Let me guess…this isn’t your first shot at studying Korean. Not if you’re like me, anyway. We want to learn, and we want it to be simple and free. I mean, who wants to pay for language learning software when there is so much “free” stuff on the web. Not us!
So, what did we do? We went to Google and typed in “Learn Korean for free,” or something like that. Or, maybe we picked up a cheap book and tried to study that way. Some of you may have even joined a class.
I did all of those things! …plus much more! I moved to Korea and lived in Seoul for 5 years!
I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, you must have picked up the language quickly once you got there.” Well, thanks for your confidence, but, no, I didn’t. I thought I would, but no chance. In fact, the whole idea that a language will just soak into you if you live in a country where it is spoken is baloney!
- I felt stupid.
- I became frustrated.
- I lost motivation.
- Eventually, I stopped studying all together.
So, what happened? Why did I fail to learn?
Well, for the same reasons that you’ve probably been struggling to learn using free web resources and simple textbooks.
- We had few quality resources
- We had materials that weren’t designed for our learning styles
- We had no human support
- We had no step-by-step system to help us learn
This doesn’t work, not when learning a foreign language. So, what does work? I’ll tell you exactly what works…
- A program that has quality resources
- A program that can be personalized to match our learning styles
- A program that offers help from real people
- A program that guides us to success one step at a time
Are there any programs that meet such criteria? Sure there are, and I had heard some pretty good things about Rocket Korean, so I gave it a whirl. First I’ll give you a quick review. Then I’ll walk you through the software.
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- 800,000 satisfied customers!
- Amazing value–lifetime membership for one fee! (I haven’t seen this anywhere else)
- Live Help from a Korean Native Speaker
- Personalized Learning With My Motivation Feature
- Perfectly Designed Step-By-Step Learning
- Highly Interactive–With Both Audio and Video!
- Beautifully Designed–Reminds Me of Apple Products
- It’s Joining a Community, Not Just Buying Software
- Free 6-day Trial–Snatch up a free trial now
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I’ve developed this system using a Harvard University theory called The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences, by Howard Gardner, and, as we speak, I’m having developers turn it into a software program that I’m going to sell for $49.95.
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Okay, this next part is going to be pretty long, and you don’t really need to read it because you can just get a free trial and see for yourself. For those of you who would like it, though, I’m now going to do a walkthrough of the software. I’ll go step-by-step, covering all major parts of the program.
The Rocket Korean Learning Resources
Part 1: The Interactive Audio Courses
The bread and butter of the Rocket Korean program are the “Interactive Audio Courses.” Are they any good?
Let’s have a look.
First things first, I made a pot of coffee. Then I Logged in and headed over to the Interactive Audio part of the course. Here is a screenshot of the Audio controls…
The first thing you notice when you look at it is that there are two different audio controls–seems strange, but it’s really a great feature.
Well, look at the one on the top. It’s labeled “Listen to the full audio.” This audio track is 21 minutes long and packed full of stuff (more on what’s in it in a moment). The one just below it is labeled “listen to the conversation.” It’s 13 seconds long and is just a recording of the dialogue being spoken.
Why did they do this?
Because in the beginning you need the full lesson, with all of the instruction, but later you just need to practice the dialogue, and it would be a pain to do that if you had to sift through all the instruction to find it. This may seem like a small thing, but I was quite impressed with it, as it shows that the program was designed with the users in mind.
This lesson is just under 29 minutes long. After grabbing a cup of coffee, I sat down and hit the play button. The first thing I got was a short welcome. Then the speaker (an American woman living in Korea) led me through a review of what we had learned in the last lesson, which was nice because I have the short-term memory of a gnat! I need to be reviewing constantly!
After the review, the host comes back on and tells us in English what we are going to learn today. This is then explained in Korean, none of which I can understand (I suppose hearing it is still helpful, though). After that the American woman comes back on and gives a bit of historical and cultural information. Then we dive right into the conversation.
We started by listening to the entire dialogue being spoken by two Korean people, a man and a woman, both native Korean speakers. After that, we focus on the first line of the dialogue. The phrase, in English, is “Eat your meal.” In Korea, says our host, ordering someone to eat (instead of asking or inviting) is polite. It shows that you care very much about there health. It is an ancient practice that developed during a time in Korean history when getting food was quite difficult. At that time, if you offered someone food, they would decline it, even if they were starving to death, because they would not want to take such a precious resource from someone else. So, instead of asking someone if they wanted some of your food, you demanded that they eat it.
