Yabla Review: How Effective is Immersive Video Learning?

Established in 2001, Yabla has been offering up its services for nearly two decades now. It continues to be one of the leading platforms for audio-visual language learning, exposing linguists to endless amounts of native video material. 

In this review, we take a look at why Yabla still remains as one of the leading video-learning platforms after all these years. We’ll also show you exactly what to expect once you’ve signed up to the platform and whether it’s worth its modest monthly subscription fee.

yabla review 2020

What is Yabla?

Yabla is an online platform that hones in on the immersion technique to develop language skills. Using real-life videos complete with subtitles and followed by games, Yabla is great for boosting your listening skills, expanding your range of vocabulary and ultimately surrounding yourself with your language of choice. 

What can you do on Yabla?

Yabla works by providing users with a huge database of five-minute videos to choose from. These can anything from recent newsreels to clips from soaps, documentary videos to real-life stories. 

You can filter the videos by difficulty: beginners, intermediate and advanced, which will allow you to find the right content for you and your ability.

You can also filter the videos by region, category and collection to find whatever you’re in the mood for.

I signed up to the Spanish Yabla and within minutes had more than 2,200 videos at my fingertips which came to a total of 131 hours of content.

Once you’ve chosen a video, you’ll be taken to an interactive video player, which is where you’ll be spending most of your time on Yabla. The player looks like this, with the main image at the top, and subtitles underneath, in both your chosen language as well as your native tongue. 

Each video is split up into manageable chunks, so you can rewind, loop a section or even make the speaking a little slower in parts. 

The slow button comes in really handy when you’re just starting out and you’re struggling to adjust to the native-speaking speed. The auto-pause button is also a great feature, giving you the chance to digest each segment before moving onto the next one. 

The button toggles at the bottom allow you to turn the subtitles on and off, so you can adjust it to the difficulty level that you want. This turned out to be one of the easiest ways to challenge yourself on the platform.

Flashcard decks

Another great interactive feature in the video player is the flashcard decks. 

As the subtitles appear underneath the video, you can click on any word and Yabla will tell you the English translation. You’ll also have the option to add the word to one of your custom flashcard decks, which you can refer to later.

When you revisit this word in your flashcard deck, later on, you can also watch the corresponding part of the video that it came from. This is a totally unique feature that you don’t find on many other language platforms. 

Generally, I found the flashcard deck to be a fantastic addition to Yabla. There are, however, a few restrictions which limit its use. For example, it would be really useful to be able to add phrases to the flashcard rather than only individual words. You’re also limited to just 21 words in each pack, which can be slightly frustrating.

Comment section

Each video also has a comment section that you can find by clicking on the messaging bubbles in the top right-hand corner. 

Here, past users of the video will give you tips about this specific clip, and it gives you a chance to ask any questions that you might have too.

During my time on the platform, I didn’t see much interaction with this feature, and most of the videos had no comments at all. I can see how it could come in handy, especially if you can get a quick response to your questions.

Transcript

Another feature if you want to learn offline, is the transcript button.

This allows you to print off a transcript for each video, so you can follow it off the computer too.

Lessons

Alongside the real-time video clips, there are also a handful of grammar lessons, though these aren’t quite as plentiful as I might like. They’re also not arranged in any sort of order, so you’ll have to flick through a fair few pages of videos to find a topic that you need. 

These are much more text-heavy, using video and audio clips to back up a grammar explanation. If you can bear to sift through all of the information, it can be really helpful. I found a lot of the grammar topics to be quite niche, a great help for the more advanced learners using Yabla.

What other features does Yabla have?

To solidify your learning that little bit more, Yabla has a series of games that follow each video clip. While the graphics and interactive aspects of these games aren’t quite as fun as those you’ll find on Memrise, they are really helpful in your language learning journey.

Multiple Choice

In this game, a clip from the video will be played on your screen, with subtitles underneath it. One word will be missing from the subtitles and it’s your job to decipher which one that is from the multiple-choice answers. Each video clip has about twenty questions to answer in this game, and I found them really useful in terms of breaking down the video and solidifying my learning. 

Fill in the Blank

Similar to the multiple-choice questions, you’ll be played a clip from the video and asked to fill in the missing subtitle. This one is slightly harder in that you won’t be given any words to choose from, and you’ll need to ace your spelling of the word too.

