come as a free gift when you buy the Premium package!
- Flashcards: create your own set, or use a pre made set shared by another user. As you work through the flashcards, you can rate each word by difficulty. Then you can easily review the difficult cards.
- Awesome search function which allows you to search for a new word in lessons, phrases, the forum or your own notes.
- Rocket Japanese app for iOS and Android. This syncs with the desktop version so that you can pick up where you left off and study on the go.
- Members-only articles and language learning tips, such as How to Make Friends With Grammar and Memory Tips and Tricks.
- Optional weekly ‘Rocket Fuel’ emails with a weekly Japanese phrase and a summary of your points and progress over the week. These are a nice little reminder to get back on track if you’ve been too busy to log in!
- Badges, points and leaderboard: if you’re the competitive type, these features will keep you motivated! The more you learn, the more points you collect. The leaderboard will show you how you rank among all the other students on the course!
- Optional CDs: Rocket Japanese is an online course which is accessible instantly, from any computer. However, if you have a shaky internet connection or online isn’t your thing, you also have the option to purchase it as a 20 CD set. This means you can install the software on your computer and access any time, without worrying about internet outages! Please note that there is an extra charge if you want physical CDs.
What’s wrong with Rocket Japanese?
We’ve yet to find a perfect Japanese learning course out there. Although Rocket Japanese is the best we’ve tried so far, we do want to share some of our criticisms, in case any of them are a deal-breaker for you:
- The audio lessons are each taught by two teachers: one Japanese, and one English speaker (usually Kenny). In general, we would rather learn just from native speakers. However, some advantages from learning from a fellow English speaker are that he usually speaks more slowly than his Japanese counterparts, his accent is easier to understand, and its nice to feel that he’s been in the same boat as you as a learner, and understands what’s likely to be tricky for you! There is also loads of audio input from native Japanese speakers, so you don’t have to worry that your accent will suffer.
- As with learning any language on your own, you won’t be getting much speaking practise. But to make up for it, there is the voice recognition software to improve your accent and the forum to ask grammar questions. You can always supplement the course by finding language exchange partners on HelloTalk or Italki.
- There’s no placement test. Rocket Japanese is suitable for all levels, from beginner to advanced. However, if you already know a little bit of Japanese, it might not be clear where to begin. Having said that, you do have full access to all modules from the start, so you can easily jump about until you find a level that suits you – there’s no need to work your way through from the beginning.
- The forum is not super active at the time of writing. We would like to see faster responses to our questions, and maybe more input from the tutors to get conversation started.
Is Rocket Japanese worth the price?
This is the big question for anyone looking to invest in language learning software. Most language learning programs do not come cheap, simply because so much time and effort goes into developing an effective course.
So, is Rocket Japanese worth it?
In our opinion, yes. Compared to similar courses, Rocket Japanese offers exceptional value for what you get.
The standard price for the Premium course (Level 1: beginner to intermediate level) is $149.95.
But at the time of writing, it’s just $99.95.
If you study every day for one year, that’s only 27 cents per day!
Even at full price, given the amount of content in this course, it works out at less than $1 per hour of tuition! This is crazy value that you really can’t find anywhere else.
Please note that the $99.95 price is a limited time deal and the prices may have changed by the time you read this. To check current prices, click here!
The course is available in three levels. Level 1 takes you from beginner to intermediate level. Level 2 takes you up to very good conversational level. And Level 3 takes you to advanced conversational level.
If you’re serious about becoming fluent in Japanese, it’s well worth it to buy ‘The Works’ package. This covers all three levels. You can always start with Level 1 and buy Level 2 and 3 separately when you get there. However, the savings are HUGE if you buy all three in one go.
It’s also really important to note that with Rocket Japanese, the cost is a one-off charge that gets you lifetime access – including any updates. This is a big deal:
When you buy a traditional software package from most other providers, you are paying for that version and that version only. If they bring out a brand new, updated version the next month – too bad, you have to pay again. Other providers will charge you a recurring monthly fee, which often means you end up paying even when you’re not actively using the service.
60 day guarantee
According to user feedback surveys, 97% of Rocket Japanese Premium users agree that the course is good value for money.
But what if you’re not one of them? Well, the course is so confident in their ability to teach you Japanese that they offer a pretty amazing 60 day guarantee.
CEO Jason Oxenham promises that if you’re not happy with the course – or even if you simply decide you don’t have the time to learn Japanese at this point in your life – you can get a full refund with no questions asked. You simply have to email the sales team. A whole 60 days to test out the program and make a decision is a very generous policy and really speaks to the company’s confidence in their product.
How to buy?
If you’re ready to buy, you can sign up for lifetime access to Rocket Japanese at this link.
The easiest way to pay is by credit card or PayPal online. It’s also possible to pay by direct debit, check or Western Union.
All things considered, Rocket Japanese is amazing value for money, considering the huge amount of content that you get for the price.
What are other people saying?
Based on our experience testing out Rocket Japanese, we are more than happy to recommend it as the best Japanese learning software. But don’t just take our word for it.
In addition, it won a BESSIE award for the Best Educational Software at the 19th Annual Best Educational Software Awards held by ComputED Gazette in 2013. In 2012, it was PC Mag’s Editors’ Choice for language learning.
It’s also a good idea to check what current customers are saying. According to their website, Rocket Languages has an average rating of 4.7 from over 2,200 reviews. Note, these reviews come from all Rocket Languages learners – not just Japanese. (There are 13 different languages on offer!) Unfortunately it’s not possible to see the score breakdown by language.
Here are some testimonials from Rocket Japanese users:
You can read more reviews on the Rocket Languages website. In fact, all 2,200+ reviews are online for you to browse through – the bad as well as the good! Reading what other paid customers have to say is definitely a helpful way to decide if you want to invest in the course.
We hope you found this Rocket Japanese review useful. However, the best way to make a decision is definitely to ‘buy before you try’.
Luckily, Rocket Japanese lets you do just that.
Rocket Japanese offers a free trial with access to over four hours of lesson time. This includes lessons from each of the three levels inside the full version of the course. So if you already know some Japanese you can see which level might be right for you.
Trial membership gives you access to all special features of Rocket Japanese including the forum, flashcards, word lists and phrase search. You trial membership will also work on the app. You’ll be able to see the full overview of all three levels of the course, so you’ll know exactly what to expect once you sign up.
You will also receive the Rocket Japanese Vocab Builder Series, a seven day email course with selected new vocabulary and tips to help you get the most out of the software.
What’s more, the free trial also has lifetime access! No worries if you don’t have time to work through the free lessons this week – you can log back in literally any time you want.
All you need is an email address. You don’t need to give a credit card or any other payment details, so there’s no danger of a charge if you forget to cancel.
You can sign up for your free trial right here:
Good luck in your Japanese language learning journey!