I really enjoyed this little history lesson, one because it’s interesting and two because it helped me understand not just the words of the language, but also the culture in which it developed. Without understanding where this popular phrase originated, it would be difficult to understand its true meaning. In fact, when I first moved to Korea, it did seem to me that Koreans were quite pushy about telling me what to eat. Now I know that they were just being polite (too bad I didn’t know that when I lived there!).
After this we move on to pronouncing the phrase. The American woman came on again and explained each word of the phrase “Shiksa haseyo.” “Shiksa” means food and “haseyo” means “to do something.” Used together, you are telling someone to eat. The female native Korean voice then came on and said “Shiksa haseyo.” slowly and clearly. Then there was a pause, designed so you can repeat what she said. So that’s what I did. I said “Shiksa haseyo.” We repeated this twice, and then moved on to the next phrase.
The process as we moved forward was the same. The American woman would come on and explain the meaning of the phrase as a whole, sometimes giving relevant cultural information. Then she would explain each word in the phrase. Finally, the native Korean speaker would come on and model the pronunciation of the words and the entire phrase. Then I would practice saying the phrase myself.
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So, how did this process work? It worked very well for me. The American woman, in my opinion, does a great job of explaining the language and giving relevant cultural information. The native Korean speakers, not surprisingly, do a great job of modeling the pronunciation of each word and the whole phrase being targeted.
Most importantly, the whole lesson is very well planned out, planned out so that I could listen, learn, and practice speaking without having to mess around with the audio controls. I never had to fast forward or rewind the audio clip. The lesson just moved along slowly and clearly for nearly half an hour.
There are some extra features in the Interactive Dialogues Section that are worth mentioning.
Download Audio Icon: All of the Interactive Audio lessons can be downloaded and put on an MP3 player. This was a great feature for me. I downloaded each audio file and studied them while commuting to and from work.
TIP: Get into the habit of being organized right from the start. I was in a hurry most of the time, so I just threw clip after clip onto my MP3 player. In the end, I spent more time searching for files that should have been organized into folders than if I would have taken the time to organize them properly in the first place.
Written Dialogues: Each Interactive Audio lesson comes with written dialogues that you can read along with while listening. They are written in Korean characters, a Romanized version that you can read, and they are translated into English. The screenshot to the left shows what they look like. Note: They are much bigger in the real course (I shrunk the screenshot to fit it into this post).
I found that I learned much better when I read along with the dialogues as I listened to the native Korean speaker enunciate the words. Then when it was my turn to speak I would close my eyes and give it a go myself (closing my eyes forced me to memorize the dialogues instead of just reading them).
Also worth noting is the “Print Page” icon. As I mentioned earlier, I like to study during my morning and afternoon commutes. I took advantage of both the downloadable MP3 files and the printed dialogues to do this.
Again, these features may not be breathtaking, but the truth is that they are incredibility helpful because when you learn a language you can’t just read a book or use a software program or attend a class. You have to do outside work. You have to study on the bus or the subway or where and whenever else you can. …and having these easily downloadable MP3s and easily printable dialogues helps a lot when doing so.
Part 2 Language and Culture
The second half of each lesson is called Language and Culture. The Language and Culture section has 5 parts, located in separate tabs,as the screenshot shows. They are language, Culture, Writing, Quiz and Notes. I’ll tell you about the first 3, language, culture and writing here.
For the most part, the “Language” section is the grammar part of the course. Here is a screenshot of how you’ll learn the past tense ot the word “go.”
It’s more than that, though, which is probably why they call it “language” instead of just “Grammar.” What more does it have? Mostly, besides the grammar lessons, it has a lot of information about formality. In Korea, you have to speak differently to just about everyone you meet, and it all has to with being respectful.
For example, if someone is older than you, (or your boss) you would speak to them using more formal language. If someone is younger than you (or in a lower position at work) you would speak informally to them. So, in this section, you learn not only how to speak using proper grammar, but also how to speak properly in different social situations and when speaking to different people.
Having lived in Korea for 5 years, I can tell you that this part of the language is important to know. If you run around speaking informally to everyone, people will think that you are either very arrogant or very ignorant, neither of which you want. It’s kind of like if you brought a friend to your family’s house for a formal holiday dinner and then he approached your rather conservative elderly grandfather and said, “Yo, what’s up gramps?” He may not get kicked out of the house, but he probably wouldn’t get invited back either.
