Yabla Review: How Effective is Immersive Video Learning?

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

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 Yabla review, we take a look at why Yabla still remains 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.

Our Verdict

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Yabla provides a truly unique learning experience for learners hoping to immerse themselves in a new language. Offering a huge variety of audio-visual material, plus a series of games to follow each video, Yabla ensures that each lesson is interesting and valuable to users and for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, while it's great for those with a basic understanding of a language, Yabla isn't ideal for absolute beginners.

TL;DR Yabla Review

Here’s a quick summary of what Yabla has to offer, if you’ve only got a few minutes to spare.

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 learning and reinstate what you've just learnedt.
  • Particularly useful for intermediate and advanced learners.

CONS

  • Video audio is muffled in some clips and hard to follow.
  • Slightly outdated interface (however, this is being updated regularly). 
  • You will need a basic understanding of a language to benefit from Yabla.
yabla review 2021

What is Yabla?

Yabla is an online platform that uses immersive video materials 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. Currently, Yabla is available on desktop, IOS and Android.

What can you do on Yabla?

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

You can filter the videos by difficulty: beginners, intermediate and advanced, which will allow you to find the right content for you. You can also filter the videos by region, category and collection to find whatever you’re in the mood for.

We signed up to the Spanish Yabla and within minutes had more than 2,200 videos at our fingertip. This came to a total of 131 hours of content. We then flicked over to Chinese Yabla, perhaps the most unusual language on the platform, and found close to 1,700 videos, equalling an impressive 85 hours. Keep in mind, that this selection of videos is growing all of the time!

Interactive video player

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

On the right, you'll find an additional panel that displays translations and shortcuts.

Interactive subtitles

Subtitles are Yabla's calling card, and the main way you'll be learning on the platform. Underneath every single video, you'll find subtitles in your target language, as well as a direct translation.

For languages with a non-Roman alphabet, such as Chinese, you'll also see a phonetic transcription of the video too. As you get more and more confident, you can customise which subtitles you can and can't see. To challenge yourself, why not try turning off the English subtitles and see what you can understand?

Generally, the translations are really well done – you can see a word in context with the sentence or click on it for specific definitions from several different sources.

Navigation buttons

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

The slow button comes in really handy when you’re starting out and struggling to adjust to the native-speaking speed. The auto-pause button is also a great feature. It gives 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 show you the English translation. You’ll also have the option to add the word to one of your custom flashcard decks. You can then refer to these later on. Simply double-click on the word, and it will be added to your vocabulary list.

When you revisit this word in your vocabulary list, 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. 

Next to each word, you'll also find a progress bar, labelled as mastery. As you review your vocabulary, Yabla will keep track of which words you get right and wrong. It will then translate this into a level of ‘mastery' that you have for each word, i.e how well you know it. This is similar to the progress bar you'll see on platforms like Memrise.

Generally, we found the flashcard deck to be a fantastic addition to Yabla. There are, however, a few restrictions that 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. You can find this 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, we didn’t see much interaction with this feature, and most of the videos had no comments at all. We can see how it could come in handy, especially if you can get a quick response to your questions, but there's definitely an improvement to be had here.

Transcript

Yet another helpful feature on Yabla, is the transcript button. This allows you to print off a transcript for each video, so you can follow it off the computer too. We didn't find this tool hugely useful, but it can help if you want to do some offline learning at some point.

Lessons

Alongside the real-time video clips, there are also a handful of grammar lessons to get stuck into. Unfortunatly, these aren’t quite as plentiful as we 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 lessons 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. We found a lot of the grammar topics to be quite specific, a great help for the more advanced learners using Yabla.

At the moment, you won't find any lessons on Chinese Yabla, but you will find a number of useful resources such as a Mandarin Pinyin Chart and a table of tone pairs. Both of these resources are incredibly useful to have as reference pieces while you use Yabla.

The Mandarin Tone Chart can also be used as an interactive feature. Tonal languages are notoriously difficult, and this definitely helps you to improve, no matter what your ability level.

Click on ‘Practice Listening' to listen to a native say a word. You'll then need to identify the tone combination correctly. Alternatively, have a go at speaking yourself using the ‘Practice Speaking' button. Using voice recognition technology, Yabla records your pronunciation and lets you know whether it's along the right lines. If your pronunciation is good, the image will light up green, if not, you'll be asked to try again.

This is a relatively new feature on Yabla, and there is room for improvement. Feedback on your pronunciation is very limited, and if you get it wrong, you're not told why or how to improve.

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 to solidify what you've learnt so far.

Multiple Choice

Great for perfecting your listening skills.

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 choose which one fits from the multiple-choice answers. Each video clip has about twenty questions to answer in this game, and we found them really useful in terms of breaking down the video and focusing on certain phrases from the video.

Fill in the Blank

Great for improving your writing and reading skills.

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 as you won’t be given any words to choose from. You’ll also need to ace your spelling of the word, with accents and all. Yabla won't accept any small errors here.

Scribe

Great for developing those listening and writing skills.

Perhaps one of the most useful, but 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, we definitely found this to be the most beneficial, both in terms of listening, reading, writing and vocabulary.

