Learning languages is becoming increasingly popular, with borders expanding and the world becoming more and more globalised, this comes as no surprise!
Whether people are learning languages for a holiday, for fun, or even for a new job, there is no denying that knowing two to three (or even more) languages has many benefits.
One popular method for learning languages is to utilise the surrounding technology. Many developers have caught on to this and created a wide array of language learning apps, which cater to the busy lives of modern people.
By making these apps and offering bite size lessons, people are given an opportunity to learn while they are in line at the checkout, or while they're at the hairdressers. For many people, these apps have made learning a new language accessible, when it otherwise wouldn't be!
One such app is Busuu, and today we are going to take a look at what this particular app has to offer its users.
What Is Busuu?
Busuu is a language learning app which adds a social aspect to self-teaching. The program began its journey in 2008 when Bernhard Niesner and Adrian Haiti got together and founded their own language learning software.
Busuu began as a web-based app, named after a rare language spoken in Cameroon of the same name. But in 2010, they expanded the program and released it on mobile devices. Offering users the chance to learn anywhere and everywhere!
As of May 2021, Busuu offers 12 languages for users to learn in 15 interface languages. Covering some of the most popular languages such as;
Plus others, including Chinese and Arabic. Giving users a variety of languages to choose from. With each of these courses being available for a variety of purposes, from personal use, to academic or business purposes.
Busuu teaches its lessons according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (also known as CEFR or CEFRL).
The CEFR is a grading board which offers six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) to test a person's proficiency in languages. Busuu currently offers up to a B2 grade, which is considered 'Upper Intermediate'. This means learners can hold conversations on a wide array of topics with minimal issues or confusion, and have a reasonable level of fluency.
The Features Busuu Has To Offer
As with any language learning app, Busuu has many features which are designed to help users learn as effectively as they possibly can. These features include;
Study Plans: With a premium plus membership, users can create a customisable study plan within Busuu.
Users take a short questionnaire, which takes into account any goals, how much time per day they can spend learning, and how many days a week they want to practice. This will then predict how long it will take for a learner to become fluent in their target language.
Native Evaluations:The developers of Busuu have put a lot of effort into the community aspect of their app. Allowing for users to help one another in their native languages, and get the same help in return.
This goes for all of their activities, from speech and pronunciation, to grammar and spelling. Users are then able to respond to the feedback, and use it to expand their skills.
Official Certificates: In 2015 Busuu partnered with McGraw Hill Education, a large, and well respected educational company, known as one of the 'big 3' in educational content. This partnership means that learners on Busuu can obtain a certificate as proof of their fluency in their chosen language.
This is another feature which is only available to premium plus members, and does involve passing a 'final' test in the target language, rather than completing the lessons within Busuu's courses.
Proven Efficient Learning: In 2016, the developers for Busuu conducted an independent study to find out just how efficient their app really was, and what they could do to improve.
The study showed that Busuu is incredibly efficient in teaching its users a new language, with figures suggesting that just 22 hours of regular practice (with premium membership) equated to one whole semester of learning a language at college!
Busuu's summary of the results: https://www.busuu.com/en/research/university-study
Full study: http://comparelanguageapps.com/documentation/The_busuu_Study2016.pdf
Downloadable Lessons: Busuu lets its users download lessons for offline learning anywhere. Which can be great for people who travel or do not always have access to the internet, they can download a few lessons for their trip and continue to learn on the go!
Fluency Tracker: Busuu allows users to track their progress in an interesting, but simple, way. By heading over to the 'profile' section of the app, users are met with a progress tab.
In this tab, people can track their fluency in a percentage (accompanied by a blue bar tracker), how many individual words they have learned, and any certifications they have gained. While it is laid out in quite a basic manner, it gives users a great visual representation of how much they have learned!
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Learning With Busuu?
As with many language learning apps, Busuu has a lot to offer its users.
For one, the community aspect, where people can have their exercises rated by native speakers. Many other apps are limited to AI and algorithm corrections, which means their users can only receive a limited amount of feedback.
By having native speakers giving people pointers on their pronunciation or grammar, learners are receiving practical and real-world feedback. Whether it is on nuances with dialect and grammar, or correcting a mistake, having a real person explaining things can be much more helpful than an automated text bubble!