The culture tab, not surprisingly, is where you’ll find lots of interesting information about Korean culture. In the lesson I’m reviewing now, the information is about driving in Modern-day Korea. The information presented is spot on, basically that driving in Korea is hectic and dangerous–and watch out for motorcycles on the sidewalks. Luckily, Korea has great public transportation, so if you go there you don’t need to worry about driving. Anyway, while I like this section, I honestly didn’t spend too much time here. When you’re living in a country, you don’t really need to read about its culture–just go outside and live it!
The writing section of the Rocket Korean program is outstanding. Basically, they walk us through each and every letter of the Korean alphabet. And, as you can see from the screenshot on the right, they show us how to do it correctly in regards to stroke order and direction, which is very important.
In addition, as you can see in the shrunken screenshot below, there are audio buttons, so you can not only learn to write the letters and words, but also pick up new vocabulary words and practice their pronunciation. I really liked this because when I would practice writing a word I would find that its meaning would stick in my head. There’s not much else to say, really. This section of the program is simple, efficient and pretty easy to learn. I enjoyed it a lot!
Does it offer personalization?
Yeah, absolutely. I found something really cool in this course, something that I didn’t find in any other course. It’s a section called “Advanced Learning Techniques.” This part of the course has tools, not to teach you Korean, but to teach you how to learn. It’s a part of the program that I got into before taking the Korean course, and you should too, if you use this program.
Your Unique Learning Style
The best feature is the “Your Unique Learning Style” section. In this section, I took a short personality test. This test told me something that I kind of already knew, but that I had never really paid attention to. It told me that I was a strong “visual learner.”
I say that I kind of knew this already because I know, for example, that if you tell me your name I’ll forget it 2 minutes later, no matter how badly I want to remember it. But if I read a business card with your name and logo on it, I’ll remember you forever. So, I knew that seeing things helped me to remember them, but I had never really put 2 and 2 together and realized that I should develop a language learning strategy based around visual objects.
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This test helped me to do that, and that is why I began focusing so much on the printed dialogues as I was also listening to the audio, which helped me learn much quicker when compared to focusing, primarily, on the audio component, as I have done in the past.
Later on, I also wound up making some flashcards. I made them in sets. For example, I made a “fruit set.” I actually took index cards and drew pieces of fruit on one side and the Korean names on the other. This may seem silly, but, now, after using these cards, when I visualize an apple, the word “사과” jumps right into my head.
…the bottom line
using the “Your Unique Learning Style” helped me develop a personal learning strategy that was perfect for me, and that helped me learn much faster (and with far less frustration).
Another feature that you can personalize is the “My Vocab” feature. Sometimes when I study a vocabulary word it will stick in my head right away. Other times, I can’t remember a word no matter how many times I study it. This is where the “My Vocab” feature comes in handy. Instead of getting a huge list of generic words to memorize, you get to create your own interactive list.
This is how I used it. I started with an empty “box.” Then, as I practiced the dialogues using the audio course, I would come across words that I didn’t know (usually all of them). When this happened, I would double click them and they would be added to my “My Vocab” list.
This would add not just the word, but also an audio clip of the word being enunciated. I could also add a translation of the word, and whatever notes I wanted. After working through the dialogue one time, I would have a list of words that I needed to study. Here is a screenshot to show you how I used it.
As you can see, I have two words in my list, “Wa” and “seumnida.” On the left side, you can see that there are audio play buttons. If you click on those, you will hear the entire sentence the word is used in, not just the word. Moving right, you see the vocabulary word in Korean, the English translation, and, finally, the notes section. If you look at my notes, you can get an idea of how I used this section.
My first note says, “I’ve seen this form a lot.” Seumnida is a word ending, and I was a bit confused about how to use it because it is used so much and in so many different situations. I made a note of it, so I could go into the forum and ask about it (more on the forum later).
The other note says, “When can I use this…informal?” I’m referring to the use of the word “Wa” which means “Wow!” In the lesson, they say it is very common to use before eating with other people. It seemed a bit informal to me, though, so I wanted to get some clarification.
The My Vocab feature is great to work with when you’re in the software, but I kind of became addicted to making the flash cards I mentioned earlier, so what I ended up doing a lot of the time was using the My Vocab feature to track progress and keep notes. Then I would go to a coffee shop and make my cards there. At that time, I would also memorioze the new words and review old ones (I find the rather dull task of memorizing much easier if I combine it with something I enjoy, like sitting in a coffee shop).
