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ELSA Speak Review: Your AI English Pronunciation Tutor

Quick Review

4.3 

Summary

ELSA, whose name stands for English Language Speech Assistant, is an AI-powered English pronunciation app and a serious contender for the position of your virtual pronunciation coach. It has a free and paid-for version, and is geared toward non-native English speakers who want to talk in a neutral American accent, improve their fluency, and speak with confidence.

Quality

It will effectively train you on 22 pronunciation skills, as well as syllable stress – although you’ll need to drill connected speech on your own.

Thoroughness

With 1400+ lessons, ELSA drills both your listening and speaking skills and has a natural progression from easy to difficult.

Value

ELSA is priced fairly for the value it provides.

Languages

American English

Price

ELSA has a free version, but the premium one will give you access to the Dictionary and newly updated lessons.

There are three plans:

1. ELSA PRO: 1-month membership for $5.99 
2. ELSA PRO: 3-month membership for $13.99 
3. ELSA PRO: 1-year membership for $44.99

Use the code “ALRELSA” to get 10% off your subscription. The coupon is only valid if purchased from the link below and not from within the app. 

A native-sounding English accent can open up work opportunities and make traveling easier. But let’s be honest, mastering English pronunciation can be far harder than studying phrasal verbs or adjective order.

That’s where the AI pronunciation app ELSA comes in: it claims to help language-learners to “improve [their] English pronunciation instantly” so that you can “speak English clearly, fluently, and confidently like your own mother tongue.”

I tested ELSA thoroughly to find out what it does well, what it doesn’t do so well, and whether it’s worth your time and money.

Elsa

HOW DOES ELSA WORK?

First thing’s first: is ELSA any good? In my opinion… yes! It does exactly what it promises.

If you’ve ever felt self-conscious about your heavy accent, this app will help you smoothen out your pronunciation and speak in a more neutral way (providing you’re happy to sound like an American, of course).

And you don’t have to be an expert at English to use it: you can set it to display the instructions and feedback in 30 different languages.

The key features are:

ASSESSMENT

ELSA asks you to record yourself reading 16 sentences. It picked up my voice just fine, even without headphones.

After recording each sentence, you can listen back and either redo it or submit it and move on.

Once you’ve done all 16 sentences, you’ll get your overall score as well as individual scores for the following skills:

  • Aspiration sounds /p/ /t/ /k/
  • Consonant clusters
  • Soft /s/ and strong /sh/
  • The troubled /r/
  • The /l/ and /r/ confusion
  • /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/
  • The unstressed schwa sound /ə/
  • Short and long /i/
  • The /w/ and /v/ confusion
  • /əʊ/ and /oʊ/
  • Ending sounds
  • /θ/ and /ð/ as in breath and breathe

All the scores come as percentages and indicate how close you are to sounding like a native speaker. By clicking on the question mark next to each subtask, you can see additional information about the skill, along with examples.

You can also share your score with your friends.

One of the most interesting parts of ELSA is the detailed report. It gives you a sentence-by-sentence analysis of how close you came to sounding like a native American speaker, what you said well (in green), and what you should work on (in yellow and red).

By tapping the play icon, you can listen to your recording again, and by tapping the speaking icon, you can listen to the original recording by the native speaker.

Pretty cool, right?

The thoroughness of the feedback, as well as the speed at which it’s available, left me impressed.

Typically, you practice pronunciation by working with a native speaker or a skilled and trained teacher. In their absence, you can do drills by yourself, as well as recording yourself speaking and then listening back to pinpoint mistakes.

ELSA takes inspiration from these methods but improves on them in two ways. One, it gives instant feedback, meaning there’s no need to wait for your next class to receive corrections. Two, it provides a standard model against which your speech is analyzed and the differences are automatically calculated. In doing so, it removes the guessing game from listening to your own recordings.

After you’ve done your test, ELSA will reorganize the learning material so that greater priority is given to your weakest skills.

Use the code “ALRELSA” to get 10% off your subscription. The coupon is only valid if purchased from the link below and not from within the app. 

Visit Elsa Speak

WORD BANK

The Word Bank contains all the words and phrases you’ve worked on so far. It separates the ones you got a high score on from those you need to work on, i.e. you scored 80 or below on them. You can manually add any word you’re struggling with to the “saved” section of the Word Bank.

DICTIONARY (EXCLUSIVE TO THE PREMIUM VERSION)

For paying subscribers, the Dictionary allows you to look up any word, phrase, or sentence and listen to an audio recording of it. You’ll also see the IPA spelling and – which I think is the coolest thing ever – a video of people saying those words or phrases in a real-life conversation.

HOW DO LESSONS WORK?

The in-app learning is divided into three sections: Skills, Topics, and Daily Coach.

