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Babbel vs Rocket Languages
An honest and detailed comparison of the Babbel and Rocket Languages programs to help you decide which is best
So you’ve decided to learn a new language, and you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred language programs to Babbel and Rocket Languages – two very solid options. But now it’s time to make a final call and you just don’t know which one to go with. That’s where we come in. In this detailed guide, we break down the key differences and similarities between these two language apps, as well as provide our thoughts on which we think is better and will ultimately be more effective for you.
As our comparisons are typically long and packed with detail, we’ve added jump-to links above so you can quickly jump to the relevant section.
Video Guide: Rocket vs Babbel
In the video above, John from the TPI team runs down everything you need to know about the differences between Babbel and Rocket Languages, as well as which course we think is better. Please continue reading for more detail.
Overview of the Rocket Languages Program
To help provide some context for our thoughts on the Rocket Languages program, let’s start with a quick overview of how the Rocket course works. To begin, the Rocket Languages program is split between two different types of lessons: (1) interactive audio lessons and (2) language & culture lessons.
For the interactive audio lessons, a moderator speaking in English walks you through a conversation in your target language step-by-step. The moderator will start by explaining what the goal of the lesson is, a little background on why you’re learning it, and set the stage for the upcoming conversation.
Then you’ll dive into the actual conversation where you listen to native speakers converse. Every few sentences, the moderator will stop to explain what you just heard, provide some tips and grammar explanations, and perhaps most importantly, ask you to engage and participate in the conversation by speaking yourself.
So in a way, you can think of these interactive audio lessons as guided conversations. Once done with the audio lessons, you then complete the relevant language & culture lessons. To use an analogy, these lessons are sort of like interactive textbooks.
You’ll read a short paragraph explanation of a particular grammar rule or cultural insight, be shown a couple examples to ensure you understand, and then cover another. In other words, they are short, back-to-back lessons to help you gain deeper insights into grammar rules and cultural issues.
And then to finish out each lesson (audio and language), you review what you just learned through several short, reinforcement exercises. These include variations of flashcards, speaking drills, writing drills, quizzes and more.
All told, each complete lesson (with drills) takes around an hour so to complete from start to finish.
Our Evaluation of Rocket Languages
Now that you have a high-level idea of how the Rocket programs works in terms of lesson format and content, let’s get into the major advantages and disadvantages that I noted with this program.
Highly Effective Audio Lessons
The clear highlight of this course has to be their interactive audio lessons. Instead of just listening to or reading an individual word or phrase, and then repeating it like you do with Babbel most of the time, the Rocket audio lessons prompt you to use vocabulary and respond to native speakers in the context of simulated conversations.
You’re actively involved in following the conversation, and the moderator of the audio lessons keeps you engaged. You need to understand what’s going on in the situation at any given time and respond when called upon.
In my opinion, this type of simulation is powerful at getting you to recall and use language under pressure just as you would in most real world situations (though without any real pressure). This is what master linguist Paul Pimsleur discovered years ago and built his longstanding Pimsleur language program around.
This is the key point here: the Rocket Language audio lessons simulate real world experiences. And to me this is a much more effective approach for learning as compared to just listening to words and phrases and repeating them in a vacuum. So in my opinion, Rocket definitely has the edge over Babbel in that regard.
Really Flexible Structure
As roughly half of the Rocket lessons are audio-based (the “interactive audio lessons”), I like that you can complete these lessons while you’re working out, cooking, taking a walk, or even driving.
It’s just nice your face doesn’t have to be buried in your computer or phone at all times like you do with Babbel. Sometimes a nice change of scenery when you’re studying or learning a new language can really be helpful, especially if you’ve been staring at a screen for work all day.
Overall, I have to give props to Rocket for how flexible their lessons are compared to Babbel and think this is nice for folks who burn out their eyes at work or school.
Grammar & Culture Emphasis
I like that the Rocket Language programs really emphasize cultural insights and grammar instruction. To be totally fair, Babbel does include helpful grammar tips and instruction throughout their courses as well, but the Rocket lessons just take it to whole new level. In fact, it’s close to a half of your lessons.
