SpanishPod101 Review – Website to Learn Spanish Online

This article is a review of SpanishPod101.com, an online resource for learning Spanish through audio podcasts.

In this review, I’ll take you inside the paid members area, with a video showing you the main features of the website, and then give you my honest assessment of the quality of the product, so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

If you’re thinking about how to learn Spanish, you’ve probably noticed that there are tonnes of interesting resources to choose from. This is great for learners, but it can also be a little confusing.

When there’s so much to choose from, what do you choose?

As you search, one option that you’ll see crop up again and again online is SpanishPod101. Their marketing dollars are clearly being well spent!

But is it any good? Is it a scam?

I decided to buy a premium membership and give it a try. This review is all about what I found out.

In case you don’t have the time to read the whole review (it’s pretty thorough!), I’ll summarise it here by saying that SpanishPod101 is a good, engaging resource, especially for beginners and lower levels.

Their bite-sized approach to study materials makes it ideal for busy people and those who struggle with motivation, but it is certainly not any kind of shortcut – you will still have to do the hard work yourself.

SpanishPod101 Review

On the whole, I think SpanishPod101.com is a well-made and useful resource for learning Spanish. It’s designed to be easy to consume (hence the podcast format) and it has a clear structure with different sets of lessons for each level (absolute beginner to advanced). This means it will work well for people who don’t know where to start, aren’t easily motivated, or just prefer to be walked through a structured learning programme.

However, independent learners may the structure and pace of the episodes a little limiting.

SpannishPod101 works on a freemium model. This means that it’s free to create an account and use some of the early lessons but you’ll still need to pay for most of the best content. Most of the best features are only available to paid subscribers.

There are various different subscriber options and as you might as expect, the longer you subscribe for the cheaper the deal. The prices are quite reasonable, in my opinion.If you take a one-year premium subscription as our baseline – this costs $180. That’s a lot more than the cost of a book but substantially less than other commercial products like Rosetta Stone ($399) or Pimsleur ($345 for 30 lessons), for example.

If we take a one-year premium subscription as our baseline – this costs $180, it’s a lot more than the cost of a book but substantially less than other commercial products like Rosetta Stone ($399) or Pimsleur ($345 for 30 lessons), for example.

And to be honest, if it works, why wouldn’t you pay $180 for it?

If it works.

Here’s a video showing you the inside of the member’s area on the website:

The Lessons

Lessons in SpanishPod101 are organised by level. Each level has different ‘seasons’ or sets of lessons which are normally 25 lessons long (although some are longer or shorter). This adds up to literally hundreds of Spanish podcast lessons, which means SpanishPod101 is one of the most substantial resources you can find.SpanishPod101 LessonsThat said, with so much content to choose from, it’s difficult to know where to start.

One feature that helps is called ‘Learning Paths’. This offers you different paths or course structures based on your current level and what you most want to learn.

For example, beginners can choose from learning paths like ‘Travelling Around: Iberian Spanish’, ‘The Ultimate Guide for Brand New Spanish Learners’ or ‘Speaking Perfect Spanish at a Restaurant’.

SpanishPod101 Learning PathsI like this idea because it makes it easier for you to decide where to start. It also gives you a clear picture of what you’ll have learnt once you complete the learning path.

What’s included in each lesson?

Each lesson contains 3 audio tracks:

  • Full Lesson Audio
  • Review Track
  • Dialogue Only Track

SpanishPod101 Lesson Page

Each lesson normally follows the same format:

  • Dialogue in Spanish
  • Repetition of the dialogue with a translation
  • Discussion of the story and cultural insight
  • Explanation of new vocabulary
  • Explanation of new grammar

Once you’ve completed the main lesson, you can use the review and dialogue-only tracks to practice what you’ve learned. The review track is for quickly reviewing and learning new vocabulary. The dialogue track allows you to simply repeat the dialogue without listening to all of the explanations. This is the track I recommend you work with the most.

The Good Stuff

The really valuable part of SpanishPod101 is the powerful extra features accompanying each lesson.

The dialogue is given in an interactive format: each line is clickable, so you can click and hear the audio at your own pace, line-by-line, and you can switch the text between Spanish and English.

This works really well and is ideal for breaking down the dialogues into smaller parts and listening and reading at the same time. It’s also great for improving your vocabulary and listening comprehension.

There’s another section which gives you a list of vocabulary from the dialogue, and which, again, is clickable so you can hear the audio (at natural speed and slowed-down) and see how it’s written.

