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 foreign language skills.
Yabla is especially useful for boosting your LISTENING SKILLS, which are notoriously hard to improve.
Can you learn a language by watching videos?
You probably could, but it wouldn’t be that efficient if it were just by watching videos.
But with Yabla, you don’t just watch the videos; you also learn from them by playing games and quizzes that feature the videos’ content.
I’ve been a fan of Yabla for some time now because it gives you the feeling of real language immersion. The videos are “in your face,” and Yabla lets you dissect them like no other language app.
This is a review of the web version of Yabla. iPhone and Android apps are also available. This review was last updated in April 2023.
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Note: Offer officialy expired December 4, 2023 - However, discount is still working! So take advantage if your're interested.
For Whom is Yabla?
For language learners who want 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. However, if you use it alongside a more structured course, it can still be useful if you pick videos that are on your level.
Yabla is mostly a language input tool. There’s now a speaking game called ´Speak’ and there are plenty of write-what-you-hear exercises, which can boost your listening skills significantly, but Yabla’s focus is on language input.
And as with any language learning product…
…Yabla isn’t a complete language-learning solution. You have to see it as a 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.
Yabla is also available for educators (schools). With this type of subscription, each student and teacher has their own account and can access the site from any place with an internet connection. Teachers can assign videos, goals, and due dates on a class-by-class basis and track student performance.
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 another language. 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 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.
This is what modern language learning should be about. While other language apps add games and frills intended to make you “feel good,” Yabla focuses on how you can best learn from its content.
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.
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!
Let me see that video! 😉
But, parents, don’t worry!
All this doesn’t mean that Yabla doesn’t have any content for children.
In fact, 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. Oops!
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 speed button.
This speed button allows you to play a video at 50% or 75% of its regular speed to decipher better 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 for translation.
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 praise the video they just watched.
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, the videos appear with one missing word in the subtitles. You must use your ears to catch it and select it from multiple-choice options (see image above).
I like that with each round you play, different words are used. That way, you can squeeze everything out of a video there is to learn. (Talking about squeezing… do you know what happens when you squeeze a smurf? You papa smurf! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself 😉)
Fill in the Blank is essentially the same game, but this time you have to type the missing word. No multiple-choice options here. You’re out in the wild (well… almost).
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 Speed and Replay buttons at your disposal.
Both work well.
I’m especially surprised at the speed button. Usually, when language apps have an option to slow down the audio, the quality of the 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.
Yabla is mostly an input tool. That means that until recently, there weren’t any speaking exercises.
That has changed since Yabla released a game called Speak.
Speak takes the segments of a video and makes you actually speak them. It then rates your pronunciation. If all is good, you get three stars.
If not, you get feedback on the mistakes you made. For each word you pronounce, the following ratings are available:
- poorly pronounced
- wrong word
If you pronounce all words correctly, you get the aforementioned three stars, and no feedback is given.
Speak is still in beta and is only available for new videos.
Recall is a simple game where you see a screenshot of a video segment coupled with a translation in English.
Remembering what was said in the segment and typing it in the box. Yabla calls it “reverse translation.”
Recall is nothing earth-shattering, but it’s a nice game to test your memory.
Comprehension (the big picture) is an awesome Yabla game.
It tests your comprehension of a video. Not your understanding of individual words or grammar, but of the actual content, i.e., what’s the video about?
As I was just watching a video on the Otavalo market in Ecuador, Yabla is asking me all kinds of questions about it.
The answers, of course, can be found in the video. But only if my comprehension is up to deciphering it.
Comprehension is not available for all videos yet, but all new videos do include it.
Not all Yabla games are great, though.
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 save 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 in 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.
Warmup and Workout
Yabla’s games and activities fall under two categories: Warmup and Workout.
The Warmup consists of the following activities and games:
- Watch the video
- Vocabulary Review
- Multiple Choice
- Fill in the Blank
That means that during the Warmup, you engage by watching the video and playing some of the “easier” games.
Next up is the Workout, which includes:
- Speak (if available)
- Comprehension (if available)
The Workout features the “harder” games.
All the games combined allow you to attack a video’s content from all angles. And as long as you can resist the temptation to jump from video to video, Yabla can take you places other apps can’t.
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.
Yabla offers 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. The trial is only available to new users.
Get a taste of what Yabla offers without purchasing a subscription
Check out the free demo videos below:
Yabla’s main competitor is FluentU.
For me, FluentU doesn’t reach Yabla’s heights, and it’s also more expensive than Yabla.
But if you like to switch languages, then FluentU is worth considering as all their languages are included in a single subsciption.
However, Yabla’s video library is much more engaging. Their TV series are a strong motivating force that can help you learn a language.
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 – $75/year or $140/lifetime).
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 those apps, so if you can’t learn your target language with those tools… then 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.
Its games allow you to dissect a videos’ content like no other app, and all videos feature native speakers.
And though Yabla may not be the best choice for absolute beginners…
..it is one of my favorite language learning tools.
It’s been a pleasure reviewing it and then re-reviewing it and then re-re-reviewing it.
I’m already looking forward to the re-re-re-review. 😉