1) SKILLS

When you go to the Skills section, you’ll see 22 planets. They’re all a different color and represent specific pronunciation skills.

You’ll already recognize 12 of the skills from the Assessment categories, but the entire list is:

  • WELCOME – This is a sampler of the other skills and topics, and the only skill available in the free version
  • /p/ /t/ /k/ – Topic: Food and Drinks (36 lessons)
  • Consonant clusters (groups of consonants that aren’t separated by vowels, e.g. “thr” in “through”) – Topics: Business (30 lessons) and Education (12 lessons)
  • /s/, /ʃ/, /z/ – Topics: Travel with Michelle (61 lessons) and Customer Service (12 lessons)
  • R sounds – Topic: Education (52 lessons)
  • /l/, /r/ – Topics: Relationships (26 lessons) and Beauty (31 lessons)
  • /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ – Topic: Banking (10 lessons)
  • Schwa (/ə/ – Topic: Jobs, Education Background, Hometown, and Hobbies (37 lessons)
  • /i/, /ɪ/ – Topic: Entertainment (36 lessons)
  • /w/, /v/, /b/ – Topic: Relationships (28 lessons)
  • Ending sounds – Topics: Business (12 lessons) and Family (37 lessons)
  • Th sounds – Topics: Environment (14 lessons) and Wellbeing (17 lessons)
  • Mixed sounds – Topic: The New Normal (26 lessons)
  • Mixed Skills
  • Intonation – Topic: Misc. (49 lessons)
  • /eɪ/, /ɛ/, /æ/ – Topic: Everyday English (30 lessons)
  • /u/, /ʊ/ – Topic: Everyday English (18 lessons)
  • Diphthongs – Topic: Everyday English (18 lessons)
  • /æ/, /ʌ/, /a/ – Topic: All About Music (24 lessons)
  • Nasals: /m/, /n/, /ŋ/ – Topic: Everyday English (24 lessons)
  • /h/, /f/, /v/ – Topic: Everyday English (24 lessons)
  • /j/, /y/, /ʒ/, /dʒ/ – Topic: Everyday English (18 lessons)

These are labeled by difficulty (easy, medium, and hard), while the order depends on your Assessment results.

Each skill is further broken down into topics (more on that to come) and four different lesson types: pronunciation, listening or “Can you hear the difference?”, syllable stress, and dialogue.

The lessons consist of just five words, phrases, or syllables, so calling them micro-lessons doesn’t seem unfair.

They’re also gamified. You can track your progress by looking at the bar at the top of the screen. Every time you master a word or phoneme, a section of it turns green. When the entire bar is green, you’ve mastered all five words and the lesson ends.

If you quit mid-lesson, you’ll lose your progress. Given how short each micro-lesson is, however, it’s not too demotivating.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Diphthongs skill. For me, this was skill number 18, but remember that the order reflects your Assessment results.

Clicking on the “?” icon on the left gives you information on what diphthongs are, along with common pronunciation mistakes and examples.

It’s a shame the team behind ELSA didn’t include a drawing or animation. It would be good to see how we can create diphthongs rather than reading a block of text.

Use the code “ALRELSA” to get 10% off your subscription. The coupon is only valid if purchased from the link below and not from within the app. 

Visit Elsa Speak

Listening is the first lesson for this skill. You have to choose the word you hear from two similar options. If you get it correct, you then see the phonetic spelling of both words.

To pass the lesson, you need to score 80% or higher. The quick lesson time and automated applause are a nice motivation to take on just one more lesson.

For lessons that involve speaking, I found I had better results when I spoke slowly and took care to enunciate every phoneme.

You also have the option of listening to the native speaker’s audio at normal and slow speeds.

For single-word pronunciation lessons, make sure you’ve toggled the “Lookup” option. This lets you check the IPA spelling, definition, and an example sentence by swiping to the left on the bottom third of your screen.

Want a bigger challenge? Try toggling between the “regular” and “advanced” options at the top of your screen and you’ll get different scores. The regular mode only tests you on the phoneme the module is focused on, while the advanced mode will give you an overall score based on all the sounds in the word or phrase. Don’t forget that you can redo your recordings until you’re happy with how they sound.

The syllable stress lessons are a little different. You’ll see a word with a syllable highlighted in green: this is the one you should emphasize when speaking. However, once you figure out that this is all you have to do to pass the test, laziness can kick in.

For example, in the word educational, the syllable “ca” should be stressed. Since the other four syllables are unstressed, the app won’t evaluate how you say them. I passed the majority of this lesson by saying “blah” for all the unstressed syllables, meaning I turned “educational” into “blahCAblahblah.”

