review

Lupa

Price: $12/month zero-commitment or $99/year charged in one lump sum

Quick Review

3.8 

Summary:

Lupa is a podcast-style app that helps Latin American Spanish learners improve their listening comprehension. The company has partnered with NPR’s Radio Ambulante to republish fascinating stories and interviews full of cultural insights and natural Spanish. Then, they have added a bunch of learner-friendly features to help you understand what’s being said: variable speeds, partial transcripts and translations, definitions and more.

The stories are what shine here. They represent diverse communities around Latin America, and the recordings are high quality. Most of our testers found their listening comprehension markedly improved after just a couple of weeks.

However, Lupa could benefit from additional features, such as review activities, interactive quizzes and learner pathways. It’s also not suited to beginners, while lower-intermediate learners may struggle.

Quality

The quality is generally excellent, although the app is difficult to use with a screen reader.

Content

Lupa’s stories are fascinating, if at times heavy-going, but there are no learning pathways and testers struggled to remember vocabulary.

Value

Users found it to be an excellent use of their time but were divided over whether they would pay the subscription rate.

Languages

Latin American Spanish, from Argentina and Chile to Mexico

Price

$12/month zero-commitment or $99/year charged in one lump sum

By signing up via the link below, the cost is $10/month or $84/year.

Listening comprehension is one of the trickiest things to improve as a learner. And the better you get at speaking Spanish, the more likely it is that the person you’re talking with will start using local slang and natural phrasing, like hacer locha (laze about) or revolú (mess).

Enter Lupa, the app designed to improve your listening, give you cultural insights and teach you natural phrases that native speakers really use. You’ll hear “hacer locha” in the episode “No soy tu chiste”, “revolú” in “Juegos de niños”, and lots more in the app’s 100+ stories.

But did it live up to expectations when tested by real Spanish learners? Let’s find out.

Image of woman smiling while using Lupa; text says

How We Tested and Scored Lupa

This is one of our user-tested reviews, which means it was tried and tested by a randomly selected group of 11 intermediate- and advanced-level Spanish learners from our user reviewer database.

The testers tried Lupa out for a period of at least two weeks, during which they periodically filled in surveys about the app: if it offers good value for money, what they like about it, if their listening improved during that period and much more.

At the end of the review period, we entered all the answers to quantitative, numerical questions into our algorithm to get the value, content, quality and overall scores above. (In case you’re wondering how we came up with that algorithm, it’s based on our experiences of reviewing hundreds of resources, as well as studying and teaching languages. And then, we tested it on courses and apps to make sure the scores it produced were fair and accurate.)

Finally, we used Lupa’s scores and the testers’ responses to the qualitative questions to write up this review. And of course, we also tried out Lupa ourselves so we know how it works. Although our personal opinion hasn’t influenced this review at all, we do this to make sure we can write about the resource accurately.

So, now that you know how we reviewed Lupa, let’s take a look at the app. We’ll explore how it works, if it’s effective and interesting, what levels it’s suited to and if it offers value for money.

How to Use Lupa

You can sign up for Lupa online or via the app, but the actual resource is only available via the app. The download and signup process is straightforward.

After downloading it and signing in, you’ll be able to view recommended stories or all stories listed by country, topic, duration or original air date. They range from 5 to 35 minutes in length, so it shouldn’t be too tricky to find one that you have enough time for.

Bear in mind that you won’t be able to find stories ordered by difficulty level. One user said that they would have appreciated “a learner’s track”, explaining that “the first one I clicked on had a really strong accent – I was nowhere near ear-trained enough to get it.”

When browsing by topic, there’s a wide range of alphabetically ordered themes, such as conflict, LGBTQI+, literature, migration, food, music, racism, women’s rights, work, politics, sports and more. There isn’t a drop-down or collapsible menu for the topics, so you have to scroll past all the themes and stories until you find the one that interests you. This can be unwieldy; one tester mentioned that “the long list of stories is a little overwhelming to scroll through.”

Once you’ve chosen and clicked on a story, you’ll see an English-language blurb. If it interests you, then you need to download the story. From there, the story will be split into short chapters that are just a couple of minutes long. Click “Begin chapter” to start.

This is when Lupa really begins to offer something more for users than just access to the free Radio Ambulante episodes. If the story features a more challenging accent or non-standard Spanish, it will start off with some notes to help you make sense of it.

Screenshot of Lupa app with a description of the Argentinian accent and dialect.

Once you’ve pressed play, you can choose how much help you receive from the transcripts and translations. You can opt to listen without a transcript, with key Spanish vocabulary showing from the transcript or while simultaneously reading the English translation of the transcript.

If you choose to see some key vocabulary, you can also adjust how much you want to see. The options are vocabulary, mistakes made by the interviewees, and “tricky bits”. You can also choose to see “passage hints” at the top of the screen, which will tell you in English what’s being discussed. For example, it might say “some of Sandra’s characteristics”.

Regardless of the transcript you choose – even if it’s the blurred-out “no transcript” option – it will automatically scroll so that you can see where you are in the story.

A screenshot of the Lupa app with the Spanish transcript mostly obscured; only important words are shown
A screenshot of the Lupa app with the transcript hidden
A screenshot of the Lupa app with an English-language translation of the transcript on the screen.

You can also vary the speed and click on underlined words and phrases to see the definition. Unless it’s an example of incorrect Spanish, doing this adds the vocabulary to your vocab bank. You can remove it from there without having to leave the story.

However, regardless of how much of the transcript you’ve chosen to see, you cannot click on a word that isn’t underlined. If you don’t understand it, you have to try to work it out from the context. One user wrote, “I really wanted to be able to click on any words, not just the ones they thought I wouldn’t know.”