Vocabulary Review

Great for perfecting your vocabulary.

Vocabulary Review isn’t the most inspired of Yabla’s games on offer. It follows the theory of flashcard games, allowing you to revisit some of the trickier vocabularies that you’ve come across during the video. You'll be shown a word in either your target language or native tongue, and then be prompted to pick the correct translations. It's pretty basic but it does the job.

On the left of your screen, you'll also find a progress bar. As you make your way through the exercise, Yabla tracks how well you know certain words. Once the bar is full you're will be considered a ‘master' of that word, and it will be removed from the exercise. This allows you to concentrate on the vocabulary that you don't know so well. Every so often, Yabla will throw up a ‘mastered' word, just to make sure you still remember what it means.

Comprehension

Great for working on your reading, writing and listening skills.

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 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. For this reason, it can be quite challenging. We'd say that this exercise is better suited to those who are at least at the intermediate ability level.

What does Yabla look like?

Yabla’s interface is pretty easy to navigate. Some users may find it slightly dated, and lacking in fun and exciting graphics. Saying this, the team at Yabla seem to be constantly improving and developing their software to make it more user-friendly.

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, view your learning progress and find out if any new videos have been added.

On the main page, you'll find your video library. For Chinese Yabla, it looks a little like this:

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. You can also use the tabs at the top of the page to filter your results based on your ability level, your interests and trending videos. Just some of the topics include:

  • Animation
  • Art/Culture
  • Comedy
  • Commercial
  • Documentary
  • Drama
  • Business
  • Environment
  • Food
  • History
  • Interviews
  • Leisure
  • Lessons
  • Lifestyle
  • Music Videos
  • Musicians
  • News
  • People
  • Science
  • Society
  • Sports
  • Student Life
  • Travel
  • World

All of the languages on Yabla have over 1,000 videos available, and more are being added each week. Not all of the videos will be suited to your level, but you'll still have hundreds of videos to keep you busy.

Yabla Mobile App

Learners can also login to Yabla on Android or iOS smartphones and learn on the go. Yabla's mobile app offers the same features as the desktop version. However, this is a relatively new development for the platform, and there are some small improvements still to be made. Unfortunately, you will need an internet connection to use the app, as the material is not available offline, just yet. Watch this space.

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 new learners could potentially use Yabla, it’s better for intermediate learners who really want to immerse themselves 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. Yabla is slowly developing new language courses 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 learning and reinstate what you've just learnedt.
  • Particularly useful for intermediate and advanced learners.
Cons
  • Video audio is muffled in some clips and hard to follow.
  • Slightly outdated interface (however, this is being updated regularly). 
  • You will need a basic understanding of a language to benefit from Yabla.

Are there any Yabla alternatives?

Yabla doesn't have a tonne of competitors that offer up the same audio-visual, immersive learning experience. FluentU, is perhaps the platforms closest match. Check out how they compare below.

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 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. CaptionPop doesn’t have a learning system as sophisticated as Yabla. However, 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 solidify the new vocabulary that you’ve picked up in the lesson.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Yabla good for beginners?

Surrounding yourself with authentic videos and native speakers is a great habit to get into, even from beginner level. We would recommend supplementing your learning on Yabla with a more structured course, such as Rocket Languages, especially if you are starting from zero. Doing so will give you the best of both words and a well-rounded approach to language learning.

Is Yabla worth it?

Yes! Yabla is certainly worth the modest monthly investment. Immersing yourself in a language through authentic content is said to be one of the best ways to pick up language quickly.

How much does Yabla cost?

Membership to one of Yabla's language courses will set you back $12.95/month. To save costs, you can sign up for six months or a year-long membership. This will cost $54.95 or $99.95 respectively. If you're not sure if you want to commit to the software, you can trial Yabla for 15 days at no cost.

Can Yabla be used by schools?

Yes, Yabla can be used for schools. In fact, the team behind Yabla have created a specific program for teachers and other educators. This includes additional features like assigning videos to your students, setting goals and monitoring performance.

Can Yabla help reach CEFR levels?

Yabla can help you progress towards the levels of the CEFR or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Here's what Yabla recommends watching for each level:

  • A1 – Newbie videos
  • A2 – Beginner videos
  • B1 – Intermediate videos
  • B2 – Advanced intermediate videos
  • C – Advanced videos

Can I upload my own videos to Yabla?

Yabla doesn't openly offer a feature for users to upload their own videos onto the platform. However, they do suggest contacting them if you'd like to do so. You can write to them at inquire@yabla.com or give them a call on (212) 625-3226.

Are there any alternatives to Yabla?

Currently, Yabla has only one main competitor: FluentU, a software that provides similar audio-visual learning materials with interactive subtitles.

Is Yabla or FluentU better?

Yabla and FluentU are very similar platforms. Both provide language learners with a video library full of authentic clips from native speakers. The main differences between the two platforms are the price and language selection. While FluentU has a larger selection of languages to choose from, Yabla is considerably cheaper. In addition to Yabla's Chinese, Spanish, French, English, German and Italian courses, FluentU also offers Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

Kris Broholm

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.