Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm
In this Busuu review, we'll dive into the platform's strengths and weaknesses, and what you can expect from its language courses. We’ll also compare it to some of the leading competitors and offer advice on how to get the most out of Busuu’s many interesting features.
Busuu is a worth while investment for both beginners and intermediates hoping to improve their grammar and vocabulary skills in a European language.
Busuu's non-European courses do seem to lack somewhat in quality. If you're hoping to use Busuu to learn Chinese, Japanese or Arabic we'd recommend finding an alternative software.
TL;DR Busuu Review
In case you want the quick pros and cons of Busuu, here's a list.
- One-stop-shop for lessons, social interactions, and live tutoring.
- Structuring options for travel and business.
- User-friendly interface.
- Set goals and track your progress with ease.
- The free plan isn't extensive enough to learn a language.
- Non-European languages are typically poorly taught.
- Grammar explanations are slightly limited.
- Language selection is smaller than other similar platforms.
What is Busuu?
Busuu is an online platform that guides users through structured lessons in the 12 most popular global languages. It includes several unique features that help you accelerate your learning, quickly taking you from a beginner to an intermediate. Busuu’s integrated approach offers traditional lessons, social interactions, and opportunities for live tutoring.
Busuu has more than 100 million members and enjoys wide popularity among many language learners. So, should you take the plunge? Let's find out in this Busuu review.
What Can You Do on Busuu?
Students on Busuu have access to multiple avenues of learning through its well-designed interface. The Lessons section will likely occupy most of your time, though the Social and Review features promise added benefit for any learner.
Like any excellent course, the backbone of Busuu is their language lessons. These logical progressions take you from “Hello!” in the first lesson of A1 to topics like “Discussing Your Favourite Extreme Sports” by the end of B2.
Each lesson typically takes 5-7 minutes to complete.
As a big plus, real humans, speaking in full sentences, read out all of the course audio on Busuu. This makes naturally picking up your chosen language a lot easier.
Busuu’s “Dialog” exercises especially impressed us. Students fill in bits of a conversation about lesson material between two native speakers talking at a slow, understandable pace. These exercises seemed more realistic and practical than similar activities on other platforms.
While the lessons on Busuu are generally useful, they can be slightly drier than other programs that focus on entertaining and informative learning. The grammar concepts also felt a bit glossed-over at times, and additional resources would be necessary for those hoping to understand a language inside and out.
Sometimes, the lessons blitz you with material that you haven’t yet had time to absorb. This seemed especially true in the Arabic course, where we ended up staring at a sentence full of symbols, expected to pull the pronunciations out of thin air with little instruction. We experienced similar things in the Chinese lessons.
Languages with entirely different writing systems typically need a more in-depth treatment, and Busuu’s approach doesn't seem to measure up. Their Euro-centric courses are much better constructed.
Busuu periodically prompts you to review words you haven’t recently seen in a lesson and those you’ve missed before.
A bit like being told to eat your veggies, review lessons are crucial for learning a new language. Even though they may not be the most exciting lesson of the day.
While not revolutionary, these exercises nevertheless provide an excellent opportunity to practice words on a regular basis and keep them in your working memory.
However, we did found ourselves wishing for some type of gamification or a push to see the vocabulary in new contexts.
Note that you need a paid plan for review lessons.
One of the more innovative features on Busuu, “Social” exercises invite learners from around the world to correct each other’s responses. This allows users to learn and build connections at the same time. We found it pretty fun; getting feedback from a real human who speaks the language beats an automated system any day!
On the other hand, Busuu is not a social network, like HelloTalk or Tandem, and you won’t get the kind of free-ranging interactions on Busuu that you would there. Besides, sometimes the human-made community corrections are, well, incorrect.
It makes an exciting addition to the lessons section but as a stand-alone element? It’s not worth the subscription by itself.
What Other Features Does Busuu Have?
Course Structuring for Different Needs
Busuu offers different structures for your language learning experience, a feature which could prove very useful. As seen in the picture, the French language course offers options tailored to learners who want to learn the language thoroughly, pick up a few travel phrases, need it mostly for business, or simply wish to improve their pronunciation.
These options might give you just what you need to maximize your fun without the need to slog through a beginner course.
