Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm
Transparent Language is a web and application-based language learning platform that is most commonly used in government, for schools and libraries. But, is its higher price point worth it for the average learner? We find out in this Transparent Language review.
Transparent Language may have a wide variety of language pairs to offer, but its content does not delve deep enough to justify its steep price tag.
With a focus on vocabulary in most courses, grammar and culture seem to be an afterthought. Luckily, there are plenty of free alternatives on the market if Transparent Language doesn't turn out to be the software for you.
TL;DR Transparent Language Review
In case you're looking for a quick low down of Transparent Language, here's a list of its pros and cons:
- User-friendly interface that is easy to navigate for all ages.
- Opportunity to learn using your native tongue.
- More than 100 languages available.
- Free access through some local libraries.
- Little to no grammar explanations throughout.
- Lessons follow the same pattern and can get repetitive.
- Quality of the course doesn't justify the high price tag.
What is Transparent Language?
Transparent Language is a traditional language learning platform that uses a variety of activities to advance the user through the lessons. Its interface may be slightly basic, but you’ll find material on Transparent Language for a whopping 101 languages, a number that many language platforms find hard to beat.
What Can You Do on Transparent Language?
Transparent Language allows you to create a “Learning Path” of your own by using pre-selected lessons and activities. The dashboard below lays out all of the units and lessons in a logical order for you to follow. The topics of the content depends on the language you're learning. Some languages have a lot, some very little. Common topics for units include “Asking for Directions, At the Hotel, Buying Tickets, Family,” and “Shopping.”
You can edit your specific learning goals on this page, as well as, see your daily streak. Here you can also see the number of words that you've learned, which is handy and motivating to see your progress every day.
Transparent Language uses a whole host of activities to help users learn. These activities touch all four aspects of language learning: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Each unit is divided into lessons. To complete a lesson, you have to complete various activities. These activities vary from lesson to lesson and from language to language but generally, they follow a similar pattern.
If you’re learning a language with a totally different alphabet, your first few lessons will concentrate on making sure you’re confident with the new letters.
Below is a snap of how Transparent Language can help you to learn the Georgian alphabet.
Once you’re familiar with the alphabet, your lessons will usually stick to a similar pattern. While some may enjoy this familiarity, others may find the rigidness of the lessons repetitive and boring.
To begin the lesson, you're prompted to listen and watch a preview of the new vocabulary you are going to learn. This feature has a handy auto-play function, which allows learners to just sit back and soak in the new vocab for the first time. The lessons start out by asking you to recognise the new vocabulary and phrases through repetitive flashcard activities. These little activities are similar to what you'd find on other platforms.
This is where we ran into our first problem: little to no grammar help. In some languages, there was no grammar explanation at all. In others, there was a tiny pop up that explained a construction. It seems to introduce new grammar patterns as an afterthought making the whole program feel like nothing more than flashcard software.
Most lessons include a section where you practice your speaking by trying to mimic the native speaker as best as possible. We found this feature to be quite sensitive, but nonetheless helpful in trying to pronounce new vocabulary. The “slo-mo” button to relisten to the native audio is wonky and sounds very distorted and slowed down, which is disappointing when it comes to learning a very long-phrase.
In each lesson, you’ll be asked to write down a selection of words that you’ve learnt during the lesson. This proved to be a useful tool for remembering the words as well as their spellings. The downside was that the interface was a little crowded. This is because every time you type a letter, Transparent Language gives you the option to add an accent or diacritic.
At the end of every unit, you’ll be tested on the knowledge you’ve learnt during the lesson. You're awarded a score based on how many questions you got right and how many you got wrong. No matter your score, you will always be able to continue to progress to the next unit.
What Other Features Does Transparent Language Have?
A real upside to Transparent Language lessons is the ability to download the audio material. This allows you to take the content on the go with you. You also have the option to download a list of all the terms you learned in a lesson into a tidy PDF.