A screenshot of the Lupa app that shows the definition of an underlined word in the transcript

You’re encouraged to listen to each story twice, the second time without the transcript. You can also export your vocab bank, i.e. receive an email with files that can then be imported into apps like Anki and Quizlet.

Once you’ve finished listening to the story, you can mark it as complete and select a new one to listen to. You also gain stars for the number of minutes you spend listening and re-listening to stories, although they don’t seem to serve any purpose beyond making you feel good about your studies.

Is Lupa Easy to Use and Accessible?

Lupa scored an average of 4 out of 5 for being user-friendly, but it’s not all good news, especially when it comes to accessibility.

Lupa has a lot of options designed to help you choose exactly how difficult you want your listening task to be. As such, it can take a few minutes to work out how to toggle them all on and off – to the point that one user described it as “cumbersome”.

Most users agreed that the tutorials helped them, so check out the Studying With Lupa section if you feel lost. As one said, “I was confused about all the functions at first, but I was able to figure them out quickly, and you can easily find a description on the app’s website which is also linked in the app.”

Disappointingly, though, one tester reported that Lupa isn’t as accessible for visually impaired learners and other users of screen readers as it could be. “I am blind and the app isn’t easy to navigate with a screen reader,” they said, adding that “there are no clear paths to follow.”

Another wrote, “I would like to have a desktop version. Because of my rheumatoid arthritis I have difficulty with my fingers and find cellphones challenging to operate.”

Hopefully, Lupa will improve the app’s accessibility in the future. But for now, users with screen readers or who struggle with phones should take that into account when deciding whether or not to subscribe. We recommend making good use of the free trial before committing so that you know exactly how challenging it will be.

Lupa’s Stories: Are They Interesting & Relevant?

Time and again, testers praised the stories as “interesting”, “relevant”, and covering diverse topics. In many cases, they were their favourite thing about Lupa. One said, “[They] are by far the best part. They are so engaging!”. Another wrote, “It’s fun, and I learn. Win-win.”

They also give valuable cultural insights. One tester called them “a true window into the countries of Latin America,” while another said, “I really had little idea of the existence of black Colombians. Or reaffirmation of the presence of Korean Argentines. And… about mate and milonguear. Language and cultural insights are inextricably interwoven.”

However, Lupa’s stories aren’t for everyone. Another tester described them as “heavy”, and lacking “humorous” and “cheerful” ones. They said, “I’d like light-hearted stories. My biggest reason for not using the resource as often as I wanted to was because I knew I was going to have to read a story I wouldn’t particularly enjoy because they’re all so serious.”

If you’re looking for something that’s more El ministerio del tiempo than Ya no estoy aquí, you might struggle to find as many stories to your liking. Many interviewees narrate traumatic experiences, which can make for intense listening. Some episodes start with Spanish-language warnings of graphic descriptions of violence and sexual abuse, but the English-language descriptions do not always mention this.

However, if you’re interested in deep dives and inclusive human-interest stories, you’ll probably find plenty of interesting and thought-provoking pieces among Lupa’s content.

Screenshot of available stories via the Lupa app

Does Lupa Have Content for All Spanish Dialects?

Lupa currently features stories from 15 different Latin American countries, as well as from members of the Latin American diaspora. One user, despite generally not liking Lupa’s content, said, “It’s super useful because it’s done by place, which is interesting and unique as far as language apps go – you often just pick between Spain and ‘Latin America’ as though it’s all the same in Latin America.”

But not all countries are currently equally represented. Another found that, “At the moment the stories are a little tilted towards a few countries. Some have few contributions (e.g. Bolivia), others are absent (e.g. Paraguay, Uruguay).”

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Pero, Puerto Rico, Brazil, United States: these are some of the countries with the most stories. Others, such as Guatemala and Honduras, only have a couple of stories each at the time of this article’s publication. However, this may change as more episodes are published.

Screenshot of Lupa app with stories organised by country; there is 1 story for the Dominican Republic and 4 for Ecuador

It’s also worth stressing that Lupa is focused on Latin America. One user was disappointed by the lack of Spain-related content along with Castilian Spanish accents and dialects. Although there is at least one Spanish journalist featured in Lupa, it’s not possible to search by the journalists’ names.

It can be hard to find resources that cater for both European and Latin American Spanish. But if you want to learn Spanish as it’s spoken in Spain, scroll down to the end of this article. We’ve listed some recommendations for you.

Will Lupa Improve Your Spanish?

We asked Lupa what we could expect to improve or gain through using the app, and they told us that learners would improve their listening comprehension, learn slang/natural phrases and gain cultural insights.

So what did our testers think? Well, they gave it 4.1 out of 5 for listening, 3.8 out of 5 for slang/natural phrases and 4.4 out of 5 for cultural insights. The last score should come as no surprise, given how informative and interesting most users found the stories to be. But let’s take a look at the other two in more detail.


  • How Quickly Does Lupa Improve Your Listening Comprehension?

Our testers scored Lupa over the course of two weeks, and 90% of them used it either every day, most days or every other day. Nearly all of them reported noticing an improvement in their listening comprehension.

One said, “Listening comprehension is so incredibly difficult for me, and I’m actually getting better! This is semi-miraculous. I am an older learner (60-ish), I have life-long auditory processing difficulties (which impact my listening comprehension even in English, my native language), and I have a serious chronic health issue that comes with massive fatigue and brain fog. So I’m never going to be good at this. But this is giving me a start. A really good start.”

They added, “The sense of accomplishment is tremendously gratifying… every time that I listen to a story at speed and actually hear/understand the words spoken, it feels like a tremendous achievement.”

Some reported that it wasn’t just the extra exposure to Spanish audio that helped them improve, but also the range of speakers and Lupa’s extra features. One said, “I love the various adjustments that can be made to the settings. On the – for me – more difficult presentations, I could work my way up to speed. To hear a variety of voices is also a boon.”

