I have been trying online language courses such as Mondly, Drops, and Linqvist for a couple of months, and in each app I seem have been going over the same introductory new words with each basic version of each app. Busuu seems to be different right from the start.
My knowledge of Spanish was gained whilst travelling in Mexico. I have had no formal lessons, so I have no real idea how grammar is structured, or how words are spelled.
All of my knowledge has been gained by listening to the words and trying to work out what they mean.
Busuu was created in 2008 and has 90 million users world wide. It offers 12 different language courses from PC and mobile device including: Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Turkish, and Polish as well as European languages.
If you buy the premium membership (billed as one payment, renewed annually), you can study multiple languages at the same time.
It has recently added article and video content from El País to the intermediate modules in the Spanish course. This is intended to give Spanish learners more exposure to real-world, topical material.
It also has a community where you can get feedback from native speakers on your speaking and writing skills. You also get emails from Busuu asking you to give feedback on other's efforts to learn your language.
The Busuu app – and website, first tested my comprehension of Spanish with a series of questions. This enabled me to leap frog the first 30 or so lessons so I was not going over old ground yet again.
There is also an AI-powered grammar trainer which is currently only available on iOS, so I could did not test this on my Android device. Busuu intends to roll this out across other platforms soon where you can find this in the 'Review' tab.
Its vocabulary trainer uses a machine-learning algorithm. This algorithm surfaces grammar topics from the course to users before they forget them, which helps to reinforce topics as long-term memories. Busuu's aim is to create a personalised approach to grammar training for each individual learner.
There are 60 x lessons of about 6-10 minutes in length in the Beginner A1 module which you should complete before moving on to the Elementary A2 module with its 28 lessons.
There are 20 lessons in the Intermediate B1 lesson, and 16 lessons in the upper Intermediate B2 module. Throughout each module there are reviews of recent lessons which reminded me of the vocabulary I had already learned.
There is no time restrictions, or pressure to complete any lesson on a certain date. You can proceed at your own pace through each lesson without feeling bad for missing a few days.
At the start of each lesson you have he option to learn relevant vocabulary using flashcards, practice your spelling, and hear how each word is pronounced.
You can also set a study plan with goals – whether to help with your education or to feel like a local when travelling. You can set your preferred level and define a schedule if you prefer. Then you can work in steps to achieve your goals on your chosen completion date based on how long you choose to study each day.
This algorithm caught me out several times during the lessons. All other apps I tried did not mind if I forgot to add accents to special characters. Not Busuu. Although I knew what the word or phrase was, because I did not add the correct accented character to the phrase.
The special characters appeared in my browser window so I could use them, but they did not appear on the Android app. This meant I had flagged warnings each time I used the app to type the response to the question.
Another feature that made me think was that the spacing between words for me to type my answers did not give any clue to how many characters I needed to type. Either I knew the answer, or I did not. I could not guess. This feature really made me focus on the correct answer.
The AI also inserted extra lessons from time to enabling me to review and strengthen my weak words whilst learning. This is a really useful feature so I could reinforce what I had learned – and type the correct accents on the words.
If the app was more forgiving, or provided a set of accented characters to use whilst typing, I am sure that I would use it more often. Until then, my daily lessons will be confined to my desktop – for now.