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Rocket Languages vs Pimsleur
Our comprehensive guide covers which language app wins in this head-to-head battle of Pimsleur and Rocket Languages
If you’ve done any research, then you likely know that Rocket Languages and Pimsleur are very similar language learning programs in terms of teaching framework. Both companies focus their efforts on guided audio lessons, with an emphasis on conversational speaking and practice. In fact, it’s almost weird just how similar the core lessons are from each company. But if you know where to look, there are key differences between these apps. In this comparison, we break down where each course wins and which is ultimately better.
As this is a long and detailed comparison, we’ve added jump-to links above so you can quickly navigate this article.
Video Comparison: Rocket Languages vs Pimsleur
In the above video, John (from the TPI team) breaks down how the language learning courses from Pimsleur and Rocket Languages stack up. He covers pricing, lesson effectiveness and design, and much more.
What The Rocket Languages Lessons Are Like
Let’s kick this comparison off by talking about the structure and format of Rocket Language’s lessons. This will help paint a fuller picture for our thoughts on Rocket, as well as comparing Rocket to Pimsleur below.
From a high level, Rocket Languages splits their program into two different types of lessons: (1) interactive audio lessons and (2) language & culture lessons. In 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 purpose of the lesson is, the reasoning behind it, and the context for the conversation you’re about to hear. 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 helpful tips and explanations, and most importantly, ask you questions to have you engage and participate in the conversation. Thus, you can really think of these interactive audio lessons as guided conversations.
Following these audio lessons, you then work through the language & culture lessons, which are sort of like compressed digital textbooks. You’ll read a quick paragraph explanation containing grammar rules and cultural insights, review a few examples to ensure you understand, and then jump immediately into another.
Finally, to round 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, and quizzes, among other exercise types.
Strengths Of The Rocket Languages Program
Now that you have an idea of how the Rocket Languages program works, let’s get into our evaluation of Rocket, especially as they compare to Pimsleur.
The Interactive Audio Lessons
Without a doubt, the greatest similarity between these two companies is their interactive audio lessons. I will break down how the Pimsleur programs works in greater detail below, but the main thing you need to know is that the audio lessons from each company are VERY similar.
Bot companies make guided audio lessons the central component of their course and focus on learning via listening and speaking. And I like this. I’m a big fan of both and believe they are more effective than the lessons from other language learning companies like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. I love that Rocket and Pimsleur’s audio lessons prompt you to use vocabulary and respond to native speakers in the context of simulated conversations.
You’re actively involved in tracking the conversation and the moderators keep you attentive since you need to understand what’s going on in the situation and respond when called upon.
In my opinion, this type of simulation is powerful at getting you to recall and use the language under pressure just as you would in lifelike situations. That’s really the key point here – both Rocket and Pimsleur’s audio lessons simulate real world experiences.
In my opinion, this simulated conversation format is about the best environment for truly learning a new language, especially as compared to just listening to words and phrases and repeating them in a vacuum like you do with other companies.
Ultimately, however, Rocket gets the win here over Pimsleur because they add in a few extra features. For one, Rocket provides a rolling transcript of the mock conversation as you listen. This allows you to read and follow along as you listen and interact with the native speakers.
In addition, after the audio lesson is over, you can elect to replay the entire conversation and take the place of one of the native actors for even more practice. This is something Pimsleur doesn’t do. Plus, the neat thing with Rocket is that the company’s speech recognition technology grades your pronunciation throughout the conversation. It’s a pretty cool feature, and actually leads me to the next point.
Speech Recognition Technology
The second pro in favor of Rocket Languages is their speech recognition technology. This is something that the Pimsleur language programs simply lack. As you complete the Pimsleur audio lessons, there’s no technology listening to ensure you’re saying words and phrases correctly.
By comparison, the Rocket Languages program utilizes Google’s Web Speech API, which many consider to be one of the most advanced speech tools in the world. So as you complete audio lessons and various reinforcement drills, the Rocket program records your voice and then uses Google to determine the accuracy of your pronunciation, which I think is pretty cool and accurate.
