Language Transfer Review: Great, but still growing

Updated: August 12, 2022
Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm

Today we’ll explore how one man turned language education on its head. Join us in this Language Transfer review, as we delve into the learning program and find out why you have nothing to lose in trying it out.

Our Verdict

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Language Transfer offers a solid foundation of language learning for nine different languages. It is a one-man programme, however, so you won’t get native speakers doing the teaching for every course, and the audio quality is hit and miss.

In a few years, it could really be an exceptional programme. For now, it’s absolutely worth taking the time to listen through all of the thorough and insightful lessons.

TL;DR Language Transfer Review

Here are some quick pros and cons of Language Transfer, if you don't want to read the whole review: 

Pros

  • Completely free!
  • Dedicated mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Incredibly thorough courses
  • No need to take notes
  • Website is clean, intuitive, and easy-to-use

Cons

  • No native speakers for some languages
  • Very self-guided; no measure of progress
  • Not focused on literacy
  • Audio quality varies between courses
  • Courses are non-linear

What is Language Transfer?

Created by Mihalis Eleftheriou, Language Transfer is a guided audio language learning platform. The entire site and all its courses and its mobile app are created by Mihalis, including the audio narration. The programme was born of his passion for language and his desire to make learning them more intuitive. 

Although the course content is vetted by volunteer native speakers, Mihalis is the only instructor for all nine courses. This means that not all languages have native speakers for learners to hear and imitate. Currently, Mihalis is recruiting a full-time team of instructors to help bring his dream of offering quality language education for free to fruition. 

In the meantime, he does have a solid programme going here. So how exactly is this one-man show run? Let’s find out.

What Can You Do On Language Transfer?

Because Language Transfer is an audio-based programme, there isn’t much to do…at least, not at the surface level. 

You won’t find any textbooks, written lessons, or quizzes anywhere in Language Transfer. You’re not given lists of grammar points or vocabulary words to memorise. There are no games to play or exercises to complete. 

Instead, the programme offers something a little different. Carry on reading this Language Transfer review to find out more.

The Thinking Method

Language Transfer focuses on the “Thinking Method,” or what Mihalis describes as “thinking slowly to learn a language quickly.”

The course is led by Mihalis working with a volunteer student. By posing questions to the student, he is also asking you, as the listener. The course is edited to allow you time to pause the lesson and complete the mental exercise out loud on your own. You should consider the question thoroughly and take your time in answering. 

Then, once you’ve answered the question aloud, you can resume the lesson and compare your answer to the one the volunteer student gives. This active engagement helps you to learn and retain your language.

That is the theory, anyway.

In practice, the pauses often aren’t long enough for some of the more obvious answers to even pause before the volunteer student answers. We looked at the Complete Spanish and the Complete German courses. The German course does give slightly longer pauses than the Spanish course, but not by much.

Understanding, Not Memorising, Is Key 

Memorisation is the least effective way of learning a language, according to Mihalis. Memorisation doesn’t get you to engage with the language or think for yourself. It will only distract you from doing the mental legwork, and will actually slow your learning down. 

Instead, the questions posed to the language student—and the listener—are designed to make you think. By considering the question and coming to your own conclusion, you are actively learning rather than passively. This reinforces your understanding of both your target language and English and how they relate to each other. 

For example, in both courses, you learn thousands of vocabulary words in the first fifteen minutes. Sounds crazy? It’s true! Language Transfer teaches you rules of how to use the words you know in English to find the equivalent in Spanish and in German. 

This is because English has roots in Latin and Germanic languages. By applying some basic rules, you'll quickly realise you already know tonnes of words in both Spanish and German. Think of all the vocabulary lists this will save you!

And, if you forget these rules, no sweat. Language Transfer goes over them frequently as it builds on your knowledge. It's like stretching your muscles, but you're stretching your brain instead!

No Note-Taking Required

To that end, Mihalis also discourages writing anything down.

That’s not to say he believes that you shouldn’t be reading or writing in your target language. It’s just that for this course, in particular, he wants to focus on getting you to think in your target language and to understand its fundamentals.

Literacy is not the aim of the Language Transfer programme.

Another reason for doing this as a non-written course is that the lesson plans are non-linear. You won’t start with greetings or basic vocabulary like you would with traditional language learning. Instead, you’ll drop right into learning some basic rules for how the language works and then branch off from there. 

Non-linear learning isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But it does make keeping track of your progress a good deal more difficult. It’s all well and good for you to understand how the language works, but understanding and speaking are entirely different things. 

What Does Language Transfer Look Like?

The website for Language Transfer is about as easy to navigate as it gets. No mess, no fuss. You don’t even have to log in or make an account to access the lessons! 

One of the best things about Language Transfer is its simplicity.

To navigate the website, select the language you want to learn, and press play. It’s really that simple. All of the lessons are hosted on Soundcloud and YouTube, too, so you have plenty of listening options.

