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The Big Baselang Review - An Undercover Report Of The Spanish Tutoring Service

The Big Baselang Review – An Undercover Report Of The Spanish Tutoring Service

big baselang reviewWelcome to the Big Baselang Review – a review with a twist!

What’s the twist?

Let me explain…

Baselang is a service that offers unlimited Spanish tutoring for $129/month. But as a Spanish speaker myself, I thought it would be difficult for me to do a fair review from a learner’s perspective.

So I decided to remove myself from the review process completely.

Instead, I anonymously bought two Baselang memberships, and handed them over to two I Will Teach You A Language community members to review the service.

The review you’re about to read has been written entirely by Iona and Fiona – the two volunteers.

Their instructions were simple:

Use Baselang for a month. Then, faithfully and honestly report your experience – for better or for worse!

And that’s what they did.

I hope this review will help you make an informed decision about signing up to Baselang yourself.

What Is Baselang?

Here’s Baselang’s offering in a nutshell:

  • Unlimited one-on-one online Spanish classes for $129 per month
  • Choice of over one hundred trained teachers
  • Follow the custom-made Baselang curriculum
  • Review vocabulary taught in every lesson with website “Memrise”  (a flashcard learning tool)
  • The opportunity to review every class and every teacher after a lesson.

Meet The Reviewers

When I told my Facebook community I was creating a Baselang review, they chimed in with a useful suggestion: Do it from both a beginner and intermediate perspective.

Great idea!

I asked for volunteers from the group, and chose Iona – a complete beginner in Spanish, and Fiona – an intermediate Spanish learner.

Iona: I was a complete Spanish beginner, but have studied other languages at University. Having studied from just about every well known brand of language textbook, app and private tutoring website, I was keen to see how the Baselang curriculum and teachers compared with my past learning experiences.

Fiona: I’m at intermediate level Spanish – that dreadful place where you don’t feel you’re moving forwards for ages and you believe that it’ll never improve! I didn’t previously have formal Spanish tuition, I have picked it all up from travelling and necessity, so I was quite nervous about going for real lessons!

I haven’t edited anything myself past this point, so you’re reading the words of the reviewers themselves.

So, without any further ado, let’s get started…

(Olly out!)


First Impressions Of Baselang

Iona: At first I was a little overwhelmed by how much information is thrown at you during your first visit to Baselang.com, but it’s definitely worth taking your time to read through.

Clearly written by people passionate about language learning, these initial pages and video clips detail how to navigate the site and other apps and free materials which will support your learning.

The ‘Sounds of Spanish’ section is a must, this really kick started my learning and had me reading more or less accurately from the get go.

After completing my profile I was eager to find out more about their teachers, so headed to the teacher bio page.

Most teachers upload a short video introducing themselves and their teaching methods.

This is a great way to get a feel for who you’re going to gel with, and also gauge how good their sound quality is likely to be.

It was great to see teachers of a whole range of ages and personalities, and with a variety of backgrounds from musicians to medical students.

[Editorial note from Olly: While many also have other professions, all tutors are trained, professional teachers.]

I took the time to go through the entire list and came up with a shortlist of ten teachers I thought would match my learning style best.

Getting started on Baselang.

Fiona: I took a different approach by choosing my tutor at random from the list of available people at that time and getting stuck straight in.

The Sounds Of Spanish course is great and gives really useful tips for how to achieve those difficult pronunciations (yes, the dreaded ‘rr’).

If you experience any difficulties with it you can ask your tutor in the next lesson and they will patiently talk you through it – it’s an invaluable resource.

If you’re thinking of learning Spanish for Spain it is useful to note that all teachers are from Venezuela and therefore teach South American Spanish, and yes, there are differences!

If you know the differences then you can respond using either translation, or just keep mentioning you’re learning for Spain and every teacher will point out the variations, no problem!

The First Lesson

Iona: Here is when the panic set in!

I spoke no Spanish apart from the common words like hola and adios that I’ve picked up from films, so booking a lesson right away felt somewhat terrifying!

I’m something of a perfectionist and had planned to dedicate a few days to studying from a book before approaching a teacher, but the site was encouraging me to pick a time slot right away.

So I booked my first lesson that same evening with the top teacher on my shortlist, Yrela.

