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Mondly Review – Far From My First Choice For Learning A Language

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Quick Review

2.7 

Summary:

Mondly is a below average online language learning resource. It does some things right and other things poorly. It’s pretty cheap, and a decent enough crash course that could help you before a trip abroad. Still, it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Quality

Both the interface and the course itself could be designed better.

Thoroughness

It’s decent for learning vocabulary but a lot of material isn’t explained very well.

Value

It’s fairly inexpensive.

Price

There are three plans…
$9.99 per month for one language
$47.99 per year ($4/mo) for one language
$47.99 per year ($4/mo) for all languages

Strangely, I was able to access multiple languages even though I only signed up for one month at $9.99.

First Impressions

I’ve previously tried out several language learning apps like Duolingo, Busuu, Babbel, and Mango Languages, that on the surface seem to be fairly similar to Mondly.

However, after testing out Mondly for a few different languages, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

Immediately, I felt that their interface wasn’t very intuitive to use and the aesthetics were underwhelming.

I wish I could say that Mondly makes up for it with quality content, but that just wasn’t the case. It was nothing special, and in fact, below average compared to similar platforms.

There is a pathway for users to follow, but it’s a bit random. For instance, parts of the body is the last topic covered and that comes after the vocabulary related to emergencies.

In short, Mondly doesn’t give a good first impression.

The resource is simply not suitable for people who want to properly learn a language. It can teach a user simple conversational skills quite well but not much more than that.

An advantage of Mondly is that due to the number of drills with different grammar structures, your conversations after using it for a while may be simple but they will be grammatically correct.

Overview

Mondly boasts to offer 1000 lessons and conversations in their Premium plan, which covers 5000 words and phrases. All in all, the tool has quite a bit of content but it’s only suitable for beginners and pre-intermediate learners.

The resource is divided into different lessons that allow the user to learn and practice vocabulary, pronunciation, conversation skills and, to some extent, grammar.

There’s a suggested path you should follow, as presented below.

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Each “bubble” offers a different vocabulary topic, there are also special ones for grammar and a chatbot functionality.

Once you click on a specific “bubble” (such as Hello) you gain access to a number of lessons. Each of them offers numerous exercises. You can redo lessons as many times as you want and complete them in whichever order you prefer.

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You also get marks for how well you performed. A lesson starts with three stars. When you make a mistake your score drops. If you perform too poorly you have to repeat the lesson.

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You can also retake a lesson to improve your score if you wish.

On the top of vocabulary areas available from the main screen, Mondly offers daily lessons to users which are unrelated to the main content.

Studying on Mondly

In order to get started using Mondly, you need to sign up.

The free version allows you to access some content. It’s quite limited but will give you a feel of what it’s like to use Mondly to study.

When you first use Mondly, it asks you to choose a language you want to learn and your current level. Quite disappointingly, regardless of the level chosen you’re going to be presented with exactly the same content.

The good news is that you can use the tool for more than one language at the same time. You just need to edit your settings.

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Unfortunately, the system has bugs when it comes to changing languages.

Sometimes it wouldn’t let me select a level for a language. It was, for instance, preventing me from picking the beginner level for Polish, even though the content is the same for all levels.

When I jumped around the programme, trying out different languages it started to forget parts of my progress in the language I’d initially chosen.

Another problem with Mondly is that the content is the same for all languages.

This means that you always get the same vocabulary topics to study, which can be boring for people trying to learn multiple languages. More importantly, the tool doesn’t deal with language-specific concepts. Instead, it assumes all languages work in the exact same way.

After you’ve chosen your language you can see your home screen and choose your study topic. Depending on the chosen area you may see only lessons or also other sections such as conversation or vocabulary.

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The numbering is a bit confusing. It has nothing to do with your achievements, which are calculated with stars. 1/8 just means that this is part one of eight available in a given section.

One good thing is that the program tracks your progress. The lessons you’ve already completed have stars above them and instead of the “start” button, you’ll see a “redo” option.

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Within a subsection, such as a lesson/conversation/vocabulary, you’ll encounter different types of exercises aimed at drilling. One kind of language practice prompts you to choose the right translation for the English word provided:

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Another type of exercise prompts you to create a correct word from randomly ordered letters.

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As you can see, the word “biscuit” is underlined. This means that by hovering over it you can see a translation of it. You can also click on the speaker icon to hear the word again. If the word you’re interested in is a verb, you can see a number of conjugations in different tenses.

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There’s also another type of exercise that simply makes you choose the right word after you hear and see a word. The flag icon can be used to submit feedback if you’ve found a mistake.

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The next type of exercises is multiple choice questions prompting you to choose the right translations among the ones presented. Similar to other exercises on Mondly, they’re mostly very passive and don’t force you to actually use the language you’re learning.

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Once you’re done with all the exercises in a given part (such as 1/8) you’re informed that the lesson has been completed and a summary of the vocabulary you’ve learnt is presented to you.

A native speaker reads the words in the language you’re learning out to you, they appear on the screen in English.