Another described Lupa as “hugely helpful” for listening comprehension, explaining how they adjust the audio speed, increasing it over time, and also use the transcript tools to challenge their listening. “I love how you can cover up the transcript and just ‘click’ for tricky words that you miss,” they said, “so you’re not focused on reading but you still get the full story.”

Screenshot of the Lupa app with the story Yo, nena


  • Does Lupa Teach You Slang and Natural Phrases?

Lupa definitely introduces you to plenty of slang and natural phrases, but whether or not it teaches you them is another matter.

One user said, “There are so many pieces of slang in each story, it’s sort of info overload; I would have to use another system to supplement to memorize all of those… You just get 30 new phrases and 30 more in the next story and so on. Because it’s so much, I don’t know if I could actually use any of the phrases I heard.”

They felt that if Lupa had learner pathways that introduced you to a series of stories using the same slang, they might have remembered them better.

Another reported remembering the phrases – but it was because they listened to each story multiple times. “There are native speakers talking all the time so the material is full of phrases and slang which is explained and translated in the resource so you can learn. And because I listen to each section several times I am actually starting to recognize some phrases.”

And another tester had a more balanced perspective. “Some natural phrases – that I didn’t get from formal learning resources – crop up all the time, across multiple stories. Those have been easy to absorb, and give a very pleasing sense of familiarity with the natural rhythms of the language… However, many of the slang/dialect phrases occur only once in a single story, so they aren’t going to stick with me unless I work at learning them.”

Screenshot of Lupa app and the story No soy tu chiste

Ultimately, Lupa helps you to understand the stories and improve your listening comprehension, but it has limited review activities. Numerous users mentioned wanting more in-app drilling opportunities for the vocabulary. Other features they would have liked included comprehension quizzes, writing activities based on the story or vocabulary, and a way to save snippets of audio to review later.

How much of an issue this is depends on your goals. If you want to learn lots of vocabulary, you’ll need to use Lupa in tandem with another resource (and we’ll talk about some of those later).

If, however, you’re happy just picking up the odd piece of vocabulary here and there, you might find Lupa works well for that. Since it introduces them in a natural way, you’re more likely to find them meaningful. As one user reported back, “The ‘natural phrases’ also give insight into a people. How was I to know that lechuza isn’t only an owl. Could be a funeral director or a snoop. Wonderful!”

Sign up via the link below to get a discounted price. 

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What Level Is Lupa Suited To?

Lupa has plenty to teach you, but you’ll always learn best when a resource is targeted at the right difficulty level. Too difficult, and you’ll find yourself demotivated and overly reliant on the translations. Too easy, and you might find it’s not worth your time – although nobody reported finding Lupa too easy.

Most testers agreed that Lupa is well-suited to upper-intermediate and advanced students. One said, “It’s targeted to intermediate and advanced learners, and that’s exactly right. The material is more than half professional ‘radio voices’ which are easier for intermediate learners to parse and understand, and then a mixture of clips of ordinary people speaking with accents from all around the Spanish-speaking world. So there’s stuff to challenge more advanced learners, too.”

Another, however, struggled to find content at the right difficulty level and pointed out that the app’s lack of pathways can make it frustrating. “Perhaps there are easier stories, but the stories aren’t labeled (that I’ve seen) by fluency level,” they said. “They’re only labeled by subject matter.”

One thing is for certain: Lupa has plenty to challenge you. You’ll be exposed to a wide range of native speakers, many of whom have different accents, dialects and backgrounds. As one user said about the interviewees, “[the] mumbling is realistic but can be frustrating.”

You’ll also likely be introduced to new vocabulary. Another tester, who considers themselves an advanced Spanish speaker, wrote, “Content is comprehensible while providing new/unfamiliar words and expressions.”

Even though Lupa can be challenging, it won’t leave you floundering. There are sufficient features that, with a bit of hard work, anyone should be able to follow the story. One user said, “It’s definitely tricky, but with the transcript, adjustable speeds, and translations, it makes it a lot easier.”

You can also start with more familiar accents and move on to ones that offer more of a challenge, although it may take some experimentation at first to work out which accents you find easier.

And despite the difficult content, our testers still enjoyed using Lupa. In fact, they gave it an average of 4.2 out of 5 for how much they were enjoying it, with only one person scoring it lower than 4. And several mentioned that the app’s challenging nature made seeing their progress very rewarding.

In short, Lupa isn’t an easy app, but the dialogues are realistic. Upper-intermediate learners will likely find it a sufficient challenge, with Lupa’s student-friendly features essential to following the story. Advanced users may find the narrators’ voices easy to understand, but they’ll likely discover new phrases, and listening to the interviewees could require some concentration.

Screenshot of Lupa app with description of the story Laurinha quiere jugar

Does Lupa Offer Value for Money?

We define value as being a good use of both your time and money. So, what did our user reviewers make of Lupa?

They gave the app an impressive 4.3 out of 5 for being a good use of their time, but not all of them were convinced by the price. In fact, when asked “how happy would you be to pay for it?”, the average score dropped to 3.2 out of 5.

Before you assume that Lupa is overpriced, however, it’s worth mentioning that this question had one of the biggest median ranges on the survey. In other words, some people were very happy to pay that price – but others weren’t at all.

And despite the price, nearly every user reviewer said they would recommend Lupa. Confused? Let’s unpack the answers a bit more and explore whether Lupa is worth paying for.

The biggest point of contention was whether it was worth paying for a resource that, while high quality, had a very specific focus. One user said, “It’s solely listening, and I would be uncomfortable to pay $12 [the monthly subscription rate] and have to buy other resources to supplement other areas like speaking.”

This was a common refrain. Another user said, “This app is doing an excellent job of teaching listening comprehension, and that is one of the hardest aspects of language learning. So, maximum value-for-dollar if I consider just that single focus. At the same time, it’s only one aspect of the process. It doesn’t address all my language learning needs, and with a limited budget, that means juggling which paid resources I am using at any given time.”

