I’ll be doing my Friday review at some point, since I was too busy last Friday talking about the poopcycle. Anyway, today I wanted to make a brief point about language-learning software, specifically, products like Rocket Japanese that have affiliate marketers clinging to them and putting up false “reviews”. I’d been considering trying this software and reviewing it myself, but I decided to Google “Rocket Japanese review” first, as I like to get a gist of what the software does before delving in, and the company’s website, while looking promising, yet overpriced and hyped up, isn’t exactly unbiased. Unfortunately, every single review I clicked on was basically the same thing!
Here’s my problem with language-learning software: it’s so easy to get scammed. Most of the good reviews that come from an independent website are made by people who either didn’t use the software themselves or who are relatively not knowledgeable about language learning. Every single site I visited had affiliate links to the software after a “review” that was basically just more crap from the official page.
BEWARE OF HONEST JOHNS!!!
There’s nothing wrong with affiliate links. I use them myself occasionally, and it’s a great way to support your website; and I don’t want it to sound like you can’t trust anyone’s review ever, but spewing crap that you don’t understand just because you want to make a buck is just plain wrong and dishonest, and it makes it easy to scam people. Most of these sites I visited also touted Rosetta Stone as being the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Because they get a big commission from getting people to buy expensive products that shouldn’t cost half as much.
Here’s my beef with language learning software. Most of it is very basic and can be learned elsewhere in a more effective way and for a cheaper price. If you’re an inputter or immersion person, then occasionally these products look good, but you can’t get immersion from a piece of software. You have to modify your surroundings yourself, otherwise the only “immersion” you get is when you sit at your computer, and that doesn’t count. It also get boring very quickly.
It also sounds good, such as being able to watch videos of the hiragana/katakana/kanji being drawn, but you can find such videos for free on youtube, and Remembering the Kanji and Remembering the Kana are much, much better than anything you’ll find in software. In fact, you can learn the kana for free on the Internet, and it’s easy to teach it to yourself. I used Power Japanese, which is a language learning software, but the kana was the only thing it did right, so I actually recommended people torrent it.
Why am I ranting like this? I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking to yourself, “What an incoherent blog post! What’s the point?” Yes, it’s incoherent, but the point is that you should always think twice before accepting someone’s advice to buy software, especially if you’re not sure the person is the real deal. Seriously, I doubt most of these people actually speak the language, and I’m tempted to leave comments in Japanese on their websites and blogs just to see if they can read it and respond.
So, how can you pick out if a review is genuine?
1. Does the review sound biased? This is always your first tell-tale sign. Some reviews just sound terribly biased, and they usually back up their claims with either regurgitated information from the official site, or by “facts” that have no real source or are common knowledge and have no bearing on how well the products performs in relation to these “facts”. Some products are good enough that people praising them sound biased (I’m guilty of this), but when it comes from a blog with only one post, or a tiny little website that does nothing but offer a few reviews, then you can bet someone is just trying to get money.
2. Are there any other product reviews? This is an easy one to spot. Check out the whole site and see what else is being reviewed. If the site is dedicated solely to Rocket Japanese, Rosetta Stone, etc., then that person only has one thing in mind: to make money off you. If all they review are various expensive products (even inexpensive ones, so long as it costs money), and then give out a few “tips” and nothing else, then that person probably doesn’t even speak the language well and just wants to get your money. When you have people recommending both JapanesePod101.com and Rosetta Stone, you know something’s fishy. People who want you to succeed and who are passionate about the language will probably have a whole site dedicated to it, such as this site or AJATT or Tofugu, and not just try and sell you stuff.
3. Does the person reviewing the software tell you a tale that’s hard to believe? I found a blogger blog while looking for a review, actually, and it told a bizarre tale of how Rocket Japanese worked for him. First off, he goes on and on about how amazing the product is, followed by a statement to back up his claims in which he basically says he knows what he’s talking about because he once almost hired a private tutor to teach him Japanese. It was horribly expensive and she (the tutor) said it would take (gasp) 4 months to learn!
Firstly, you shouldn’t come to the conclusion that private tutors, classes, schools, etc. are the only way to learn Japanese! And secondly, what was supposed to be accomplished in 4 months? Conversational fluency? Total fluency? If you want conversational fluency in under 4 months, check out Benny the Irish Polyglot’s site first, then check out everything else. Otherwise, this guy is pulling our legs.
Now, that’s not to say that I dismiss all software. As I said, I slowly get around to checking it out, and I will eventually get to check out Rocket Japanese and give a review of it, but most websites make me not want to. You really have to be careful of some of these “reviews” because they aren’t honest. Please, please, please be careful!
If you want an idea of what these kinds of websites look like, click here. Or here’s that blog “review” that didn’t make much sense. I’m not trying to pick on these people, but I want people to see what sticks out in my mind as a biased review. Heck, I saw one website where the reviewer, after allegedly learning Japanese with Rocket Japanese, thought fortune cookies were Japanese, not Chinese. FAIL!
Fluent in 4 months through a few hours a week with a private tutor? Give me a break! That doesn’t even come close to making sense, even from a conversational standpoint! And Rocket Japanese made him totally fluent in under that time? Is that what I’m supposed to believe?
Beware of Honest John, because he’ll sell you to a creepy place like Pleasure Island and ruin your life if it means he’ll get some cash out of it. Now, most affiliate marketers aren’t like this, as I’ve already said, and I doubt those reviewers I linked to are intentionally trying to hurt anyone. It’s just that when it comes to learning a language, you can’t just expect one book, one software, or one website to take you the whole way. Trying to convince people that they’ll get fluent (what a vague word) solely through their program is wrong.
I know I have a lot of links on this site, but I don’t make much money through affiliate sales off of them, and if this website is any indication, I’m only trying to share what I’ve found to have worked. I’m an active language learner myself, and I love Japan. I just want people to be careful and watch out for products that may or may not work because someone put up a site to promote it.