Every language learner gets to the point where they want to start incorporating tv and movies into their study routine.
But there’s one problem, when they start watching, there’s far too much that they don’t understand. Instead of finding a fun way to learn a language, watching videos becomes frustrating.
Yabla, like FluentU, is a company that aims to make it easier to incorporate videos into your study routine.
I’ve tried out Yabla, FluentU, and some other free alternatives to study Chinese. This review will take a look at Yabla and help you decide if it’s worth paying for. I’ll also tell you about a free alternative that could help you save some money.
Personally, although I like Yabla, I’ve struggled to use it enough to justify paying for. That doesn’t mean that it’s not right for you though.
What is Yabla?
Yabla is a platform that uses real-life videos to make it easier to study one of six languages (Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, German, and English). Unfortunately, the subscription only gives you access to one of the languages.
They have thousands of short video clips, typically, but not always, between one and two minutes long. They’re split into difficulty levels from beginner to advanced. However, absolute beginners would struggle to get much use out of Yabla.
You’ll have the option to see the subtitles in both the language you’re studying and English. Clicking on a word will show its definition. Additional features like being able to loop the scene and slow the audio down make the content a bit more accessible to language learners.
You’ll also find a few different review activities to help you study the content in the video clips.
When I tried out Yabla, there were several times where I ended up studying longer than I otherwise would have because I found a video series that I wanted to continue watching. It definitely made studying more fun.
Yabla isn’t the most beautifully designed resource you’ll find. In fact, it’s fairly ugly and has an early 2000’s feel to it.
On the right-hand side is a pretty big dictionary. When you click on words, the video will pause and the definition(s) will show up in this section. On mobile, this pauses the video and pops up over it.
You have the option to auto-save any word you click on or can quickly save a word by clicking a different button.
It is somewhat customizable as well. You can choose which subtitles you want to include. You can keep the dictionary and subtitles open while you watch, or opt for the full-screen option instead.
The interface also allows you to easily go back to the previous scene, skip forward, pause, loop a scene or play slowly – all of which can be useful.
Yabla also has some “games” to help you review the material.
I’m not sure games is really the right word choice. Games are typically fun, and while these exercises could be useful, they weren’t terribly exciting.
These are really more like quizzes.
In this section, you’ll watch a clip and words will be removed randomly and you have to fill in the blank with the correct word that you hear or choose it from the multiple choice options.
The questions you get wrong will be asked again in round 2 and you’ll get points depending on your performance (getting closer to being a game).
Another game-like component of Yabla is during the vocabulary review.
This is interesting because there’s a timer that you can see counting down. You’re prompted by the word in the language you’re learning and have to choose the correct English translation.
Next, you’re given the English and you have to choose the correct translation. Finally, you’re given the English and you have to type in the correct word.
This is a fairly engaging way to review vocabulary. Yabla tracks your results and adjusts what you need to study based on how well you do.
I like Yabla’s videos quite a bit, especially when compared to FluentU.
You can choose the difficulty (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and sort by category. The total number of videos varies depending on the language you’re learning. Remember, most are between one and two minutes long.
This table shows the total number of videos per language.
|Language||# of Videos|
One thing I really like is that they create a lot of multi-part videos. So, while one video may only be two minutes, if there are 8 different parts, it can allow you to actually get into the story.
This is a pretty big benefit. After all, the whole point of using videos to study is their ability to convey a story.
I found a popular Chinese show called Ipartment (爱情公寓) and watched several episodes. It was a pretty rewarding feeling to watch a real Chinese TV show, even if it was only 2 minutes at a time.
- The biggest weakness for me personally is that I found it difficult to use Yabla often enough to continue paying. This may just be because I like using lots of different resources and Yabla, while pretty good, is only a supplemental tool.
- Some of the videos are fairly old.
- I’d prefer using Memrise, Anki, or another flashcard app to review.
- The variety of content on Yabla is really good. I found lots of interesting clips to watch.
- Multi-part series makes it easier to watch longer content
- The review activities are a helpful supplement.
Yabla is priced at $12.95/month, $54.95/half year and $99.95/year for an individual subscription.
They don’t offer a free trial but if you cancel your subscription within 14 days, you’ll receive a full refund. There are also a few free videos you can watch to try out Yabla.
FluentU is a platform that’s quite similar to FluentU with a few differences. The design is a bit more modern and all of their videos come from Youtube. The biggest reason that I prefer Yabla is that their videos are much more interesting. Many of the videos on FluentU are commercials and there are very few multi-part series. FluentU is also more expensive.
CaptionPop is a completely free alternative that uses Youtube videos. They find videos that have subtitles in both English and the language you’re learning. There are some featured channels that make it quick to find something but you can also search on your own.
While you can see the subtitles in both languages, you can’t look up the definitions of individual words. A workaround for this is to use a popup dictionary from your computer browser. I use the Zhongwen Chrome extension for studying Chinese. I haven’t tested other Chrome extensions for other languages but Readlang and Dictionarist might work.
Yabla’s a pretty good platform for those really looking to start adding a lot of videos into their study routine. It does feel a bit dated though. It was founded in 2001 and while I have no idea what it looked like back then, my guess would be that it wasn’t terribly different than it is now.
In recent years, the quality of online language learning resources has improved significantly. You may find that a free alternative could be a better choice for you.
If you’re not sure about Yabla, you can try some free videos on their site. You can also get a full refund if you cancel your subscription within 14-days.