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Find out whether the Busuu app is right for you in this detailed language learning review
Busuu is one of the most popular language learning platforms in the entire world, with over 100 million registered users. Yet despite its popularity, people are often curious as to how effective their language courses truly are for achieving fluency, especially as compared to other apps. In this review, we take a deep dive into the strengths and weaknesses of the Busuu program so you can figure out whether this language app is the right fit for your specific situation, budget, and goals.
Given that this is a detailed review, feel free to use the jump-to links above for quick navigation.
Video Review: Is Busuu Good For Language Learning?
In the above video, team member John provides our thoughts on the Busuu language app, touching on everything from price, to lesson structure, to overall effectiveness. Please continue reading our full written review below for even more detail so you can decide whether this language app is right for you.
Busuu Premium Subscription Options & Cost
Before we discuss the paid options, it should be noted that Busuu does offer a free plan; however, as you might expect, the free plan is extremely limited. When you really break it down, the free plan only includes vocabulary flashcards and access to five lessons.
As a result, most people opt for the Busuu Premium plan, which costs anywhere from $7 to $14 per month, depending on whether you sign up for the 1-month, 6-month, or 1-year option.
Personally, for the cost, I think the premium plans are totally worth it. The Premium Plus plan unlocks all of Busuu’s content and features across their 10+ languages.
These extra features include a personalized study plan, grammar lessons, feedback from native speakers, AI-powered review sessions, the ability to download lessons for offline use, and official language tests from McGraw Hill.
Plus, Busuu regularly runs sales and special promotions. In fact, I’ve seen their premium plans discounted by up to 50% before, so chances are you likely won’t end up paying full price. I should also mention that the Busuu premium plans come with a 14-day money back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied.
What The Busuu Lessons Are Like
When you first sign up with Busuu, you can either start at the beginning of the course, or take a short placement test if you already have a little knowledge of the language you’ll be learning. You then select the level of fluency you want to achieve for your target language, and what days and times work best for you to learn.
From there, you’ll land on the Busuu dashboard, which in my opinion, is organized and easy to use. The dashboard lays out all your lessons in a linear, path-like order, as well as the various tools included with your subscription on the top navigation bar.
From there, it’s time to jump in and start learning. Each lesson takes about 5 minutes to complete on average and is comprised of several individual exercises, all of which cover the same topic or target words.
For example, one of the early lessons in the German program covers greeting people formally.
Each lesson uses a combination of images and recorded audio, as well as a variety of hands-on drills, exercises and quizzes that span listening, reading, writing and speaking to teach.
These drills include fill-in-the-blanks, multiple-choice questions, matching pairs, sentence puzzles, and watching videos of native speakers converse. In some cases, you’ll even record yourself answering a question or responding to a prompt, and then the recording gets sent to the Busuu community for feedback.
Additionally, every few lessons you’re prompted to review the words and phrases you’ve learned up to that point by utilizing the company’s AI-powered technology (more on this later). Overall, it’s just a very fast moving, blended approach, which I really appreciate.
I love how Busuu presents the same material in a variety of different ways and really forces you to interact with the content. As a result, you really don’t get bored while learning. Busuu does a great job keeping you engaged.
What Our Team Likes About Busuu
Now that we’ve covered subscription options, pricing and what the lessons are all about, let’s dive into the strengths of the Busuu language program.
Lessons Incorporate Videos of Native Speakers
I really appreciate that the Busuu lessons incorporate videos of native speakers (somewhat similar to Memrise). This is pretty rare in the language learning industry.
The vast majority of other companies’ lessons simply consist of recorded audio, text and and images; however, with the Busuu program, you actually get the chance to see locals speak the language.
I realize some of you out there might be rolling your eyes at this point, but I have to say that video adds a whole new dimension. You can visually see the person speaking and pick up on their body language, hand gestures and facial expressions, which in my opinion, is a big deal.
I think the nonverbal aspects of communication really help you pick up the language quicker. Therefore, I have to give Busuu credit for going the extra mile and incorporating video clips into their lessons.
Helpful Grammar Instruction
Busuu does a great job integrating grammar instruction and cultural insights into their courses. About every three to four lessons, the topic will focus strictly on an important grammar principle or rule.
For example, the topic might be definite articles, possessive adjectives, demonstrative pronouns, or the present tense of irregular verbs.
Plus, the nice thing with Busuu is that the lessons don’t bog you down with long, dense explanations. In other words, it’s not a textbook-style lesson. Rather, Busuu typically just provides a simple two- to three-sentence explanation, followed by a couple clear cut examples, and several drills and exercises to ensure you grasp the concept.
Overall, it’s just a very streamlined and efficient way of delivering grammar content. Busuu definitely deserves two thumbs up in this department.
Personalized Review Sessions
I like that Busuu uses artificial intelligence to form personalized review sessions for each user. Essentially, using results from the drills and quizzes within lessons, the company’s algorithm calculates each learner’s unique vocabulary strengths and weaknesses.
That way, when you’re prompted to review every few lessons, you know you’re being presented with the words and concepts you need the most help with.
The algorithm also uses a decay metric and spaced repetition framework to ensure you’re reviewing the right vocabulary at the right time in order to move words and phrases from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
Overall, it’s a very impressive review system. It’s clear Busuu has invested serious resources developing this technology and they consistently roll out updates to make it even smarter.
Access To The Busuu Community
The community Busuu has built among its user base is truly impressive. Not only is it super easy to make new friends and connect with other learners, but I also love the feedback system Busuu has implemented into their program.