In her intro video she came across as outgoing and passionate about teaching Spanish, the kind of person who makes you want to learn a language just to have a conversation with them.

In the back of my mind I thought… “well she’s unlikely to get a notification of the lesson I booked with just a few hours to spare,” secretly hoping that I would get a reprieve!

[Editorial note from Olly: I asked for clarification on this, and BaseLang teachers don’t have to “accept” the class – once you book it, it’s booked. They can’t turn it down.]

My lesson time rolled around, and feeling very apprehensive I opened up Skype to find she had already added me and was online waiting to begin our lesson exactly on time.

All insecurities faded away as we launched into lively conversation.

First greetings in Spanish, then a short conversation in English getting to know each other a little.

She asked some questions set by Baselang to determine how best to go forward, including the areas I want to focus on, what kind of materials would I find most interesting, my language learning goals, and was I up for a challenge?

We then launched into the set Baselang curriculum with their Survival Spanish lessons. I learned a great deal in just that first hour, enough to be able to introduce myself to the next hapless Spanish speaker I should find!

Yrela gave great feedback and encouragement, something vital at such an early stage, and I left that first lesson fired up to learn as much as I could before the next.

Later that evening I watched the documentary Connor of Baselang had made about his Spanish learning journey.

As well as being an inspiring insight into rapid language acquisition, it also explains the origins of Baselang, and why they encourage you to take the plunge and get speaking ASAP!

Fiona: The vast majority of the first lesson experience is covered so well by Iona so I won’t repeat that here.

I had my first lesson within 30 minutes of my first log on, so that I didn’t have time to worry, and it was absolutely perfect.

My tutor assessed me, my level, my confidence and asked how best to help me then set about doing so.

She knew it was my first lesson and was very encouraging, made it fun by having me practice tongue twisters such as “tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal,” and gave me specific tips for learners that struggle with poor memory.

I finished feeling really positive and eager for the next lesson.

BaseLang 4.png

An example of a teacher bio page.

Website Ease of Use and Customer Service

Iona: I found the website design intuitive and easy to navigate from both my laptop and mobile devices.

Only two minor issues were my log-in timing out too fast and that the teachers weren’t listed in alphabetical order, which made choosing my favourite ones a fraction more time consuming than it needed to be. [Olly: I’ve been told the alphabetical issue has now been fixed.]

Customer service was excellent, any queries were responded to within a few hours, or even minutes, by staff who were helpful and genuinely keen for me to get the most out of the Baselang experience.

Fiona: The website is very simply presented and Baselang offer exquisite customer service giving timely, thorough responses.

I messaged to ask how to locate my progress chart to see how I was getting on but apparently that feature is only for the teachers.

It would be great for students to have access to this as well to take on board comments, but the tutor does give you a review at the end of each lesson anyway – it’s then up to you to remember it!

The Scheduling System

Iona: My timezone during this Baselang review month was GMT+2 and I was at first disappointed not to find many teachers available earlier in the day.

However there are plenty of great teachers scheduled from the early afternoon onwards.

Baselang gives its teachers different schedules to ensure there are always teachers available between 5am and midnight EST (GMT-5).

Teachers are ready and waiting during these times so you can book classes at the last minute depending on who is available, but I would recommend booking ahead of time if there are teachers you prefer.

You can schedule classes up to four days in advance.

baselang spanish teachers

Fiona: My timezone varied between GMT +1 and GMT during the month (I move location a lot)!

As I’m pretty busy I wanted to have my lessons in the morning when I could then sit and concentrate before the pressures of the day, but the earliest available was either 10.30am or 11.30am.

I definitely missed out on learning opportunities because of this and was my greatest issue with the system.

However, if you want to book last minute (again – hectic lifestyle!) there was always someone available within half an hour which is fantastic!

Teacher & Lesson Quality – Adapting to the Needs of the Student

Iona: I was completely amazed at the high quality of teachers on Baselang, in fact better than any teachers I’ve ever had before, including at university.

Each teacher I took lessons with (and I tried dozens!) had their own strengths and vibrant personalities.

I only experienced two that I just didn’t get along with, and the beauty of Baselang is that with over a hundred teachers available, you can simply choose someone else next time, unlike being stuck with the same teacher for an entire semester.

