Yabla is a language immersion tool that helps you learn a new language through video content.
It’s a fun way for intermediate and advanced learners to improve their skills in their target language. It’s especially useful for boosting your listening skills.
You don’t just watch the videos, you also learn from them by playing games that feature the videos’ content.
This is a review of the web version of Yabla. An iPhone app is also available. This review was last updated in June 2020.
For Whom is Yabla?
For the language learner who wants to learn a language through interesting video content.
More specifically: It’s for intermediate and advanced learners who want to take their language learning to the next level.
Yabla does have beginner videos, but it’s mostly a tool for intermediate and advanced learners.
Additionally, the lack of structure in the presentation of material does not make it a great fit for the beginner learner.
Yabla is a language input tool. There are no speech exercises. (Though I recommend you say the words and sentences out loud whenever feasible.)
And as with any language learning product, Yabla isn’t a complete language-learning solution. You have to see it more like an excellent tool to help you advance where basic language courses stop.
When it comes to language learning resources, most focus on the beginner and low intermediate. Why? Two reasons:
- It’s a bigger market. Most learners never advance beyond the early stages of learning a new language.
- It’s easier to create basic material than advanced stuff.
Yabla is one of the few language tools that can help you move beyond the intermediate stage, particularly when it comes to your listening skills.
Very few other language apps can do the same.
What Languages Can You Learn With Yabla?
With Yabla you can learn:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
Check out the graph below to find out how much content Yabla has for each language:
Not Just for English Speakers
A useful Yabla feature is that you can change all translations to a selection of other languages. For example, you can learn Spanish through English, French, and German translations. The only problem is that some features, like vocabulary review, are restricted when you don’t use English for the translations.
A Great Library
Yabla’s video library is extensive, and there is always an exciting new video waiting for you.
I love the way how you can watch complete television series you like and learn from them at the same time.
The curiosity to find out what happens in the next episode really adds to the motivation to keep learning. It seems to take away the feeling of studying. Really cool.
I hope they add more TV series in the future as not all of Yabla’s languages have that many.
The TV series are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scope of Yabla’s content. There’s much more.
The videos are sorted by difficulty — beginner to advanced — and by category.
Here are the categories:
Not Just for Children
What I find very refreshing is the lack of political correctness in Yabla’s video library.
Many language learning products and services keep their material innocent and boring. Of course, that’s good for the little ones among us, but it makes it somewhat dry for us, adults.
If we’re gonna learn a language through videos, we want interesting ones — not infant stuff!
Luckily, Yabla has enough spice in its videos to keep us interested. Heck, some videos even warn you with red letters: Viewer Discretion Advised!
All this doesn’t mean that Yabla doesn’t have any content for children.
In fact, in Spanish and Italian, they even have full series of animated children’s programming.
And if you buy a Yabla subscription for your kids, you can use their content filter and have only family-friendly videos show up. The strictest filter is stronger than the standards of the average television station.
Still, technology-savvy kids might be able to simply turn the filter off.
The video player is where most of the action is at.
Here you can watch videos in standard quality, or you can turn on HD quality.
The videos are split into small continuing segments, so you can efficiently work with the sentence that gives you the most difficulty.
As with any real-life content, it is sometimes hard to hear what’s being said. The audio quality isn’t always on a consistent level, either.
Fortunately, you can loop a segment indefinitely by clicking the loop button. And if you feel it all goes too fast for you, you can use the slow button.
This slow button makes everything play twice as slow so you can better decipher what’s being said. It works surprisingly well.
You can also use a feature called auto pause between segments. This feature is a lifesaver, especially for fast spoken language. It gives you the time to assimilate what you’ve just heard.
But there’s more help:
Subtitles are available in your target language and the language you use to translate.
You can hide the subtitles individually so that you can watch with:
- No subtitles
- Subtitles in your target language only
- Subtitles in your native language (or English) only
- Subtitles in both languages
When you click on a word, it immediately gets looked up in Yabla´s integrated dictionaries. And not only that but you also automatically send it one of your flashcard decks.
Every video also has a comment section, just like on YouTube. In the comments, people ask for help, share advice, or just say what a great video it is.
Also, if you want to continue your learning offline, you can print out a transcript of each video.
All in all, Yabla’s video player is excellent. It has improved steadily over the last few years.