Among those who were willing to pay for it, there were two main groups: those who would prefer the annual plan and those who would sign up for a month at a time. One person said, “I would take the yearly subscription. For the cost of a coffee a week, I am getting a good deal.”

Others, however, preferred the idea of subscribing for just a few months and using it intensively before moving onto a new resource. Among those, a couple of testers were unsure about whether Lupa would continue offering value by the time they’d caught up on previously published stories.

It’s worth mentioning that this is more likely to be an issue if you use it prolifically and only want to listen to stories from certain countries or about certain themes. Lupa has already uploaded over 100 stories and releases a new one every week. If you signed up at the time of this article’s publication, were happy to listen to everything and averaged three new stories a week, you would run out of material after 11.5 months – or effectively, at the end of a year-long subscription.

So, what does this mean for you? Let’s sum it up: Lupa represents good value for money if you’re happy to pay for a resource that’s focused on one skill set. If you want to work on speaking, writing and grammar, you’ll need to use other resources alongside it (and we’ve recommended some complementary resources for this below).

What’s more, advanced learners who don’t need Lupa’s extra features may prefer to just use Radio Ambulante. As one tester said, “You can look at the transcriptions and translations of the episodes for free on the website.”

And finally, when choosing between the monthly or annual plan, think about how quickly you’ll listen to the stories. If you’re going to use the resource a lot, you might prefer a monthly plan that will allow you to sprint through the episodes and then cancel your subscription. However, if you prefer a slower pace, the annual plan could add up to a significant saving.

Screenshot of Lupa app showing the story Éxodo

Is Lupa Right for You?

Everybody learns differently, which means Lupa will simultaneously be someone’s ideal app and disappoint someone else. So let’s take a look at who Lupa is (and isn’t) well-suited to.

First, Lupa probably isn’t the best choice for you if you want:

  • Light-hearted study materials
  • An all-in-one app that will train you on reading, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation in addition to listening
  • Practice activities and learner pathways
  • To use a screen reader

However, Lupa could be right for you if you’re happy with the price and you:

  • Want to improve your listening comprehension with a variety of Latin American accents
  • Would like to gain lots of cultural insights, especially into under-represented communities and cultures
  • Either don’t care about memorising all the new vocabulary you come across or are willing to use Lupa alongside a flashcard-based resource
  • Already have a strong base in Spanish – or relish the idea of being challenged

Lupa is a high-quality resource with a fantastic range of stories for learners to select from. Its student-friendly additional features will help you enjoy material that would normally be too challenging – although it’s focused on helping you understand the material, not remember it. And the app will really push your listening comprehension.

Lupa might not be the right tool for everyone. But for some learners, it will be an excellent choice.

Resources to Use Alongside Lupa

Since Lupa’s focused on listening comprehension, most learners will want to use it alongside other resources. Flashcard apps will help you remember the new vocabulary you come across. Anki is not the most entertaining of apps, but it’s highly customisable and uses SRS to improve your long-term recall. Or for something more interactive and gamified, create your own Memrise decks.

To put this new vocabulary into practice and make sure your speaking skills are as strong as your listening comprehension, you could also take Spanish classes. There are plenty of options for one-to-one classes online. In particular, Baselang (review) and SpanishVIP (review) both offer literally unlimited Spanish classes with Latin American teachers for a monthly fee.

You could also try Madrid-based Aprende Hablando, which has a similar model but also offers European Spanish classes. However, we haven’t a chance to try Aprende Hablando, so we can’t confirm the quality or value.

Looking for some more grammar practice but don’t want to sign up for classes? Babbel (review) is a more serious version of a gamified language app, and it’s got plenty of Spanish courses for you to choose from: beginner up to advanced, business Spanish, travel basics, Mexican Spanish, grammar, vocabulary, listening and speaking, idioms…

Alternatively, Fluencia (review) has well-structured and comprehensive beginner and intermediate-level courses with a strong focus on grammar and vocabulary.

Lupa Alternatives that will Improve Your Listening Comprehension – & More

If Lupa doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t worry: there are plenty of alternative options.

  • If you want something easier…

A recurring comment from our testers was the difficulty of Lupa’s podcast episodes. If you like the idea of the app but want something a little less challenging, try one of these:

News in Slow Spanish (review) started life as a podcast and developed into an array of podcast-esque courses. As the name implies, even higher-level content is slowly narrated.

Spanish Uncovered (review), designed for complete beginner to lower-intermediate (B1) students, is a 20-chapter original audiobook interspersed with lots of Spanish video lessons. It’s pricey but entertaining.

Destinos (mini review) adds some drama to your studies – quite literally. This free, beginner-level video course tells the story of a lawyer investigating a family secret.

  • If you want something with European Spanish…

Lupa will give you almost zero practice with European Spanish. If you want to develop an ear for el acento madrileño, valenciano or gallego, give some of these a go:

News in Slow Spanish (review) has a 100% Castilian Spanish version of all its courses and podcasts. It’s well-suited to beginner and intermediate-level learners.

Lengalia (review) has courses, videos and podcasts for Castilian Spanish learners of all levels, from complete beginners upwards. It’s based on the CEFR levels, so unlike some resources, its advanced levels really can challenge C1+ learners.

iVoox is one of Spain’s most used podcasting sites and apps. Opt for some of the more popular podcasts, like La Rosa de los Vientos, Carne Cruda, La Escóbula de la Brújula or SER Historia. Or browse for something less well-known but no less interesting.

