Speechling has quickly become one of my favorite language learning resources. The free version includes a ton of useful features and the premium plan is great value for the cost.
Everyone knows the importance of improving your speech in a foreign language – both pronunciation and fluidity. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of resources available to help you with that.
People (myself included) often suggest mimicking native speakers as it’s one of the best ways to improve your speaking skills.
But, the act of mimicking isn’t as simple as it sounds.
First, and most importantly, you need to make sure your pronunciation is correct. If you don’t do this, you’ll just be reinforcing bad habits.
Second, you need to find lots of material suitable for your level and you’ll need to mimic it repeatedly. Repeating one time will rarely be enough.
Third, you should at least occasionally record yourself speaking so that you can compare it to the original recording. This is a helpful way of hearing the difference between what you say and what you intend to say. But, as you’re still not proficient in the language, it’s hard to catch all of your mistakes.
Finally, you should try to get feedback on your recordings. This will help you find mistakes you weren’t even aware you were making. Sure, you could send these to a tutor but let’s be honest, few people will actually do that.
Speechling is an app and website that makes all of these steps (and much more) incredibly easy to do.
Getting started with Speechling
First things first, you need to select the language you’re studying and the language you’d like to see translations in. One cool thing is that you can switch languages at any time.
I love this as it lets me study Chinese by using my second language, Spanish. I can also practice my Spanish skills by changing the target language.
You’ll choose whether you want to mimic a male or female speaker.
I can’t think of any other resource that lets you choose the gender of the speaker.
This may seem like a small thing but I’m really glad to see it.
While studying Chinese, I’ve found the majority of teachers and learning materials are recorded by women.
As a guy, I’d obviously prefer to avoid developing a feminine speaking style.
Then you’ll choose your module.
You can follow their curriculum which is separated into three parts: Beginner (A1), Intermediate (A2), and Advanced (B1-B2).
Alternatively, you can get sentences from their phrasebook which is separated by category. There are several of these including health, restaurants, weather, asking for help and more.
Another option is to use their foundations section, which is meant to build your vocabulary in areas such as nouns, verbs, numbers, and so on.
Last, and most difficult, you can record yourself answering a question, describing an image, or using their freestyle mode. This is a great way to improve not just your pronunciation but word choice and sentence structure as well.
I’ve been enjoying using the freestyle mode as a way to practice grammar points that I’ve been learning on my own.
The free version is better than many paid resources
The free version of Speechling is fantastic.
While the primary way that you’ll use it is to improve your speaking skills, that’s not the only benefit.
Free users will not only be able to get coaching corrections on up to 35 recordings per month but will also find a bunch of other cool features.
Let’s take a look at what it’s like to use Speechling now.
First, you’ll hear a sentence recorded by a native speaker in the language you’re learning.
Then, you’ll record yourself saying the same sentence.
After your recording, the original recording will automatically play. I love this. It sandwiches your recording, making it easier to hear the difference. It also makes mimicking sentences far more convenient.
Previously, I’d used Glossika quite a bit as a way to get more speaking practice. I’d been a little frustrated because although Glossika was really helpful, I felt like it was overpriced and had lots of flaws.
Even though I’ve known how helpful mimicking and recording my own speech can be, I found it to be too much of a hassle to do often.
But with Speechling, this is much easier. You don’t need to find the materials or mess around with the recordings. All you really need to do is listen and speak.
Usually, I’ll practice a sentence several times trying to get my voice as close to the recording as possible.
Another cool extra feature is the dictation exercises. This is a great way to improve your listening skills and practice writing.
You’ll listen to a sentence and then type in what you hear. Afterward, you can check your answer and see where you made any mistakes. You can also mark a sentence to review later.
This section is a good way to work on your listening comprehension. It’s pretty straightforward. Just hit play and you’ll hear a sentence in your target language followed by the translation in whichever language you’d like.
You can also change modules to focus on whatever you’d like.
It’s nice too that after each audio clip, you’ll find those sentences written down. If you want to record yourself practicing speaking that sentence, there’s a button there that makes it quick and easy to do.
The flashcards are kind of cool too.
You’re given a sentence recorded by both male and female speakers. You can flip over the card to see the translation, and mark it correct or not.
Again, it’s nice that you can quickly record yourself practicing the same sentence.
Multiple Choice Quiz
This is another fairly useful feature. You’ll listen to sentences, with the option to read them as well, and then choose the correct translation.
Fill in the Blank
This section is a bit more challenging than the multiple choice questions. You’ll be given a sentence with one word missing and the translation. You’ll need to fill in the blank.
The Unlimited Plan costs $19.99 per month, though you can save 10% by using the promo code “ALR123”.
The main benefit of the Unlimited Plan is getting feedback on your pronunciation.
With this plan, you can submit as many recordings as you’d like and get feedback on it from a native speaker within 24 hours.
Your recordings will be color-coded to show if it’s correct or will need some work. If it needs work, you’ll receive a voice recording highlighting your mistake.
The instructor will record themselves saying the part where you made an error and then the sentence as a whole.
This is extremely helpful because often times you won’t know where your mistakes are without getting feedback from someone.
While you could find a tutor on italki for pronunciation feedback, Speechling will be more efficient and cost-effective. I’d rather use a tutor for conversation practice or to practice things that constantly give me trouble.
Reviewing your feedback is really easy to do as well. You can read the sentence, listen to the original recording, your own recording, and the teacher’s feedback. You can re-record the parts that you need more practice with and have them resubmitted for feedback.
For subscribers, you’ll also have all your recordings saved in your Audio Journal. I imagine it’d be pretty interesting to use Speechling for a year and come back to look at the progress you’ve made from your first recordings.
Another nice feature for Premium users is that you can download a ton of content – 10,000+ sentences, audio files, and Anki decks.
You can get a 7-day free trial to the Unlimited Plan. For motivated students, you could submit a lot of recordings in this short time period.
Use the promo code “ALR123”” to save 10% on Speechling’s Unlimited Plan.
Room for improvement
I love Speechling.
It’s one of the most useful language learning resources around. But, there’s always room for improvement.
I wouldn’t recommend Speechling to absolute beginners.
I decided to try Speechling for French – a language in which I have zero knowledge of. While I think it’s important to work on your pronunciation early on, you should have at least the basics down to get much out of it.
You should learn the sounds of the language elsewhere first.
Figuring out the unique sounds of a language that’s different than your native language won’t necessarily come just by practicing. Usually, it’ll be really helpful to take some time and figure out exactly what your mouth should be doing to make a sound that you’re not used to.
Speechling will help you spot your mistakes, but it’s up to you to learn how to fix them. This isn’t a huge deal since you can almost certainly find lots of videos on Youtube to help you figure this out. It’s just something to be aware of.
The time permitted to record a sentence should be longer.
This was only an issue for me when I tried the “Answer the Question” and “Describe the Picture” modules. You’re given around 7-8 seconds to record yourself. I found that if I wanted to answer the question with a bit more detail, like adding “because…” that I’d often run out of time.
This can be a little discouraging when you’ve taken the time to think of your answer, then recorded it, only to find that it was too long.
I strongly recommend trying Speechling
The Unlimited Plan provides a ton of value for the cost. Learning proper pronunciation and improving the flow of your speech is one of the most important and most difficult aspects of learning a language.
Getting feedback on your speech is something that everyone will eventually need. The Unlimited Plan is the most effective and affordable option I’ve come across to solve this problem.
Even if you aren’t willing to spend any money, I’d recommend using Speechling. The Forever Free version is better than other popular and expensive products. It makes it very easy to improve your speaking and listening skills.