Speechling review: In this review I take a comprehensive look at the pronunciation app and website Speechling, which teaches you 6 different languages in a variety of ways.
Brief Overview of Speechling
Speechling is a pronunciation app that helps you improve your pronunciation in English, Japanese, Italian French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian. German, Portuguese and Korean.
You can get 35 sentences reviewed per month as a free user, but you'll have to upgrade to their 19.99/mo plan to log your progress, get unlimited reviews and full access to all 6 languages at once.
Why spend time learning pronunciation?
Before I get deeper into my Speechling review, I just wanted to briefly discuss the importance of learning or focussing on learning pronunciation itself.
When I first started learning languages on my own I severely underestimated the power of learning proper pronunciation early on.
I was convinced that as long as it was ‘good enough' I could just improve it later, once I knew way more vocabulary and was able to formulate basic sentences.
As I began to interview more and more successful polyglots I realised just how wrong, and even backwards this way of thinking was.
There is a reason most courses and textbooks start with pronunciation first – it's the MOST important element!
The reason it is the most important element, to begin with, is because if you don't you might well be building bad muscle memory in your mouth and jaw, which can be incredibly hard to unlearn later.
Another reason why it's a bad idea to defer pronunciation is that it's extremely hard to understand what people are saying if your brain cannot differentiate certain sounds. This could be the front and back vowels of Finnish and Hungarian or it could be the variety of s-sounds in the Russian language.
Naturally, you'll be harder to understand also. This is especially true in languages with few natural learners where the native speakers have little experience with ‘bad' or ‘unnatural' accents. For English, this is usually not a problem.
So with that in mind, I was excited to be approached by the founder and CEO of Speechling to give his service a good look. In this review, I check out the entire site and give you a comprehensive walkthrough of what you can expect when you sign up for a membership.
Speechling Review: Table of Contents
- Brief Overview
- Update: New Features
- Website and Features
- Mobile Application
- Pros and Cons
- Review Conclusion
It's available online as well as on adapted Android and iOS apps.
Update: New features added!
Since this review was written, Speechling has made a number of improvements and additions:
- Not just dictation anymore. Learners can now learn and practice with a variety of new tools including: listening comprehension, multiple choice, fill in the blank, and flashcards. It's all available for free without login. All of these features are fully available on the mobile app.
- The available content available for learners has more than tripled.
- There's now an entirely offline module available for premium users. Users can download a huge chunk of our sentence collection (~10k sentences), with access to our audio books and Anki decks too.
I'll be sure to update this review further, when I get a chance to take a deeper look at these new features.
Update 2: UI upgraded
Since the above update, a further update was rolled out around December 2018
- We removed the 7 day free trial because of abuse. Still, the free version gives you up to 35 free recordings a month and otherwise the same features, so I'm not sure how much value a free trial adds.
- Updated the UI (screenshots in this review are updated accordingly.)
- We have also added awards and badges that you can earn as you progress.
- Italian and Japanese are now live!
Update 3: New languages added!
In the last couple of years, Speechling has been working hard to bring us yet another update.
- Portuguese (Brazilian) and Korean are now available on Speechling.
- Even more content has been added to the curriculum with levels covering Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert.
- There are now more than 10,000 male and female sentences for each language.
- Mouse over hints provide pronunciation tips and definitions for words resulting in a more interactive experience.
Speechling Website and Features
The Speechling website is home to all the activities you can do with their service. There are multiple ways to learn and improve, and you can even chat directly to your language coach.
The website is incredibly functional, and there are no difficulties navigating it or getting to your language learning quickly.
The main study tool is the core curriculum built by Speechling, you'll do sentence-based flashcards, but with all of them, you're able to record your own voice and submit it for feedback with your coach.
The sentences are very varied, and not your usual: “What is your name”? – “Where do you live?” and so forth, instead they seem to be focussing on demonstrating specific grammar elements in the language over time, similar to how Glossika works.
The sentences are high-quality recordings, and you can choose between a male or a female speaker (or both.).
There is a large amount of flexibility with the main player, as you can decide to have the text, translation, or nothing shown during your learning. This makes the experience quite immersive, as you're only exposed to English if you want to.
