Ian Mitchell

Rocket Chinese

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This reviews Rocket Languages' Chinese Premium and Premium Plus. The program is well organized in its audio and website. Audio lessons use a typical conversation to teach new words and basic grammar lessons. Lin Ping, the teacher for the course, has a good clear Northern Chinese accent and speaks the majority of the time. It is peculiar that she converses with Dave, an Austrailian with a good accent, but not one I'd try to imitate if I was trying to blend in while visiting. This is fixed in the Premium Plus section. There is some English to introduce the subject and context, but the majority of the lesson is repeating words while you can follow a written transcript in Pinyin and I think Simplified characters. Then you practice memorizing by repeating sections of the conversation, hearing and identifying words, and speaking the words in Chinese knowing their equivalent in English. (hard!) The only major complaint is a lack of a translation dictionary to double check if the words you are adding to your vocabulary have the right definition (the audio tapes breeze through definitions only once); when looking up a word you will most often find it used in other lessons/sentences.
Writing sections are where the nuts and bolts (like tones or numbers) of the languages are taught. Videos assist with writing, though .gifs may achieve the same thing with less clicks. I have a few suggestions for the Android app. First, there should not be a product selection screen, nor a choice for "Trial" after I've paid for the full product. I should not have to remember if meeting family was in Premium or Premium Plus sections. Secondly, there should be an option to select multiple lessons and download them onto the device itself; when visiting China wifi and data was sporadic and expensive yet I wanted to keep practicing. Otherwise, the android app feels like browsing the website. All in all, it was a great value for money; not having to worry about time limits and being able to practice on my own has helped a lot.