Polygloss is a language learning app developed by a tiny team of language learners who use their spare time to “help language learners be independent and enjoy life using a foreign language”. In this Polygloss review, we’ll see how this goal is executed, and how to know if you should try using Polygloss to learn a language.
The Polygloss app has built a huge community of language learners who learn from each other; because of this, they offer flexibility in languages that can be hard to find elsewhere!
Based on the languages offered within the app, most Polygloss users are learning:
- Toki Pona
But if there’s at least 1 other Polygloss user who plays in your target language, you can use Polygloss to learn it!
And you can add, switch, and delete languages at any time with just a couple of taps. If your target language isn’t mentioned in the app, it’s incredibly simple to just type it out yourself and see what happens.
Polygloss themselves recommend you’re at an intermediate level in your language when using the app, but that’s of course all subjective; if you’re brushing up on a language you used to be more advanced in, or if you already know a closely-related language, you’re probably good to go.
Basically, you need to know basic words and basic grammar, because you won’t be supplied with it. There are no rules about looking up words behind the scenes and figuring it out as you go, though!
How to use Polygloss
After you create a free account in the Polygloss app, you will immediately be led to a simple tutorial. The tutorial is simple because the app itself is simple! The team behind the app has really excelled in keeping the process of learning a language simple, fast, and straightforward.
This tutorial is exactly like the real use of the app, except you’re playing with a robot instead of a real person. Take a look.
As you can see, Polygloss really is as simple as:
- Start a match (make sure it’s the right language if you’re using Polygloss to learn multiple foreign languages)
- Select one out of four images to write a sentence about
- Write a sentence describing the image in your target language
- Submit your sentence
The user you’ve been paired up with (totally random, just someone else who is also studying your target language) has 3 days to read your sentence and try to guess which of the four images you were describing.
Then, once they’ve guessed, it’s their turn to go through the above steps and have you guess which image they chose.
And that’s it! The process is super fun, and it’s easy to keep going over and over again if you have the “⚡ Energy” (more on this later). It feels so easy to create sentences again and again, and I can see how easily this app can turn into an hour of accidental language practice.
There are no rules or recommendations for how simple or complex your use of the language is. As long as the other user can reasonably guess which image you’re talking about, it’s fine. And even if they can’t, that’s okay too!
Polygloss’ motivational features
One of the reasons Polygloss is so simple and easy is because of its design; you’re not struggling to figure out what’s next, and the modern use of language app gamification is motivating but not overwhelming.
While Duolingo, for example, depends almost entirely on its gamification to keep you hooked, Polygloss peppers it in just enough to spice up your language learning journey just a little.
Specifically, Polygloss rewards you with ⭐ Stars, 🌻 Karma, and ⚡ Energy.
- ⭐ Stars are gained when you complete matches; they unlock new topics (more below)
- 🌻 Karma is gained when you help other players with corrections or when other players send you a reward
- ⚡ Energy is consumed to do certain actions in the game. It recovers with time or never depletes if you subscribe to Polygloss Unlimited (more later)
Polygloss review: the Library tab
As you use Polygloss to learn a language, you’ll likely start under the first “Play” tab; as you spend more time, however, head over to the “Library” tab for more options for review.
This way, you have the opportunity to review all of your work at any time. This can also be helpful to keep track of how your writing improves, maybe your use of specific grammar rules or vocabulary, and more.
You can also see that the sky’s the limit when it comes to subjects available on Polygloss! Because these aren’t concrete sentences but rather pictures that could inspire literally unlimited sentences or phrases, and you keep getting access to more until you hit 323 ⭐ Stars, you’ll pretty much never run out of things to write.
And that doesn’t even include the imagination and creativity of the users you’ll be matched with!
For example, you can create sentences as simple as “I like cats” or as complex as “this type of animal might live in a home, or it’s possible to find one out in the wild”.
These are two very different sentences that can both be used to describe the exact same image and are valued at the same level.
Polygloss is free to all, and it doesn’t seem that will change anytime soon. If you want access to more features (and support the developers), you can opt to pay a few bucks monthly or annually. Paid features include:
- Translating submissions*
- Bookmarking texts to be reviewed later*
- Save received corrections*
- See your history, as shown in the above video
- Listen to texts using your device’s text-to-speech
*these features are free up to 80 ⚡ Energy; paid users get unlimited access
Here’s the “official” breakdown.
For updated prices of Polygloss Unlimited, go to the app on your device of choice.
Bonus: if you’re so inclined, the Polygloss team is all about transparency; you can do all the financial math yourself here!
Polygloss review: pros, cons, and alternatives
Objectively, I think Polygloss is great! It’s hard to find a language app that effectively motivates users to practice their active use of the language (as opposed to just pressing buttons) without being overwhelming or a huge time suck.
Polygloss is high quality, low effort, and very feel-good.
However, at the time of this Polygloss review, the app does not provide any way to practice speaking the language; the opportunity is 100% there, but it’s not yet a function of the Polygloss app. If speaking practice is a priority for you, I’d recommend similar apps like Yask or Speechling.
Similarly, it can take some time to get any feedback from your exercises – Polygloss users have 3 days to respond to matches. If you’re an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of person, this could be a real sticking point; both Yask and Speechling move much faster (instantly and within 24 hours, respectively), and Busuu’s community feature is another option to help.
Speechling and Busuu are also alternatives if you want to be sure you’re corrected; Polygloss is more focused on the attempt, and corrections for your mistakes aren’t promised.
Regardless, if you’re at all interested in trying it out after this Polygloss review, it’s free – click here to try Polygloss!
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