My review of Yabla Languages

↓ Summary     → En español

Note: This review has affiliate links to the Yabla website. That means that if you enter Yabla following one of those links, and you buy a subscription, I earn a commission.


Hello fellow language learner, and welcome to this review of Yabla Languages. In a nutshell, Yabla is an online language learning service that offers:
  • A wide selection of videos in different languages, about different topics.
  • An online video player equipped with several features that help you "dissect" the videos you watch, caption-by-caption, in order to effectively use them as your language learning material.
  • A mode that allows you to make flashcard decks out of the new words you learn from the videos.
  • And a lessons section for some of the offered languages.
Yabla is divided in different sub-sites according for the language you want to learn. The "English as a second language" section of Yabla has 1100+ videos in total. From those 1100+ videos:
  • 1100+ have subtitles in French
  • 1100+ have subtitles in German
  • 900+ have subtitles in Spanish
  • 1000+ have subtitles in Italian
  • 1100+ have subtitles in Portuguese
Each video also has its respective subtitles in English too. The previous collections of subtitles in other languages are meant to help native speakers who speak those languages use Yabla to learn English more easily and effectively.

Yabla also offers video-libraries in Chinese, Italian, Spanish, German and French.

If you want to learn/improve your English, or you want to learn any of the languages previously mentioned, then Yabla can be a very helpful addition to your language learning arsenal... depending on what your priorities in the language are, and if you actually end up enjoying using this particular service.

My intention with this brief review is to familiarize yourself with how Yabla works, and help you decide if a service like this is truly for you or not. Also, Yabla offers a mini-catalog of free demo videos for each language they offer, as well as sample flashcard sets so you can test their flashcard system. So, if you want, you can click on any of the links at the end of this page to open up a Yabla site, and test the features of the site at the same time you read this review.

Sounds good? Then let's get started!


Dissecting the Yabla Video Player


Once you get your Yabla subscription and account for the language of your choice you can start browsing their video selection by different means (categories, difficulty level, newest, search, etc.). Once you find a video you would like to watch, click on it and it will open up the Yabla player in another tab.

Within this online video player you will find:

1) The Title of the video, its Country of origin and the Difficulty Level for it, which goes from 1 TV to 5 TVs.

2) The Progress Bar... just like in any other online video player. Once you click on a video it will start playing automatically after the blue loading bar reaches a mark within the gray portion of the bar.

3) The Caption Counter, which indicates the caption the video is currently in. As you saw in the intro video, each Yabla video is divided by captions/subtitles. You can read the current caption in your target language, and in your native language, in the Caption Boxes below the caption counter. You can also hide/show either of those two caption boxes.

Also, by clicking on any word within these two boxes, the dictionary panel at the right side of the player will show you translations and definitions for that word you clicked on.

4) The Back button rewinds the caption you are currently in, and let's you go back one more caption each consequent time you press it. You can do the same by pressing the Left Arrow on your keyboard.

5) Play/Pause button: Pretty straightforward. You can also activate this button using the Spacebar.

6) The Skip button let's you skip one caption ahead. You can also do this with the Right Arrow on your keyboard.

7) By pressing the Loop button the current caption will be played again, and again, and again... until you press the button again.

8) By pressing the Slow button, the video and audio will start playing slower (by a factor of 2, I think). You can also activate this feature with the Down Arrow on your keyboard.

9) In the Dictionary Panel you can find two boxes, where you can look up translations for a word in your target language, and your native language, respectively.

This dictionary panel pulls results from several dictionaries. For instance, within the English as a second language sub-site in Spanish (ingles.yabla.com), the English > Spanish search box returns results from the following dictionaries:

Babylon English-Spanish
English-Spanish by Jaime Aguirre
An English-Spanish Dictionary (Granada University, Spain), 10.11
Advanced English-Spanish VOX

One thing I don't like about these particular English > Spanish dictionaries is that none of them show IPA transcripts for the English words you look for. The VOX dictionary tries to show a full IPA translation of each word, but shows an "X" box (no, not the console... lol) instead of IPA characters like this one and this one. The popular WordReference dictionary shows the IPA transcription for most English words... so I wonder why the Yabla Player doesn't connect to the API of this dictionary too.

