Our Review of LanguagePod101
LanguagePod101 offers high quality content for dozens of languages. It’s an especially valuable tool for those learning less commonly studied languages like Greek, Cantonese or Norwegian. It's most helpful for learners seeking immersion practice with material a bit more advanced than their current proficiency level.
Ease of Use10
Engagement and Motivation6
Innovative Language, the creators of the LanguagePod101 products (i.e. SpanishPod101, FrenchPod101, etc.), offer dialogue-based learning resources for 34 world languages.
Lessons focus on helping users learn everyday vocabulary by listening to conversations between native speakers. Each lesson introduces a new text or dialogue and the “hosts” walk through it line by line to explain the grammar, help train your pronunciation and introduce useful cultural tips.
Innovative Language products have study material for all levels, whether you’re looking for travel phrases before an overseas trip or seeking immersive practice material as an intermediate or advanced learner. Innovative Language products are some of the most well-developed immersion resources we’ve seen, and a must-have for any self-study language learning routine.
Innovative Language treats each language as a separate product with unique web domains and accounts, so for the purpose of clarity in this article we’ll refer to the product as “LanguagePod101”.
Table of Contents
- How many languages does LanguagePod101 offer?
- How much does LanguagePod101 cost?
- Our experience using LanguagePod101
- Using LanguagePod101 to learn travel phrases before a trip overseas
- Immerse yourself in comprehensible input
- Using LanguagePod101 to expand your proficiency
- Using LanguagePod101 to build vocabulary
- The bottom line – can you learn a language with LanguagePod101?
How many languages does LanguagePod101 offer?
Pod101 features a whopping 34 languages to choose from, including some less commonly studied ones like Norwegian and Urdu:
For many of these languages it can be incredibly tough to find high quality practice material. Norwegian, for example, only has about 5 million native speakers in the world (and Norwegians generally speak very good English). There’s not much demand for Norwegian study materials so it’s quite rare to find courses as well developed as on LanguagePod101.
Additionally, the teachers are given a lot of flexibility with the type of content they create. As a result, you’ll find some really interesting cultural notes within the product; it feels a lot more personalized than most language apps, which tend to teach the same content in every language.
How much does LanguagePod101 cost?
LanguagePod101 subscriptions begin at just $8 per month if you only want the actual lesson content:
Basic: $8/month ($4/month if paid yearly; $96 total)
Premium: $25/month ($10/month if you pay for 2 years; $240 total)
Premium Plus: $47/month ($23/month if paid yearly; $549 total)
They do offer a comprehensive free trial, however. When you sign up for an account you’re automatically given a 7-day free trial of the Premium subscription, with no commitment required (you don’t have to enter payment details at all). Additionally, when you first create an account you’ll be offered one month of Premium Plus for just $1. You only see the offer once, however, so we recommend trying it when you have the chance. Note that you will automatically be charged $25 (1 month of Premium) after your $1 month ends.
Our experience using LanguagePod101
We used LanguagePod101’s courses as an absolute beginner as well as for intermediate/advanced level practice. For beginner level material we used GreekPod101 and found it to be a helpful crash course before a trip to Greece. We studied intermediate-level Dutch on DutchPod101 mostly as a refresher course, since we learned Dutch years ago but forgot how to speak it.
LanguagePod101 products offer an extensive amount of learning material, meaning you can find courses for pretty much all levels. The course structure makes it easy to find lessons that fit your needs and the lessons are structured in a way that makes it easy to focus on the areas you find most helpful.
Choosing your Path
LanguagePod101 products organize lesson material into five different levels: Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, and Advanced.
Within each level you’ll find a “Lesson Library” containing dozens of “Learning Paths” to choose from. A Learning Path is essentially a course or group of Lessons focusing on a particular skill or competency (i.e. Dutch Listening Comprehension for Beginners). You’re not limited to any particular Path or Lesson though – you can work on whatever you like in any order depending on your interests and goals.
We’ll note that there are more than a dozen courses available for the Absolute Beginner level (GreekPod101), which we found a bit confusing. Some courses appear to be duplicates, such as “Absolute Beginner” and “Level 1 Greek” which appear to be nearly identical. In other cases, it’s not clear what the difference is between courses such as “Absolute Beginner” and “Beginner” which both have 25 dialogue-based lessons but appear to be entirely different.
Pod101’s course list and naming structure are very unclear so you’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out which course makes the most sense for you.
