Lupa App Review: An essential tool for serious Spanish learners

Updated: June 24, 2022
Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm

Get stuck into this Lupa app review where we break down exactly how you can benefit from this Spanish audio course. We’ll take a look at its price point, its pros, and its cons to help you decide if you want to invest your time and money into Lupa.

Our Verdict

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Lupa won’t teach you Spanish from scratch, but it will get you closer to understanding native speakers talking about real-world topics. Downloading the Lupa app, you'll have access to real-speed audio and interactive transcripts. It’s an excellent resource for intermediate and advanced learners, but there are other tools out there better suited to beginners.

TL;DR Lupa App Review

Here’s a quick summary of this Lupa app review, if you’ve only got a second.

PROS

  • Listen to native speakers, speaking at real speed.
  • Stories are interesting, varied, and engaging.
  • Ear training technology helps you to learn by listening, not reading.
  • Stories can be downloaded and used offline.
  • Fairly priced especially if you opt for the annual subscription.

CONS

  • No help with writing or speaking.
  • Little to no grammar explanation.
  • Goal tracking could be a little more sophisticated.
  • The vocabulary review feature could be improved to be more interactive.

What is Lupa?

Lupa is an extension of the popular podcast, Radio Ambulante, which has been around for more than ten years. The podcast features real-life stories from native speakers from across Latin America. We actually featured Radio Ambulante in our breakdown of the best podcasts to learn Spanish thanks to its professional and well-produced stories. Lupa takes these podcasts, adds an interactive transcript to them, and helps you to break down each sentence, word by word. 

Let’s take a closer look at how it does this in this Lupa app review.

What can you do on Lupa?

At first glance, Lupa seems like a simple app. You choose a story and listen to the audio while following along with the transcript. Look a bit closer, and you’ll realise that Lupa is much more than that. Let’s take a look at its key features in this Lupa app review. 

Interactive Transcript

Once you’ve chosen a story to listen to, you’ll be taken to an interactive Spanish transcript. Lupa divides each story into manageable chunks and encourages you to listen to them twice. Once at a slower speed, and then again at native-speaker speed. At the bottom of each transcript, you’ll find buttons that allow you to adapt your transcript and audio to your ability level.

Repeat and Rewind

You can repeat and rewind the text as many times as you would like to. In fact, Lupa encourages you to listen to each section at least twice, increasing the playback speed to see if you can keep up. You can also pause the audio at any time to give you the chance to digest the information, add a word to your flashcards or find a definition. 

User-Controlled Playback Speeds

Perhaps one of the most useful features we discovered during this Lupa app review is its flexible audio speeds. You can alter playback speeds between 0.5 to 1, 1 being natural native-speaker speed. Lupa encourages users to begin at a slower speed and work their way up to native speed over time. This is a great way to alter the app to your exact ability level.

Hidden Words 

To switch up the difficulty level you can also use the ‘abc’ tool to hide certain words, leaving just some of the trickiest vocabulary visible on the transcript. This is to encourage you to really listen to the words, rather than rely on the transcript too much. You can uncover these hidden words with one click if you’re struggling. This turned out to be one of the easiest ways to customise the app to your exact ability levels and reduce your reliance on the written text.

Real-Time English Translation

If you’re struggling to keep up with the Spanish audio, you can opt for real-time English subtitles while you’re listening. These features could come in handy, especially if it’s your first time listening to native speakers talk about real-life topics. 

Flashcards

At any time during the story, you can click on a word to add it to your flashcard collection. You can then visit this later on in your flashcard deck. When you click on a word it also shows a quick translation. 

The great thing here is that Lupa doesn’t use a dictionary plugin that provides random translations of a specific word. Instead, it puts that word into the context of the sentence to give you the most realistic and accurate translation.

If a phrase is more colloquial or complicated, Lupa will tell you a little bit more about when and why to use this word. 

Unfortunately, this feature is still quite limited. There’s no interactive game that helps you to practice your vocabulary and retain it, as you see on platforms like Memrise. You’re simply given a listen of words, along with their translation. We'd love to see some development of this feature in the future.

Audio Library

With such an established podcast providing the audio material, there is a huge library of stories to choose from that span across an impressive range of niches. On the Lupa app you can filter stories by country or by topic, and pick the clips that you’re most interested in.

Researchers have found that learners are far more likely to absorb knowledge and stay motivated if they’re interested in the topic. In this case, you don’t have to love learning Spanish, but it’s a huge help if you’re interested in the topic that you’re learning.

Offline Learning

It’s not often that Spanish language apps, provide a chance to learn offline, but Lupa does! Every single audio lesson that you’ll find on the app can be downloaded, and then used at a later date, with all of the same features you get when you’re online.