And the nice thing is that Rocket accomplishes this in different ways. For one, as you complete the interactive audio lessons, the moderator regularly stops to discuss different grammar principles and verbally explain the reasoning behind them. These little snippets are quick and I really like them.
But then of course, the lion’s share of the grammar instruction is delivered through the company’s language & culture lessons. Again, these lessons sort of the take the form of a digital textbook of sorts (though very streamlined). Rocket does a great job breaking these lessons down into short, compact segments, with each section within the lesson only taking about 3 to 6 sentences.
Not to mention, within the lesson, there are dozens of break points where you interact with examples and pictures to keep you engaged. So really, it’s more like a mix between a scaled-down digital textbook and an interactive exercise.
All in all, I was just really impressed with the level of grammar and cultural insights the Rocket courses provide, as well as how the company integrates this material into their lessons.
Focus On Making Learning Fun & Collaborative
Lastly, I like that Rocket tries to create a fun, learning-based community with its users by sort of gamifying the language learning experience. Not only are there forums where you can interact with other Rocket users to discuss whatever your heart desires, but they also make it a bit of a competition. (Note: Duolingo does this too, but I actually think Rocket does it better).
When you complete lessons and drills, you earn points that represent your progress. From the dashboard, you can then review the leaderboard where you can keep track of your streaks and compare your performance against other Rocket Language users. In my opinion, this can be really useful for keeping yourself motivated and coming back each night.
Then in addition to the points leaderboard, Rocket also offers certification tests. As you can complete each module, you can choose to take a test based on the widely accepted CEFR framework, where if you score at least 80%, you’ll receive a printable Certificate of Achievement.
That might not sound like much in the big picture, but when you’re trying to learn a new language, every milestone and achievement can really improve morale. Bottom line, I just like that the Rocket program offers outlets for you to connect with other users, as well as tools and games to keep you energized and encouraged.
Knowing what you know now about Rocket, let’s take a look at how Babbel differs in terms of program structure, length and format. To start, their core lessons are much shorter than Rocket’s. Each Babbel lesson is only about 10 to 15 minutes in length, and they go by super fast.
This is largely the case because each lesson is made up of several quick-hit, interactive drills and exercises. For the first two minutes, you might be listening to new words or phrases and then repeating them, then you’ll quickly transition into a digital flashcards drill for a few minutes, before reading a short grammar lesson.
This might be followed by an exercise where you reconstruct phrases using your keyboard, and afterwards you might be asked to complete a fill-in-the-blank exercise by following a mock conversation. It’s just a very fast moving, hybrid approach that is undoubtedly engaging and fun (sort of like Duolingo).
So stepping back and looking at the apps from both companies side-by-side, that’s how lessons compare. The Rocket lessons take around an hour or so to complete from start to finish, include more in-depth grammar instruction, and place a very strong emphasis on listening and speaking in the context of realistic, simple conversations. In comparison, the Babbel lessons are much shorter and include more variety in terms of drills and exercises.
Our Evaluation of Babbel
Let’s change gears now and cover the standout features of Babbel’s program, especially as they compare to Rocket Languages.
Better For Visual Learners
The most notable aspect of Babbel’s app in comparison to Rocket is that their lessons are more geared towards visual learners. With Rocket, besides the limited number of images used in their language & culture lessons, there’s really not a ton of visuals.
This could be problematic for people that are primarily visual learners. There are certain people who simply learn best by viewing images and visuals, and then associating them with words and phrases. It’s just how some people absorb and retain new words.
For these types of folks, Babbel has the leg up on Rocket. Babbel’s program contains a ton of visuals as compared to Rocket, including graphics, images and text.
The second callout for Babbel is that their lessons are shorter. They go by incredibly quick, which is great for working professionals, students and busy parents. Not everyone out there has a spare hour everyday to complete lessons.
Sometimes 20 or 30 minutes is all you have, so it’s nice that you can knock out a couple lessons with Babbel in a short time frame and still feel like you’re being productive and making progress.
Sleeker Digital Platform
If aesthetics matter to you, Babbel’s digital platform and mobile app are better than Rocket Language’s. To be clear, I’m not talking about functionality here. Both companies’ apps and websites function just fine. They’re both logically laid out, easy to navigate, and fast.