And finally, we have one more thing within the player to check out...


The Listening Game


By pressing the blue Game button you will access a listening game based on the video you are currently watching.

In this game you will have to listen carefully to a small portion of the video. You will be given the respective caption of that portion of the video, with a missing word (a.k.a a "cloze"). Your goal is to identify the missing word from just listening to the video, then type the word in the box on the right, and then hit "Present". You can listen to the portion of the video as many times as you want by clicking on the "Listen Again" button.

Round 1 of the game consists of repeating this process 10 times for different portions of the video, where you will have to indentify a different word each time. Every time you answer correctly you will receive 10 points. If you answer incorrectly you will be given the right answer, and proceed to the next portion. After the 10th portion of the video Round 2 of the game will start, where the portions you answered incorrectly will be repeated. You will receive 3 points for each correct answer in this final round.

Once the game is over your final score will be stored in your account... so try to beat it next time!


Flashcard System


Another feature offered by Yabla is a flashcard system you can use to review vocabulary from the videos you've already watched.

From what I understand, once you subscribe to their service, every time you are watching a video and click a word in your target language (within the respective caption box), that word will be stored in your personal flashcard deck. Then, after saving a number of words you can start reviewing them using the flashcard mode.

This is what the reviewing interface looks like (from the sub-site ingles.yabla.com).

On the top-left side of the interface you will find the current word in your target language that you have to review. In this example, I'm a native Spanish speaker learning English as a second language, and I'm being tested on what the word "Allow" means. Below the word you will find a speaker button, which will give you the pronunciation of the word if you press it.

Above the blue box with the word you will find an option to return to your flashcard set list, an option to turn Auto-play ON and OFF, and a color-coded progress indicator.

Below the blue box with the foreign word you will find the I think I know it and I don't know it buttons. If you think you know what the word means, then click the respective button. If you are really not sure, or if you just can't remember, press the other button.

You will also find three yellow boxes within the interface. Their contents are hidden by default, and will only be shown if you hover your mouse over them and click on them, or if you press the I think I know it or I don't know it buttons. These boxes are:

~ The Definition box on the top-right side, which will show you the definition/translation of the foreign word before answering. I honestly don't see why this box is accessible before answering. You should only check out this box if you are going to answer I don't know it... and even then, the definition box shows you its content after pressing the button anyways, so I don't see the point.

Answering that you know the meaning of the word... right after looking at the meaning of the word within the definition box... well, completely misses the point of the exercise. So, I suggest you ignore this box while you try to answer. After answering, use it to check if your answer was correct or not, of course.

~ Then we have the Caption box below the answer buttons. This box contains the precise caption (in your target language) where the foreign word you are reviewing comes from. I encourage you to look at this box before answering, so you can be sure of the context of the word, and thus its correct meaning for that context.

~ At the right side of this box you will find the Translation box, which contains the translation in your native language (for this example the native language would be Spanish) for the caption in the Caption box.

~ Finally, below everything else, you will find a grayish box that tells you how many words you've answered correctly/incorrectly within your current review session, as well as the name of the flashcard set you are currently using. You will also find the Video Context section in there, which gives you information about the video where the word you are currently reviewing (and the respective caption) comes from.


So, in this example, if I think I know what the word "Allow" means, I click the respective button, and then all the yellow boxes will show me their content. Then the program will ask if the meaning I had in mind was correct. I answer "Yes" if what I had in mind matches with the content within the yellow boxes, or "No" otherwise.

Then, we just proceed to the next word, and keep going until we cover all the words within the flashcard set. The system will re-test you on words you failed every three words. Also, it looks like the system loops and tests you from the very first word all over again once you answer the last word... so, just use the "Return to list" option to get out of there, or go to the videos catalog or whatever.