I ended up taking the bulk of my later lessons from my four favourite teachers, each focusing on different aspects of language learning from conversations that had me shedding tears of laughter to picking apart tricky grammar structures, translating song lyrics or learning about Venezuelan folklore such as ‘Florentino y el diablo’ and ‘La sayona.’

I loved how eager each teacher was to share information about the culture, and history of Venezuela, colloquial speech and all those things you can never learn about a country and its language from textbooks alone.

My iTunes playlist was soon full of Latin American artists, I was cooking Venezuelan dishes, hunting down movies recommended by my teachers and surreptitiously checking the price of one way flights to Caracas.

Fiona: The teachers make Baselang the absolutely incredible teaching tool it is. Each teacher has their own way of approaching the lesson which makes it easy to find a tutor (or several!) that you really click with and therefore learn the most with.

They really thought outside the box and adjusted every lesson to what I wanted at the time, always asking if I wanted to follow the curriculum or have a conversation, with some offering listening practice or an activity.

Everybody was really engaging, I spent a lot of time laughing and having conversations about things you would struggle to learn about from a standard textbook or course.

The diversity is matched by encouragement and an eagerness to teach you their language and they genuinely appear pleased to see you and talk with you.

The Curriculum

Iona: I’ll admit that I went a little crazy, mostly inspired by Connor’s documentary ‘Spanish in a Month.’

His inspiration plus the infectious personalities of the teachers led to me taking on average three hours of lessons a day and making it through all nine levels of their core curriculum within a month.

However I wouldn’t necessarily encourage this level of insanity as it can quickly lead to burning out.

Taking regular lessons, at least an hour every couple of days will have you well on the way to fluency in no time.

From a beginners point of view the curriculum really was superb and well thought out.

As soon as I got to a stage when I felt I wanted to try and use a certain kind of grammar, more often than not, that was the next lesson in the series.

There are over 150 PDF files which the teachers share with you, or which you can access from the Baselang site to look over before or after a lesson.

Each lesson has a different focus which ranges from new vocabulary, commonly used verbs, verb tenses and other grammar points.

The flow of lessons was also very well thought out.

After any demanding lessons (imperfect subjunctive, yes I mean you!) there would be a few easier lessons to bring confidence levels back up.

baselang1.jpg

Sample lesson slide.

Each lesson built upon and incorporated material from the previous ones, allowing constant reinforcement, and links to lesson specific Memrise lists let you revise any new vocabulary between classes.

As well as short exercises and readings, there was also plenty of room to express myself in Spanish, making creative sentences about my own interests and experiences, learning Spanish phrases from my teachers specific to my own life to supplement the set lessons.

The grammar instructions on the PDFs begin in English, but in later levels switch to Spanish which isn’t a bad thing, but can make things confusing if your teacher can’t properly explain it to you in English.

Also if you aren’t familiar with grammatical terms in English, such as past progressive, this could be off-putting.

I’d recommend a quick Google search to familiarise yourself with the tense in English before beginning to study it in Spanish.

At the end of each level you have the choice of taking an end of level test.

At first I found these enjoyable, but after taking a couple that had been numbered wrongly (leading to a stressful session struggling through questions about topics we hadn’t yet covered), I decided to ditch them.

To Baselang’s credit when I emailed them about the problem they responded almost immediately saying they had rectified the mistake.

At the start of each lesson my teachers would ask if I wanted to take a set lesson or have a conversation.

So if you ever feel bogged down in grammar, need a lively conversation to brighten your day, or just feel the need to talk about your cats for two hours solid in Spanish, then the choice is yours!

Fiona: Coming into lessons as an unspecified level (intermediate can range widely) means that I wasn’t sure if I’d already know the material or not, or how to decide where to begin.

So I started from the beginning to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

The vast majority we flew through, covering many lessons each hour, only slowing for the occasional thing that had escaped my disorganised prior learning methods.

Although some exercises could have been repetitive the tutors encouraged me to be creative and expand on my answer, often leading to a conversation so I never got bored (my main issue when learning anything).

Everything appeared to be pitched at the correct level and I didn’t start slowing my progress until I was in their intermediate classes which shows it was a good estimation of level even for informal learners which is very impressive.

