Rocket Spanish for Learners of Spanish: A Review
Rocket Spanish is one of the many Spanish learning tools out there and it claims to be the ultimate tool to teach yourself to speak Spanish like a pro.
The product is created and narrated by Mauricio Evlampieff, who is a Chilean native Spanish speaker. Evlampieff has spent a number of years teaching Spanish to students all over the world. Yet as we all know, knowing a subject well does not always make you a good teacher.
But the program has won the 19th Annual Bessie Awards (that’s an award for the best educational software), so this made it attractive enough to check it out.
So, I signed up for the 6-day free trial for a taste of what it offers and here are my notes on the experience I had with the program.
The Rocket Spanish Interactive Audio Lessons
When I signed up for the trial, I was logged into my dashboard. The trial version gives you access to 6 interactive audio lessons, and there are about 31 lessons if you buy the Premium package for beginners.
What struck me most about the program at first sight is that it lays a lot of stress on audio lessons. This is not usually the case with most traditional language courses that use more of flash cards and word matching etc.
Each lesson offers a streaming audio file that is narrated mostly by Mauricio. The files use a mix of Spanish and English. You can download the file to your PC or mp3 player and listen to it anytime, which is what I did.
Below the audio file you’ll find a transcript of the conversation that’s going on in the scenario. The first part of the introductory lesson, for instance, teaches you how to greet a person. An additional option, which in my opinion is a smart and useful option, lets you listen to only one of the speakers in the dialogue so you can participate as the other speaker.
Further down is a list of vocabulary that you’ve been introduced to through the lesson. Then there’s a panel for your notes and a testing section. Now the testing section was interesting. The Hear It Say It! tool plays a word or phrase and you can see the sound wave. Then you can record the phrase in your own voice and compare the two.
The Write It! tool lets you write down a phrase that you hear (with a virtual Spanish keyboard for the right accents) and you can compare to see if you were right. Next, with Know It! you have to translate an English phrase into Spanish. This is followed by a multiple-choice type vocabulary test.
This is the basic pattern that the interactive audio lessons follow. In addition, there is a Language and Culture section, a Games section and a Survival Kit (not available for the trial).
The Language and Culture Section
There are 33 lessons in the Language and Culture section. In this section, you get introduced to things like the Spanish alphabet and pronunciation, gender, parts of speech etc. Again there are lots of audio files along with interesting info on Spanish-speaking cultures across the world.
There are some fun games like Word Master and MegaCards, which test your vocabulary with little games. The objective is clearly to introduce you to the language in as many ways as possible – aurally and visually.
What makes Rocket Spanish different from other Spanish learning tools is its interactivity. The tool doesn’t offer any short-cuts. Users will need to be committed and disciplined in order to make the tool effective. But I’ve found that because of the conversational and interactive design of the lessons, it’s easier for me to remember what I have learnt.
The lessons are easy to follow. And this is very important – they are segmented. So you don’t have too many things going on to confuse you at one time. Real-world scenarios are used in each lesson so you can relate to it.
Each lesson is nearly 25 minutes in length. This makes it just long enough that you can run through a lesson on the subway, for instance. Along with the lessons, there are embedded progress meters with which users can test their progress. Navigation through the lessons is also easy and they are all arranged on your dashboard systematically. You can expand a lesson when you’re working on it and then move on to the next.
These pros make the program
- · Interactive (for better retention)
- · Fun (this is very important)
- · Practical (no boring theory you don’t need to know as a beginner)
- · Modular and downloadable (so you can listen on the go)
There are a few improvements that I wish the program had. I found it lacking in some respects:
- · If you already know a little Spanish, there’s no tool to help you gauge your skill level. So you may find some of the lessons redundant.
- · While some users will like the spare, practical approach to the lessons, others may want more theory and examples.
Having said that, some learners may find some parts of the program goes into too much detail. This is true of areas such as grammar theory. Learners looking for quick lessons may get a little impatient with these sections and skip over to the audio lessons and games.
Learners who want to get a head start on speaking Spanish like a pro may find that the fun, interactive style of learning on Rocket Spanish works for them. There are a number of other teach yourself Spanish tools and programs that employ interactive games. Rocket Spanish does this effectively by alternating the games with audio lessons and pronunciation comparisons, vocabulary cards and cultural lessons to put the language in perspective.
Learning a new language is not easy. But the combination of different types of learning tools can be a good way to internalize the language. And by making language learning fun, the program manages to hold the interest of the learner. So, there may be fewer chances of people backing out after a few lessons, as is the case with many 'boring’ classroom lessons.