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You can choose to redo a lesson at any point. You can decide to do so, if you haven’t obtained enough stars to please you or if you feel you need more practice. There’s also a lesson review option (marked by a black square on the screenshot below).

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The lesson review allows you to see words and expressions used in the lesson as well as related grammar topics, such as conjugations of the verbs used.

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After completed lessons Mondly volunteers information on how you’re progressing. It also tracks when you learn, encouraging you to be systematic. What’s more, you’re presented with a few “competitors” in your category, meaning other people studying the given language from your location.

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Once you’ve completed a whole set of lessons or you’ve obtained a certain number of points, you can share your progress on social media. I’m speaking from experience here – don’t overdo it. Your friends are not that interested.

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As I mentioned before, apart from normal lessons, you also have units entitled “vocabulary”, which are pretty much the same thing as a regular lesson.

A conversation unit, on the other hand, is aimed at practicing your pronunciation. It makes you repeat sentences after a native speaker.

You should record what you say and compare it to the native recording provided by the platform. There’s no other way to rate whether you say something correctly or not, other than you evaluating yourself. This obviously isn’t ideal.

Working with a tutor from italki or using a platform like Speechling would be much more effective for improving your pronunciation.

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The interface here is far from intuitive: the orange button with a drawing of a mobile phone on it allows you to listen to the recording of a native speaker, the orange button with a drawing of a person is a recording of your own voice.

To record yourself you need to click and hold the microphone button. When you release it, your microphone will stop recording you.

This sums up the main functions of Mondly. Let’s now have a look at the additional functionalities.

Additional Features

The same type of exercises done over and over again gets boring. The designers of Mondly have attempted half-heartedly to diversify the learning experience.

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The grammar drilling units offer the same kind of exercises as the regular lessons. However, the drills here are primarily grammar oriented and the vocabulary is sort of snuck in.

Below are examples of exercises drilling the structure “X was …, but Y was …”

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I’m going to talk about some issues I found using Mondly for Spanish. Other languages may not have the exact same problems, but will likely be pretty similar.

Spanish has verb conjugations, which means that depending on a person or a tense, the verb looks differently. The verb “ser” (to be) has a form “era” for the third person singular (he/she – él/ella) in a past tense, the imperfect.

A Mondly user will learn the verb forms via numerous exercises, absorbing them through repetition. Meanwhile, the exercises also introduce new adjectives to learn and their antonyms (poor/rich etc).

This technique is used for all grammar exercises. For instance, when drilling the conjugation of the verb “deber” (“have to”) the exercises repetitively included the word “enseguida” (“at once”). It was impossible not to learn it.

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It’s quite a good way of teaching grammar concepts as students will pick it up pretty naturally without much difficulty.

Nevertheless, Mondly could benefit from a bit of theory.

Teaching the student the conjugation of every single verb works well for irregular forms that cannot be easily predicted. Mondly, unfortunately, employs the same technique for regular verbs, where it’d be easier to simply teach the learner to follow conjugation patterns.

To explain it better the verb “hablar” (to speak) and the word “admirar” (to admire) come from the same verb group ending in “ar”.

This means that they would have the same endings pattern. For example, in the present for the 1st person singular “yo” (I) the forms would be “hablo” and “admiro” respectively, while in the 2nd person singular “tú” (you) you’d get “hablas” and “admiras”.

As you can see, learning regular conjugation patterns makes the progress much faster than just learning individual verbs as if they existed without bigger rules governing them.

By not explaining the conjugation rules, they make things more complicated than necessary.

Another functionality is the chatbot. It’s meant to allow you to practice your conversational skills.

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The idea behind the chatbot is good. It’s supposed to make you feel more comfortable in various situations you may encounter as a language user.

There are different chatbots aimed at teaching you different skills, such as having an introductory conversation with someone, being in a taxi, or in a hotel.

Unfortunately, the tool itself isn’t great. Let’s take the chatbot created to help you in a restaurant as an example.

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As you see the character says “Good morning” to which the allowed answers are “Hello” and “Good afternoon”.

Answering with “Good afternoon” is just as illogical in Spanish as it is in any other language.

The tool is full of mistakes like this. Fortunately, you can always click on “More suggestions…” and choose a better suiting answer. If you’re feeling confident you can also switch off English translations altogether.

Yet again, the usability is far from perfect. It’s not enough to click the answer, you also have to approve it (using the arrow emoticon). The microphone button doesn’t seem to work (in other exercises clicking the icon activates your microphone allowing you to record your answer).

Last but not least, there are some useful additions to Mondly: daily lessons, weekly quizzes, and monthly challenges.

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A daily lesson is a short compilation of exercises drilling a few topically related words. The lessons are marked in green on your calendar when they’re completed and remain red if you still should do them.

If you miss a lesson because you didn’t have time on a given day, you can always do it later. Nevertheless, I would not recommend working on too many lessons at one go as it hinders your progress. The tool is designed in a way to give you daily exposure to the language you’re learning.