Internet Teaching & Connectivity

Iona: In general I had very few problems with internet connectivity, there was only one lesson where the connection was so bad that it became an issue and another which was actually due to a problem with Skype itself.

It’s a good idea to have a backup application installed such as Google Hangouts or Zoom so you can quickly switch without missing too much of your lesson.

On days where the internet seemed a little sluggish we would switch off our webcams which nine times out of ten let things run more smoothly.

Fiona: Internet connectivity could be an issue in my lessons, but usually only when we both tried to share video and then screen as well.

Once video was turned off the vast majority of issues were solved, and if not a quick call back often resolved the issue. No lessons were cancelled or delayed.

The Ethics of Baselang

Iona: At first I was anxious about abusing Baselang’s promise of unlimited lessons, would this mean each teacher only got paid a tiny amount per class?

Speaking with a few of my teachers they assured me they are paid a full salary no matter how many lessons they teach, and that this is above average for teachers in Venezuela.

As well as the convenience of working from home, they also enthused about the training and support they receive from their coordinators.

Baselang also invests 1% of their revenue into educating people of all ages from poor communities in South America, it’s a win-win situation all round.

Baselang Review Conclusion – 

 

Iona: My month on Baselang was without a doubt the best language learning experience I have ever had.

One quote from Forbes says that Baselang is “the closest thing to immersion you can get without moving to a Spanish-speaking country,” but for me it was even better than immersion.

I’ve been immersed in languages before and never had such a high level of contact with native speakers who are trained to teach their own language.

In fact, this experience has completely transformed my views on language learning.

Speaking from day one really is the key to owning a language, especially with teachers who make you feel comfortable enough to make mistakes and have fun at the same time.

The turning point was two weeks in and realising I’d just had a 90 minute conversation almost entirely in Spanish with one of my teachers.

I was in complete shock!

That had been a struggle for languages I had studied at university for an entire semester in the past.

By the end of the month I was discussing the differences between various Asian languages and their origins, entirely in Spanish (with many mistakes I’m sure) but this still astounds me and is testament in itself to the success of the Baselang system.

My lessons with Baselang became the highlight of my day, not only absorbing the language like a sponge but thoroughly enjoying every minute, going from knowing next to nothing about Venezuela to planning my next vacation there.

I have studied at multiple universities, language learning institutes and with private tutors around the world and have never encountered such a brilliant and dedicated group of teachers full of warmth and vitality.

They are the gems of Baselang, and will leave you not only sharing their passion for the language, but with a yearning to eat arepas under Venezuelan skies and greeting the locals with “¿Como esta la vaina?”!*

*Use this to greet your first teacher on Baselang, it will get you off to a great start!

Fiona: If I was nervous about starting I’m now nervous about not having Baselang in my life!

The teachers have boosted my confidence a huge amount, picked me up on mistakes, taught me new things and made me look forward to every lesson.

As someone who struggles with language learning mainly owing to memory problems I’m blown away by the ability of the teachers and the curriculum to enable learning, it is so close to perfect it’s almost touching the line!

I happily had two hour conversations with teachers, chatting about all sorts of relevant subjects, whist learning a lot of grammar and vocabulary, all whilst not being stressed!

I’m incredibly impressed with this service and think it is fantastic value for money, particularly when the hourly rate is calculated.

I would love to sign up to Baselang again and continue with them as I don’t think I could possibly find a better learning platform.


Thanks for all your work on this Baselang review, Iona and Fiona!

In light of such a positive review, I asked Baselang founder Connor if he would give IWTYAL readers a little incentive for signing up, so he agreed to give you:

  • A 1-week trial for $1
  • Knock $10 off your first month if you decide to continue

Can’t say fairer than that!

Click here to give Baselang a try and claim this offer

About your reviewers:

  • Iona is a passionate collector of languages. She’s studied Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Russian, she’s hungry to explore as many languages as possible. This year she’ll be sampling a little of 26 languages from A-Z with her @26langs project.
  • Fiona is interested in language learning, as it teaches her mind to think in a different way, and also enables her to learn about a different culture which can broaden her horizons. She’s particularly interested in Spanish as she intends to move to a Spanish speaking country this year.