Busuu also begins by teaching its users phrases they will encounter when using their target language. Things like;
- What is your name?
- My name is [...]
- How are you?
This differs greatly to other apps like Duolingo, which starts you with much more basic phrases such as 'I am a man/woman' or 'He is drinking' etc. Many users will feel like they are learning much more, when they can actually use the sentences they are learning.
With free memberships, users are given access to much more content than other apps. While it is no match for Duolingo, which offers all of it's content for free, being able to access a substantial amount of content within one language without paying a penny is still great, especially when combined with the help the community provides!
That being said, it would be nice to see the developers of Busuu allow free members full access to their first language. As it stands the content which is locked for free users is often grammar related, something vital to understanding the language and being able to speak more than "pre-set" key phrases.
Another downside to Busuu is that the study plan, access to all languages and the certifications from McGraw Hill Education are only available through one of the two premium memberships (premium plus), while there is a slight cost difference (which will be addressed further on) it is so minute that they could offer just one paid membership and give users full access.
The last downside to Busuu is simply the limited choice in languages. Many other apps offer 20+, with Duolingo offering 38 and all of them are completely free. This can lead many potential users to other apps before trying out what Busuu has to offer.
The Cost Of Premium And What It Unlocks
As was mentioned earlier, Busuu offers two different premium membership packages.
The first one is their standard premium membership. This can be purchased by month, by six months and by year, and the prices are as follows;
- Monthly: £9.99
- 6 months: £54.99
- Yearly: £69.98
This membership gives users access to smart reviews, Busuu's grammar and vocabulary lessons, plus the ability to practice with native speakers and download their lessons for offline learning.
Overall their 'casual learner' premium membership offers just about everything a person would need if they are learning for personal reasons (e.g. for fun, or for personal travel etc). But if users are willing to spend a little bit more, then the premium plus, or 'serious learner' membership is definitely worth considering.
The premium plus membership gives users access to the above, as well as the official certifications, personal study plan, and the option to learn all 12 languages offered. The prices are slightly higher, but still available in the same three payment options;
- Monthly: £10.99
- 6 months: £59.99
- Yearly: £79.98
So for as little as £1 more per month, users will unlock all the languages as well as the option to gain a recognised certification of fluency in each language they learn, something which is accepted by many institutions and can be included in their CV and future job applications.
For the most value for money, the annual payment for the premium plus membership is probably the best bet! However, it can be a lot of money to spend on an app that some people may end up forgetting about, especially when life gets busy (as it often does!).
But that is another great thing about Busuu!
This app offers a 7-day free trial for their premium memberships. Allowing people to try out the full app for a whole week and see how well it works for them before paying. This is great as some apps, like Memrise, do not offer this, and people can be put off paying out for a membership which they may not use.
On top of this, 7-day trial, Busuu also offers regular sales on it's yearly memberships, with some being as much as 50% off! So, if users keep their eyes open, they may be able to get all the content in the app for a discounted price!
Other Language Learning Apps To Consider
As was mentioned at the start, there are more and more language learning apps available, both on mobile devices and also web-browsers. Designed to help anyone and everyone to learn the languages they want, even those with the busiest schedules!
Some popular choices are;
Memrise: Memrise is great for people who are looking to boost their vocabulary skills, rather than focus on grammar.
Designed by a neuroscientist and a 'Grand Memory Master' Memrise uses the well-known and effective method of spaced repetition, helping users to really absorb the information the courses offer!
Babbel: Babbel is similar to Busuu, however a defining feature which sets Babbel apart is the podcasts which are offered in many of the target languages. Allowing users to hear what they are learning in action, and improve their understanding of different nuances which may occur.
Duolingo: Duolingo has been mentioned a few times in this article. One of this program's defining features is that it has a much stronger emphasis on teaching users the correct grammar and showing how to construct their own sentences.
Duolingo also offers all of its course content for free, with premium memberships being used primarily to remove ads. Making it great for more 'casual' learners or people learning for fun.
All things considered, Busuu is a great app which can really help people to learn a new language, or improve upon what they already know. Not to mention the unique opportunity that Busuu offers for gaining a certification which is widely acknowledged by many institutions as proof of language proficiency.
That being said, if a person isn't willing to purchase either of the premium memberships then this app may be best used in conjunction with other apps which cover the missing content, so that they can still achieve a well-rounded education.