George Turer

George Turer

Rocket Korean — United States

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Overall, I understand the structure of the course, but it seems like many aspects, especially in testing, are done by a cookie-cutter algorithm which makes some really critical mistakes.

First, some technical issues. I use Chrome, as recommended, and there are a few things missing. Most notably, the on-screen Korean keyboard is not there. Also, I often do not have the button to mark a Writing lesson as completed. Finally, unlike in the app, there is no way for me to cut a voice recording off if I wish to restart, which often means waiting quite a while for the program to try to sort through gibberish.

Now, for the "cookie-cutter" aspect that bothers me. Frequently in the Audio lessons, the native speakers will say something that was not part of the lesson. This is fine, except that these phrases get put in the testing sections. For example, in the very first lesson there are introductions of the two native speakers. One says that he served in the Korean Marine Corps, then was discharged and migrated to the United States with his parents. He says this in Korean. This is a great way to get acquainted with the sound of the language. However, then this phrase comes up in the testing section of the exam. After a first lesson on how to effectively say, "hello," I don't think learners should be expected to explain how they were discharged from the Korean Marine Corps before they migrated to the United States. Now, users can always mark this as correct anyways, but this shows how careful care isn't put into the creation of each testing portion.

Another problem with this is that phrases will show up in module tests where they will be translated in the context of the lesson, not in actual translation. An example of this is when a phrase that means "there was no money" is given as "I didn't eat because I didn't have enough money." This makes sense in context, but there was no context given on the module test, so that could be very misleading.

Finally, I would like to critique the teaching style. I understand that there has been much debate over the years about the effectiveness of phrase memorization vs. grammar structure and word memorization. This is very much a phrase learning course. The grammar is taught very slowly, and in poor conjunction with phrases, and after the phrases. Also, many of the phrases are long and complex, and especially in the Survival Kit section these are given so fast that trying to repeat them after the native speaker is just demoralizing. Now, I understand that if you are looking to be a tourist, memorizing a few basic phrases can be useful. However, no one wants a $100 phrase book. Korean grammar is vastly different from English grammar, and the danger here is that new speakers will believe they have learned a word, when in fact they only learned the word in a specific context, sentence-placement, speech-level, or that they were looking at a completely different word altogether. If you are seriously interested in learning Korean, as I am, and want to use this program, I recommend also finding some textbooks (there are many pdfs available online) to greatly supplement.

A quick note about the writing lessons: you do not need 7 modules to learn Hangul. This website http://www.ryanestrada.com/learntoreadkoreanin15minutes/ will teach you how to read Hangul in 15 minutes, and with an hour or so of practice you will be fine. It aids pronunciation greatly to learn Hangul and makes the language far more approachable.

Here are my tips to improve this program:

1. Fix the technical issues.
2. Instead of having an algorithm pull random phrases out of the lessons for the tests, have a real teacher write tests for each lesson and final exams for each module that test if users on key areas of competency.
3. Start with simple phrases to teach grammar and basic vocab, and make tourist phrases optional.
4. Teach Hangul early.
5. Get rid of the long and rather racist opening music for the audio lessons.

I will say, as much as it can be finicky, the speech software is a gem for conversational learning.

Moderators notes:
Thanks for the thorough feedback. We discussed this in-house and have the following comments:
1. A Korean keyboard is coming, as is the ability to rate a lesson that has no Tests (like the Writing lessons).
2. That is a large undertaking for arguable impact. Nevertheless, we will add it to the discussion for upcoming features.
3. Our courses are designed so that members can pick and choose what areas they wish to work on. It's ok to leave out harder phrases and come back to them, as the system stores the individual phrases rating.
4. Again, we will add this to the discussion for future features.
5. As far as we are aware there is nothing racist about our courses. Please follow this up with customer support support @ rocketlanguages.com