Before trying out Language101 for myself, I, unfortunately, confused it in my mind with the LanguagePod101 courses made by Innovate Languages (FrenchPod101, ChineseClass101, etc) which I like and think are quite good.
As such I ended up being quite disappointed as there really is no comparison between the two as Language101’s ‘courses’ (if you can even call them that) are very poorly thought out and don’t teach you all that much.
Although they are aimed at beginners, the fact that there are no explanations means that you just have to memorize and parrot random words and phrases that are flung at you out of context.
The ‘learning method’ that is used also seems to me to be pretty inefficient as you are asked to work through the content at breakneck speed.
I fail to see how a beginner, who has never learned the language before, is expected to be able to immediately produce words and phrases in a language they don’t know.
I found it to be a quite bizarre experience, being repeatedly told that I wasn’t hitting the ‘optimal learning’ of 7 seconds per phrase target.
While I think beginners would learn some words and phrases just by using the platform I don’t think this is a very effective way of learning a language and so wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
The fact that you don’t learn how to spell, write or translate the language, learn any grammar and only learn to parrot phrases out of context means that for me Language101 is best avoided.
In fact, it’s so bad that we’ve never given a review rating as low as the one we gave to LanguagePod101.
Do yourself a favor and use any other language learning resource instead.
So far Language101 has ten languages for you to choose from and these range from standards such as Spanish, Japanese and English to less popular ones such as Danish, and intriguingly, French-Canadian.
The content is aimed at beginners, and in theory, by working your way through the lessons you should be able to get to an intermediate level. This, however, is very unlikely.
The courses, if you can call them that, are generally poorly laid-out and designed and the amount of content varies between the languages.
They are really just a collection of ‘lessons’ – again, if you can even call them that – and so ‘Beginner Lesson 5’ of Canadian-French is somehow the 41st lesson of the course.
In fact, the platform doesn’t even expect you to work through them in order and so under the Study in Order section it is grudgingly written ‘you will probably want to study some of our lessons in order’.
The main study tool or batch of content that you are expected to work through is actually under ‘Start Studying’ where random words and phrases in the language you are learning are chucked at you.
You are then expected to answer these as quickly as possible and say the expected phrase, in a language you have never learned before, out loud to yourself.
You then have to rate how you have done, almost certainly rating yourself ‘wrong’ over and over again. To encourage you, however, you will get points for each answer.
This is the level of speaking and understanding that you will come away with after having used their ‘innovative’ method and it is the only exercise for you to do on the whole platform.
Over and over again.
While some other language learning platforms have slightly similar exercises for you to work through, none of them, as far as I know, are solely made up of this one exercise on repeat.
After you have signed up for an account with Language101 and logged in you’re almost ready to go – all you have to do to is select your language of choice. I decided to go with Italian.
Once you have selected whichever one you want to learn you are then taken to your home study page where you can see your ‘study streak’ and just how much progress you have made so far.
You then click on ‘Start Studying’ to begin learning your language of choice.
Here I was slightly surprised to be greeted by the following page which asked me to say ‘I really like Italy’ in Italian with the only hint given being that I was expected to produce four words.
After you’ve tried to formulate it in your mind or said it out loud (good luck if you are actually indeed a beginner and have never seen a word of Italian before) you then click either ‘I’ve tried to say it out loud’ or ‘I don’t know’.
This then plays a recording of the phrase said in Italian. You then say whether you got it right by clicking one of the options that range from ‘wrong’ right up to ‘perfect’. In this instance, I gave myself a ‘good’ rating and continued on to the next phrases.
It took me three or four ‘gos’ to realize that there is actually a timer and you get points depending on how quickly you conjure up the phrase, stop the clock and see if you got it right or not.
The green dot in the middle of the screen winds down like a clock, pretty quickly turning orange and then red when you’re out of time. While some ‘gamification’ can undoubtedly encourage people to do better, I actually found this to be quite stressful.
After working my way through the first five or ten phrases, the couple which I had got wrong came around again and I found myself getting them right the second time.
Once I had rated myself ‘perfect’ for them, new phrases were then introduced. I kept this up for half-an-hour as Language101 recommends you do before taking a look at my progress and my stats.
These showed which phrases I had learned so far and what rating I had given myself for each of them.
After this somewhat bizarre introduction to both Italian and Language101, I had somehow unlocked actual lessons and a huge list of them appeared before me when I clicked on the ‘Study in Order’ link on the home page.
After clicking on the first one so ‘Beginners Lesson 1 – Formal’, I was greeted with similar exercises as before, just with different colors and a slightly different look to them.
You then work through them in exactly the same way, saying the missing word or phrases out loud before checking to see if you have got it correct or not.
Down below you can then listen to each word or phrase individually and add them all to your study plan if you so wish. This first lesson ended up being quite similar to the introduction but without the time pressure and apparently the points too.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the first lesson and what it offers up as well as what could possibly be described as a somewhat stressful introduction to the language and platform, what do the later lessons look like?