  • If you want something more well-rounded or structured…

Lupa might develop your listening comprehension and introduce you to a wide range of vocabulary, but it’s not very structured. Moreover, there’s limited grammar practice. So if you’re looking for something that’s more like an audio course, try these out:

Coffee Break Spanish (review) has a huge number of well-organised podcast-esque lessons at all levels. They’re relaxed and unintimidating, and lots of the material is available for free. It primarily teaches European Spanish.

Lengalia (review) is as structured as it comes, with courses from complete beginner (A0) up to upper advanced (C2). It’s mostly focused on Castilian Spanish, but there’s also a B2-level Latin American Spanish podcast-based course with lots of accompanying exercises.

Spanish Uncovered (review) offers the best of both worlds: a 20-chapter original audiobook that grows more difficult over time; and an array of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and culture lessons. The only downside is the high price.

Sign up via the link below to get a discounted price. 

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The depth and unique manner in which they teach grammar and expressions is really impressive.

Value

Although it’s not cheap, there’s more content than you may initially realize.

Price

There’s a 7-day free trial for new subscribers, then the price is $19.90/month. There’s also an option to prepay for up to 12 months at a time, which doesn’t affect the monthly price.

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Mondly

Quick Review

2.7 

Summary:

Mondly is a language-learning app that teaches basic vocabulary and grammar structures. It seems most appropriate for learners with little to no exposure to their target language.

The activities mostly rely on passive recognition of vocabulary and phrases, and therefore are not very challenging. However, they are varied enough that you probably wouldn’t get bored with short, daily practice sessions.

Although I wouldn’t recommend Mondly to anyone looking to seriously learn a language, it may be appropriate for individuals studying languages with less available resources, or for individuals who are preparing to travel abroad.

Quality

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

Thoroughness

It’s decent for learning vocabulary, but I thought a lot of the material wasn’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.

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LingQ

Quick Review

Summary:

LingQ is a language learning platform that makes it easy to read and listen to interesting content at varying difficulty levels. As you read, words will be marked as known and LingQ tracks the total number of words you “know”. The content comes from lots of different places with very little of it being original. They also make it very easy to upload your own content.

Quality

The LingQ reading app is enjoyable in most languages, easy to use, and can expand your vocabulary. However, I found the user content frustrating to navigate.

Thoroughness

With the import function, users can choose to study almost anything they want.

Value

Now that other apps provide similar functions, the monthly subscription may be a bit overpriced. However, the yearly subscription seems fair.

Languages

Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English, Korean, French, Russian, German, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Greek, Polish, Esperanto, Belarusian, Latin, Ukrainian. There are also 20 additional languages in Beta.

Price

Premium membership costs $12.99/mo, $71.94/half-year, $107.88/year, $191.76/2-years; single-language lifetime membership costs $199

When I first signed up for LingQ, I wasn’t very impressed. Its seemingly random lesson library, filled with custom cover photos and inconsistent title formats, made me want to click on just about anything to get away from that page.

However, after exploring every function I could find, I realized that the reading tool has several useful functions for anyone trying to learn a language through extensive reading. Most importantly, it makes reading in other languages feel manageable.

The site has three main pages: Lessons, Tutors, and Community. Within them, you can find free and purchasable lessons, coins, an avatar, writing exchanges, a community forum, audio playlists, and challenges.

I mostly used LingQ for reading in Spanish and dabbled in French, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, and Korean.

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Verbling

Quick Review

4.6 

Summary:

Verbling is an online language-class marketplace where you can take lessons with teachers of your choice. It has some student-friendly extra features, including a built-in online classroom, flashcards, homework calendar, and a filing system for lesson materials. There are also useful but disorganized forums where you can discuss languages, share writing for critique, and do free language drills and exercises.

The lessons are generally high quality and well structured, plus the filters make it easy to find teachers who specialize in everything from accent reduction to interview preparation. 

However, it can be slightly pricier than alternatives, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may want to look elsewhere. It also has fewer languages than some of the bigger competitors, so it might not be a good choice if you want to study Azerbaijani, Khmer, or Yoruba.

Teacher Quality 

There are some less experienced teachers, but I found the lessons to be more consistently high quality than on italki.

Platform 

The classroom technology, flashcards, and filing system are fantastic for learners and easy to use.

Value

Some teachers charge more than on italki, but you get better classroom technology, more privacy, and fewer disorganized teachers.

Languages

Verbling lists 65 different languages on their platform, from Spanish and Mandarin Chinese through to Twi and Berber. Not all of them have available teachers, however.

Price

Prices are set by the teacher and range from $5 to $75 for an hour-long lesson. You can get discounts for buying packs of 5, 10, or 20 lessons with a teacher. Every student gets one free trial lesson, after which they’re $6 each.

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Magoosh

Price: $69 - $99

Quick Review

4.3 

Summary:

Magoosh es una compañía de preparación de tests online que apoya a futuros examinantes principalmente a través de lecciones de audio y video online. Los cursos son muy meticulosos, y muchos incluyen una garantía de mejoría respecto al resultado recibido en exámenes precedentes. Algunos de los exámenes para los que Magoosh ayuda a prepararse a los estudiantes son el IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SAT y ACT.

Calidad 

La mayoría del material parece ser muy preciso, y la interfaz está bien diseñada, aunque las lecciones de vídeo podrían ser más atractivas.

Meticulosidad 

Las lecciones y los ejercicios de práctica incluyen instrucciones extremadamente meticulosas con muchos ejemplos y explicaciones.

Valor 

Es una de las opciones más baratas que sin embargo no parece haber escatimado en calidad por ninguna parte, pero los vídeos consumen mucho tiempo.

Idiomas

Inglés

Precio

TOEFL Precio IELTS Precio
Un mes $79 Tres Meses $69
Tres meses $99 Seis Meses $79
Seis meses $149 Seis Meses + puntuación de ensayos $99

¿Qué diablos es Magoosh? Quizás sea el nombre de algún tipo de plato tradicional a base de berenjena, o el sonido que hace una bota al apoyarse sobre una cama que cruje. Bueno, no, no es eso.

