For this review, I spent about five days trying out SpanishPod101’s Premium Plan.
This was pretty easy to do since they offer a free one week trial which gives you access to all of their lessons and activities and you don’t need to submit any payment information.
But be ready, they’ll spam your inbox, upsell, cross-sell, and use pretty much every marketing tactic imaginable to get you to give them money.
This of course also includes offering affiliate commissions to blogs and other places that convert to sales. So, if you click on a link in this review, or nearly any online review you’ll find, and go on to subscribe, then the owner of the website will make some money from it.
Annoyingly for me, since they offer tons of discounts, this commission often ends up being as low as 25 cents.
But, if you were to do something stupid like subscribe for 2 years of the Premium Plus Plan, I’d get a pretty hefty commission. Don’t do that – it’d be terrible value compared to your other options.
That’s enough about me though, you came to find out if SpanishPod101 is worth actually using.
For the review, I tried out lessons across all four levels of their Premium Plan as well as all of the extra features that are included.
I didn’t look at the Premium Plus Plan which includes 1-1 instruction because I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. It’d almost certainly end up being cheaper to find a tutor yourself from somewhere like italki.
The platform and course structure
When you first start using SpanishPod101, you’ll find a recommended pathway in your dashboard.
This makes it look easy to get started and know which lessons you should do. But, as you dig deeper, you’ll quickly find that there are tons of these pathways and thousands of lessons to choose from.
The pathway is just basically a place where similar lessons are put together. However, many of the lessons were created before they introduced the pathway feature. So although the lessons in each pathway fit the same theme, many weren’t originally designed together.
In that sense, SpanishPod101 isn’t really a course in which lessons are linearly structured, with one lesson leading directly to the next. Instead, it’s sort of a hodgepodge of similar lessons grouped together.
You may find a pathway with 50 lessons that build on each other well, but when you finish that, it won’t be clear what to do next. Because of this, it can become a bit overwhelming to figure out what you should study.
Personally, this fits my learning style well as I like jumping around a lot when I study but I’m sure that those who prefer more structure would find it annoying.
For this reason, beginner students would probably want to use a textbook in addition to SpanishPod101 to add a bit of structure to their studies and make sure they don’t skip over something important.
There are four levels on SpanishPod101 with varying numbers of pathways and lessons. Unfortunately, the majority of the content is at the lower levels and drops off as you move up.
This is pretty disappointing to me.
In order to write this review, I tried multiple lessons at all four difficulty levels.
There’s quite a lot of variety in the lessons in terms of lesson style, length, hosts, the country they talk about, and even the materials included with the lesson.
While there are some video lessons, the vast majority are audio lessons. They range from 1 minute to 20 minutes long, with most lasting around 10 minutes or so.
Most commonly, lessons are structured in this manner:
- Introduction with casual chatting
- Reading the dialogue again with line by line translations
- Keywords with translations and example sentences
- Grammar discussion with example sentences
- Cultural discussion
I really liked the way the lessons slowly included more and more Spanish as you move to higher levels. At the Absolute Beginner level, there’s a lot of English in the lessons. But, by the time you reach the Advanced level, the lessons are almost entirely in Spanish.
You’ll find in the lessons that there is a lot of casual banter between the hosts.
At the higher levels, I liked this as it was primarily in Spanish. But, at lower levels, I found it to be pretty annoying as it was almost entirely in English.
If I were a beginner level student using SpanishPod101, I might feel like my time was being wasted when this happened. Of course, others may find that it makes the lessons more fun.
Even when they go overboard with the chit-chat, it’s still usually about the Spanish language or Spanish speaking countries, so it’s not completely useless.
Each lesson also includes detailed lesson notes which can be downloaded. These lesson notes include detailed grammar and cultural insights. This section is usually very well done and helpful.
The cultural insights section can be really interesting too. One thing I like is that unlike Rocket Spanish for example, the cultural insights are often detailed and specific to one particular country, or even city.
Extra features in the lessons (Premium Plan only)
While Basic users can download the lesson notes, they won’t be able to use any of the extra features that are included in the lessons. In order to do that, they’d need the Premium Plan.
Here you’ll find a line-by-line lesson dialogue. Besides being able to listen to the dialogue, you can read it in Spanish or English and play individual lines.
Additionally, there’s a record button. Clicking this gives you the option of listening to a sentence in Spanish and then record yourself saying the same sentence. This makes it easier to compare your voice to the recording and try to spot pronunciation mistakes.
One thing I noticed is that occasionally the sentence can be really long and the time to record it isn’t sufficient. This was pretty rare though.
While I think the ability to record yourself is pretty useful, I think Speechling does it far better. The free version is basically a better version of this (plus a bunch more features) and the premium version lets you submit an unlimited number of recordings to be corrected by a teacher.
In this section, you’ll find a list of the important words from the lesson, along with example sentences.
Again, you can listen to the audio and record yourself saying the same word. There’s also an option to listen at half speed.
In some lessons, there’s another short audio clip that you can play which includes the key words and example sentences.
By selecting any of the words, you can choose to add them to your flashcard deck or word bank. I’ll talk a bit about these later.
The slideshow is borderline pointless and not terribly exciting. Basically, you’ll read and hear the word in Spanish, then there’s a translation, followed by an example sentence read in Spanish and English.
You can also choose to turn off English audio or the sample sentence audio.
The quiz section sounds like it’d be the most useful of these extra features but it was pretty disappointing.