If offline learning is more your speed, you can download all lessons in MP3 format directly to your computer. There is also the new Language Transfer mobile app, which will allow you to take your language learning on the go. 

Do keep in mind that while Language Transfer does not collect any personal data, the app does collect anonymous usage info by default. This is to make improvements to the app, but if you’d prefer to opt out, you can easily do so on the app’s settings page.

Who is Language Transfer Best For?

If you haven’t got the cash to sink into expensive textbooks or online courses, Language Transfer is an excellent place to start. Regardless of your skill level or experience in language learning, Mihalis breaks things down thoroughly and clearly. You'll benefit from the language breakdowns whether you're a brand-new student or a more advanced learner looking to delve deeper.

That said, if you learn better by having visual aids or written lessons, Language Transfer may not be for you. There isn't a single written lesson in sight, and outside of a single set of flashcards for Arabic, there aren't any visual aids, either.

What Languages Does Language Transfer Offer?

Currently, Language Transfer offers complete language courses for the following: 

  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Greek
  • German

Additionally, the programme offers introductory courses for the following languages: 

  • Arabic
  • Turkish
  • French
  • Italian
  • English for Spanish Speakers

Both the complete courses and the introductory courses are meant for beginners, and will not get you to conversational fluency. That said, the complete courses are more structured than the introductory courses and go more in-depth. The website describes the introductory courses as “about 30 to 40 per cent of a complete course.” 

That said, Mihalis is looking to expand both his team (which currently does not exist) and his course offerings. Anyone who donates has the option of voting on the next language course he will focus on. 

At the time of writing, Swedish, Catalan, and Portuguese are the top three contenders for the next Language Transfer course. Want to see a different language? Consider supporting the programme!

How Much Does Language Transfer Cost?

It’s free!

That can’t be right, you might say. A programme of this scale surely must cost something, even the barest subscription fee! But you’d be wrong. Language Transfer is 100 per cent donation-funded. 

This is because the creator of Language Transfer is passionate about teaching languages, not about making money. He doesn’t use adverts and doesn’t ask for your personal data, so there’s no risk of it being compromised.

That being said, there are a number of different ways to support the programme if you find you like what it has to offer. For pure cash donations, you can do a one-time donation via PayPal or become a monthly supporter via Patreon.

If you’d rather get something in return for your donation, you can visit what’s called the Non-Shop. There, you can purchase physical versions of the free online content for only the cost of production and shipping. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Language Transfer?

Pros

  • Completely free!
  • Dedicated mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Incredibly thorough
  • No need to take notes
  • Website is clean, intuitive, and easy-to-use

Cons

  • No native speakers for some languages
  • Very self-guided
  • Not focused on literacy
  • Audio quality varies between courses
  • Courses are non-linear

Are There Any Language Transfer Alternatives?

Language Transfer vs. Pimsleur

For those who enjoy the guided audio learning style but want a more traditional approach, look no further than Pimsleur. It is essentially the grandfather of all audio-based language programmes, and what it does, it does exceptionally well. There’s a reason it’s a household name in the language education circuit!

It is, however, on the pricey side. A subscription to the service will set you back a handsome $20 per month, one of the most expensive on the market.

Language Transfer vs. News in Slow

If you are a fan of guided audio language learning, you might want to check out the News in Slow series. We recently reviewed the News in Slow Spanish series, but they also offer French, German, and Italian. Both programmes offer you an alternative to learning the traditional way, encouraging you to think for yourself and form your thoughts in your target language.

Where they differ is that News in Slow is conducted entirely in the target language, and offers lesson transcripts. That said, it’s aimed at people who have a little bit of language study under their belts. On the other hand, Language Transfer requires no previous knowledge of the language to get you started. 

Language Transfer vs. Bite Size Languages

Another audio-based programme, Bite Size Languages is just that—bite-size! The lessons are similarly short as those offered by Language Transfer with the added benefit of being narrated by native speakers. You’ll benefit greatly from hearing natural accents when learning to listen, speak, and comprehend. 

Check out the Bite Size Languages page to learn more!

A Round-Up of Our Language Transfer Review

In every aspect of Language Transfer, you can see the passion that its creator has for language education. Mihalis describes it as “language activism” rather than just language learning. And the programme is well-designed, considering the vast majority of it was done by himself with a handful of volunteers.

But you can see where the programme is outgrowing itself. You won’t get native speakers outside of those languages Mihalis grew up speaking. The audio quality for the courses is good but could do with some improvement. There aren’t any visual aids or written materials to appeal to a broader array of language learners. 

The Language Transfer programme is off to a solid start. In a few years, once a full-time staff gets together and more native speakers join on, it could really be an exceptional programme. For now, it’s absolutely worth taking the time to listen through all of the thorough and insightful lessons. You really have nothing to lose!

Ori Starling

Ori Starling is a writer, editor, and translator based out of the United States. Their interest in languages began over 25 years ago, teaching themselves Spanish at a young age from tapes so that they could speak with family. Since then, they've studied Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese, with plans to continue their lifelong language learning journey.