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 premium members area and show you the main features of the website, then give you my honest assessment of the quality of the product, so you can decide whether it's the best choice for you.
SpanishPod101 Review: Summary
- Very substantial – tonnes of lessons for all levels
- Easy to use lesson format – audio lessons and handy mobile app
- Spanish for everyone – both Iberian and Latin American (with sub-dialects)
- Dialogues are too short
- Too much “lesson” content, not enough Spanish!
- Lots of advertising, up-selling, and cross-promoting related products when you sign up
A premium SpanishPod 101 subscription costs $180 USD per year.
SpanishPod101 is a good, engaging resource, especially for beginner and intermediate levels.
People with busy schedules will appreciate the bite-sized lessons, as this will help to keep you motivated. It’s certainly no shortcut, though – you’ll still have to do the hard work yourself.
(My top recommendation for Spanish learners is Spanish Uncovered, which teaches you through StoryLearning®. Click here for you free 7-day trial of Spanish Uncovered now.)
What Is SpanishPod101?
SpanishPod101 is an online subscription programme for Spanish learners of all levels.
Subscribers get access to an extensive library of Spanish podcast lessons, as well as a number of other learning tools, such as customizable flashcards and an English-Spanish dictionary. There are over 300 hours of learning, divided between Latin American Spanish and Iberian Spanish.
All of the content included in the premium subscription is available to access through a web browser, or through a mobile app.
A Look Inside SpanishPod101
Lessons in SpanishPod101 are organised by language ability, in five levels. Each level has numerous ‘seasons' or lesson modules, and in a single module you’ll get roughly 25 lessons (although some have fewer or a lot more.)
This adds up to a multitude of podcast lessons, making SpanishPod101 quite a substantial resource. Since the modules are all separate learning areas that don’t usually follow on from each other, you have the freedom to decide which ones to do.
Having said that, with so many lessons to choose from, how do you figure out where to even begin?
One feature that helps is called ‘Learning Paths'. These are themed pathways or course structures, and you choose them based on your current level and what you most want to learn. They’re optional, but helpful.
For example, beginners can choose from learning paths like ‘Connecting with Spanish-Speaking Family', ‘Lessons For Your Flight to Mexico’ or ‘Must-Know Spanish Sentence Structures.”
I like this idea, because it makes it easier for you to choose a solid direction. It also gives you a clear picture of what you'll have learnt once you complete a learning path.
What's Included In Each Lesson?
Each lesson contains 3 audio tracks:
- Full Lesson Audio or Video
- Review Track
- Dialogue Only Track
Each lesson usually 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 listened to the main lesson, you can review and practice with the other two tracks, like this:
Use the review track for quickly reviewing and practicing new vocabulary.
Use the dialogue track to hear the Spanish part again – this time without all of the English explanations. This is the track I recommend you work with the most.
Let's find out what some of the more advanced features of SpanishPod101 are in the premium subscriptions…
For me, the really valuable part of SpanishPod101 is the powerful extra features accompanying each lesson.
The written dialogue is 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, so you can listen and read at the same time. There’s also a voice recorder with each line so you can practice your pronunciation. These tools are great for improving your vocabulary and listening comprehension.
Below this, there’s a list of vocabulary from the dialogue. Like before, you can click on individual words to hear the audio (at natural speed and slowed-down) and practice saying them with the voice recorder, while seeing them in writing.
Another cool feature of SpanishPod101 is the built-in flashcard system.
Once you’ve finished a lesson, you can choose the vocab you want to remember and simply click ‘Add to Flashcard Deck’. These decks are fully customisable and use a spaced-repetition system to help you memorize new words.
It’s a handy, easy-to-use feature. But…
There’s a big downside: these flashcards only show you words in isolation. It’s always more effective to learn words in context. Sadly, since you can't do this in SpanishPod101, their potentially useful flashcard tool is practically useless.
All of the lesson audios and transcripts can also be downloaded, in case you prefer to work offline.
Being able to listen to saved podcasts is handy for on-the-go learning (although you can’t save the interactive dialogue, and this is the best feature.) You can also print the lesson transcript and notes, if you want.
These are just PDF versions of the info on the website – nothing special. Nevertheless, people like to consume information in different ways, and if reading your lessons works for you, it's good to have.
Bonus PDFs For Beginners
In addition to the lessons, there are plenty of extra resources for beginners, which add value for people learning Spanish for the first time.
When you're just starting out with Spanish, it's a tricky stage where you really need loads of solid foundational info (grammar, phonology, spelling, etc.) Nobody wants to waste time trying to piece it all together from various websites, hoping for the best. Here, you can find it all in one place:
- Overviews of the language
- A Guide to Spanish Pronunciation
- Introduction to Spanish Grammar
- Spanish Verb Conjugation Charts
- Key Spanish Phrases
- Vocabulary Lists and Cheat Sheets
Some of these bonuses are available in PDF form; others must be used online.
Other Notable Features
A couple of other fun features include a quiz function, which gives you simple vocabulary and writing tests based on language from the lessons, and an online Spanish-English / English-Spanish dictionary.
This convenient little audio-dictionary is accessible from the search bar on your dashboard, and it contains all of the useful language from the lessons.
SpanishPod101 Review: What I Like
There are quite a few things that impressed me with SpanishPod101…
- It's a very substantial resource. This course has a very extensive lesson library, with multiple learning paths on all levels. It’s updated regularly with new material, and some extra features add value. Beginners and intermediate learners will benefit the most, as their options are plentiful.
- The course is well-designed. It's not at all easy to select and produce graded material for an entire language course. The content is impressive, though. Grammar points and vocab get repeated over the course of each level, which helps to reinforce what you've learnt. The attention to different dialects is also handled well.