We initially opted to follow the “3-Minute-Greek” course, which has 27 Lessons that focus on elementary situations such as introducing yourself, asking if someone speaks English or asking how much something costs. We quickly realized there’s a better option for learning travel phrases – the “Survival Phrases Season 1” course – which focuses almost entirely on everyday dialogues you’ll use in brief encounters.
This Path includes all of the basic necessities for a trip to Greece, including five Lessons dedicated to going to a restaurant, ordering and asking for the bill.
If you’re looking for a quick crash course in the weeks before an overseas trip we’d seriously recommend trying out LanguagePod101’s 7-day free trial.
Your LanguagePod101 Dashboard
From the Lesson Library you can browse the different Paths available and “Follow” the ones you’re interested in. The “Dashboard” will show you all the Paths you’re currently Following. From there, you can add more Paths or remove the ones you no longer wish to Follow.
To add a new Path to your dashboard, simply click “Browse all Pathways” on desktop or “Discover More” if you’re using the mobile app.
LanguagePod101’s lessons are full of useful tools
LanguagePod101 offers a vast amount of Lesson content to choose from in both audio and video formats. Within each Lesson one or two hosts will introduce new learning material, such as a conversation or an informational text. They’ll then walk you through each part, providing explanations and useful cultural tips.
We found the Lesson Audios/Videos helpful for beginner levels, where we need a bit more help, but generally didn’t need them for intermediate/advanced level Lessons. Fortunately, you aren’t forced to use them if you don’t want to – there are plenty of other ways to work through the lesson material:
- Dialogue (Line-by-Line on mobile): shows you the dialogue introduced in the Lesson, available in both English and your target language. We found ourselves using this tool very often since you can click to listen to the native-speaker audio for each phrase.
- Vocabulary: displays all of the new vocabulary introduced in the lesson, which you can then add to your flashcard decks. You can expand each item (Expansion section on mobile) to view example sentences and gain a better understanding of how it’s used.
- Lesson Notes: more detailed explanations of the grammatical concepts introduced in the Lesson, including some extra examples. Useful for working through the Lesson more in-depth after listening to the main Audio.
We found the Audios/Videos beneficial as beginners, such as when we were exploring Greek at the Absolute Beginner level, but less useful for intermediate or advanced learners. Fortunately, the availability of extra tools allowed us to easily customize our learning experience.
We didn’t find the Lesson Audios very practical for intermediate Dutch but we were able to read through and listen to the Dialogues, work through the expanded Vocabulary sections and scan through the Lesson Notes to get a better understanding of the grammatical concepts.
Using LanguagePod101 to learn travel phrases before a trip overseas
We used GreekPod101 to learn some basic phrases before a trip to Greece. Since we only planned to study the language for a couple weeks, we decided not to follow the comprehensive “Level 1 Greek” course and instead focused on some of the shorter courses.
Many of the languages on LanguagePod101 have “Survival Phrases” courses, which we’d strongly recommend for anyone interested in learning the absolute basics of a language. The content is actually rather similar to Pimsleur’s travel phrases, though LanguagePod101 takes a different approach. LanguagePod101 doesn’t offer the same level of in-depth repetition practice you’ll find in Pimsleur tapes, however the extra tools (see above section) make up for it. If we were to travel to a new country with no previous knowledge of the local language we’d probably use both Pimsleur and LanguagePod101 together, since they complement each other well.
The only thing we didn’t like about the beginner level material was that the Greek voice artists speak very fast, which made it difficult to learn how to say the phrases. When they spoke them slowly (in the Lesson Audio section) they broke every word down into individual syllables, which sounded real-ly un-nat-tur-al.
LanguagePod101 is the best app for learning cultural information
One of LanguagePod101’s advantages lies in their inclusion of relevant cultural information. Many language apps teach the same generic vocabulary words for every language, meaning users miss out on valuable cultural information. LanguagePod101, in contrast, will teach you boatloads of valuable cultural information that you’ll actually be able to use in your target language. That’s because Innovative Language employs native-speaker teachers to design and create learning material for each language on LanguagePod101. They give their teachers a lot of room to add their own personal touch in the language courses, meaning you’ll see a lot of interesting and useful cultural notes included in the lesson material.
In Lesson 11 “Entering a Restaurant” of GreekPod101’s Survival Phrases course, we learned that the word “ταβέρνα (taverna)” is a common word for “restaurant” in Greece, and that it’s generally expected for guests to choose a table and seat themselves rather than approach the staff and ask for a table. This tip proved immediately practical for us since we were in Greece at the time of completing the lesson… and wondering why waiters looked a bit confused when we walked up to them and asked for a table.