Once I had a good grasp of the new words, I would head back into the software and practice speaking using the Audio Course. I would listen to the dialogue and then repeat it (without reading). Some vocabulary words would be easy to recall. These I would (quite happily) take out of my “My Vocab” list. Those stubborn words that I had trouble recalling would stay there and I would tackle them again later. I repeated this process over and over again, which kept my vocabulary list short, organized, and useful, not long and overwhelming.
A feature called “My Notes” seems pretty simple, and it is, but I found it to be very helpful. When studying the interactive audio lessons, questions that I wanted to present to the forum (more on the forum later) oftentimes popped into my head, usually stuff about usage—the more you learn, the more questions you seem to come up with.
Anyway, I didn’t want to stop what I was doing and go to the forum right away, so what I would do is just click on the “notes” tab. I would write down the question I had and then move on. What the “My Notes” feature would then do is “stick” my note to the lesson I was working on when I wrote it. This made it easy for me to go back, sometimes days later, read my note, see where I was working when I wrote it and then remember exactly what I was thinking at the time. Here is a screenshot to show you what I mean.
As you can see, I wrote the note “What’s normal for accepting or refusing food?” I had heard that it was customary in Korean culture to decline offers for food several times before accepting. I wanted to ask a native Korean speaker in the forum what the deal was. The great thing about the note is that, if you look at the screenshot, it is hyper-linked to the exact place I was at when I wrote it–and it says “3.2 At the Dinner Table.” This saves a ton of time because you don’t have to go back and try to find the place you were at when the question came up–half the time I can’t even remember until I click the link and visit the spot, which refreshes my memory.
Interaction With Real People
When you get Rocket Korean, you get lifetime access to the Rocket Korean Community. This is a member’s only forum where you can go and ask questions about Korean grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, or anything else you like. You can talk with teachers, native Korean speakers, and fellow students. Here is a screenshot of the main page.
I wasted a lot of time here. I was fun, but I wasted a lot of time just chatting. On a practical level, I found it to be very useful when I had questions. If I asked a question, for example, about a grammar point in Stage 2, section 4, “Out on the Town,” everyone would know exactly what I was talking about, which meant that I could get quick, easy answers to all of the questions I had. It’s an active place, too.
As you can see, there were 917 people logged in at the same time as me (into the program, not necessarily in the forum itself. Sometimes I got help from other students, and sometimes it was from the Native-speaking moderator there. Also, as I got into the course more, I got to help a lot of people. This was not only fun (and good for my ego), but it was also a great way to review previous chapters that I had studied—teaching is a great way to learn!
Although this is one of the last things I’m going to mention, it is one of the most important, at least to me. Why? Because I’ve tried other ways. I moved to Korea! I bought books. I memorized words. I tried free courses. …and I failed with all of them.
The reason I failed is because I had no structure. I thought I could just pound the language into my head. I was wrong. I needed step-by-step learning. This is how the Rocket Korean program provides that.
It is laid out in stages, each stage being made up of a series lessons that you learn in order. What you see in the screenshot below is “Stage 1,” which is made up of three lessons, 1 Greeting, Meeting, Food and Drink 2. The Perfect Tourist, and 3. Nightlife.
The layout of the lessons are specifically designed to build upon what was previously learned. So, you start with Stage 1, Lesson 1. Then you complete each lesson in order, including all Interactive Dialogue and Language and Culture work. After completing all 3 lessons in stage 1, you move on to lesson 1 of stage 2.
You don’t just jump into them, though. Each lesson has 2 tests, one for the Interactive Dialogue section and one for the Language and Culture section. So far, that’s six tests for this lesson. There is one more, though. If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice on the bottom that it says “Take the Rocket Premium Stage 1 Certificate Test.” This is a final, comprehensive test that covers all of stage 1.
Well, if you have read through this whole review, It’s probably pretty obvious to you that I like this software. Why? Because it meets all of the criteria I mentioned at the beginning of this review. It is a product that…
- has quality resources
- can be personalized
- offers help from real people
- and, guides you to success one step at a time
You’ll also remember that I mentioned that you don’t have to take my word for it because Rocket Korean offers a FREE 6-Day Trial, so you can just check it out for yourself (to get the free trial, follow the link and then wait for the pop-up window).
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your Korean language learning experience.