There is an additional option for Transparent Connect Tutoring with Transparent Language. Priced at $79 for 2 sessions (includes 1-month access to Transparent Language Online) and $299 for 8 tutor sessions (includes 3-month access to Transparent Language Online) you can enjoy 30 minutes of live personalized tutoring to compliment your self-study. This option is only available for a small bunch of languages, including:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
- Other languages may be available on request.
Transparent Language also offers a service called Transparent Connect Capstone. This service allows you to enrol on a course that lasts for 12 weeks which includes 3 hours of asynchronous learning for every 1 hour you spend with your teacher. That comes out to a total of 48 hours.
Who Is Transparent Language Best For?
Transparent Language's target market is absolute beginners. You have the ability to start anywhere in the course, but the content in the later lessons is still fairly easy, and the repetitive activities are very likely to get boring for intermediate speakers. Although the content may not be thorough, users learning lesser-studied languages with few resources might be able to find some use using Transparent Language.
What Languages Can You Learn on Transparent Language?
Most language learning platforms usually cater to a dozen or so languages. Transparent Language gives itself a huge advantage by including a huge selection of regional languages too. This is certainly something to be commended for.
As well as offering a huge choice of languages, Transparent Language does something not many other platforms do: offering language learning in a mother-tongue other than English. Here are just a few of the language pairings they currently offer:
How Much Does Transparent Language Cost?
Access to the courses on Transparent Language doesn’t come cheap. To unlock just one language, it’ll set you back $24.95/month, or $149.95 if you choose to pay annually. If, however, you’d like access to all 100+ languages, this will work out to $49.95 or a yearly subscription of $249.95. When you take a look at the depth and range of the courses available, it’s hard to see how the platform justifies these steep prices.
Luckily, Transparent Language offers a very generous 14-day free trial which gives you access to all of the languages. This should give you enough time to work out whether the platform is worth paying for, or not.
Transparent Language also partners with libraries across the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK. You can use the online tool to find out if you can get access to the platform for free at your local library.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Transparent Language?
- Pronunciation practice software
- Wide range of languages available
- Can be used if your mother tongue isn’t English
- Relatively straightforward interface
- Grammar explanations lacking throughout
- Exercises can get competitive
- No cultural component to peak user’s interest
- Quality of the course doesn’t justify the high price
Are There Any Transparent Language Alternatives?
Transparent Language vs Duolingo
Duolingo essentially has all the perks of Transparent Language but for free! It makes the content more fun and less repetitive than Transparent Language by incorporating game-like elements. While the pronunciation practice may not be as advanced as Transparent Language's Duolingo is certainly a worthy competitor.
For more information on Duolingo, check out our review.
Transparent Language vs Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is similar to Transparent Language as it uses a methodical approach. The difference between the two is Rosetta Stone uses an immersive approach with no English. This could prove frustrating to some types of learners.
You can find out more about what Rosetta Stone has to offer in our review.
Transparent Language vs Glossika
Glossika's ‘Mass Sentence Method' to language learning is quite different from Transparent Language. Transparent Language likes to make ample use of activities and “games” to attract the attention of learners, whereas Glossika hones in on the theory of repetition. We recorded a podcast with Glossika owner, Mike Campbell where you can find out more about this approach to language learning.
A Round-Up of Our Transparent Language Review
It’s no secret that the courses on Transparent Language are severely lacking in material, making it almost impossible for it to be a useful language resource. The lack of grammar is frustrating, as is the sometimes random nature of the keywords that you’re learning.
On the surface, Transparent Language may look like it’s got a range of activities to offer. However, now that we’ve tested it out, it feels more like a glorified flashcard software.
That’s not to say it’s totally useless. For absolute beginners, it’s repetition method can certainly help to cement some of those key phrases in a language. However, for the price, it’s not at the top of our list of recommendations. We’d probably recommend looking elsewhere, like Duolingo, Mango Languages or Lingvist.
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.