One of the more popular online resources to learn a language is LanguagePod101 (or JapanesePod101, SpanishPod101, etc.). Should you join the hype? This LanguagePod101 review will help you decide.
Learn about how the LanguagePod101 series (under the Innovative Language umbrella), how they teach languages, and whether it can help you achieve your language goals with this LanguagePod101 review.
LanguagePod101 review: languages
The LanguagePod101 series is available in a ton of languages, including:
For this LanguagePod101 review, we’ll look at SpanishPod101.
LanguagePod101’s free content
When you first sign up for an account, you’ll instantly be smacked in the face with a bunch of sales copy. They really want you to know that they’ll take your money!
Literally, that’s my first impression, that it’s really salesy. Which, I mean, if they can back it up, I’m ready to look past it. It’s when the paid product is crap that this becomes a serious nuisance.
As usual, my first step is to see what options I get for narrowing down the lessons: if it asks me about my experience with Spanish, tests my Spanish knowledge, and whether or not they actually use that information to help me.
SpanishPod101 (boy is that a mouthful) does give you a couple of options. You can either tell them where you’re at…
…or you can opt for their diagnostic test. Even though I already selected intermediate, I still have to start from the beginning with testing. It’s alright, I get it!
Definitely beginner grammar. If that’s the level you need, then you’re all set! The issue is if you’re at all above level 1 Spanish. If that’s the case, and you want to start out from where you already are, you’re gonna have to splurge a bit on the paid features.
I will definitely be addressing this, but first, we haven’t actually looked at the actual content yet! For this, I’m gonna stick to just stating that I’m at a vaguely intermediate level.
I do like how it specifies that it’s Mexican Spanish, as many resources won’t. Fortunately, I did a search and found the type of Spanish I’m more confident with.
Huh, interesting! I’ve never seen a resource that specifically supports Peruvian Spanish. Color me surprised!
When you click on the pathway of your choosing, you’ll basically get a playlist of the lessons included in the pathway. You can pick and choose lessons as you please.
When you click “Add to Dashboard”, it’s kind of like you’re bookmarking a playlist. Click the “Dashboard” tab in the top toolbar, and you’ll see all the pathways that have been automatically added, as well. You can always edit the pathways that show up here.
Let’s go ahead and do some studying!
Press that big play button, and it starts a 6-minute podcast episode of someone talking about el fútbol in Spanish. The first minute or so is in English, explaining that this podcast is part of the SpanishPod101 series. This is something I personally can’t handle, but you may be able to ignore it.
Nonetheless, the content itself is pretty good! The dialogue is at native speed (but can be slowed down or sped up if need be), and is almost entirely in Spanish, with some quick definitions mixed in.
All in all, I’d say it’s a pretty solid way to work your listening comprehension.
There is one caveat, though: at this level, the dialogue, vocabulary, and lesson notes are all hidden behind a paywall. You get the transcript, but not a lot of the other tools included. Let’s go back to some beginner lessons to see what these things are.
For example, here’s a free dialogue that’s available at level 1.
You listen to a native clip of the sentence, record yourself repeating the sentence, and compare the two recordings to test your pronunciation. Good ol’ shadowing.
Next up: vocabulary.
This section also includes its own audiobook that walks you through practicing and understanding these words and phrases.
While Flashcard Decks are a paid feature, the Slideshow and Quiz options are free here.
Finally, we have lesson notes.
In this particular lesson, the lesson notes talk about grammar and cultural insights that relate.
All that said, SpanishPod101 has a ton of methods for you to really process and understand the content that you’re listening to. Some of these methods may be beneficial to you, and some may not – it’s totally up to every individual learner.
I also do appreciate how detailed and overt the podcasts themselves are! They really do seem to hit every little piece of information.
(I realize this screenshot is a bit hard to see, but blame the website, not me!)
The last thing to mention that SpanishPod101 offers for free is a ton of vocab. They’re collected in all sorts of ways: most common words, themed lists, key phrases, words of the day…lots and lots of ways to slice the vocab cake.