Según su página web Magoosh “juega con la palabra persa “magush”, que es una persona que ha aprendido mucho, es sabia y generosa.” ¡Ahá! Eso está mu’cho mejor.

La empresa de Magoosh lleva ofreciendo servicios online de preparación para exámenes desde 2009. Mientras que, en un primer momento, los esfuerzos estaban puestos en ayudar a estudiantes a prepararse para los exámenes GMAT y GRE, la compañía ha expandido su oferta desde entonces para cubrir una gran variedad de exámenes, incluyendo el IELTS y el TOEFL.

Mi Experiencia con Magoosh

Dado que la plataforma es muy popular entre los estudiantes de lengua inglesa que se están preparando para tests, hemos decidido comprobar de qué van algunas de sus clases. Para esta reseña, he probado tanto el curso de IELTS como el de TOEFL.

No hay forma de olvidar el hecho de que soy un hablante nativo de inglés, alguien a quien nunca se le pediría que pasase ninguno de estos exámenes. He hecho todo lo que he podido para tener esto siempre presente en mis pensamientos mientras estudiaba la calidad de la herramienta.

Aunque no tengo ninguna experiencia previa con el examen de TOEFL, sí que tengo experiencia dando exámenes orales IELTS de prueba a estudiantes en mis días de profesor de inglés en un centro de idiomas. Esto no quiere decir que me pueda meter de lleno en la piel de un verdadero alumno que se somete al examen, pero quiere decir que soy sensible a algunas de las cosas que atraviesan los estudiantes que se preparan para estos exámenes.

Mientras que usaba la plataforma, he probado varias lecciones de ambos cursos, he pasado el test de práctica IELTS al completo, y he probado los ejercicios de práctica de TOEFL.

Lecciones

Tanto los cursos de IELTS como de TOEFL en Magoosh están compuestos de toneladas de lecciones de vídeo en las que puedes progresar a tu propio ritmo, avanzando en orden o eligiendo lecciones específicas a conveniencia.

No podría sobreestimar todo el contenido en vídeo disponible. No he sumado el tiempo total de reproducción de los mucho más de 100 vídeos, pero estimo que debe rondar las 20 horas. Y esto sin contar las múltiples explicaciones adicionales en vídeo que acompañan ejercicios de práctica específicos.

Hay tanto Lecciones de Examen, relevantes para el examen que estés preparando, como Lecciones de Gramática Inglesa, que son en su mayoría las mismas tanto para el curso de IELTS como el de TOEFL.

Lecciones de Examen

Estas lecciones estudian los elementos particulares de los exámenes. Tanto en los cursos de IELTS como en los de TOEFL, las lecciones examinan los tipos de preguntas que te encontrarás en las secciones de Lectura, Escucha, Habla y Escritura del examen, además de estrategias para completarlas correctamente.

Las lecciones, aunque informativas, no son demasiado atractivas. Al principio me motivó mucho el ver que todas estas lecciones eran presentadas en formato de vídeo, pero me di pronto cuenta de que los vídeos son esencialmente un montón de diapositivas con texto a un lado, una imagen ocasional, y dibujos hechos por el bolígrafo del narrador.

Una vez más, traté de ser consciente del hecho de que soy un hablante de inglés nativo, y de que en realidad no me estoy preparando para un examen. Estoy convencido de que a los estudiantes motivados la información de los vídeos les parecerá más interesante por este mismo hecho, pero aún así me parece que los vídeos son un poco rancios. Me hubiese gustado al menos escuchar a alguien decir algo en un momento u otro.

Afortunadamente, los estudiantes disponen de la opción de cambiar manualmente la velocidad del playback del vídeo, así como de activar o desactivar las imágenes. También tendrás acceso a las transcripciones de las lecciones, a links de publicaciones en blogs relacionados con el tema, y una sección para tomar notas.

Me parece importante añadir que pienso que las lecciones cubren información importante con todo lujo de detalles. Puede que los vídeos no sean muy entretenidos, pero los ejemplos y explicaciones son meticulosos y han sido muy bien pensados.

Lecciones de Gramática

Las lecciones de gramática son exactamente las mismas que las lecciones de examen. Las diferencias son dos: que se ocupan de consejos de gramática inglesa más amplios y que no son específicos del examen, y que el narrador de las lecciones es un profesor diferente.

Me pareció que el contenido de vídeo era tan plano y rancio como el de las lecciones de examen, pero el formato se usa de manera efectiva en lo que se refiere a demostrar y explicar claramente la gramática a través de ejemplos concretos.

Práctica

Además de las lecciones de vídeo, las prácticas de ejercicios de Magoosh son el otro componente central de las lecciones. Hay principalmente dos tipos de prácticas: práctica regular y práctica de test.

Práctica Regular

Este tipo de práctica le permite a los usuarios desarrollar una habilidad específica, y es el tipo de práctica que probablemente usarás más a menudo.

Aparte de elegir una de las cuatro secciones de exámenes para practicar (Lectura, Escucha, Habla, o Escritura), también podrás seleccionar entre los ajustes para personalizar el tipo de práctica que te interesa.

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Secciones de Práctica

Los ejercicios de práctica varían para cada sección del examen, ya que reflejan su formato verdadero. Le echaremos un vistazo a un ejemplo de cada uno para el curso de TOEFL.

Nota: los screenshots tomados de las actividades de práctica regular provienen del curso de TOEFL. Las actividades de práctica del IELTS son similares pero un tanto diversas.

Lectura

Este es el primer tipo de ejercicio que probé en Magoosh. Consistía en resolver varias preguntas de respuesta múltiple que se basaban en un texto que había que leer. Encontré un pequeño error en el texto, lo cual fue un poco descorazonador, pero fue el único que encontré mientras utilizaba la app.