Is it a big deal if this exercise is testing stress placement only? That’s up to you to decide. But from my perspective, testing the correct pronunciation as well as the syllable stress would be more useful.

Perhaps the most interesting lesson type is the dialogue one. Just like in a brick-and-mortar school, you do a role-play exercise that involves reading a dialogue line by line.

The app kicks the dialogue off, and when it’s your turn, you’re asked to record yourself. You then get instant feedback with a percentage figure and your mistakes marked in red.

Tap the red letters to get tips on how to improve. You can also listen to the individual phonemes along with your recording.

After finishing each skill, you get an overall score and a badge appears next to the planet’s icon.

Use the code “ALRELSA” to get 10% off your subscription. The coupon is only valid if purchased from the link below and not from within the app. 

Visit Elsa Speak

2) TOPICS

There are far more topics for you to work through than the ones listed under Skills. Each one tests you on specific pronunciation skills and presents you with topic-specific vocabulary.

There are currently over 50 topics, some of which are in beta mode:

  1. The new normal
  2. Tips from an accent coach
  3. Cricket
  4. National High School Exam
  5. Talk with Do Nhat Nam
  6. Vietnamese Culture
  7. Everyday English
  8. High School
  9. Middle School
  10. Elementary: Letters A to D
  11. Elementary: Letters E to H
  12. Elementary: Letters I to M
  13. Elementary: Letters N to Q
  14. Elementary: Letters R to U
  15. Elementary: Letters V to Z
  16. Intonation (beta)
  17. Lee Working as a Salesman
  18. Pick your Answer: Interview (beta)
  19. Working at a hotel
  20. Working at a restaurant
  21. Working in healthcare
  22. Working for an airline
  23. Working in customer service
  24. Relationship
  25. Real-Life Stories
  26. Holiday Words
  27. One Lesson per Day
  28. All about Music
  29. Travel with Michelle
  30. Daily Conversations
  31. Talk to your colleagues
  32. Movies
  33. Move your mouth – watch video
  34. Culture
  35. Beat the IELTS test
  36. In a medical center
  37. Common mispronunciations
  38. Videos for Vietnamese
  39. Number, Date & Time
  40. Welcome
  41. Taxi Driver
  42. Customer Service
  43. Introduction
  44. Family
  45. Food and Drinks
  46. Entertainment
  47. Education
  48. Beauty
  49. Wellbeing
  50. Business
  51. Environment
  52. Banking
  53. Job Interview
  54. Triangle English
  55. Daily Lessons
  56. Startup
  57. Videos conversation Set 1

According to ELSA, there are 1,400+ lessons and new ones will continue to be added. That should keep you busy for a while, eh?

3) DAILY COACH

You’ll get a daily reminder to use ELSA, but how long you practice for is up to you. Go to the settings to set your daily learning goal to anything from 5 minutes upwards. According to ELSA’s website, 10 minutes of daily practice is optimal for “instant improvement.”

Once you’ve finished your session, your daily performance will be scored, and you’ll get a reminder to practice again tomorrow.

Your overall progress will be calculated cumulatively with the data from these daily performance tests. This percentage is further broken down into individual and cluster sounds, each of which has its own score.

PRICING

While you can use ELSA for free, you only get access to a stripped-down version of the platform. The Dictionary and most of the lessons will be off-limits.

To access all the content, you need to pay for an ELSA PRO subscription. Committing to a longer plan will get you a discount:

  1. ELSA PRO: 1-month membership for $5.99
  2. ELSA PRO: 3-month membership for $13.99
  3. ELSA PRO: 1-year membership for $44.99

Use the code “ALRELSA” to get 10% off your subscription. The coupon is only valid if purchased from the link and not from within the app. 

ALTERNATIVES

If you’re not convinced by ELSA, the most obvious alternative is a tutor who can work with you on your pronunciation. Bear in mind that this could be costly, plus scheduling lessons isn’t always convenient.

You can find online tutors through italki, which offers affordable rates and a wide pool of teachers to choose from. Find out more about it in our detailed review.

Speechling is another good option if pronunciation is your main goal. You can record yourself speaking and receive feedback from a coach within 24 hours. Here’s what we thought of it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you want to polish your accent and sound more like a native American English speaker, is ELSA worth buying?

Yes.

Not only does it have an expansive and engaging list of topics, but it will give you detailed training on specific English phonemes, tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong, and track your improvements. (And you’ll probably learn new vocabulary while you’re at it, too.)

Pronunciation is one of the most challenging parts of learning a new language. Yet seeing how my accent improved with ELSA gave me more confidence speaking to other people in English.

Use the code “ALRELSA” to get 10% off your subscription. The coupon is only valid if purchased from the link below and not from within the app. 

Visit Elsa Speak

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