If you haven’t practiced another language since your school days, or if you’re looking to improve your language skills further, Busuu Language Learning is an app that maps out your study schedule so you can learn a new language quickly and efficiently. A two-year premium subscription will cost you $89.99, which sounds expensive at first, but when you break it down, that’s $7.50 per month.

With a premium subscription to Busuu, you can study 12 languages (these include English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Turkish and Arabic). Through Busuu, you’re able to set goals across the board, like how much time you want to spend studying and level of proficiency in the language you’ve selected.

A major feature we loved (and one we’ll break down for you below) was the personalized study plan Busuu establishes for you. Busuu does ask the standard questions of how often you’d like to study and for how long, but with that, you get a personalized study plan with a date estimation of how long it will take for you to achieve your goals. Another aspect of Busuu that separates it from the pack of language apps is the social networking you can do. Through Busuu, you can connect with native speakers of the language you’re learning to get feedback on how you’re progressing.

We spent a week using Busuu and were seriously impressed.

Getting started

Learn a new language with Busuu
Learn a new language with Busuu PHOTO: Ellen McAlpine/CNN

Getting set up with Busuu is really simple. We signed up through our email and decided to take the placement test for Italian, which determines what level you’ll start at when your lessons begin. You’re asked questions regarding vocabulary, spelling and comprehension. Similar to the questions you’ll answer while learning the language, you’re asked to type in what you hear, choose from multiple choices or fill in the blanks. Once you finish the test, Busuu will adjust your starting point accordingly. We didn’t find that it placed us at a more advanced level than we were capable of. That being said, if you haven’t practiced your language in a while, you might want to skip the placement test so you can review from the beginning.

If you don’t complete the placement test, you aren’t at any deficit. You’ll still be asked if you have experience learning the language before. From there, you’re prompted to choose the level of language you’re looking to achieve. These start at being able to introduce yourself and ask simple questions to being able to understand most of a movie or TV show. We scrolled through the app and found over 200 lessons to teach us everything there is to know about the Italian language. In the top corner of our app, we noticed you could switch from wishing to learn “Complete Italian” to “Italian for Travel.” There were far fewer lessons in the “Italian for Travel” options (11, to be precise). We liked that you could switch between goals for your learning without losing any progress in the other lessons.

Now let’s dive into the study plan Busuu creates for you. When prompted while setting up your account, you’ll be asked what proficiency level you’d like to reach — from being able to introduce yourself and ask simple questions, to socializing in that language, to understanding most of a TV show or movie. You’re also asked how often you want to study, how long you want your study sessions to be and what time you want to be reminded to study. After inputting that information, you’ll see your personalized study plan. At the top of the screen, Busuu will tell you when you’ll reach your goal (down to a date). We chose to understand most of a movie or TV program, to study four times a week for 10 minutes at a time and to be reminded at 6:45 p.m. Busuu told us we’d be at the level we want by November 8, 2022. Your study plan can always be adjusted, and results, of course, are dependent on a lot of factors.

We really liked the simple setup with Busuu and the fact that you get such a personalized study plan. Being able to switch between learning goals while not losing any progress in the other was also a huge plus.

Learning methods

Audio lessons on Busuu
Audio lessons on Busuu PHOTO: Ellen McAlpine/CNN

Busuu utilizes audio learning to teach you your language. You’ll hear a word or phrase spoken and then choose the correct option of what was said from a drop-down of multiple choices, with these answers sometimes being in your native language and other times in the language you’re learning. You’ll definitely need a quiet space or access to headphones. What we liked about the audio is that you can hear the pronunciation as well as view the spelling underneath the audio track, so you’re learning how to speak, understand and read another language. The process is pretty simple, and lessons are short (so if you can commit only a small amount of time each day, you’ll still be able to complete a lesson or two). We didn’t find ourselves spending an excessive amount of time getting through certain lessons. We didn’t come across any instances where we had to speak into the microphone to repeat back a phrase, so you’ll have to work on your accent and pronunciation on your own or utilize the social network the app provides.

Another huge plus with Busuu is that you’re also given access to a social network of people learning languages. You can grade other people’s exercises in your native language, and native speakers of the language you’re learning can grade your exercises. This is really cool. As you’re learning, you’re able to record yourself speaking an answer to a question (think “What’s your favorite food?” type of questions) and submit it for review by native speakers of the language you’re learning. You can also send written responses and receive feedback regarding grammar, spelling and punctuation. Getting feedback directly from people who speak the language was really helpful in nailing down pronunciation and practicing spelling. It’s nice to feel a sense of community while learning online, and having someone correct you in areas you might be struggling will help you improve your skills. You’ll get notifications in the app (as well as push notifications if you turn them on) when someone is looking for feedback or has provided feedback for you.

The social aspect of this app is what really sets it apart from the rest. You’re getting access to people across the globe who speak the languages you’re learning and getting direct feedback from them as you progress. And who better to learn from than people who grew up speaking that language? Plus, you’re able to use your knowledge of your native language to help others learn too.

App vs online

You can use Busuu on an app or desktop
You can use Busuu on an app or desktop PHOTO: Ellen McAlpine/CNN

We really loved the user interface on both the app and online site. Both interfaces were extremely easy to use and also extremely similar. Because you log in through an account, your progress is synced whether you’ve been practicing your new language on your phone or on your computer.

The app is iOS- and Android-friendly. It’s really simple to navigate. All of your controls are on the bottom of the screen. You can flip through Learn, Review, Social, Notifications and Me. Learn is where you’ll find all of your lessons to learn your language. Review includes little quizzes you can take to review lessons you’ve already covered. Social is where you’ll find access to the social network of Busuu. Notifications is where you’ll find your exercises graded from the social network or where you can find people requesting you to grade their exercises. The app works both on and offline. If you’re using Wi-Fi, you can access lessons without downloading them, but if you’re looking to access them without data, you can download your lessons so that you still have access to them.

On the website, the tabs you would see on the bottom are on the side of the screen. You’re brought right to your lessons page. When you start a lesson, the format looks exactly the same compared to the app. You’re still listening to words and phrases and choosing from a drop-down of answers. It’s really nice that both of the interfaces are so compatible and similar, as you get a really cohesive and intuitive experience from Busuu. We found ourselves not having a preference between the app and the website. Both were really easy to navigate, and because you log in to your account, your progress is synced so you don’t have to repeat lessons unnecessarily.

Final thoughts

Track your progress
Track your progress PHOTO: Ellen McAlpine/CNN

Busuu is a fantastic online learning tool to help you learn new languages efficiently and on your own time. The personalized study plan is a major benefit, especially if you’re looking to learn a language within a specific time frame. We also loved the social networking option Busuu brings, as it allows you to help others learn and receive feedback from native language speakers to get you to your absolute best. The app is available for $89.99 for a two-year premium subscription, which gives you access to all 12 languages. The math breaks it down to $7.50 per month, which is competitively priced with other paid language apps. We liked the interface through both the app and the website, as both were easy to navigate and extremely similar to each other.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.


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