After trying the next couple of lessons and seeing that they followed exactly the same formula, I skipped ahead and tried some of the later beginner lessons.
Unfortunately, these were identical and while for the most part, the content did get slightly more complicated, the last lesson still asked me how to say ‘why?’ – ‘perche’.
Before criticizing its many shortcomings I decided to take a look around the rest of the website to see what else it had to offer up and in doing so stumbled across their ‘Top Reviews’ section.
Here, Brent Van Arsdell, Language101’s founder, gives his verdict on various other language learning resources such as Pimsleur, Duolingo and Rosetta Stone.
Not surprisingly, in the reviews, Language101 usually compares quite favorably with its more famous competitors although Brent generously does allow that some of them are better at some things.
Interestingly enough he also gives his verdict on Language101 and what you can expect from it and also, more importantly, what you can’t expect from it.
He goes on to say that ‘Our program does NOT teach you how to spell, write, or translate your new language’. In addition to this, you shouldn’t expect to learn any grammar as they also don’t cover that (apart from for Spanish).
Now, that’s already quite a lot of things that it doesn’t do with many of them being key aspects of learning a language.
So, what does it do?
Well, Brent asserts that Language101’s aim is to ‘teach you to speak and understand a very large amount of your new language very quickly’.
And, if you want to learn quickly, well you have to study quickly!
The idea behind the whole method is, therefore, to study at speed and cram in as many phrases into 60 seconds as you can.
The reason being that by devoting a whole minute to studying a complicated phrase full of grammar points and vocabulary you have just been introduced to is a waste of time. So to get the best out of the platform you should ‘study many phrases very quickly and just try to improve slightly each time’.
Now, this review by Brent of his own language learning platform thankfully answered quite a few of my questions and explained that awful timer which had so quickly counted down to nothing.
My Stats Page also started to make sense as I’d previously thought the following was just gibberish if not a bit insulting and aggressive – ‘Your average speed per phrase was 24 seconds. You are studying too slowly. Try to do a new phrase every 7 seconds’.
Despite these explanations for the platform’s many, many shortcomings, I am still not too sure what to think of it.
For one the speed at which you are asked to produce an answer seems very unreasonable and could even be demotivating to students. For instance, I just can’t fathom how a beginner, who’s presumably never learned the language before, is supposed to even go about answering the questions.
Are they just meant to keep clicking ‘show me the answer’ to reveal the correct phrase, getting everything wrong over and over again, but working through as many as possible?
It just kind of seems ridiculous and a bit pointless as the best they can hope to do is slowly learn various phrases but out of context and without knowing any of the grammar that is involved.
Funnily enough, the random flurry of Italian words and phrases I had been asked to produce right at the beginning, something I originally thought might be a test to place my level, is apparently the platform’s main study tool.
This means you are expected to just keep clicking through phrases you can’t possibly know unless you’ve studied the language before.
I imagine that for a first time user this would be very confusing as you are not given an explanation about why you are even doing this and what it is supposed to achieve.
You are just prodded to go faster and faster through incomprehensible words and phrases. On top of this, you are never given any explanation about what any of it all means or how a sentence is constructed.
What also cracked me up was that at the top of the Study in Order section it says ‘In addition to using our main study tool, you will probably want to study some of our lessons in order’.
I imagine that this would make sense to a lot of beginners, slowly building up their vocabulary before continuing onto something more complicated.
Now, with a lot of platforms that would work but with Language101 there is no real progression in difficulty between any of the beginner lessons, they all include complicated and not so complicated words and phrases.
With Language101’s English ‘course’ for instance, the ‘Study in Order’ section starts you off with ‘The Ultimate Beginner’s Lesson’ and three lessons later you’re suddenly discussing ‘Business and Politics – Laws and Ordinances’.
I mean, what!?!
This just goes to show that the courses and lessons aren’t very well thought out. With Italian, for instance, you can work your way through Beginner Lessons 1 – 6 until you are suddenly presented with the Ultimate Beginners Lesson before that name for the lesson completely disappears.
I must say, however, that the Italian course seemed much more comprehensive and well laid out than the English and German ones I briefly checked out. It covers quite a lot of different topics and there were many more lessons than with their counterparts.
Disregarding the fact that you won’t learn how to spell, write or translate the language and you also won’t learn much if any grammar, I just don’t think Language101 does what it claims to do very well either.
Essentially you would probably come away learning quite a few words and phrases, just without their cultural context and without knowing how they were constructed.
In addition to this, the platform doesn’t actually teach you to speak as there is no conversation practice and you are just asked to say words and phrases out loud to yourself over and over again, hopefully improving in the process.
As such, you are learning to parrot, not to speak and you never get to hear phrases that are longer than a short sentence of around five or six words.
Throw in the random ‘time crisis’ scenario and this really does make for a bizarre package.
