Rocket Italian and Rosetta Stone Italian are popular self study courses for learning the Italian language. This article will compare and contrast these two courses in terms of their quality, how they teach Italian and which course may suit your style of learning.
To start with, these courses have some marked differences in how they teach Italian.
The aim of Rosetta Stone Italian is to immerse you in the language. This means you will not see any English cues when the lessons begin. Everything happens in Italian and you have to figure it out.
This is a bit like the immersion process of learning Italian, where you might be in Italy and have to get by speaking Italian. Another parallel could be as you learned your mother tongue, purely by hearing the words and making some kind of connection to the meaning of the word.
It works as follows :
A lesson consists of a number of questions. Each question would consist of 4 images/photographs and a button that can be pressed to hear audio. The audio would be either naming the image or describing what was occurring in the image. Once you have listened to the audio you must select the image that corresponds to the audio.
You go through the whole lesson in this fashion. Each lesson has a particular theme, say colors or two verbs. At the end of the lesson you are told how many answers you got right. If you get all the questions right you could advance onto a harder level.
You may think this sounds a bit simplistic but Rosetta Stone uses this method to quite an advanced level. It is more than just learning vocabulary and some fairly complicated sentences are also used as questions.
So as you go through a lesson set, you will learn vocabulary by simply matching the words you see or hear spoken to the pictures on the screen. To begin with, the answer may be given in a previous picture but in a slightly different context. So for example, an answer might be given that a man drinks water. Another question might then be posed about a woman drinking water. You will have seen the word for water and woman in previous questions/pictures and have to make the connection. In this way you learn and the deduction process can make the learning more interesting and fun to some extent.
The number of lessons is vast and will take you to an advanced level but you have to buy the complete set of 5 courses to get to this level.
Rocket Italian takes a slightly different approach.
Basically, Rocket Italian uses a combination of teaching methods in their course. I believe they have looked at the successful elements of courses like Pimsleur/Michel Thomas and Rosetta Stone to give the student three distinct ways of learning.
So you get an audio course which is similar to the Pimsleur/Michel Thomas types of teaching. They have an interactive PDF course along the lines of a traditional book course. And they have 3 games that are similar to how Rosetta Stone works.
In terms of details, the audio course is 33 15-30 minute lessons. The lessons deal with basic Italian through to everyday situations like going shopping or talking to people at a birthday party.
The audio follows the narrator, a native English speaker and his native Italian speaking friend. The English speaker introduces the lesson and does the teaching by illustrating points and asking you questions. The Italian speaker speaks the Italian parts so that you get to hear an authentic accent. You are advised to say the words or sentences after her aloud.
The end of the lesson involves recapping what has been learned and then answering some questions posed by the narrator. You are given time to answer and then the Italian speaker gives the answer.
The second part of Rocket Italian is a PDF interactive course. This course has lessons from beginner through to intermediate/advanced levels. This is where you are taught grammar, shown how verbs are conjugated and introduced to new words. You will learn more about reading and writing in Italian. There are a number of questions at the end of each lesson to help you consolidate your learning. It is termed interactive because you can click an Italian word and you will hear audio of it spoken. This can help you with pronunciation if you say the word afterwards.
The Rocket Italian games are called MegaVocab, MegaAudio and MegaVerb. They work on the same principles as the Rosetta Stone method in that they use pictures and you have to answer a series of questions.
In the case of MegaVocab and MegaAudio, you have to guess which picture is correct after hearing the written or spoken Italian word. In MegaVerb, you are asked to type in the correct conjugation of a series of verbs in terms of the tense and person that is speaking.
There is also two sets of flashcards that you can print out and play with your friends.
If you get Rocket Italian you are given access to a forum where you can ask questions about the course or about the language. There are people there of varying levels of Italian and they can help you with your studies.
The Rocket Italian team will send follow up lessons to your email address occasionally.
Good points of Rosetta Stone Italian
Unique way of learning – no books or writing things down.
High quality images and generally professional looking system.
Track your progress through a scoring system.
A system that can analyze your speech (need your own headset/microphone though).
There are 5 courses or levels which are separate products. So you have to buy all 5 if you want to use Rosetta Stone to an advanced level. This makes it quite expensive and most people only get the first level because of this reason.
With this said, I would say Rosetta Stone is not in direction competition with Rocket Italian and compared to similar products like Tell Me More and Fluenz Italian it is cheaper or similarly priced.
This approach has no formal instruction, particularly in grammar. It relies on repetition and consistency to work. Some people might not like this style of learning.
Good points of Rocket Italian course
Value for money.
You get an audio course that can be used separately from the other parts of the package. The pdf interactive course is also a course in itself, that teaches the finer points of the language and grammar. The games are helpful but not as comprehensive as Rosetta Stone. The forum and follow up emails with extra lessons are good to keep you motivated and develop a sense of community.
The meaning of some of the images in the games are ambiguous so you need to use the show English word button from time to time. This kind of defeats the objective of the games because it makes it too easy.