Olly Richards is the creator of the very popular blog, I Will Teach You a Language. He speaks 8 languages and provides a ton of good advice to language learners.
His philosophy uses a story-based method for learning languages. This is prevalent not just on his website, but in the products he has created.
His Conversations series aims to help intermediate level learners get more listening practice in the form of natural dialogs.
He has released several short stories for beginner and intermediate learners of different languages and they’ve been very well-received.
His newest product is called Grammar Hero and will be the focus of this review. Not surprisingly, Grammar Hero revolves around short stories with the aim of helping you to internalize challenging grammar points.
For this review, I tried out Grammar Hero Spanish. I’m pretty comfortable speaking and understanding Spanish, but my grammar sucks. So, I was pretty excited to see how well his new course would work.
I’ll share my experience trying it out, but first, a little bit more background info about Grammar Hero.
It’s available in a few different languages – Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, and Russian.
Unlike many resources where the material is exactly the same for each language, just translated, Grammar Hero uses unique stories for each language. This makes the material much more relevant to the language that you’re learning.
Grammar Hero is designed for lower-intermediate and intermediate level students (A2-B1). There’s a lot of reading and listening involved, without translations, so many people may struggle a bit with the stories.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something to be aware of and patient with.
For each language, there are 15 total lessons. Each lesson contains four components:
Starting from the beginning, you’ll just notice grammar points being used within a story, and in the end, you’ll need to correctly use the grammar points to express your own thoughts.
Each language focuses on different grammar, the parts that most intermediate level students will struggle with.
Let’s dig a bit deeper now and see what it’s actually like to use Grammar Hero.
For Spanish, the grammar points taught include:
- The Past Tenses
- Ser Vs. Estar
- Por Vs. Para
- Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns
- The Conditional Tense
- The Subject Mood
The first step for each mission is called Discovery. In this section, you’ll be given a short story to read and listen to. Olly refers to it as a reconnaissance mission. The purpose here isn’t to learn the grammar, but instead, to simply enjoy the story.
Whenever the grammar point is used, you’ll find that part of the text underlined. You’re just meant to notice it. There’s no need to spend time trying to figure out what’s going on and there are no explanations here. One small issue I found is that it can be a little hard to see the underlined word as the color is a bit too light (or maybe I’m just going blind).
You may encounter some unknown words in the text, but there’s a word list at the end of the text that you can use to check. It’s pretty short though, so if you’re on the lower end of a lower intermediate level, you may find the text to be quite challenging.
It may feel a little bit hard and uncomfortable for some people but that’s alright and to be expected. This is largely because most people learning languages may not be accustomed to sitting with a long-ish text like this, without translations.
Olly suggests spending as much time as possible with the content, stressing that there’s no such thing as reading the text too many times. So, while you may be tempted to just read it one and move on, you’ll be better off working with the text a bit longer before moving on. The more difficult you find the story, the longer you should be willing to spend with it.
It takes about ten minutes to listen to the story, and of course, everyone will read at different speeds. I was pretty impressed with these stories. While they won’t be winning any awards, they were interesting enough to keep me engaged. They’re also unique for each language, so if you were to study more than one language with Grammar Hero, it’d remain interesting.
After reading and listening to the stories several times, you’ll move onto the Learn section. This is about what you would expect to find from most language learning resources – about the same as a textbook. The grammar point is first explained clearly. Then, there are lots of examples and descriptions to help you figure out different usages.
Olly stresses that it’s not important to memorize these rules. Instead, just be aware of them so that you can recognize them when you go back to the story.
This section is really important and vital for understanding how to master the grammar point, but it’s hardly unique or special compared with anything you could find elsewhere – which makes sense. I mean, there’s only so much you can do to explain the rules of how a grammar point works.
The third step for each mission is to internalize the grammar. Here you’ll re-read and re-listen to the text again. Here, however, some explanations have been written into the margins explaining why the grammar was used.
You’ll notice that not every instance has been explained. That makes sense. You’d probably get sick of reading the explanations and get too easily distracted from the story if there were too many of them.
This is definitely helpful to see as you read. Again, it may make sense to read the story a couple of times. Or, for the cases that aren’t explained, to try to add your own explanation to them.
The final part of the mission is also the most challenging for the majority of students. This is where you’ll move from passive understanding to actively producing the language.
Olly continues to refer to missions and activation of your knowledge. That does sound a lot more fun that labeling this section – “Worksheet” but that’s what it is. Like the Learn section, it’s not the most unique or groundbreaking thing, but it fits well with the rest of the Grammar Hero course and is a necessary component.
There are five types of exercises included in the worksheet. They vary a bit depending on the grammar point being used, but typically they fit the following types.
- Fixing mistakes – You’ll be given a text containing errors. Then, you’ll need to circle the mistakes and re-write the text.
- Multiple choice questions – You’ll be given a sentence and need to fill in the blank with the correct answer.
- Writing practice – You may be asked to rewrite a sentence using a certain grammar point instead of what was used in the original.
- Translation – This is kind of fun. First, you’ll be given a short passage in Spanish, then you’ll translate that to English. From there, you’ll cover up the original Spanish passage, and only using your translation, translate it again, back to Spanish.
- Composition – The final exercise involves writing a composition of several paragraphs which will naturally include the grammar point you’ve been practicing.
The first four exercises all have answers included so that you can easily check your work. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing for the composition.
It would be pretty great if the Grammar Hero course also included a teacher who would review your work and give you feedback on this exercise, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Luckily, you can get feedback for free elsewhere. Just go to italki, sign-up for an account if you don’t already have one, go to the notebooks section and post your composition there. You’ll get feedback from a native speaker in no time at all. Just be sure to help others practice the language they’re learning as well.
I think Grammar Hero is a good product and definitely worth considering. Unfortunately, it’s fairly expensive, costing $197 for each language. There is a 30-day money back guarantee as well though.
Whether or not it’s worth paying for really depends more on the learner’s financial situation than anything else.
To me, Grammar Hero is sort of like a luxury product. If you’re not worried about the money, then go for it. It’s a really useful tool that will speed up your learning, while also being pretty enjoyable to use.
But, if money’s a bit tight for you, then don’t bother with Grammar Hero. You’ll still be able to learn and practice the grammar points elsewhere.
I was impressed with Grammar Hero. I think Olly did a lot of things really well when creating this product.
He sticks with his philosophy of using stories to learn languages. This makes learning much more fun and practical. You’re not just memorizing grammar rules in isolation. Instead, you’re learning how they’re used in a natural manner. This method is also great for improving reading, listening, and vocabulary as well.
I also like how the stories are different for each language. Their length is pretty ideal, being not too long or too short either. They’re also interesting to read – making them much more fun than anything you’d find in a textbook.
I think his method for teaching grammar works really well here. Grammar Hero is much different than many places that first teach the rules and then give you a bunch of example sentence. Starting backward by reading a story and just noticing when the grammar is used is helpful for getting a feel for the language, making it less analytical.
Of course, you still need to learn why the grammar is used, which is done well in the Learn and Internalize sections.
Finally, although not particularly exciting, the worksheet at the end is very useful. Still, I wish there was a teacher to correct your writing on the final exercise, though you can easily get this done on italki for free.
Last but not least, I think he did a great job of selecting the most challenging grammar. They’re the things I still struggle with even though I can talk freely about most topics in Spanish. It’s definitely one of, if not the best, resource I’ve come across for learning grammar.