When it comes to learning Italian there are a ton of different methods you can use in order to achieve your goal. There are real-life classes, Skype tutors, free apps, and online learn at home courses.
Rocket Italian is one of the most popular online computer courses that is currently available. It has three tiers of advancement, over 300 hours of lesson time and audio, and benefits from the experienced and helpful Rocket Languages course family. It is just one of 12 languages that they provide for learning at home, and they have a long 10 year history of improving their program. It is also updated for 2018 with several improvements and additions!
How does Rocket Italian stack up to some of the competitors? What is the course like, and what kind of teaching style does it employ? We will answer those questions and more in this Rocket Italian review, based on our own use and experience with the program!
There are several different types of teaching styles that are incorporated into Rocket Italian, catering to a more traditional and varied style of learning. This is the teaching style you’d likely find in an average school class, with audio, reading, and written methods. It’s more of a familiar style of learning to most people.
The different sections of Rocket Italian flow into each other fairly seamlessly. These include:
- New For 2018: Improved Voice Recognition, My Benchmark, Improved Dashboard, Voice Recognition storage, and better lesson bookmarking
- Interactive Audio Lessons – These 15-20 minute audio lessons are the main “meat” of the Rocket Italian course. They are each focused on a particular theme such as greetings or being in a restaurant, and offer students pauses in order to repeat vocabulary words or phrases.
- Language And Culture Lessons – Language lessons help to clarify the nitty gritty elements of Italian grammar such as word order and differences in gendered words. This is very helpful to students as a bit of explanation is required for certain elements. The culture lessons give you a window into Italian culture as well as a neat tie-in into some of the language.
- Advanced Learning – The advanced learning section is chock full of great motivational articles that can be helpful to students of a language. They include strategies for learning, as well as theory on how second languages are learned. I really like this section and find myself going back to it when I feel that I’ve hit a wall.
- Survival Kit – The survival kit is a “stand alone” element of the Rocket Languages courses that comes with Rocket Italian. It’s basically a jump start course into some “need to know” language and vocabulary for people traveling or using Italian right away.
- Flash Cards – This section is a bit mundane, but it is certainly helpful for Italian students. It’s basically what it says: an interactive flash card game to help memorize words and phrases.
- Progress Tracking – The progress tracking feature of Rocket Italian is a great way to stay on task and motivated. A daily points goal keeps you doing some learning every day, and different color icons for each section of the lessons helps motivate you to get it 100%. There is even a daily leaderboard for students of Rocket Italian that could be a great motivator for the more competitive students.
- Quizzes/Hear it!/Say it! – Scattered among the lessons are quizzes to help test your knowledge, and audio voice recognition to help your pronunciation. These are actually pretty fun and can help you ensure that your speaking of the language is decent – something that can be hard to do when learning at home by yourself.
- Forums – Rocket Languages provides a user forum for each of its language courses where you can ask questions and chat with other Italian language learners.
Interactive Audio Lessons
The main part of Rocket Italian is made up of interactive audio lessons that range from about 15-20 minutes a piece. They each have an overarching theme and use that to introduce new vocabulary and grammar rules. The lessons are focused and fun, and don’t do more than a student can really focus on in one shot. Rocket Languages calls it “chunking”, where information is doled out in easy to digest pieces that don’t overwhelm.
I found the audio lessons to be very clear and well paced. There are spots where the student is asked to participate in the conversation, either by repeating a word or phrase or standing in on one of the “skits”. This keeps you engaged in the lesson, however you sometimes have to force yourself to do it as obviously, at home, nobody is really watching to ensure you participate.
The audio lessons are available to download via .mp3 so you can take them with you on the go. However, thanks to the new-for-2017 Rocket Languages app, you can simply log in on your smartphone and stay on track with your lessons more easily. This was a great addition to the course this year that really makes it better all-around.
Audio Recognition: Hear It! Say It!
The Hear It! and Say It! parts of Rocket Italian are fun and challenging interactive modules that use voice recognition to perfect your pronunciation. These break up the audio lessons to ensure that you’re really pronouncing the words right. Sometimes the audio recognition was a little finicky, however I found that it worked quite well overall, and prevented me from getting “lazy” on my pronunciation. You can set the difficulty to Easy, Medium, or Hard and improve over time. This is a great part of the course because as I stated earlier, it’s hard to really keep the speaking element going when you’re learning at home by yourself.
Language And Culture / Survival Kit
This part of the course is designed to help Italian students learn the intricacies of Italian grammar, which can be a bit challenging as it’s different from English. This is a more traditional teaching style where the explanations are given in English. This helps students of the course get a good grasp on these differences without having to “guess” them through immersion such as is done with the Rosetta Stone style courses. For many older students it’s much easier to learn with a bit of explanation. The cultural lessons then help apply the language to the general culture of Italians, which is a fun way to keep students involved and interested.