Goal Tracker

The app also offers up a simple goal tracker. Here, you can see how many minutes of material you’ve listened to, and re-listened to. Lupa also uses a star rating to track your progress on the app. We’d love to see this feature expand in the future, include personal goal setting and perhaps a few other motivational tools.

What Does the Lupa App Look Like?

Lupa is only available on your phone or tablet, so you’ll need to download an app to access it. We were impressed by the user-friendly interface, which is easy to navigate. On the home page, you can continue listening to stories, or scroll down to find new audio additions of the week.

Here are a few snapshots of what to expect:

Who Is Lupa Best For?

For those of you who are familiar with Radio Ambulante, you’ll know that the podcasts are designed for advanced and native speakers. What Lupa does, by adding interactive subtitles, is make these materials accessible to intermediate learners. 

For this reason, we’d recommend Lupa to anyone with a solid foundation in Spanish, so intermediate to advanced learners.

Saying this, we wouldn’t rule out recommending Lupa to beginners. While the language and grammar structures may be far from a beginner’s grasp, it’s always useful to listen to native speakers talk, no matter what stage of the learning process you find yourself in. Plus, with all of the personalisation features, and English translations, it’s easy to adapt the app to your own difficulty level. 

What Languages Can You Learn On Lupa?

You can learn one language and one language only on Lupa, and that’s Spanish. Latin American Spanish to be exact. However, with such a user-friendly interface and helpful design, we wouldn’t be surprised if Lupa begins to branch out, and combine its efforts with other established podcasts.

How much does Lupa cost?

Downloading the Lupa app is completely free. But, you will need to sign up for one of Lupa's subscription plans to make the most out of the app.

We've managed to secure a discount for the readers of Actual Fluency, which allows you to save up to 42% on your annual purchase price!

Free Trial

Before you commit to a paid subscription, Lupa gives you two free stories to try out first, with all of the paid features included. 

Monthly Subscription 

Lupa’s monthly subscription will set you back $12/month and gives you access to all of the audio on the app. Lupa uploads new stories every single Thursday. We’d recommend opting for this payment plan if you’re only interested in using Lupa for a short period of time.

Yearly Subscription

If you’re a committed Spanish leaner, Lupa’s yearly subscription is a great money saver. It costs just $8.25/month with a one-time purchase of $99. If you use the Actual Fluency discount, you'll get the same perks, for just $84 a year.

School Plans

Lupa is also designed to work for educators too. The idea is, that by exposing students to native speakers at an early stage in their learning journey, it will help them to advance their listening skills, and even their pronunciation too.

Lupa offers three plans for schools, a free tier, student discount or a group license. There are no set fees for these, so you’ll need to contact Lupa to design a package that works for your needs. 

What are the pros and cons of Lupa?

Pros

  • Listen to native speakers, speaking at real speed
  • Stories are interesting, varied, and engaging
  • Ear training technology helps you to learn by listening, not reading text
  • You can download the audio and transcripts to use offline
  • Fairly priced especially if you opt for the annual subscription

Cons

  • No help with writing or speaking
  • Little to no grammar help 
  • Goal tracking could be a little more sophisticated
  • The vocabulary review feature is static

Are there any Lupa alternatives?

Lupa is a unique concept that stands apart from its competitors for its real-world conversations and authentic native speaker audio. Saying that, there are some alternatives on the market. 

Lupa vs Fluent U

FluentU uses audio-visual elements to introduce learners to Spanish. Right from the outset, you’ll focus on grammar, sentence structure and listening skills, and it will encourage you to put your speaking skills into action too. It is slightly more well-rounded than Lupa, but it is almost double the price. 

For a detailed look into FluentU, take a look at our review. 

Lupa vs Yabla 

Like FluentU, Yabla offers its users a library of audio-visual material taken from authentic news clips, documentaries and soaps to immerse learners in the Spanish language. You can alter the playback speed, pause, and get definitions with just a click of the button. However, it doesn’t offer the hidden words feature like Lupa. What we do appreciate about Yabla are the games that follow each video clip, that reinforce what you’ve just learnt. We’d also say Yabla is much more accessible for beginner learners.

You’ll find out everything you need to know about the platform in our extensive Yabla review.

Lupa vs LingQ

You will spend most of your time on LingQ working through reading and listening exercises. Like Lupa, LingQ uses interactive transcriptions that you can use to follow along with the audio. Its vocabulary review feature is much more sophisticated compared to Lupa. However, the quality of the audio lessons do vary somewhat.

We’ve compiled all of the important details about LingQ into this detailed review

A round-up of our Lupa app review

There’s no denying that the Lupa app fills a void that Spanish learning apps tend to overlook. It caters to the upper-intermediate and advanced learner that want to listen to native speakers talking at real speed, while still having a support system in place. 

Some features are in need of further development, including the vocabulary review, and goal tracking. Despite this, we're still confident that this is an invaluable tool for any serious learners with a solid understanding of Spanish.