I’m not entirely sure who would benefit from or even use this kind of learning resource and in all honesty, I’m not if many people actually are.
On the ‘Leaderboard’ you can see how you’re doing and compare the points you’ve picked up against other people. This is possibly meant to be motivating but I’m not too sure.
On some days not even ten people have used the platform across all of its languages and on others some people have only managed three or four minutes. This seems to indicate that people aren’t enjoying or don’t feel they’re benefitting from the learning method.
As you may already have gathered, I didn’t particularly enjoy using Language101 and wasn’t convinced by its method.
On top of its one-dimensional ‘lessons’ which ask you to do the same thing over and over again without actually really teaching you anything, the website also looks a bit clunky and is poorly designed and laid out – just like the lessons themselves.
I did, however, find the literal translations of the phrases you were asked to produce quite helpful and I suppose that this does show that some, but not enough, thought has been put into the product.
As almost everything needs to be improved, I can’t recommend Language101 to beginners even though I think they could learn some useful words and phrases through it.
This is because there are countless more efficient methods out there where you actually understand the grammar and vocabulary in the sentences you’re learning to parrot.
Using Language101 you would stand almost no chance at getting to an intermediate level in your language of choice and I think this is sadly but justifiably reflected in how many users actually use the platform.
As such, you’d be better off using pretty much any other resource instead of Language101 to learn a language.
For people interested in trying out Language101 for themselves there is thankfully a free 30-day trial which you can sign up for.
After that, if you do find that the language learning method works for you then there are loads of different subscription plans and packages for you to choose from.
These are all horrendously overpriced however so I would already recommend you not to consider signing up to them!
First of all, let’s take a look at the one payment then lifetime access options.
The ‘All Languages Super Package’ gains you lifetime access to the ten different languages that the platform has to offer up and this will set you back $472.
In contrast, each ‘1, 2 and 3 Package’ for each individual language will cost you $342. Just ‘1 Package’ of your language of choice works out at $147. Now, unfortunately, I am not too sure what the difference between the 1 and 1, 2 and 3 packages is but I have to assume you get more with the latter.
I say ‘more’ but really all of the ‘courses’ and ‘lessons’ are so poorly designed that I don’t suppose it’s much consolation if you do get more of the identical exercises to work through or not.
After these options, we then go to the ’12 Payments then Lifetime Access’ options which see you pay a certain amount of money each month for one of their subscription packages. This obviously works out to be much more expensive than if you simply pay one lump sum upfront for lifetime access.
For the ‘All Language Superpack’ it then works out at $63 a month, at $50 for the ‘1, 2 and 3 Package’ and at $30 for just the ‘1 Package’ of the language of your choice.
This means that if you select the latter, you will end up paying $360 over the course of a year for a language resource that doesn’t teach you any grammar, doesn’t teach you to spell, write or understand how the language is constructed and doesn’t even teach you how to speak or hold a conversation!
This is simply insanity and I can’t stress enough what poor value that is.
You are much better off signing up for almost any other language learning platform on the internet as this is one of the most expensive and worst value products around.
On All Language Resources, we’ve reviewed over a hundred language learning resources and briefly tried out countless others. We’ve never given a score as low as the one given to Language101.
It is frankly insulting that they even attempt to charge people that much for what is essentially just one exercise you do over and over again on repeat as quickly as possible until you finally learn a word or phrase out of context.
I would already have serious qualms about using it even if it were free as there are just so many better products out there that will actually teach you the basics of the language.
For what you get for your money, there’s nothing as bad as Language101. It’s truly impressive just how terrible it really is.
It was only after I had worked my way through all, well, I say all but really mean the same identical exercise over and over again, that I checked how much one of Language101’s subscription plans costs and I was shocked at how much they were charging.
This product with its poorly thought out ‘lessons’ (they’re not even really lessons), zero explanations and useless, possibly even demotivating, gamification aspect is barely even worth using if it were free but $147?!
At its cheapest! And for just one language?!
This has to be one of the most expensive, overpriced and actually just downright useless language learning platforms out there.
I mean, besides all of the things it tells you that it doesn’t do, it only claims to teach you how to understand and speak the language and it doesn’t even do that well at all. For setting its scope out so narrowly, it is shocking that it so widely misses the mark.
As such you are certainly better off spending your money almost anywhere else on the internet. I feel bad for anyone that paid for this ‘course’.
Anything but Language101.com!
This post was originally written by Alex – an amazing freelance writer and experienced language learner.
It was edited by me – Nick Dahlhoff.
I’m the creator of All Language Resources. I’m not a polyglot who speaks 20 languages, in fact, I’m currently struggling with Mandarin. I’m not here to teach you how to learn a language – countless people are more qualified to do that than me. But, I have tried out an insane number of language learning resources. I want this site to remain the most comprehensive and least biased place to figure out which courses, podcasts, apps, websites, etc. are worth studying with. To learn more about myself, the site, or our reviewing process, check out the about page.