As you complete lessons, some of your practice exercises (whether written or spoken), will be sent to the Busuu community for feedback. For example, early in one of my German lessons, I was asked to verbally respond to the prompt, “Hallo, wie geht’s?” (or in other words, “Hello, how are you?”).
I recorded myself answering the question and then within an hour, two fluent German speakers responded and gave me feedback regarding my answer and pronunciation.
Honestly, I was shocked at how quickly other users actually review your work. All in all, I was just super impressed with the supportive community Busuu has built and how willing other users are to help you along in your language learning.
Lastly, I like that Busuu offers users access to private tutoring sessions and live group lessons. Now to be clear, these tutoring sessions and live lessons are not part of the Busuu premium plans.
You do have to pay extra and it can get a little pricey, but still, if you can afford it and you’re serious about learning a new language, I think these services can be really valuable.
The live group lessons range from beginner to advanced and cover all sorts of different topics. For example, I sat in on one of the intermediate live lessons that covered different types of music and found it super interesting.
For the private tutoring, you can either choose a custom session where you pretty much set the agenda, or a structured session where the tutor sets the agenda based on Busuu curriculum and what level you’re currently at (sort of like how Rosetta Stone does it).
I’m a big fan of these live class options. I think they’re a great way to dive deeper into specific subjects, interact with your peers, and learn from experienced teachers.
What Our Team Dislikes About Busuu
Let’s turn the tables now and cover some of the weak points our team noticed during our evaluation of the Busuu language program.
Limited Language Offerings
One of the big complaints with Busuu is that they only offer courses for 13 languages. This is far less than other competitors in the marketplace. For example, Pimsleur covers over 50 different languages.
This means if you’re looking to learn Korean, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch or a number of other languages, then unfortunately, Busuu might not be the answer. Be sure to check the full list of languages that Busuu covers before enrolling.
Free Account Is Limited
Although I do appreciate that Busuu offers a free version, there are limitations (Duolingo is the same way). With the free account, you really only get access to vocabulary flashcards and a limited number of lessons.
In other words, there’s no grammar instruction, AI-powered review sessions, personalized study plans, or feedback from the Busuu community.
Therefore, for people who are serious about learning a new language, you’ll likely want to upgrade to one of the premium plans, but luckily, those are still pretty affordable in the grand scheme of things.
Lessons Lack Conversational Practice
Given that the majority of lessons are made up of quick-hit drills like fill-in-the-blanks, sentence puzzles, and matching pairs, the Busuu program is not ideal for developing your speaking and conversational skills.
Yes, you will record yourself verbally answering questions and responding to prompts from time to time, and you will receive feedback from native speakers on your pronunciation, but really these exercises are just made up of short phrases or sentences.
In other words, there’s no room for spontaneous language usage that simulates real conversations.
Accordingly, I definitely think there are better options out there to practice your speaking skills and expand your conversational abilities. Pimsleur and Rocket Languages are two of my favorites in that respect.
Their lessons do a really good job of getting you to use the target language under pressure just as you would in real-life situations.
Feedback Can Vary
I know I talked about how I like the community feedback feature earlier, but I do have to say that sometimes the feedback you receive on your practice exercises can vary or be difficult to understand.
After all, the folks who are correcting your work are fluent in your target language, not necessarily English (and they are not trained tutors by any means either).
Therefore, occasionally you will see different corrections from different people, so just keep that mind.
Overall, I’m still a fan of the feedback feature. I think there are definitely more positives than negatives, but there will be a small percentage of feedback that might not be 100% accurate or easy to understand.
Limited Features For Some Languages
Lastly, I should mention that it seems like the quality of courses can vary by language. For example, I tested Busuu’s Spanish and German courses, which I found to be very effective and robust.
However, from what I’ve read on different forums and user reviews, the Busuu Chinese course is more limited. There are no videos, the audio can be grainy at times, and there is no community feedback on your practice exercises containing writing.
Again, I didn’t test the Busuu Chinese course personally, but it might be something to keep in mind if Chinese or another difficult language is your what you’re trying to learn.
Final Verdict: Busuu Review
All in all, I’m generally a fan of Busuu. I think their language courses are on par with Duolingo’s. I like that their lessons integrate videos of native speakers, their grammar instruction is top-notch, the AI-powered review sessions are impressive, and the feedback from the Busuu community can be helpful. Not to mention, Busuu also offers tutoring and group lessons in case you need a little extra boost.
Honestly, my only big complaints with Busuu are the limited language choices, the lack of conversational practice, and the lack of speech recognition technology that provides immediate feedback. Thus, all things considered, I think Busuu is a good choice for learning a new language.
Busuu is language learning platform available on web, iOS and Android. Users can learn up to 14 different languages using a variety of drills, videos, lessons, and more.
How much does Busuu cost?
Busuu offers a free version, but it is somewhat limited. The Busuu Premium plans, which unlock all content and features, cost anywhere from $7 to $14 per month.
What languages does Busuu have?
Busuu offers courses for 14 different languages. This includes English, German, Dutch, French, Italian, Turkish, Polish, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese (in other words, the most widely-spoken languages in the world).
Busuu free vs premium, is the upgrade worth it?
Yes, in my opinion, it’s 100% worth it to upgrade from Busuu free to premium. The free version is highly limited, with restrictions on lessons and auxiliary features. I couldn’t use it on a long term basis like I could Duolingo’s. Luckily, Busuu’s paid premium subscription isn’t too costly.