Unfortunately, you won’t be tested on your comprehension of the lessons – something that would be awesome. Instead, it’s just a pretty basic vocabulary quiz with true or false and writing questions.
The true or false questions were far too easy. You don’t need to know much Spanish to know that reportar is a verb, so it obviously doesn’t mean office supplies.
The writing part was pretty lame as well. There you’re given a word and have to write the translation.
For both quiz types, you can choose between answering in English or Spanish.
Some other features that may be in some lessons
As I mentioned earlier, the lessons can vary a bit, along with the materials included in each lesson. One thing that I really liked in one of the lessons was the dialogue being read in both Standard Spanish and Peruvian Spanish.
Sometimes there are other extra audio tracks at the end and other times there aren’t.
Other extras included in the Premium Plan
There are a whole lot of extra features included on SpanishPod101. To use most of them, you’ll need the Premium Plan.
Flashcards and Word Bank
Like most language learning resources, SpanishPod101 has a flashcard section. If during your lessons, you marked words and added them to your flashcards, then they’ll show up here.
There are quite a few different settings you can use to customize the way you review.
Additionally, there are numerous pre-made decks based on different themes. It’s also easy to merge them into an already existing flashcard deck that you have.
Just like with the flashcards, you can add words to your word bank while studying.
In this section, you can sync the words to the flashcards, print them out, or export the words. The last option is pretty useful for those that prefer to use a platform like Anki or Memrise to review.
The grammar bank is a pretty awesome section. There are 192 grammar points that can be sorted by level or category. You can also search through the list.
For each of the grammar points, there are in-depth explanations, examples, notes, and links to the lessons in which you’ll find that grammar point being taught.
Some free extra features
Most of these aren’t all that exciting, but fall in the “somewhat useful” category.
Dictionary – There’s a dictionary where you can look up words in either English or Spanish, see the translation, and hear the audio. Personally, I’d just rather use SpanishDict.
Word of the day – Just like it sounds, there’s a word of the day which you can see on their site or have it emailed to you each day. It also includes audio and example sentences.
100 Most common words – This is just a list of common words with example sentences and audio. Nothing too exciting and you can find it elsewhere. Premium members get the same list but with 2000 words.
Vocabulary Lists – These are the same lists as I mentioned earlier except you can’t study them with the flashcards. Still, you can learn lots of words based on different themes and see example sentences, so that’s pretty cool.
Plans and Prices
SpanishPod101 is a bit shady with how they list their prices. Everywhere you look, that is, until you get to the checkout will list their prices like this.
You don’t realize until you go to pay that this is actually the prices for their 2-year plan. Nobody in their right mind is going to subscribe for two years.
If you subscribe for one month, the prices are…
Basic – $8/mo
Premium – $25/mo
Premium Plus – $47/mo
There are also lots of different plan lengths between 1 month and 2 years. Longer subscriptions obviously cost less per month.
What’s included in each plan?
They do a great job of making it look like each plan has a ton of features. Just look at this description of what’s included in the Premium Plan. Don’t bother trying to read through everything.
Here’s a simpler version of what’s included.
Basic – The lessons and lesson notes.
Premium – Same as basic plus all those extra features I talked about earlier.
Premium Plus – Same as Premium but also including 1 on 1 instruction. Amazingly, they give very little information about what that actually means. Is it private classes? How many hours per week? What are the assignments like? Etc.
I’m skeptical of the Premium Plus Plan. I’d be very surprised if it’s better value than using italki to find a tutor yourself. But, I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say for certain.
What I like about SpanishPod101
- There are a ton of lessons, at least for lower levels.
- The variety of lesson types.
- The way they discuss the Spanish language and culture for lots of different countries.
- Grammar is taught very clearly and the Grammar Bank is a great resource.
- Lessons progress gradually, slowly getting more difficult and using less English.
- The banter between hosts is enjoyable at higher levels when it’s done in Spanish.
- The lessons are pretty entertaining.
What I dislike about SpanishPod101
- The amount of content for intermediate and higher level students drops off significantly.
- The lower level lessons often include lots of chit-chat in English that’s not helpful.
- The quizzes are very basic and not that useful.
- It’s not a linearly structured course where lessons need to go in a certain order (not necessarily a bad thing).
- They do a lot of hard sells with inbox spamming and constant attempts to get you to pay.
- You’ll need to use other resources to improve your spoken Spanish.
SpanishPod101 is a solid resource for learning Spanish. There are a ton of lessons (for lower levels), covering a huge range of content.
But, it won’t be sufficient by itself. You’d need to get some more speaking practice. If you don’t have opportunities to do so in person, there are lots of online options.
You can easily find a language exchange partner or an affordable tutor from italki. If you have a lot of free time and a bit of money, you may want to skip SpanishPod101 entirely and try out Baselang. On there, you can get unlimited Spanish lesson for $149/mo and their curriculum is really well-structured.
Overall, I think SpanishPod101 offers pretty good value. The basic plan at $8 per month gives you access to a really extensive resource.
It’s hard to say whether or not it’s worth paying for the Premium Plan. Most people would probably get enough out of just using the Basic Plan and downloading the lesson notes. But, for some, spending the bit extra on the Premium Plan could be worth it.
Regardless, don’t sign up for a two-year plan unless you plan on being stuck at the beginner level for a long time.
I’d suggest checking it out for yourself and see if you like it. They have a 7-day free trial that gives you access to everything in their Premium Plan, without needing to give them any payment information.