A weekly quiz includes a comprehensive test of the vocabulary that you’re supposed to learn within a week. In order to access a weekly quiz, you need to complete all 7 daily lessons.

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This quiz is based on daily lessons and not on what you’ve covered in the main part of the program. A similar rule applies to monthly challenges, which require the completion of all weekly quizzes in a given month. These are quite cool tools that can keep your newly acquired language skills up to scratch.

Notwithstanding my criticism, I think that Mondly works reasonably well for those who are interested in getting to a lower intermediate level.

The drills will certainly give them immediate confidence in a conversation. It’s the higher levels that are not covered at all and that Mondly is simply not suited for.

Like pretty much every language learning tool, Mondly claims that reaching fluency will be quick and easy. It won’t be quick or easy. Learning a language takes a lot of work.

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Mondly VR

Virtual Reality has the potential to have a huge impact on the way that people study languages.  However, as the technology is still quite new, there aren’t many options yet.

Mondly is among the first language learning companies to enter into the VR space. For that, they are ahead of the curve and I’m looking forward to seeing how things change in the future.

Unfortunately, for now at least, I’m not a big fan of Mondly’s VR app. Besides the novelty factor, there’s not much reason to use it over other language learning resources. Still, given its low price, the novelty factor may be enough of a reason to give it a try.

What it’s like using Mondly VR

Like Mondly’s online courses, there are quite a few languages to choose from and each language has similar content. There are currently three options for studying a language. These are…

  • Conversation
  • Vocabulary
  • Multiplayer (Beta)

The conversation is the main component of Mondly’s VR. The vocabulary section isn’t yet available for every language, and the Multiplayer part doesn’t seem to have enough active students to use it.

Conversation

The conversation feature is the main feature of Mondly’s VR app. It’s actually very similar to the chatbot that was mentioned earlier in the review.

But, since it’s VR, you’re in the environment, whether that’s in a store, restaurant, or taxi. This is initially somewhat interesting but I don’t think it would have much impact on the learning.

Just like with the chatbot, in each scenario, you’ll have a conversation with the AI character. It’s fairly basic, with that person saying something and you responding. You’re given a few options to choose from in each case and will record yourself responding to the question. It’s quite limited as you’ll need to stick with their pre-written responses to have it marked as correct.

The voice recognition software can be pretty far off and seems to grade stricter than with the chatbot. While I’m happy that this pushes users to speak aloud, I wouldn’t put much weight into whether or not it marks your speech as correct or incorrect. It’s not reliable enough to do so and may lead to unnecessary frustrations.

This isn’t unique to Mondly though, pretty much every resource that uses speech recognition has the same limitations.

Just like with the chatbot, I like the idea behind these VR conversations, but there’s a ton of room for improvement. It’s nice to be thrown into these common scenarios but the functionality is very limited. There also aren’t very many of these lessons available yet.

Vocabulary

The vocabulary lessons aren’t yet available in every language and I didn’t find them to be all that exciting. As with the conversation lessons, you’ll speak with the AI character. She introduces you to various vocabulary words based on a theme such as fruits, vegetables, or animals.

She mostly speaks English, though you can change this to learn from another language. She’ll sometimes also include some semi-interesting facts about the different items. For example, did you know rhinoceros are pregnant for 15-16 months? While this won’t help you learn a language, it may make the lessons a little more interesting.

In these lessons, you’ll learn a few of the vocabulary words, practice saying them, and also practice a few sentences with those words. There’s not so much to these lessons but it is somewhat cool to see an animal walk around as you learn the word for that animal.

There aren’t many of these lessons and outside of the novelty factor of VR, there’s no real benefit from learning them here versus other means.

My opinion of Mondly’s VR

I wouldn’t personally use Mondly’s VR to study a language.

While it’s cool that they’re among the first companies to enter the space, there isn’t any real benefit to using it over more traditional resources. There are lots of resources that teach languages better.

That said, it’s available as a one-time purchase that only costs $4.99. At that low of a price, there’s no real risk in trying it out. You can definitely learn and practice a decent amount of many different languages.

Plans and Prices

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You can try Mondly out for free to see whether you like it. The free content, however, is rather limited.

If you decide to pay for their Premium plan, there are three options

  • $9.99 per month for one language
  • $47.99 per year ($4/mo) for one language
  • $47.99 per year ($4/mo) for all languages

Obviously, it would make no sense to pay for a full year for one language when you can get access to all 33 languages they offer for the same price. Strangely, although I only signed up for one month of Premium, I was able to study multiple languages.

Final Thoughts

Mondly is a decent tool but nothing special. It could be alright for someone who wants to cover the basics of a language.

It has repetitive exercises and using it isn’t the most fun thing to do but it will get you to a certain limited level that will allow you to order food in a restaurant, make a booking at a hotel or have a simple conversation with someone.

However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. The market for online language learning tools is quite competitive and Mondly isn’t all that good.

There are tons of great language learning resources but the best ones available depending on the language that you’re learning.

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