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  • tahoehiker

    This is a glowing review and a bit over the top in my opinion. I’ve been using Baselang for about six weeks and I think it’s a great tool and probably the best thing going if you want to really spend a lot of time learning Spanish.

    The web site is good but I found many features excellent features were difficult to discover.

    I’m an intermediate self taught learner and struggle with how to best move forward with Baselang. The instructors are very helpful and while they do keep a central record of your level and progress I don’t seem to be getting a consistent approach. This is probably my fault because I’m not providing good input on how to proceed but I’m not getting any advice to change my approach. In fact the experience of you reviewers has prompted me to take a fresh look at how I’m using Baselang.

    I have tried 5 instructors and only found one that I wasn’t comfortable with. They are a diverse group, very helpful and encouraging. I’m boggled that they can do back to back lessons with a different students for hours in a row.

    All in all along with your reviewers I highly recommend Baselang. I wish I’d started my Spanish learning journey there.

  • Robert Brooks

    Bacano. Una excelente y honesta revision. Es bueno ver luna revison cuando una persona no tiene intereses. Bselang es un buen servico para personas que quieren aprender a hablar espanol. The Fluent Spanish Academy tambien es un excellente lugar. En mi opinion es problamente es un poco mejor para aprender puntos más finos de español. Solo es mi opionon como usuario de ambos servicos.

  • Pingback: Zero to intermediate Spanish in less than 2 months before Mexico: Incredible progress with BaseLang – Keeping my head up high()

  • Lauren Chapelhow

    This makes me wish I was learning spanish!! I wish there were more platforms like this for other languages!!

    • done

      Trust me, you do not wish this. Please Google the economic situation in Venezuela. This is the ONLY reason why services are offered so cheap. They are working for food. These are some of the unlucky ones who could not escape the country. Shady business… 🙁

      • I’m sure if you asked those teachers in Venezuela if they are glad for this employment at the moment while the rest of the economy collapses, their response would be overwhelmingly positive.

        • Jade

          Of course they’re grateful. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not frustrated, too. I’ve used this service off and on for an entire year (I can show any and all proof/receipts needed- I’m not just some person who hates on someone making a living and being an entrepreneur in this harsh world) and gave hundreds of dollars to it because it has helped me a lot, and I’ve made some of the best friends that I ever thought I could make. I’ve never felt so close to and truly loved (cared) for so many people who I’ll never meet in person during this entire year. They say that they’re grateful, and I see in their eyes that they truly are. I cannot act like that isn’t the only thing some of them have told me out of swearing and showing that I can be trusted by them. You showed it yourself in your comment… Their happiness is based on other people’s misfortune.

          Can you look an actual Venezuelan– one of the tutors from this company– in the eye and truly say that you wish that other companies like this existed, knowing the reasons for why they prosper? Could you truly do that? I am genuinely asking.

          • Jacques Cluzeau

            I understand your qualms, Jade, I can relate. The answer is not easy, though… Should we ban all the products that are manufactured in countries that are in some deep shxx and/or where the labour conditions are below our own standards? Does it *help*?

            As far as Baselang is concerned, I haven’t made up my mind yet. The obvious alternative is to find Venezuelan tutors on Italki: at least you know that what they get is what you pay minus a commission of 15% –no commission on trial lessons. Is that what you’re doing now?

  • Jade

    I don’t like how they use the tutors getting paid above the average for teachers in Venezuela as if that’s a good thing. The minimum wage in Venezuela is equivalent to just over 12 United States Dollars. People– doctors, students, families, everyone– has been escaping that country for years and are risking their lives to leave. On the news there are people crying, thanking god that their babies have passed away because they didn’t have any food to give to them. The tutors have enough money to eat and pay the bills but not enough to escape. The inflation rate in that country is incredible, and there is a black market for American dollar bills. Sad thing is, I don’t even think they’re being paid in USD. That should tell you all.

    This review made it seem like the business was A-OK. Like Connor didn’t lie about all of the teachers having degrees in teaching both English and Spanish. Like they didn’t jack up the price 30% percent without sending an email to all of their customers. I would’ve been happy if there was proof that they donated a portion to poor communities but they wiped that statement off of their front page weeks after they added it. Their tutors are poor. Why not give the money to them? What’s transparent about that?