Practicing Dutch at intermediate level with DutchPod101
It’s been over five years since we originally learned Dutch, and due to lack of practice, it’s gotten rather rusty. It turns out LanguagePod101 is an excellent way to “dive back in” to a language you haven’t studied in a while.
LanguagePod101 makes it easy to find a Path perfectly aligned with your current proficiency level unlike, for example, Duolingo, which forces you through proficiency exams and a test-locked curriculum.
Additionally, LanguagePod101 has language study content you simply won’t find on other platforms. If you’ve used a lot of different language apps you might have noticed that the majority of them follow a similar pattern: they stick to the standard textbook formula of boring, mundane topics like “fruits and vegetables” or “articles of clothing.” Through this approach many learners get bored and give up before they learn anything they can really use, but LanguagePod101 courses are considerably more interesting.
LanguagePod101 Lessons cover useful everyday topics you will actually use, such as going to a hairdresser, ordering at a restaurant or even navigating a job interview. There are dozens of topics to choose and you have the ability to choose what is the best fit for you.
On DutchPod101, for example, we found Paths like “Must-Know Dutch Slang Words & Phrases” and “Must-Know Dutch Social Media Phrases.”
Each of these courses contain 25 Lessons across a wide range of topics. The best part is that you can work through them in any order you want!
One of the Lessons in this Path is called “Expressions About Going Out.” It includes four expressions used to talk about nightlife, plus explanations to help you understand each one. Most apps skip over this type of vocabulary, but in reality you’re never going to have a conversation with a native speaker about, “What types of fruits and vegetables do you eat?” Rather, you’re much more likely to talk about that “vette plaat (awesome song)” that’s popular right now. LanguagePod101 keeps things current, relevant and, above all, directly useful to the learner.
Immerse yourself in comprehensible input
Comprehensible input (CI) is a linguistic term meaning foreign language content you can understand, even though you don’t necessarily know all of the words and structures. It essentially means content that’s not too easy and not too difficult, but just a tad bit more advanced than your current proficiency level.
Stephen Krashen’s language acquisition hypothesis
In the 1970’s, a linguist named Stephen Krashen developed a group of five hypotheses collectively known as the input hypothesis.
Krashen theorized that the most effective way to acquire a second language is through i+1 learning material, where i symbolizes your current proficiency level and the +1 means just a little bit more.
Simply put, it means that if you’re at an intermediate level in your target language you should study using material that’s just a little bit more advanced – enough that you can still understand it even though there might be some words you aren’t familiar with or some grammar structures you can’t quite explain. By using comprehensible input study material (at a difficulty of i+1) you’ll acquire language more effectively because you are subconsciously picking things up through observation.
Comprehensible input is normally hard to find
When you reach intermediate and advanced levels of proficiency in your target language you should spend a significant portion of your study time immersing yourself in comprehensible input study material. That means listening to podcasts or radio shows, watching TV/movies, reading articles or books; material you can understand, but that is a bit above your proficiency level.
Unfortunately, it can be really difficult to find high quality sources of comprehensible input. This is especially true at the intermediate level, where most language learning apps are too easy (i.e. endlessly drilling “this girl has 5 hats”) but advanced-level material (i.e. podcasts or TV shows) is still too difficult.
The ideal study material should be bite-sized; something you can easily analyze and digest. If you’re at intermediate level French and try to read a novel written at an adult reading level, it’ll take you forever to get through just a few pages. The material is simply too difficult. It would be a better use of your time to find something written at a children’s reading level… however the vocabulary you find in kids books isn’t likely to be of any interest or use to you. Instead, you should spend your time consuming CI that is 1) relevant to your everyday life and, 2) short and to the point. The ideal CI material for an intermediate-level French learner could be, for example, a dialogue about getting a haircut or describing a previous vacation. The ideal material generally needs to be created for the purpose of language learning, meaning it’s generally hard to find. Fortunately, LanguagePod101 has exactly the type of material we need.
Using LanguagePod101 to expand your proficiency
LanguagePod101 is the perfect source of high quality comprehensible input, especially for languages which don’t have a whole lot of study material easily available. For Dutch, the “Lower Intermediate” Path provided an ample amount of comprehensible input we used to expand our vocabulary and get more comfortable with the language.
For example, in one of the Lessons “How Do You Feel About the Dutch Weather?” we came across the phrase “Maar ‘s zomers is het in ieder geval wel lekker.” We read this sentence and understood the literal meaning: “But in summer it’s anyway delicious.” Based on the context we knew they couldn’t really mean the summer weather is delicious, but we were able to assume “lekker” can also mean “good” or “nice.”