Rocket (through Google) even gives you a grade from 1 to 100 on your pronunciation so that you can closely track how you’re performing. This is contrast to other language apps like Babbel that have speech recognition software, but just give you a blanket “correct” or “incorrect.”
To be totally transparent here though, no voice recognition technology out there is perfect. It’s definitely not an apples-to-apples replacement for conversing with an actual fluent speaker in your target language. There will certainly be times when the tech will give you a perfect grade when you actually pronounced a word incorrectly.
Nonetheless, compared to other voice recognition software that I’ve tested like Babbel and Duolingo (and the fact that Pimsleur is wholly lacking in this department), the Rocket/Google combo definitely gets the win here.
Focus on Grammar & Culture
The Rocket Language programs really emphasize cultural insights and grammar instruction, especially as compared to Pimsleur. And the beautiful thing is that Rocket accomplishes this in different ways.
For one, as you complete the interactive audio lessons, the Rocket Languages moderator is much more proactive than Pimsleur’s in stopping to discuss different grammar principles and verbally explain the reasoning behind them.
Then of course, the majority of the grammar instruction is delivered through Rocket’s language & culture lessons, which again, sort of the take the form of a digital textbook. When I say that though, I’m not talking about a long, dense textbook like you used in your high school chemistry class.
Rocket does a great job breaking these language & culture lessons down into brief, succinct chunks. Each section within the overarching lesson is only about 3 to 6 sentences long on average. Not only that, within the language & culture lessons, there are dozens of break points where you interact with examples and pictures to keep you engaged.
So in a way, these lessons are more like a mix between a compressed digital textbook and an interactive exercise. Overall, I was just really impressed with the level of grammar and cultural insights that the Rocket courses provide, as well as how the company integrates this material into their lessons.
Gamified Language Learning
Lastly, I like that Rocket attempts to create and promote a sense of community among its users by sort of gamifying the language learning experience.
For one, Rocket offers forums where you can interact with other Rocket users, ask questions and link up for practice sessions. But what I actually liked better was that when you complete lessons and drills, you earn points.
Then from the navigation bar, there’s a leaderboard where you can keep track of your achievements and compare your performance against other Rocket Language users to keep yourself motivated and energized.
Additionally, Rocket also offers certification tests. Essentially, as you can complete each module, you can choose to take a test based on the widely accepted CEFR framework, and if you score at least 80%, you’ll receive a printable Certificate of Achievement. I know that sounds sort of lame, but honestly, when you’re trying to learn a new language, every milestone can really improve your self-confidence.
Bottom line, I like that the Rocket program offers outlets for you to connect with other users, as well as games to have you compete and keep you encouraged.
Typically, when I compare language learning programs after having reviewed them, the lessons between the companies differ substantially and I can call out a number of key differences. But in this case, as referenced above, Pimsleur’s lessons are actually very similar to Rocket’s.
Pimsleur’s core lessons are also audio-based and center around mock conversations where a moderator speaking in English guides you through a conversation. Then following each audio lesson, you review what you just learned through a variety of drills and exercises, including reading drills, flashcards, quizzes, pronunciation training, and speed games.
Sound familiar? I think the key takeaway here is that both companies’ core lessons pretty much mirror each other in terms of length, content and format.
However, the Rocket courses do add a different dimension with their language & culture lessons. This is really where the two companies start to diverge, and what sets them apart. Rocket takes grammar instruction and local culture more seriously, while Pimsleur makes up for it with more visuals and a better interface, as explained below.
Strengths Of The Pimsleur Program
Knowing how the compares compare in terms of lesson structure and content, let’s now cover the major advantages in favor of Pimsleur.
Superior Digital Platform
One of the bigger highlights of the Pimsleur program relative to Rocket is their digital platform and mobile app. They are simply better than Rocket Language’s, no way around it.
Now to be clear here, I’m not talking about functionality. Both companies’ apps and websites function just fine with snappy, easy-to-use platforms. I’m talking aesthetics and coolness – the look and feel.