I’m talking about the cool factor. At the end of the day, the Rocket Languages user interface just isn’t as sleek or eye catching as Babbel’s. The Rocket digital platform just feels a hair dated, whereas Babbel’s feels modern and hip.
I’m not totally sure how big of a deal this really is given that you’re probably more concerned with the effectiveness of each company’s learning framework and lessons than how sexy their app is, but for some, this could factor in.
Live Class Options
The last advantage in favor of Babbel is that they offer live classes. Just so there’s no confusion, I’ll start by saying that these classes are not included in Babbel’s standard subscription packages – you do have to pay extra for them.
But essentially, if you upgrade to the live class option, Babbel offers hundreds of small group live classes per week across all different languages and learning levels. And by small group, I mean no more than 6 students per class. Each class is typically around an hour long and covers all sorts of different topics.
For example, if Spanish is your target language, the class topics might range from the food scene in Mexico City, to Chilean holidays, to vacation spots in Spain. It really does vary widely and you can go down some serious rabbit holes. But the cool thing is that you can learn about some pretty interesting topics, all while improving your language skills.
Overall, these classes are a fantastic way to dive deeper into specific subjects, converse with your peers, and learn from experienced instructors. And since there are so many classes, you can basically pick the days and times that work for you and drop in and out of the classes as you please.
Before we get to our final verdict and thoughts, let’s briefly touch on pricing, as this can be a major decision factor for a lot of people.
Babbel offers four different options: a month-to-month plan; a 3-month plan; a 12-month plan; and a lifetime subscription. The monthly plans include access to only one language and range in price from around $7 to $14 per month, whereas the lifetime plan grants you access to all 15 Babbel languages and costs around $500 full retail.
Rocket Languages, on the other hand, takes a slightly different approach. Instead of offering monthly subscriptions, all of their plans are lifetime and range from $150 to $450, depending on how many levels you want to purchase. But just so you know, those Rocket prices are a little deceiving as they’re just the MSRPs. Rocket Languages is almost always running some sort of deal or special promotion, and in most cases, you can expect to receive at least 10% to 40% off, if not more. So be sure to check for coupon codes if you do go the Rocket route.
Nonetheless, from an overall cost perspective, Babbel is the winner. They are clearly the more affordable option, unless of course you’re looking for lifetime access. In addition, I should also mention that both companies do offer free trials and money back guarantees so you can always test the waters before fully committing.
Now that we’ve covered all the granular detail in this comparison, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you choose Babbel or Rocket Languages? Well, after testing each program, this is a very, very close call. However, in considering all of the factors, I have to give the edge to Rocket Languages.
Don’t get me wrong, I very much like Babbel’s program. Their lessons are short and engaging, their digital platform and mobile app are top-notch, and they offer some really cool extras like live classes. However, when you really boil it down, Rocket’s language courses are just more complete from top to bottom. Their lessons are longer and more robust, and I love the way they design their audio lessons within the context of simulated conversations. Plus, their lessons go deeper than Babbel’s when it comes grammar instruction, and I like that Rocket tries to gamify the learning process by promoting competition among its users.
So all in all, while I do have a few minor grievances with Rocket Languages, I just think they are the better choice overall if you’re seeking to gain an intermediate understanding of a new language.
What is the difference between Babbel and Rocket Languages?
The biggest difference between Babbel and Rocket Languages is their approach to teaching. Rocket Languages focuses on learning and practicing conversational skills through an audio-focused approach, while Babbel uses a blended teaching style with tons of fast-paced interactive exercises.
Which is better, Rocket Languages or Babbel?
After thoroughly testing each program and a full scale review, we believe Rocket Languages is better than Babbel – though not by much. Both companies take very different approaches to teaching, but we ultimately found Rocket’s teaching framework to be more effective.
Rocket Spanish vs Babbel, which app is best for learning Spanish?
If your goal is to learn Spanish, we prefer Rocket Languages to Babbel. Our team found the Spanish lessons to be more comprehensive and in-depth with Rocket Spanish than with Babbel. Plus, we like the audio-centric approach.