- The podcast lessons are short and entertaining, so they're appealing to those who battle with motivation. I really like the SpanishPod presenters, too. They’re much more natural-sounding than on most other LanguagePod courses, so you don’t feel like you’re listening to a script.
- The advanced audio blogs have uninterrupted Spanish for about 2 minutes each, giving you a rare chance to just sit back and hear the language.
- The difficulty levels are just right. Once you figure out your current level and get going, you'll find that the progression from level to level is logical.
- Numerous Spanish dialects are included, and they’re kept separate. Many Iberian Spanish lessons are repeated in Mexican Spanish, but on completely separate pathways, so there’s no confusing mix of Spanish dialects. You’ll also see separate pathways for Peruvian and Costa Rican Spanish, which is great if you specifically need those.
- Vocabulary is well-selected and the dialogues are based on real life situations. The presenters also pronounce their words clearly and naturally. This means the lessons teach useful language – the kind of Spanish you’ll actually hear in Spanish-speaking countries.
- The line-by-line clickable dialogues with audio, transcription and translation are AWESOME. For me, this is the main benefit of the product.
- The handy mobile app makes it possible to listen to episodes on the go, which is helpful. In fact, the line-by-line audio feature will work on your smartphone.
SpanishPod101 Review: What I Don't Like
For all the positives, there are quite a few significant flaws in SpanishPod101:
- The podcasts use too much English and not enough Spanish. Although great for beginners, this really gets frustrating as you advance – especially all the English chit-chat. I know that for me, the more fluent I get with a language, the more I start craving higher level texts I can really sink my teeth into. If you’re the same, as your level improves you’ll probably start wishing there was less English and more Spanish in the podcasts.
- 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! Sure, you can see the words in context within the dialogues, and the flashcards often have sample phrases. But I'm a big believer in keeping words in full sentences at all times, especially when revising.
- Lots of teaching, not much immersion. Some of the best learning happens when you don’t realise you’re learning. That’s why extensive listening is so important! SpanishPod doesn’t really give you that, which is one of my biggest issues with the lessons. In one 15-minute lesson, you’ll probably get about 30 seconds of sustained listening in Spanish (the dialogue). The rest is teaching explanations of vocabulary and grammar. It isn't that the teaching isn't useful or good quality, it’s just that you need real immersion time if you’re serious about learning Spanish!
- Vocabulary lists from the lessons often don’t include the useful words from the dialogues. Instead, they're words that are related to the topic – I suppose to provide further examples. This doesn’t work well, though, because you lose the opportunity to simply practice the words you’ve just learned. Practicing a list of related words is a bit random. It would be far more useful to revise the words you just learned. It's often the case in the lessons that you want to know what a word means, but it's not in the vocab list. You can look it up in the searchable dictionary (and from there, save it to a flashcard deck), but it's unnecessary and interrupts the user experience.
- Some of the resources seem a bit neglected. SpanishPod is a lot better than other LanguagePod courses in this regard, but it’s still disappointing to bump into inconsistencies while you’re trying to revise. For example, some words in the database don’t come with audio recordings, and the voice recorder in the lessons is glitchy.
- The hard selling and cross-promoting of related products (by way of emails, flashy on-site banners, etc) even after you sign up, gets annoying fast – especially when you've already bought a subscription. It definitely detracts from the user experience.
How Much Does SpanishPod101 Cost & Is It Worth It?
SpanishPod101 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, as these 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.
Overall, I think SpanishPod101.com is a substantial and well-made resource for learning Spanish that's easy to consume. And, despite my issues with the teaching format, I think you'll find it useful if you decide to sign up.
However, if you're looking for a comprehensive beginner programme that will take you all the way to the intermediate level in Spanish and that uses a much more fun, engaging and effective method, then I've got something that might suit you better…
Spanish Uncovered: A Better Alternative To SpanishPod101
While SpanishPod101 is reasonably well-structured and has lots of lesson content, it's not the most fun Spanish programme.
That's where Spanish Uncovered is different.
Spanish Uncovered is a comprehensive online beginner course, that takes you from a complete beginner in Spanish up to an intermediate level. And it's fuelled by a fun and unique method called StoryLearning®.
StoryLearning is a process that was invented to teach you languages naturally. It’s so natural, in fact, that it’s based on how human beings learn their native language.
In the course, you'll learn through an exciting original story in Spanish, written especially for beginner learners.
Even though you learn through story, you have a native teacher and experienced language learner by your side all the way through the course, giving explanations in English and tips to learn the material fast.
Uncovered teaches all of the key aspects of the language – reading, listening, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and speaking. So by the time you've finished, you'll be a confident intermediate level Spanish speaker, ready to go out and actually use your Spanish in the real world!
What You Get With Uncovered
- Complete 20-module course to learn to speak Spanish with confidence through StoryLearning™. This is a method that relies on your brain's natural way of learning.
- 60+ video lessons with your experienced Spanish teacher. You'll learn with the same method that's attracted worldwide attention, from the BBC, Independent, Open University, European Commission, El País, and more!
- Learn the secrets I used to learn 8 languages and how to use them yourself to learn to speak with confidence & take part fully in conversations with native speakers.
- Fully downloadable programme so you can learn faster – anywhere, any time, and on any device… even without an internet connection!
- Complete learning material, including audiobook, translations, printable worksheets… everything you need to get started and find success with your language learning!
- Expert pronunciation training videos, so you can perfect your pronunciation and speak like a native from the start.
- Money-back guarantee, so you can buy without risk today, and get a full refund if you don't love it.
If you're determined to learn Spanish and looking for the most fun and effective Spanish course around, I'm confident you'll love Uncovered!
Ready to start? Click here to find out more about Spanish Uncovered and start your free 7-day trial.