Fortunately, LanguagePod101 has translations of each dialogue so we were able to double check the meaning: “But in the summers it’s nice anyway.” Through constant exposure to comprehensible input we’re able to build a deeper understanding of vocabulary and sentence structure, which in turn helps expand our proficiency and polish the rough edges.
Using LanguagePod101 to build vocabulary
As a language learner you should spend some of your everyday study time dedicated to learning new vocabulary. By some estimates you need to learn more than 4000 words in order to reach B2 on the CEFR scale (the advanced-level rating usually required to enter university or find employment overseas). This may sound daunting, but if you take the time to memorize 10 new words per day you could boost your vocabulary by 1000 words in a little more than three months.
LanguagePod101 is the perfect app to find new words and phrases to help expand your vocabulary. It offers an abundance of high quality videos, dialogues and texts – all with native speaker audio – plus a number of extra tools to help you analyze the lesson material.
The (Expanded) Vocabulary section of each Lesson is a great resource to look at before diving into the main Audio/Video. You can listen to the pronunciation and view context sentences to get a better understanding of each term. As you go through the lesson dialogues or texts, make note of any words or phrases you aren’t familiar with – if you see something you feel you might use often you should add it to your personal vocabulary list and memorize it later.
We will note that the Flashcards feature on LanguagePod101 wasn’t the best we’ve seen. First, it’s not possible to add your own text; you can only add vocab words they’ve included in the Vocabulary section. This was particularly frustrating when we were studying beginner level Greek. We wanted to practice flashcards of the entire sentences but our only option was to study individual words which, out of context, didn’t make much sense to us.
For example, the phrase “Χαίρω πολύ. (Héro polí.)” means “Nice to meet you” but we were only able to add the word “Χαίρω (Héro)” as a flashcard. As beginners, it was very difficult to try to learn a phrase broken down into multiple words.
Plus, there’s no way to customize the settings in the Flashcard Player. We prefer to be given the English term and asked to produce the Dutch term (because producing strengthens your memory more than recognizing) but there’s no way to select which activities to include.
If we’re given the audio of a given vocab term we might easily recognize it and hit “Correct,” meaning we won’t see that term for a while… but if we were asked to produce the term we would mark it “Incorrect.” Additionally, there are times when we can’t play audio and would prefer to practice without sound.
Given these issues, we found it more advantageous to practice new vocabulary with Anki (see our guide) instead of with LanguagePod101’s default Flashcard tool. Anki requires a bit more setup than simply checking a box and adding vocab to your lists but you’ll see considerably better results. Within a week of studying Dutch on DutchPod101, we had added over 140 new cards to our Anki deck.
The bottom line – can you learn a language with LanguagePod101?
Are LanguagePod101 products worth using? Can you really learn a language with them? The short answer is – yes, absolutely!
LanguagePod101 offers high quality study material for dozens of languages from beginner all the way to advanced. It’s an especially valuable tool for those learning less commonly studied languages like Greek, Cantonese or Norwegian. Generally it can be really tough to find high quality study material for these resources and LanguagePod101 is far, far better than your standard language app.
LanguagePod101 is most helpful for learners seeking immersion practice with high quality comprehensible input (learning material a little bit more advanced than your current proficiency level, but not so difficult that you can’t understand).
We used GreekPod101 to learn some useful travel phrases before a trip to Greece and had really good results. We learned enough to greet people, explain we didn’t speak much Greek and ask basic questions. If we were to continue studying Greek after our trip it would be a straightforward experience since LanguagePod101 products have clear study Paths.
We used DutchPod101 to practice Dutch at an intermediate level. It had been more than five years since we had last studied the language, but DutchPod101 ended up being the ideal resource for polishing off the rust and getting back up to speed. We worked through one or two Lessons per day, listening to the dialogues, reading them aloud and adding the noteworthy vocabulary to our Anki deck. After about a week we had over 140 new vocab flashcards.
Like with any language learning app, you need to invest time and effort in order to achieve real progress. We highly recommend setting up a language learning study routine in order to stay organized and on track to achieve your goals.
LanguagePod101 is a fantastic resource for immersion and vocab building, so add it to your arsenal of study tools and spend 45-60 minutes every day learning – you’ll be surprised how quickly you can improve.
– written by Drew Grubba for Smarter Language. Drew has ACTFL-certified proficiency in Swedish, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish. He’s also studied Mandarin Chinese, Norwegian and Dutch, and is currently learning Russian.