    When I deleted my account and came back, they still had all of my information which they claim to delete. Don’t even get me started on the “26 pounds of muscle in a month” thing. That’s not scientifically possible.

    I have so much to say as someone who used the service off and on from this time last year but has stopped because I found out so much about the service that most users don’t know. I began to feel icky taking advantage of these people.

    These tutors are lovely people and I’ve been able to get to know so many of them as they live through their hell. I wish that every day they are closer to leaving that country, and that they make it safely. Some nights I stay sleeping up just thinking about them hoping they’re okay when I see that the government has done something else crazy and are killing young people… They told me not to feel guilty that I used the service, because it still allows them some flexibility and gives them food on their plates, but ethically, I cannot say this service is A-OK. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to use it as I don’t have much money myself and this was the only way I could afford to learn, however the company needs to be more transparent.

    The reviews, too.

    • Hi Jade, and more importantly those reading her comment and worrying about our ethics…

      This is Connor, one of the two founders of BaseLang, and I’d like to set some facts straight.

      What you say about the situation is accurate. For the vast majority of people, things are really rough right now. But we don’t have control over that, and what you are saying is that by hiring there, we are the bad guys – we aren’t. We are helping those who can’t leave live much better, and we don’t force them to stay. Many have indeed left.

      We are equally concerned about the situation, and so we make sure to take really good care of our team there.

      The reality is, everything is always getting more expensive as the exchange rate changes, and with the issues going on. Most companies there will give small bumps in wages even when there are big jumps in living costs. It makes things really difficult to get even the basics. People work several jobs to get by.

      That’s not how we do it. We always scale the salary up with the cost of living, so no matter what is going on – they are OK. We have some of our coordinators visiting Medellin at the moment, and what they basically told me (from their personal point of view actually being there) was that BaseLang teachers are seen as the wealthy people in their neighborhoods (they can afford to go shopping for clothes, go out to eat and offer to cover the bill for the group, etc – these things, unfortunately, are very rare there), and that working with us is like a “floating device” for Venezuela – no matter what happens, as the sea goes up or down, they are always OK. Not to mention working from home also insulates them from a lot of what goes on outside, as they don’t have to leave home much (e.g. to travel to work, which is dangerous).

      And, as we decided very recently (given the recent political fraud), we are going to start allowing teachers to move to Colombia if they want, and keep their jobs with us, earning pesos instead of bolivares. So we’ll take care of them if they want to stay, and take care of them if they decide to come to Colombia. We already have three doing exactly this.

      We care, a lot. Our teachers are our lifeblood, and if we don’t take care of them, they don’t take care of our students, and we don’t have a business (not to mention the human side, which is even more important). We don’t want to just be the best place to learn Spanish, but the best place to work for those doing it in Venezuela or here in Colombia.

      It’s a shame what’s going on – as you know, Venezuelans are some of the most incredible people in the world, despite the situation – but we are doing our best to help out there.

      As for your other comments:

      Initially, all teachers did have degrees. At some point, this changed and I didn’t know about it until a month ago (and thus I updated our blog post about it), because there are a lot of moving parts and I don’t personally run every department. Most still do, but those that don’t still have to prove top-notch teaching skills. In fact, some of the teachers raved about in this review don’t have that degree.

      About deleting progress – because these aren’t part of our platform, it doesn’t happen automatically, and it often gets forgotten, as our priority is always taking care of our active students, not worrying about ones that have cancelled. Our intention isn’t to mislead people, and most people in your situation when they have come back and found that the deletion hadn’t happened were delighted.

      I’m not sure how the muscle gain I did years ago is even remotely relevant to BaseLang or how we do things.

      About the price increase in January – all active students were grandfathered in at their rate, and didn’t pay more. All former students were given an extra two months to come back at the old price, and were given several email notifications about it.

      And we removed the donation statement from our front page because instead of donating, we are actually in the process of forming our own non-profit to help in Venezuela where we can have more leverage to help than just donating, and thus the money is going there.

      So, Jade, despite everything I’ve written I doubt I’ll convince you of anything. But I hope anyone else reading this now understands how things actually are.

      • Thanks for chiming in, Connor.

      • Pixie Rowe

        I think you should put this on your website. I’ve been considering trying out Baselang, and your response has certainly assuaged some of my fears about possible exploitation of the teachers.