Rocket Languages touts the Survival Kit as a standalone crash course in Italian, perfect for short term students or travelers. It’s included in the Rocket Italian course, though, which is very nice as it ends up being a course within a course. It can be a fun way to break things up and is very helpful if you want to jump right in and use some Italian right away. The Kit is focused on laser targeted words for specific situations such as restaurants, hotels, and shopping.
The Rocket Languages 2017 update included an all new mobile phone app — a much needed addition to their courses. I quite like the look and feel as it’s very similar to the online course. You simply log in and all of your progress is there waiting for you to continue.
The Rocket Languages series was always accessible via mobile browser, however it sorely needed an app. I really like the app and found it quite useful to take lessons on the go. The only problems I had were with the audio recording – it was a little finicky and I found that you really needed to use a headset for it to work well.
Overall, however, it is quite helpful for students learning the language as there are less excuses to not do at least a little bit every day.
Tracking Your Progress
When it comes to keeping track of your daily progress and your learning goals, Rocket Italian has it covered. Their colorful icon based system shows you which portions of each lesson you’ve completed (such as Hear It!, Say It! and Write It!), and how well you’ve done. This way if you need to go back and improve on a section you can. It becomes addictive to try to get all the icons green and filled in – and in this way it prompts you to continue with the course.
A daily points total and a streak counter helps you to come back for your daily goal each day. The points total is adjustable so you can make it achievable for the amount of time you have each day to spend on Italian. I set mine for 100 but this is actually rather small, so in order to make it at least a little challenging I’d probably bump it up to 200 or 300.
There’s also a leaderboard that shows where you stand compared to other students of Rocket Italian. I’m not super competitive so this doesn’t do much for me, but for people who like a little video game style leaderboard competition, this is a great way to motivate!
Advanced Learning Section
This is a unique and cool section that features a lot of material designed to help motivate students to continue on their journey of learning Italian. It offers tips on learning strategies, what to do if you get stuck, ways to keep yourself on track, and much more. I found myself coming back here a lot to read and re-read some of the materials. They offer a lot of fresh ideas on how to expand your Italian immersion, such as renting a film in Italian or even calling up companies and trying to get customer service in Italian! Some of the ideas are a little funny, but they get your creative juices flowing.
The flash cards section is pretty much as described. I found this to be the most mundane part of the course, however for someone like me who doesn’t really have a super easy time memorizing new things, this was extremely helpful. I feel like Rocket Languages could spice this section up a bit, but it’s still a great tool. You can even make your own sets of cards to work on problem vocab that just doesn’t seem to stick.
Online Community Forum
Rocket Languages offers forums for all of its languages so that students can meet one another, ask questions, and interact. I found the forums to be a bit on the quiet side, however when you post it seems that it gets answers. I also know that Rocket Languages staff monitors the forums and tries to post responses as well. In defense of Rocket Languages, however, it can definitely be hard to populate an online forum and get it going – it really depends on the users. However I found it to be a good addition.
You can try out Rocket Italian for free to see if you like the feel of the course and the interface. This is a great way to take it for a test ride in order to see if it’s right for you!
Customer Support And Guarantee
I’ve been following, using, and reviewing the Rocket Languages series for several years now, and I have always found the Rocket Languages staff to be extremely helpful for any questions I have had. They respond very quickly, and even responded when I posted a question about the course on the forum.
The money back guarantee is one of the best in the business. If you don’t like the course for any reason, or think that it’s not for you, then you can get a full refund at any time. Their merchant processor, Clickbank, is regarded as one of the best in terms of handling iron clad money back guarantees.
If learning Italian is a serious goal of yours, then I definitely recommend checking out Rocket Italian. Overall I think Rocket Italian gives you an incredible amount of material for the price, especially compared to the top learn-at-home courses that are on the market. It’s backed by excellent customer service and an iron clad money back guarantee, so you really can’t go wrong for trying it out. Also, the Rocket Languages team has shown dedication to improving their products over the years to stay competitive and ahead of the curve. Even The Guardian and the New York Times had great reviews and writeups about the Rocket Languages courses.
It’s not a perfect course – I had some issues with audio recording in the mobile app when not using a headset, and occasionally even the voice recording on the computer would get a little choppy (not with the headset). Also, if you really want to be fluent in Italian you’ll have to step outside the course–but that’s true of any learn at home or traditional style class.
Overall, however, I highly recommend Rocket Italian as one of the best learn at home Italian courses available!