With a free account, you can access this vocab to use with any other vocab app or strategy you already use, like your Quizlet collection. SpanishPod101 has their own native flashcard section, but again, it’s paid.
LanguagePod101 review: paid content
With a free account, you do get access to a lot of stuff – basically, all the content itself. Paid subscriptions have access to all the content presented in a variety of different formats. So, really, it’s up to each individual language learner if a paid membership is worth it.
What’s more, there are three paid options. This makes things kind of confusing (in my opinion), but I’ll let the website speak for itself.
Remember how I talked about how salesy the whole site is? This is where that comes back.
Those advertised prices don’t seem too bad at first glance! But see the asterisks? Those asterisks are there to let you know that that monthly rate only applies to 2-year subscriptions…which means you could be paying up to $550.
Holy crap!! That’s…incredibly misleading! Especially because when I purchased a $23 subscription for one month of Premium Plus, it was actually $47. Literally over double the advertised number.
Tricksy! And I don’t like tricksy when it comes to paid products. It’s skeevy.
Fortunately, these subscriptions also include a 60-day money-back guarantee, which…helps.
Regardless, this is what I really wanted to test out: getting my own teacher and personalized assessments.
The first questions are more qualifying questions: your current level, where you’re from, and the reason you want to learn Spanish.
Then we get into the assessment itself.
In just 10 questions, the assessment quickly goes from beginner Spanish to advanced to see where you’re at. It’s a pretty good test – even I wasn’t sure about a lot of it!
That was a tough test! It tested every aspect of learning Spanish (except speaking), and it touched every level.
When you submit your responses, you’ll get an automatic result, plus a verification by a “resident Spanish expert” within 48 hours.
When that email arrives, it’ll really break down the process that they recommend you use with the content they give you. It’s very, very, very in-depth. Here’s what the email says about the podcast episodes and lesson tools:
- Listen to the main audio track
- Read the lesson notes
- Listen to the audio track with the lesson notes. If you don’t understand 80%, listen a third time
- Review difficult vocabulary
On top of all that, you also get a Student Manual which, among other things, basically forces you into a weekly schedule of listening practice, vocabulary review, and writing practice.
Your teacher is there to help answer questions, guide your curriculum, assess your progress, and more.
LanguagePod101 review: should you try it?
If this LanguagePod101 review taught me anything, it’s how detailed and well-rounded this language learning resource is. All of the content itself is free to all users, but paid members get the benefit of a more personalized, hand-held approach to their Spanish.
All that said, who’s it for? Well, the free lessons are great for listening practice. You can find seemingly unlimited free podcasts that guide you from ultimate beginner to native-level audio with transcripts included for you to pick and choose the vocab you need to work on.
And the paid membership?
If you’ll really benefit from taking apart the content in several different ways, then the lower tiers would be beneficial to you. Do keep in mind, though, that unless you commit to 2 years’ worth of lessons (which adds up to a few hundred bucks alone), you’re not going to be paying $4/month. It’s misleading and I really don’t like that.
But the higher tiers? Those are definitely for language learners looking for structure. Like a lot of structure. LanguagePod101 is meant to be treated as seriously as an in-person class, which helps you keep yourself accountable, mixed with the flexibility of a one-on-one tutor, at a fraction of the price.
That Premium Plus level is very much so worth it if that’s what you’re looking for! LanguagePod101 does everything…EXCEPT for speaking practice! You will not get effective conversational practice using this resource.
If you want a great vocab/grammar/reading/listening education, this might be a great option for you. If speaking is your primary concern, though, this might be a waste of your time. In that case I’d recommend something like Language Transfer or Pimsleur (still audio-based, but for speaking).
And even though the advertised rates for the Premium Plus membership are not completely honest, it is a genuinely good deal to have someone holding your hand and providing you with personalized homework for $25-$50/month (depending on how long you want to commit yourself to this).
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