Now here’s the fun stuff …, you can then choose the vocabulary you want to learn and export it to the website’s built-in flashcard system. These flashcard decks are fully customizable and use a spaced repetition system to help you learn them.

SpanishPod101 Flashcard front SpanishPod101 Flashcard back

These are the main features that I find really valuable in SpanishPod101.

Extras

All of the lesson material is also available in downloadable worksheets in case you prefer to have a physical copy to print out. There’s nothing special about these, they’re just a pdf version of the information given on the website. Nevertheless, people like to consume information in different ways, and if you like to have everything printed off and there in front of you, it’s good to have.

In addition to the lessons, there are a lot of extra resources for beginners, which, for me, adds real value for people learning Spanish for the first time.

When you’re just starting out it’s a tricky stage where you really need a lot of solid information (the basics of grammar, phonology, spelling) and the last thing you want to do is the last thing you want to do is waste time and stifle your progress by trying to piece it all together from various websites. Here, it’s all in one place:

  • Overviews of the language
  • A Guide to Spanish pronunciation
  • Introduction to Spanish Grammar
  • Spanish Verb Conjugation Charts
  • Key Spanish Phrases

There also some bonus lessons focusing on different regional dialects (Mexican, Iberian, Peruvian, etc.) which are nice to have.

A couple of other cool features include a quiz function, which gives you vocabulary and writing tests based on language from the lessons, and an online dictionary Spanish-English and English-Spanish dictionary (accessible inside the website from the search bar, which is handy) which contains all of the language from the lessons and lets you export words directly to flashcards.

What I Like About It

  1. It’s a very substantial resource. There are lots of lessons for all levels and the library is updated regularly with new material
  2. The website is user-friendly for the most part and nice to use.
  3. The course is well-designed. It’s not easy to select and produce graded material for an entire language course, but I’ve been impressed with the content. Grammar points and language vocabulary get repeated over the course of each level, which helps reinforce what you’ve learnt.
  4. The podcast lessons are short and entertaining, so they’re perfect for anyone who lacks motivation, or is looking for an easy way to get started. It’s important to note here that listening to the podcasts is only going to be one small part of the process of learning Spanish– you need to compliment it with more involved study! But even if you did nothing more than listen to the SpanishPod101 in the car for a month, you will undoubtedly learn a lot.
  5. The fact that the lessons follow the same format help to give structure and make it easier to follow exactly what points are being taught. This structure is fantastic for some (although admittedly, it can be a little boring for others).
  6. The difficulty levels are just right. Once you figure out your current level and get started, you’ll find that the progression from level to level is well managed.
  7. Vocabulary is well selected and based on the dialogues are based on life-like situations. This means the lessons teach useful language (the kind of Spanish that’s actually spoken by people in Spanish-speaking countries), unlike many other Spanish learning books and resources I’ve seen. This on its own is a big plus. (After all, what’s worse than learning vocabulary that people don’t actually use?)
  8. The grammar that’s taught in the lessons is relevant and well explained – it’s easy to understand and use right away.
  9. The flashcards feature works well and is very useful.
  10. The line-by-line clickable dialogues with audio, transcription and translation are AWESOME. For me, this is the main benefit of the product and worth the price alone.
  11. Each lesson has a comments section where you can ask any language questions you have. This is one of the big benefits of online learning – you can actually interact directly with the course creators. That’s something you obviously can’t do with a book.
  12. There is a decent balance of Spanish and English in the podcasts. That is to say, they use enough Spanish to give you some good exposure to the language, but not so much that you get frustrated because you don’t understand what’s going on. That said, some learners prefer to be more exposed to the language.
  13. The Learning Paths allow you to customise your course and learn the things that are most important and relevant to you.
  14. The printable worksheets, which summarise information from the lesson, are very handy for reviewing.
  15. Having the lessons available in podcast format is great because you can use them anytime. You can either download them or use the app and listen on the go during your commute, in the gym or while pottering around the house.
  16. The handy mobile app allows you to listen to episodes easily on the go. You can even use the line-by-line audio feature on your phone.