A premium feature, Study Plans shows you how long it will take you to achieve your desired fluency level based on how often you’d like to practice each day.
This works well as a motivation tool, by showing your long-term progress towards your goals. Usually, the fluency level you desire is far closer than you might first assume!
You can only have one study plan active at a time, so learners working on multiple languages may not find this feature as useful.
This year Busuu has added live tutoring, a huge plus!
While the lessons may cost more than you might find elsewhere, having a Premium Plus membership usually unlocks a discount code that you can use on lesson packages.
On Busuu’s Premium Plus Plan, you have the option to take McGraw Hill Certificate exams, a handy way to officially showcase your language knowledge.
What Does Busuu Look Like?
Busuu has both a desktop website and an app on your phone, both well designed and easy to use. Your dashboard will prompt you to complete the day’s lessons or review the words that you may be forgetting.
Who is Busuu Best For?
Busuu is a natural place to start for people with no experience in a language. Its structured approach will quickly guide you through from beginner to intermediate level.
You may still find Busuu useful for reviewing content and getting practice with the Social feature at a more advanced level. That said, intermediate-and-up learners would likely benefit from a more immersive experience. If you’re studying German, an example would be Grammar Hero, which you can find our review of here.
Busuu is ideal for a beginner looking for one platform that can do everything well, from lessons to live tutors. People who expect to tackle multiple languages may also like Busuu’s offering, though other programs offer more.
What Languages Can You Learn on Busuu?
Busuu offers the 12 most commonly spoken languages in the world:
Busuu does a pretty good job of teaching European languages but falters when it comes to more unusual languages like Arabic and Chinese. For those languages, I’d recommend seeking out a different option such as Pimsleur.
How Much Does Busuu Cost?
Busuu’s free plan limits you to only the most basic features of a single language, and you can’t change it once you’ve picked. The free plan also does not include any of the grammar or review exercises.
For more than a glorified flashcard system, you’ll want to commit to one of their premium plans.
Premium adds the ability to use the Grammar and Review lessons and the option to download lessons for studying offline or on the go. You’re still restricted to only one language, though, and you’ll miss out on the study plan and social features, both of which made us think this plan was under-featured for the price.
Premium Plus plans give you everything included above, plus the ability to learn any of the 12 languages on Busuu, social feedback, personalized study plans, and the McGraw Hill certificates. This provides good value for the relatively modest boost in cost.
What are the Pros and Cons of Busuu?
- A simple, seamless experience across platforms.
- Great Dialog lessons.
- Useful one-stop-shop for lessons, social interactions, live tutoring, etc.
- Course Structuring options for travel & business.
- Free Plan doesn’t let you try critical features.
- Non-European languages seem poorly taught.
- Lack of gamification and less focus on entertaining users.
Are There Any Busuu Alternatives?
Duolingo vs. Busuu
Compared to Duolingo, the topics on Busuu cover more adult situations, like interacting with coworkers in an office environment or meeting at a pub with friends. Taking what you’ve learned into the real world is much easier this way.
On the other hand, Duolingo’s gamification makes learning more fun, and we liked the allowances made for typos on Duolingo, something that got frustrating on Busuu. Duolingo also gives you all of its lessons in all languages in the free version; Busuu only gives you vocab in one.
Babbel vs. Busuu
Babbel and Busuu are strikingly similar in many ways. Babbel has a slight advantage in teaching in-depth grammar, though Busuu’s Social feature has no equal on Babbel, at least for now. Busuu also seems to change their exercise formats more than Babbel, making for a more enjoyable learning experience.
Check out our Babbel review for more information about the platform.
A Round-Up of Our Busuu Review
Busuu offers a suite of learning opportunities across 12 different languages that are hard to match. It covers everything you’d need to get off the ground and well into intermediate in your language of choice.
That said, some issues with its non-European offerings and a bare-bones free plan make it hard to recommend without reserve.
If you’d like a one-stop-shop for all of the parts of your language learning journey, Busuu’s Premium Plus offers a great option. If you don’t mind using multiple services, though, you can find nearly everything Busuu has to offer for free or at higher quality elsewhere.
On the whole, I’d give it 4/5 Stars.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.