In this respect, the Rocket Languages user interface just isn’t as modern or cool as Pimsleur’s. The Rocket digital platform just feels a hair dated and a little clunky, while Pimsleur’s feels stylish and smooth.
To play devil’s advocate here though, I’m not sure how big of a deal this truly is is. After all, you’re likely not going to select a language learning course based on looks, but rather based on the effectiveness of its learning framework and lessons.
For some people out there though, user interface and experience might be a serious consideration, which is why I call it out here.
Better For Visual Learners
In my opinion, Pimsleur may be a slightly better option for those who are visual learners. In short, Pimsleur seems to integrate more graphics, images and general visual elements into the their lessons, particularly in the exercises that follow the audio lessons.
Lastly, Pimsleur covers more languages and specific dialects than Rocket Languages. Obviously, both companies offer the popular language courses like Spanish, French, Italian, German, and standard Chinese.
However, when it comes to some of the other, less widely spoken options out there (like Vietnamese, Ukrainian and Finnish for example), Pimsleur is the clear winner.
In total, Pimsleur covers over 50 languages, whereas Rocket covers just around 15. Plus for certain languages, Pimsleur even covers the specialty variations and dialects. For example, in addition to Latin American Spanish, Pimsleur also offers a Castilian Spanish course, whereas Rocket does not.
Long story short, the key takeaway here is that if you’re looking to learn a lesser spoken language or a variation of a popular language, Pimsleur is likely your ticket.
Finally, before we get to our final verdict of which course we think is better, let’s compare pricing and affordability. Pimsleur offers two different options: (1) their Pimsleur Premium plan, which costs $20 per month and includes access to one language, or (2) the Pimsleur All Access plan, which includes access to all Pimsleur languages and costs just $1 more per month (yes, you read that correctly).
Rocket Languages, on the other hand, offers only lifetime plans as opposed to monthly subscriptions. These packages range from around $150 to $450, depending on how many levels you want to purchase. However, those price points are a little deceiving as they’re just the full retail prices. In reality, Rocket Languages is almost always running some sort of deal or special promotion, and in most cases you can expect to save 10% to 40%. So if you opt for Rocket Languages, be sure to look for discounts before checking out.
From an overall cost perspective, it’s sort of difficult to compare these companies. If you just want access for a few months to test the waters before diving in, then obviously Pimsleur is the more affordable option. However, if know you want to learn a new language for certain and need lifetime access, then Rocket is the way to go. I should also mention though that both companies do offer free trial periods, and Rocket even offers a 60-day money back guarantee.
With all of the nitty gritty detail behind us, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you choose Rocket Languages or Pimsleur? In the end, after thoroughly testing each program and looking at them from every angle, it’s a very close call. Almost too close to call. Honestly, both options are great and we rate each out very highly on our scale. In fact, I actually prefer Rocket Languages and Pimsleur over the majority of language learning programs out there, including Duolingo, Rosetta Stone and Babbel.
However, if I had to choose between the two, I’d go with Rocket Languages. By a slight margin, I just think they offer the more complete language courses from top to bottom. Compared to Pimsleur, I like that Rocket adds a few extra features into their audio lessons, their speech recognition tech is top-notch, and they provide much more detailed grammar instruction. So for those main reasons, I’d recommend Rocket Languages over Pimsleur.
Is Rocket Languages better than Pimsleur?
In our team’s opinion, after having thoroughly reviewed each language learning program, we do think Rocket Languages is better than Pimsleur – but just by a hair. Both companies offer very effective and highly-rated courses, though Rocket gets the edge for a couple small reasons.
Rocket Languages compared to Pimsleur - what is the difference?
The main difference between Rocket Languages and Pimsleur is that Rocket uses voice recognition technology (Google’s Web Speech API) to improve your pronunciation, while Pimsleur offers a more modern user interface with more graphics and visuals.
Rocket Spanish vs Pimsleur, which is better for learning Spanish?
Though a very close call, we believe Rocket Spanish gets the slight edge over Pimsleur when it comes to learning Spanish. Both companies offer strong language learning apps, but Rocket offers a couple more features that push their course over the top.