Scribe

Perhaps one of the most useful and challenging games on Yabla is Scribe. 

After listening to a short clip, you’ll be asked to type the whole sentence into the box below. You can slow the clip right down and replay it as many time as you want until you’re confident you’ve got it right. 

Yabla will then mark you out of three stars for your accuracy

Out of all of the post-video games on offer, I definitely found this to be the most beneficial, both in terms of listening, reading, writing and vocabulary.

Vocabulary Review

Vocabulary Review isn’t the most inspired of Yabla’s games on offer. It follows the premise of flashcard games, allowing you to revisit some of the trickier vocabularies that you’ve come across during the video.

Comprehension

As one of the newest additions to Yabla, you’ll only find the Comprehension game on a set number of videos. These are worth seeking out, though, as it’s one of the best games on offer.

The idea behind the game is relatively simple. You’ll be met with a series of questions, written in your target language (in this case, Spanish). You’ll then be given several options to pick the correct answer from.

Focusing on reading, writing and listening skills, this is one of the most well-rounded exercises on Yabla, and it can be quite challenging. 

What does Yabla look like?

Yabla’s interface is pretty easy to navigate, though some may find it slightly dated, and lacking in fun and exciting graphics.

Your personalised dashboard will provide a quick overview of your progress so far, and is also where you’ll be able to set your own goals. 

The video library is easy to search through and each video has its own thumbnail and a quick description so you know exactly what to expect.

Yabla Mobile App

Learners can also login to Yabla on Android or iOS smartphones and learn on the go.

Who is Yabla best for?

Users are thrown straight into the deep end with Yabla, which is why it’s generally best to have a base understanding of the language before you use it. Learning on Yabla isn’t as structured as programs like Rocket Languages, and beginners might find themselves a little lost.

While beginners could potentially use Yabla, it’s better for intermediate learners who really want to immerse themselves into the language and develop their language skills even further.

If you’re keen to use Yabla as a novice, we’d probably recommend supplementing your learning with something that guides you through the basics of the language first. 

Check out our review of Rocket Languages, to see how these two could make a great learning pair.

What languages can you learn on Yabla?

Yabla’s small range of language on offer is perhaps one of its most disappointing features. New language courses are slowly being developed but at the moment you have the option of:

  • Chinese
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • French
  • German 
  • English

A great feature of Yabla, especially for non-native English speakers, is that you can change the video subtitle translations to another language. So instead of learning English to Spanish, you can do it from French, German or Italian.

How much does Yabla cost?

Yabla will set you back $12.95 a month for access to one of their language courses. That’s if you choose to pay in monthly instalments.

Opting to pay for several months upfront will earn yourself a pretty nice discount. Six months will cost you $54.95 and 12 months around $99.95.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be given a free 15-day trial to check out the platform. If you cancel your subscription within these 15 days then you won’t be charged a penny. 

What are the pros and cons of Yabla?

Pros

  • Very affordable for unlimited learning.
  • Interactive, engaging and authentic content. 
  • Create an immersive environment from anywhere in the world!
  • Games add another dimension to the learning.
  • Particularly useful for intermediate and advanced learners.
Cons

  • Video audio can be muffled in some clips and hard to follow.
  • Slightly outdated interface. 
  • Not ideal for absolute beginners. 

Are there any Yabla alternatives?

Yabla vs FluentU

FluentU is Yabla’s main competitor focusing on the art of learning a language through audio and visual materials. It’s quite a lot more expensive than Yabla, but the subscription fee includes access to all of the all nine of its languages on offer.

Yabla vs CaptionPop

CaptionPop is slightly different to Yabla. Essentially, it’s an add-on that is compatible with any YouTube video that has subtitles. While it doesn’t have a learning system as sophisticated as Yabla, it does cater to a much wider range of languages and can be used as both a free or paid version.

Our final thoughts on Yabla

Yabla is a great immersive resource, that allows learners to experience their target language from the comfort of their own home.

By diving in the content learners will improve their listening, speaking, and vocabulary abilities by simply consuming the content.

Not only are the videos varied enough to stay interesting, but the games that follow them allow you to really understand and solidify the new vocabulary that you’ve picked up in the lesson.

And with a 15 day free trial, there's absolutely no excuse for not giving Yabla a try if you're learning one of the 6 languages offered.