What’s Not Good

  1. The dialogues in each lesson are short. This is good for beginners but frustrating as you become more advanced. As your level improves, you’ll probably start to feel that there’s too much English in each episode compared to the amount of Spanish you’re hearing. This is certainly the case for me when I reach advanced levels – I feel a need for more substantial, higher level texts that I can sink my teeth into. Even at the higher levels, the dialogues are all very short. This is understandable given that everything needs to fit into a short podcast, but some learners may find it frustrating.
  2. Even after you sign up, there is a quote a lot of advertising, up-selling, and cross-promoting related products (by way of emails, on-site banners etc), which gets irritating when you’ve already paid for the product. It definitely detracts from the user experience.
  3. The resources are, at times, not very ‘cared for’, which is a bit disappointing for something you pay good money for; podcasts are sometimes poorly edited, the voice recorder function doesn’t seem to work most of the time, and the information across the different study tools is not always consistent. For example, some words in the database don’t come with audio recordings, some translations are inaccurate or misleading (although staff do correct them once pointed out by members), and there are occasional programming bugs like the fact that opening the comments box in lessons resets the lesson page you were looking at, meaning you have to click all the way back through. None of this is a deal-breaker, but it does leave you feeling a bit neglected!
  4. The vocabulary lists and flashcards work with single words out of context, which is a big missed opportunity. It’s much more effective to learn words in context. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I go on about this quite a lot! Of course, you can see the words in context within the dialogues, and there are often sample sentences given in the flashcard programme, but I’m a big believer in keeping words in full sentences at all times, especially when revising.
  5. One issue I have with the lessons are, ironically, the fact that they are just that – lessons. What do I mean by that? In one 15-minute lesson, there are only 30 seconds-ish of sustained listening to Spanish (the dialogue). The rest is teaching – explanations of vocabulary and grammar. You might find this frustrating after a while (especially after you’ve been through the lower levels and reach the intermediate course). It wasn’t that the “teaching” isn’t useful or good quality, it’s just that you need to change things up a bit and spend more time with the language. I would like there to be more material for extensive listening, so you can just listen and enjoy without having to always be taught something new. At the intermediate level, a little more Spanish is used during the lessons, which is great, but it’s not quite enough, as English is still the main medium of instruction. However, this shouldn’t necessarily put you off – if you want well-targeted, digestible language lessons, and/or can get your main exposure to Spanish elsewhere (such as TV or audio books), then this isn’t a problem.
  6. Vocabulary lists from the lessons don’t always contain all the useful words from the dialogues. Instead, they’re words that are related to the topic. While there’s no harm in seeing related vocabulary, the fact that you haven’t heard it in the dialogue makes it a bit random, and it would be much more useful to provide the vocab that you’d already heard. It’s often the case in the lessons that you want to know what a word means, but it’s not given in the vocab list. You can look it up in the dictionary that comes with the website (and from there you can export those words to flashcard decks), but it’s unnecessary and interrupts the user experience.

Conclusion – 

Overall, I think SpanishPod101.com is a substantial and well-made resource for learning Spanish. It’s been designed to be easy to consume and, despite my issues with the teaching format, I think it will be very useful to learners who are not sure where to start or what to focus on.

The tools on the website, especially the line-by-line clickable dialogues and the built-in flashcard tool are excellent, and really make it possible to get stuck in and analyse the language. The course designers and material writers are good and have designed quality content – it’s just a bit of a shame that the marketers behind the scenes have been given slightly too much freedom, as you’re left with the impression you’re getting sold to a fair bit.

However, this shouldn’t take away from the value of the Spanish content itself. Remember that this is just one language learning resource. Like any other book, audio course, or even language school, don’t be under the impression that it’s any kind of silver bullet, or that simply buying this will be any guarantee of you learning Spanish. There is no single resource with the magic answer.

Many people will be tempted to just rely on the podcasts, because they’re there, easily digestible and entertaining, but you still need to spend just as much time (and probably more) with your head down, stuck into the lesson transcripts and vocabulary sections to really improve at a good rate.

You will also eventually need to find ways to start speaking in order to become fluent in Spanish. It’s not just about the studying – you’ve got to get out into the real world too, something that is often forgotten.

So, in conclusion, this is a good product with a lot that can help you. What’s important is that you keep an independent, self-directed approach to your learning, and use this product as a resource to learn what you need, rather than let it direct your learning for you.

To help you do this, I’ve written a guide that shows you how to make the most out of the features on the website. Through a lot of trial and error over 6 months of study, I figured out how best to use the dialogues and resources to improve much faster than simply following their lessons through one by one.

The guide is free – click here for more.

I hope this review has been informative and that you now have a better idea of whether SpanishPod101.com is right for you or not.

What do you think of SpanishPod101? Let me know in the comments below.

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