Lingopie – like Netflix, but more!

Lingopie – like Netflix, but more!

Who doesn’t love Netflix? Like so many others, so do I, but, like so many others, I also love languages.

This is where Lingopie has seen a gap in the market and grabbed it, in a super fun and easy-to-use way. In fact, almost addictively, that I had to actively try not to get so into it, in order to still have time to write this review!

First things first. What is Lingopie and what sets it apart?

Lingopie is a platform of different media and pop culture. What this means is that it’s a platform with TV series, films, music videos and podcasts that have been made interactive to any degree you please. And all of these, even if they aren’t necessarily the same as famous shows you might find abroad (such as ‘Tatort’ in Germany), they are, crucially, still shows for native people. They are not media for language learners. This is important in my opinion, because you can then come up against language that is used in the real world, in context and spoken at speed (although, as we’ll see, you can control this to suit your level). And as far as I know, something like doesn’t exist.

Lingopie currently offers 8 languages, having begun first with Spanish: French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, and Japanese. And there are two versions – one for adults, and one for kids, which is great if you want to start them young, and they won’t even realise they’re learning! More than that, the experts at Lingopie think that it’s a more intuitive way to learn Spanish, which will lead to greater retention.

There are many features and games, which I will explain in a bit. And it’s available for your mobile phone and desktop computer/laptop, which means you can engage whilst on the road as well as at home. In fact, to make things even cushier for you at home, the Lingopie team have come up with a feature they call ‘casting’, which basically amounts to being able to transfer content from your phone or computer to your TV via Chromecast and Airplay. So, no need to feel guilty about being a coach potato anymore; sit back and watch your favourite Japanese anime on the big screen, all whilst learning!

lingopie mobile interface

So, how is it different from watching a series, like the hugely popular ‘Call my Agent!’ French series, on Netflix with subtitles? Very different! Firstly, it’s not passive. And here we come to some of the features that help make it active.

There are many ‘video player’ features, in other words, features that you can use whilst watching a video, be that TV, film or music. You can slow down or speed up how fast the narrator is speaking. You can opt for ‘dual subtitles’, in the language you’re learning and your native language, or for ‘Mashup’, which mixes learning language and native language by only translating one or two of the learning language, or you can go completely ‘interactive’ and just have subtitles in the language you’re learning but if you hover on a word you don’t know, the translation will appear above it.

I especially enjoyed this last interactive feature, which is good for double-checking a rarer word or learning a new one without stopping the natural flow of the watching experience. Lingopie can help you focus on certain words to learn too, if you would rather, by showing you a list of ‘words to learn’ – i.e. a list of highlighted words recommended to learn – on the right side of your screen before the video starts.

Other ‘video player’ features include the ‘speak sentence’ feature, when you can listen to a native speaker say the word or phrase you want to hear at the click of a button. Or you can loop a sentence, so the narrator keeps repeating it, if it’s a particularly hard one to grasp. There is also an on-screen transcription to the side, should you want to follow that as well, and one neat thing I noticed with the side transcription was that I found it easier to skip back to certain sentences by clicking to the left of the sentence. Of course, you can just use the normal rewind button, or even a special button that takes you back to the previous sentence, but I found it easy to scroll through the sentences in the side transcription to move to different parts of the video.

Another feature I think is great for language learners is the ‘say it’ feature. With this feature, you can record yourself saying a phrase of your choice, wait for the judges to rate it, and play the recording back to hear yourself say it. This way you can compare yourself with the native speaker, and almost like being in the same room together! In fact, it reminded me of when I studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris one summer, and we had elocution lessons, where we had to repeat what a native speaker was saying. The Sorbonne pride themselves in this, which hasn’t appeared in any other immersive language school I’ve been to, in any other country for any other language (because they followed other, equally successful, learning models), until now! With Lingopie, you’re basically offered the same self-directed elocution lessons right from your own home.

On top of the ‘video player’ features though, Lingopie offers many other features, such as your personal ‘words list’. This is all the words you didn’t know that you clicked for translations of, and their translations, all in one place. Moreover, even though they are all in one place, you can still easily see which episode, for instance if you’re watching a series, you first encountered that word, which is great if you want to go back and see that word in its original context. Initially, I added a word to my words list by accident, and couldn’t delete it, which I found a little frustrating, but then I realised, of course, Lingopie have included a delete function – in fact two delete functions in two different places! This shows how easy it is to use Lingopie even without reading instructions, as this was the most difficult thing for me to achieve on the site, and even that, was achievable.

These words lists can then be used in other fun ways, namely as flashcards that you can review again and again, ‘word master’, or ‘pop quiz’. The latter two are fun games that you can play to check you’ve learnt the words on your words list. ‘Word master’ is a matching game, where you match the word with its translation. While ‘pop quiz’ is a multiple-choice quiz where you must choose the right translations for the words in your words list. All are enjoyable, and even if you play one of these for 2 minutes a day, you’re learning.

Other Lingopie features include private lessons with real expert teachers! This is also something that sets Lingopie apart from many online self-directed learning devices. It isn’t, however, included in the common paid subscriptions – monthly, yearly or 4+ users for the price of 1. But you can subscribe to a ‘monthly private lessons’ plan to get custom tailored language advice. This is great, and though I haven’t used it, I assume would be a good addition to consolidate your other learning on Lingopie. There’s also a forum where you can engage with others from the community, and webinars that are free open classes available to all, as well as a leaderboard where you can see the top 6 or so people and I guess use them as an incentive if you’re the competitive type.

One thing I would have liked to have seen on Lingopie would have been some sort of proficiency guide before choosing a video, to help with the choice. An example of this could be a coloured dot system, which tells users if the programme is easy, medium or difficult. Another way of doing this could be to have tabs. I noticed there was a tab of beginner level videos, but not a tab for intermediate or advanced. And I think it would speed things up if we could immediately see the level of difficulty before beginning. Having said that, maybe the reason Lingopie haven’t done this is because all content is supposedly for natives, i.e. advanced, and you can simplify and slow it down as much as you want. Although there are still some native shows that are harder to get than others, think the news vs a cooking programme. Another thing, of course, is that you need a good internet connection. There might be a way of initially downloading videos and podcasts to later use offline, but I didn’t come across it. I don’t think this impedes anything though, and there’s internet connection pretty much everywhere these days, even in some parts of the jungle!

All in all, I think Lingopie is a super fun way of learning whilst watching videos or listening to podcasts. It’s very easy to fit into your life, since it’s so enjoyable, but also can teach you about the culture you are interested in, even if that is just the top 10 Spanish music hits. They advertise it as one of the best way to learn Spanish. As Lingopie say, it’s an absorption and immersion into real life language through contemporary media, and I’d like to add culture, by engaging all these different senses in a colourful, and I’m going to say it again, fun way!

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