SpanishPod101 is an online language learning service part of the LanguagePod language learning series. The course is an affordable choice for more casual learners who like to pick and choose among the impressive range of material on offer. However, although it benefits from including dialectic and cultural diversity from different countries, the mediocre quality of videos and audio and the general disorganization of the material make it a less suitable option for those looking for a comprehensive course.
SpanishPod101, part of the family of LanguagePod platforms, is known for featuring podcast-style format lessons with native Spanish teachers, who you can follow with fairly good quality videos and audio recordings. Let’s have a look to see whether this platform might be a good fit for you!
The platform allows you to freely choose content from many lessons organized by Learning Paths (clusters of lessons arranged by topics) and interconnected by hyperlinks. Most lessons feature a native speaker delivering explanations in a friendly tone, which provides a good understanding of native pronunciation and dialectic variations. Lessons cover Latin American and Castilian Spanish, although some sessions are more specific regarding regions (Peru, Chile, Colombia, etc.). All lessons are downloadable and come with transcripts.
SpanishPod101 lessons cover different learning levels, from beginners to advanced students. New content is constantly added to the platform, giving it versatility and diversity. Lessons are organized into five levels of learning, which you can choose at the beginning of the trial or subscription and which you can change anytime from the dashboard.
Combining the different types of modules gives versatility and makes the course alive and not boring at all.
The audio lessons feature a long audio file (of almost half an hour) based on a conversation in Spanish between different people from which the pre-recorded voice of a tutor guides you through new knowledge on grammar, syntax, phonetics, and local language uses. The audio lessons give a good sense of being taught and guided by someone, as the explanations are thorough and clear on the structure of the language and its use in the Latin American cultural context.
The platform organizes the lessons in Learning Paths, a way to sort content by topics more structurally, allowing you to navigate the lessons in a linear, progressive manner. Although you can arrange, add, and delete pathways, there is no clear way to determine which topics are more suitable for your level and in which order they should be organized to maximize your learning progress. Due to the extensive number of lessons, the platform allows you to arrange them by audio or video and categories such as conversation, reading and writing, vocabulary, grammar, and culture.
The lack of cohesiveness in the platform is one of the main challenges new users will face. When I chose the Intermediate level at the beginning of my trial, it assigned me a Level 3 Mexican Spanish learning path without asking me which dialect I preferred, which I found odd. I tried to explore other pathways, and I found a long list of disorganized clusters of lessons, offering topics ranging from Business Mexican Spanish for Beginners (25 lessons) to Best of Alex for Intermediate Learners (Mexican Spanish) (5 lessons) and European Spanish Words of the Week with Rosa for Intermediate Learners (12 lessons). I found this very confusing as the order has no cohesion regarding topics, levels, cultural specificities, and even aesthetics.
Inside each lesson, you will find a native Spanish speaker teaching a new topic or vocabulary through audio or video. The conversational tone is good, and the length of the lessons is suitable for the ones who want to learn Spanish in the background while commuting or doing other activities (as with podcasts). One of the aspects that I liked the most about the lessons was the high quality of native accents and phonetic variations and the focus on real-life situations. As a native speaker, I assure you that you will learn useful Spanish. However, although the audio quality is good, the video still needs to be improved.
Each lesson features other sections to improve and practice your learning, such as vocabulary, lesson notes, grammar, or lesson transcript. However, they can become lengthy and dense. A nice feature in some lessons is the cultural insights, which give you interesting anecdotes about Spanish-speaking countries’ cultures. However, they seem to be added as accessories and are not linked to the lesson’s learning goal.
The platform offers additional tools for improving your learning progress. While they can be useful in their own right, I found them more aimed towards giving the platform more economic value as a product rather than being well integrated into the learning process. Some of the features are:
- Flashcards: You can review the writing and pronunciation of the new vocabulary learned. They are grouped by topics such as Do you know the Essential Summer Vocabulary, Talking about Months in Spanish, and 50 Most Common Adjectives.
- Vocabulary lists: You can learn the writing and pronunciation of different words arranged by topics.
- Word Bank: You can review words you added when learning new topics through the lessons.
- Word of the day: You can learn a single new word and different commonly used phrases.
- Spanish Dictionary
- Spanish Core 100 Word List
- Spanish Core 2000 Word List
- Spanish Key Phrase List
The platform also offers the possibility of 1-on-1 interaction with native Spanish teachers through a personalized learning program. It is accessible only through the Premium PLUS plan. However, it works only through sending audio recordings and text in a chat-based system.
Compared to other Spanish learning online services, SpanishPod101 is one of the most affordable ones. The many lessons combined with low prices make it a good option for those who want to start learning Spanish without spending great amounts of money on it. Nonetheless, the platform feels more commercially driven, which can be uncomfortable for some users.
When you sign up for the first time, you get a screen advertising a new member offer for 1 USD, allowing you to glimpse the premium content without paying the full subscription. This is a good option, as it makes it virtually free to try out the platform’s services. After the plan finishes, if you haven’t canceled, you will be charged USD 25 monthly for a Premium subscription.
Regular plans come in three different variants: Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus. While the plans can be a bit pricey if paying month-to-month, they come with steep discounts if you prepay. The prices in the below chart assume a 24-month pre-payment.
Apart from the regular subscription, the premium offerings also include the following options:
- 60 Exclusive Lessons (USD 35): It’s a starting point for new learners, including must-know phrases, grammar patterns, conversations, and vocabulary.
- One Free Product Download (USD 9.99+): Get more lessons at the innovative language learning store with popular series available without a subscription.
- 7-Day Fluency Fast Course: Learn new learning tactics every day for seven days.
What are the pros and cons of SpanishPod 101?
- You have a lot of freedom in what you choose to learn and what not: there is no restriction on how you organize the lessons, topics, and vocabulary you want to learn.
- Huge amount of lessons: There seems to be no limit as the platform constantly adds new ones.
- Affordable: Compared to other Spanish language online learning services, this one offers the best balance between the quantity of lessons and price.
- New member offer for 1 USD: A good way to test all the features for a low price
- Dialogic podcast-style is not suitable for everyone.
- Confusing platform.
- Learning Paths still need to be improved.
- Unnecessary extra features (paid).
- Lacks focus on grammar.
- Lacks structural, narrative, and aesthetic cohesion.
Who is SpanishPod101 suitable for?
I would recommend this service to those in the first stages of learning Spanish who are curious about vocabulary, daily life situations, and cultural diversity. For those who want the feeling of being taught by native speakers more casually, this is a good option.
However, this is less suitable for learners who want to learn the grammatical structures of the language, as there is almost no focus on it. Although some would argue that grammar learning is not quite an important part of the learning experience, I would say, listening to hundreds of foreigners speaking Spanish, some grammatical structures need to be learnt structurally as it confuses even experienced learners when putting them into practice.
My overall review
Overall, I found this service confusing and not well crafted. I did not feel narrative or structural cohesion in the learning system, which can be a big disadvantage in the learning process. However, I think it is an affordable option that offers a big glimpse of what learning Spanish is like. The cultural diversity that the platform archives is also a big pro.