Hay un tiempo de respuesta para cada pregunta, si seleccionaste el “modo de práctica”, podrás ver la respuesta correcta y algunas explicaciones inmediatamente después de responder a cada pregunta.

Estos comentarios son los que hacen brillar a Magoosh en mi opinión. Para cada ejercicio de práctica, hay una explicación de vídeo de la respuesta correcta, una explicación textual, y enlaces a lecciones relevantes para práctica adicional de preguntas del mismo tipo.

Me parece que es de mucha ayuda recibir explicaciones relevantes y detalladas después de habernos comprometido con una labor como esta por cuenta propia. Las explicaciones hacen un buen trabajo a la hora de explicar por qué la respuesta correcta es correcta y las demás están equivocadas.

Escucha

La sección de escucha presenta ejercicios que son bastante simples: escuchar una grabación de audio y responder a una serie de preguntas de elección múltiple relacionadas con lo que has escuchado.

Los comentarios que recibes al final de cada ejercicio de escucha son similares a los que recibes después de los ejercicios de lectura. Se te presenta una explicación en vídeo, una explicación en formato de texto escrito, y el texto del audio como referencia.

Habla

Los ejercicios de habla y escritura son un tanto diferentes porque requieren de más que simples preguntas de elección múltiple. Completar un ejercicio de habla implica grabarte a ti mismo hablando.

Ya que las puntuaciones de estos ejercicios tienen muchos matices y requieren de un humano para que oiga las grabaciones, tendrás que valorar tu propia respuesta.

Magoosh ha preparado una detallada rúbrica de puntuaciones, así como varios ejemplos de respuestas y sus puntuaciones para ayudarte a que te gradúes a ti mismo.

Esto puede ser de menos ayuda que recibir comentarios por parte de un tutor calificado, pero tampoco carece de mérito. Magoosh apunta que el acto de evaluarte a ti mismo e interactuar con la rúbrica “te ayudará a comprender lo que es una buena respuesta, ¡para que puedas mejorar!”

Recuerda que también podrás ver explicaciones en vídeo y en texto de las mejores formas de completar los ejercicios. El narrador te guiará a lo largo del ejercicio y te ofrecerá ejemplos, lo cual me pareció de gran ayuda.

Escritura

Ahora otra habilidad productiva. Los ejercicios de escritura conllevan escribir una respuesta a modo de ensayo y después ponerte nota a ti mismo.

Puede parecer un tanto absurdo escribir un ensayo que nadie leerá jamás salvo tú, pero creo que merece la pena. Tendrás ocasión de comparar tu proceso y tu ensayo a las explicaciones que te dan al final de la lección además de la respuesta tipo.

Para los alumnos que se preparen para el IELTS, también existe un plan de suscripción que incluye puntuación de ensayos. Esta es una opción de la que me he podido beneficiar, pero hablaré de ella más tarde.

Al acabar una sesión se práctica recibes un informe resumido de tus resultados con mucha información detallada.

Test de Práctica

Además de las actividades de práctica regular, los usuarios pueden someterse en Magoosh a tests de práctica que simulan la experiencia real del test. Como en la vida real, este falso examen lleva su tiempo y requiere una atención constante. Se recomienda que los usuarios pasen al menos 3 horas y 15 minutos con el test. Yo opté por probar el test de práctica de IELTS.

El test de práctica incluye labores de las cuatro secciones anteriores, y los usuarios pueden hacer pausas entre cada sección, pero no durante. Una vez que hayas comenzado una sección, el minutero va corriendo hasta que la hayas completado entera o te hayas quedado sin tiempo.

¡Atento al minutero en la esquina superior derecha! Yo cometí el error de asumir que la cuenta atrás comenzaría cuando escuchase el audio, y no fui capaz de responder a todas las preguntas a tiempo a causa de eso.

La imagen de encima muestra un ejercicio de escucha en que el usuario debe escuchar una conversación y rellenar los espacios en blanco de las preguntas. La mecánica es un tanto torpe, ya que debes responder a las preguntas al mismo tiempo que escuchas y transferirlas al campo de respuestas más tarde, aunque funciona suficientemente bien.

Aquí abajo mostramos un ejemplo de un ejercicio de lectura en el test de práctica de IELTS.

Los ejercicios de lectura implican leer pasajes de un texto y responder a varias preguntas antes de que se acabe el tiempo. Una característica que me pareció de especial ayuda en este punto es la herramienta de subrayado y de toma de notas.

Esta parte simula todo lo que serías capaz de hacer con un examen de papel y es de gran ayuda a la hora de tomar notas fácilmente.

Las partes de habla y escritura del examen requieren que el usuario se evalúe a sí mismo y haga sus propios comentarios, pero por lo demás funcionan de manera bastante similar a las tareas de escucha y de escritura. En el ejercicio de habla, el usuario debe grabarse a sí mismo tomando parte en una entrevista de vídeo.

Ensayos Puntuados

Mi suscripción al curso de IELTS incluía la puntuación de un ensayo, así que aproveché la oportunidad y entregué uno que escribí durante el test de práctica para que recibiera una nota.

Desgraciadamente, después de entregar el ensayo y recibir el mensaje de: “Puntuaremos tu ensayo y te enviaremos un correo con comentarios…”, ¡esperé más de dos semanas antes de recibir una respuesta!

Pensándolo ahora, probablemente debería haber contactado antes con el servicio de atención al cliente de Magoosh. Les envié un mensaje sobre mi ensayo el día antes de que expirara mi suscripción y recibí una respuesta rápida y de gran ayuda.

El servicio de atención al cliente respondió al día siguiente, se excusó de que mi ensayo se hubiese colado entre sus recovecos, extendió mi suscripción, y priorizó la puntuación de mi ensayo. Recibí un email con la nota al final del día siguiente.