The games aren’t really that playful, but generally, they’re pretty good (some are excellent).
In Multiple Choice, a clip is played while the subtitles have one missing word. You have to use your ears to find it and then select it from multiple-choice options. What I really like is that with each round you play, different words are used. That way, you can squeeze everything out of a video there is to learn.
Fill in the Blank is essentially the same game, but this time you have to type the missing word. No multiple-choice options here.
In Scribe you have to really use your ears.
Here you must type entire sentences you hear in the video. Fortunately, as with the other games, you have the Slow and Replay buttons at your disposal.
Both work well.
I’m especially surprised at the slow button. Usually, when language apps have slow buttons, the audio quality of the slowed audio suffers significantly. I don’t find this to be the case with Yabla.
Scribe has a lot of potential to improve your listening skills in a foreign language…and I’m not the only one who thinks that. Someone who went from 0 to C1(level) French in a year used Yabla’s Scribe, among other tools, to achieve this.
Scribe knows what sentence you’re struggling with. After each sentence, you get rated by one to three stars. One star means you were struggling, and three stars indicate that you were perfect.
This is personalized learning because you can really focus in on the hard sentences or sets. If you do this, you can’t help but improve.
Not all Yabla’s games are great, though.
Because while Scribe is excellent, Vocabulary Review is a somewhat disappointing tool that does not feature video content.
It’s a boring and basic flashcard game.
I guess it gets the job done if you only want to review the words from a specific video, but Yabla should do better here.
Your Flashcard Decks
So the Vocabulary Review game is a disappointment, but Yabla makes up for it through its custom flashcard tool.
What’s so cool about it is that if you send a word to your flashcards, you also automatically send the video segment in which the word appears. In other words: when presented a flashcard, you can also watch the corresponding part of the video in which the word occurs.
The video segment also reminds you of the story of the video, so that’s super in-context learning for you.
There’s no real integrated spaced repetition with the flashcards, but each word has a bar underneath it indicating how well you’ve studied a word.
Still, it seems that there are no reminders to review the words. For a scatterbrain like me, that means I forget about the words completely. ;.)
Overall, I really like Yabla’s flashcards. However, I do have some small complaints:
- You can’t seem to add phrases or idioms to the flashcards
- Each deck has a maximum of 21 flashcards. When full, a new deck is automatically created. You can’t seem to manually change the words in a deck, at least not in a convenient way.
- One video seemed to corrupt a flashcard deck temporarily. I couldn’t watch the video segments anymore until I exited the deck completely. It happened every time a video segment from that particular video was played in a flashcard deck. It didn’t happen with any other videos I tried.
How Much Does Yabla Cost?
Yabla costs $12.95/month, but you can get a discount by signing up for multiple months at a time.
Especially the Annual plan offers a cool discount of $55.
A Yabla subscription only gives you access to one language of your choice. With Yabla’s competitor FluentU, you have access to all their languages, but their plans are more expensive.
Every Yabla subscription includes a free 15-day trial during which you will not be charged. You will only be billed if after 15 days you haven’t canceled your account.
If you want to get a taste of what Yabla offers without opening an account, check out some free demo videos below:
Yabla’s main competitor is FluentU.
FluentU has a more intelligent learning system, and the FluentU team seems to be more proactive about improving their app.
However, Yabla’s video library is much more engaging. Their TV series are a strong motivating force that can help you learn a language.
If you want to know more about FluentU, check out my FluentU review here.
I’ve also compared FluentU to Yabla.
CaptionPop is another Yabla alternative.
It works with any YouTube video that has subtitles.
It has both a free and a paid version ($10/month).
Contrary to Yabla and FluentU, CaptionPop doesn’t have an elaborate learning system.
You *can* save video segments for later study, and you *can* slow down the speed of the videos. The paid version also gives you access to flashcards.
For now, I don’t see CaptionPop as a serious competitor to Yabla and FluentU, but I’ll be following how it develops.
CaptionPop does offer many more languages to learn than Yabla or FluentU, so if you can’t learn your target language with those tools…CaptionPop may be for you.
Wrapping it up
I had a good time reviewing Yabla.
It offers an entertaining way to further master a language.
I now prefer Yabla to its main competitor FluentU.
And just like its competitor, it’s a helpful, modern language learning tool. Services like these take a lot of the hassle out of learning a language through video content.