You can also have the content played at a slower speed, or switch languages directly from the main player.
Dictation is a variation of the main study tool, where instead of recording your own pronunciation and working on it, you actively train your listening comprehension and write down the answer.
This is a way to review the content in the main tool or to mix it up a bit as you continue to improve.
The listening practise tool is a very passive tool, where you simply listen to the target language, followed by the sentence in English. It's another way to mix up your learning, or when you have perhaps do not have the energy or environment to be recording your own voice.
My favourite part of this feature is that it allows you to customise how much time you want to wait for the translation to come, and you can even have the software pause after the target language so you can make your own guess before the answer comes.
Speechling Skill Tree
Within the Skill Tree, which looks a lot like the Duolingo skill trees as well, you can find the core curriculum, Speechling Conversations, and the Speechling Phrasebook. Levels of difficulty range from beginner and intermediate to advanced and expert.
I'll start with the conversations, as I've actually seen these type of questions before.
Here are the questions you can play with and send to your coach for feedback:
- Answer the Question
- Describe the Image
- Freestyle Mode
I was pleasantly surprised to find this feature as part of the app, as I've witnessed first hand how effective these types of exercises can be.
Not just in my own schooling, but also as part of the official programs to learn Danish, where some of my foreign friends had to describe pictures to the teacher in order to advance in the class.
The freestyle mode is also cool because it allows you to basically use the Speechling framework exactly as you want it. Your subscription – your rules.
Speechling also contains a handy phrasebook, which allows you to learn some most useful phrases, sorted by topic rather than mixed together like in the main curriculum.
This is quite useful, but I suspect for most people it will just be a bonus or something done just before going a trip, rather than intense study like in the main curriculum.
It works in exactly the same player as the base courses, so you'll get the same flexibility and features.
The last feature I'd like to touch on in this Speechling review is the audio journal, which allows you to track the sentences you've recorded, and also all the feedback you have received.
It's a great tool to measure your progress and see how the comments from the coaches improve as your language skills improve.
This is another huge advantage of Speechling, as all your learning is compared to previous learning, rather than just mindlessly going through flashcards or sentences.
Mobile Pronunciation App
I downloaded the Speechling pronunciation app from the app store to my iPhone 7+ and experienced absolutely zero problems. All features are intact, and it's easy and pain-free to record sentences for the coach to review.
This is a huge advantage for the people who don't have decent microphones for their PC, as they can just speak the sentences into the application.
Having the goal (which you can change in settings) very visible helps push users to learn more in order to fill up the bar.
Pros and Cons
- Comprehensive method, can learn a lot from just one app
- Generous free plan and affordable unlimited plan
- High-quality sentences and user experience
- Personal coaching and feedback
- Quick response to new sentences or questions
- Some strange sentences in the curriculum
- Available for Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Italian, Portugues, Korean and English so far.
- Doesn't fully replace a live tutor/teacher for pronunciation correction
You can freely use Speechling for up to 35 submissions per month. Beyond that, or if you want to learn multiple languages at once you'll have to upgrade.
The unlimited tier costs $19.99/month and allows you full use of the features, in all languages, and you can submit as many coaching reviews as you'd like.
Speechling is a non-profit, working to further the education in the world through their Speechling for Education programme, offering a generous free service as well as scholarships for their unlimited service to schools as well as to people who cannot afford to pay for the service.
I'm a big fan of the way Speechling has approached the pronunciation challenge, and I find their free and low-cost unlimited memberships some of the best investments you can make in your language learning going forward.
The service won't fully replace having lessons with a live teacher, but it comes pretty close and at such a lower price point I have no problems giving my unconditional recommendation of Speechling as the top pronunciation app on the market today.
Full Disclaimer: This is a sponsored Speechling review, which means that Speechling paid to have their service reviewed on Actual Fluency. Any sale of memberships using the coupon code “ACTFLU” will generate a small commission to Actual Fluency, at no further cost to the learner.
The post was exclusively written by me, Kris Broholm, and Speechling had absolutely zero editorial control over the contents of this article. They were offered a preview, only to ascertain that no inaccuracies were present in the final text.
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