La puntuación de mi ensayo fue excepcional. El corrector me presentó diversas horquillas de resultados que me parecieron exactas y justificables en cada categoría, además de una nota general.

También fui capaz de ver aquello que había hecho bien y las áreas en que podría mejorar para superar mi resultado, todo con gran lujo de detalles. Había muchos ejemplos específicos que se referían a lo que había escrito y proponían mejores alternativas.

Me sentí aliviado al ver que los comentarios estaban personalizados y no eran respuestas preconcebidas, tipo molde.

El email con la nota del ensayo también contenía enlaces a recursos extras para practicar habilidades específicas y mejorar mi resultado en el test en cada categoría.

En pocas palabras, creo que el ensayo puntuado tiene un valor significativo, sobre todo si nunca has recibido comentarios detallados de un ensayo IELTS. Estoy bastante seguro de que mejoraría mi resultado si escribiese otro ensayo, después de los comentarios que he recibido.

Garantía de Resultados

Magoosh garantiza ayudar a sus usuarios a mejorar sus resultados en el examen IELTS por 0,5 puntos, ofreciendo un reembolso completo si no es así. El curso de TOEFL está provisto de una garantía similar, que promete un incremento de al menos cuatro puntos respecto a la puntuación de un examen anterior.

Existen estipulaciones muy razonables en relación con estas garantías, aunque no tengo muy claro si se requiere que hayas visto todas las lecciones de vídeo, resuelto todas las preguntas de práctica, y visto todas las explicaciones en vídeo para las preguntas que hayas respondido erróneamente.

Estas acciones aparecen como “recomendadas,” pero un enunciado más tarde en la página de garantía parece sugerir que debes haber completado estos pasos para recibir un reembolso. De hecho, llevaría un tiempo increíble completar todas estas actividades en Magoosh – algo que debería ser considerado.

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Precios

Hay varias opciones de suscripción y de precios en Magoosh. También hay una versión de prueba gratuita disponible tanto para el plan del TOEFL como el IELTS.

Precio del TOEFL

Precio del IELTS

Para aquellos que dispongan de más de seis meses para prepararse, no creo que tenga mucho sentido pagar una suscripción de tres meses para el curso de IELTS, si tenemos en cuenta la diferencia de precios.

Ahora bien, ¿un ensayo puntuado vale $20 dólares adicionales? creo que para algunas personas sí que los vale, sobre todo si les está costando mejorar sus resultados en la parte escrita. Otras opciones online que también ofrecen comentarios de ensayos tienen precios similares.

Alternativas

Magoosh no es la única opción que existe para aquellos estudiantes que busquen opciones online de preparación de tests. A continuación enumeramos algunas de las alternativas más populares, entre las que se incluyen algunas que son gratuitas.

KAPLAN

Un nombre muy sonado en la preparación de tests, Kaplan prepara a alumnos tanto para el IELTS como para el TOEFL, entre otros, a través de cursos online. La compañía lleva existiendo desde hace tiempo y tiene la reputación de ofrecer educación de calidad para estudiantes. Una de las ventajas del curso de IELTS es que viene con una nueva opción de cartas de juego, aunque no dispone de una garantía de mejoría de resultados.

BESTMYTEST IELTS

BestMyTest es un recurso popular que ofrece tutorías en línea de IELTS. Viene con una garantía de mejora de resultados, muchos vídeos de práctica y 50 tests de práctica. También es una de las opciones más baratas que hay. Otra gran diferencia entre este recurso y Magoosh es que BestMyTest no utiliza tantas instrucciones en formato vídeo. En lugar de esto, la práctica tiene lugar principalmente a través de preguntas interactivas de tipo test.

UDEMY IELTS Y TOEFL

Udemy es una biblioteca de cursos online a la que todo el mundo puede contribuir. Esto significa que puedes encontrar cursos para cualquier cosa, incluyendo preparación para el IELTS o el TOEFL. Ya que todo el mundo puede crear un curso, es recomendable leer los comentarios y las puntuaciones antes de comprarlos, ya que la calidad puede variar mucho. También conviene tener en cuenta que los cursos están en general rebajados y que ofrecen descuentos dramáticos – tan sólo espera un poco si el curso que te interesa es demasiado caro.

EDX IELTS Y TOEFL

Otra fuente de cursos online, edX conecta a usuarios de forma gratuita a versiones online de cursos universitarios. Estos cursos tienen la ventaja de estar muy bien estructurados, así como lo están las lecciones en la universidad, aunque tendrás que pagar una prima para obtener un certificado al completar el curso.

YOUTUBE: IELTS LIZ Y TST PREP (TOEFL)

YouTube es otra gran fuente de educación gratuita en lo que respecta a la preparación para el IELTS o el TOEFL. Hay montones de canales que se centran en estos temas, y los que hemos mencionado aquí arriba son sólo dos de las opciones más populares. Ambos ofrecen lecciones sobre las mejores estrategias a adoptar para mejorar los resultados en el test y ofrecen también ejercicios de ejemplo.

Conclusiones

Magoosh es un recurso muy bien fabricado, con una excelente interfaz y diseño. Me impresionó el nivel de los detalles en las explicaciones y las lecciones de vídeo, pero no me gustó navegar a través de un mar de vídeos aburridos para encontrar una información precisa.

También he de decir que, en mi opinión, un servicio de atención al cliente eficaz es de gran valor, y me impresionó mucho la manera que tuvo Magoosh de solucionar el problema que tuve al recibir mi ensayo puntuado. Reconforta saber que alguien se ocupará de ti si necesitas ayuda.

Puede que las lecciones de vídeo no hagan de Magoosh uno de los recursos más divertidos que existen, pero estoy convencido de que un estudiante serio sabrá sacarle un gran partido a Magoosh y prepararse muy bien para los tests.

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