My thoughts - Yabla's video catalog and video player


Let's get something out of the way first: As I mentioned in the beginning, some languages within Yabla have a Lessons section, where you can learn about the grammar of the language and what not... but personally, I don't care at all about the Lessons section. If you like following lesson plans and learning about the grammar of your target language, then you might find that feature interesting and somewhat useful... but otherwise, just ignore it. You don't need it.


Now, let's talk about Yabla's video catalog:

As you saw before, Yabla's video selection isn't small at all... but compared to the behemoth that is YouTube plus other video sites (like Dailymotion and Vimeo), Yabla would be like a single magazine issue vs the Library of Congress. So, not being able to find content within Yabla that is of actual interest to you is something I would worry about.

The up-side of Yabla's videos is that all of them are transcribed and translated. Meanwhile, YouTube is a universe of free videos in many languages, but very few of those videos are manually transcribed... and YouTube's automatic captioner is not trustworthy.

Something I think would be really cool would be to have a multi-lingual community within Yabla, compromised to transcribing and translating YouTube(/Dailymotion/Vimeo/etc.) videos into different languages, so that all members can have access to much more content for their learning... kind of what language learners do at sites like Lang-8.com and Rhinospike.com. I'll pass this suggestion to Yabla's staff, but whether they end up implementing something like this or not, we have Yabla's official transcribers and translators to provide content for the site, of course.

As I mentioned before, not finding fun and interesting content within Yabla's catalog is something that worries me, and not only because of the number of videos offered, but because of the kind of content you usually see in language learning services and media... which tends to be too generalized, aseptic and politically correct.

I checked Yabla's English as a second language demo videos, and I must say that I really liked them. Some videos are pretty neutral, like In New York with Caralie - The Empire State Building and Giving directions - with Lauren and Matt, which are the kind of videos you would expect to find in language learning software like Tell Me More. Not boring, but not terribly exciting either.

I enjoyed Katie Melua's song Nine Million Bicycles... but what really took me by surprise was the video by the comedy band Flight of the Conchords, called Business Time. I never expected to find something like that in a language learning website... and it was awesome!! One of the funniest things I've ever seen. I recommend you check it out on YouTube so you see what I mean :D

The few videos I watched were good (specially the last one!), but I can't talk for all of the videos within Yabla. Thus, I cannot guarantee that you will find content of your interest within the service. The only way you can know if there's enough interesting content within Yabla to keep you using the service for the long term is to buy a subscription, browse Yabla's catalog and watch as many videos as possible.

The good news is that Yabla offers a 7-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the service, which would give you about a week to browse as much content within Yabla as you can to see if it entices you or not, and then ask for a refund before the money-back period is over. Or you could buy the US$9.95 monthly subscription and use Yabla for one month. Then, at the end of the month you decide if you cancel the service or keep using it.

Something I noticed about the videos is that some are available for download... but not all of them. Only a few videos in the entire catalog are download-able. This is a crutch, because some times you want to load videos in your media player and watch/listen to them on the go, without having to be connected to the Internet to watch/listen to them. A workaround would be to search for the video title on YouTube and see if you can find the same video there. If you find it, you can then use an online tool like KeepVid or KeepTube to download it in .mp4 or .mp3 format, and then store it in your media player.


Now, regarding Yabla's video player... in short, I love it! I think that a media player that lets you dissect your content, caption-by-caption, is one of the best language learning tools out there you could get your hands on.

I wish there was a stand-alone version of this player, which you can feed with your own videos and transcripts. Or even better: like I mentioned above, I would love to see, in the future, a multi-lingual user community feeding YouTube videos and their own transcriptions and translations to the Yabla player, so that all users can get access to much more content for their language learning...

That would be great :D

And I like the game mode within the player too. It's not some amazing example of gamification or anything, but it IS enjoyable enough, I think.


My thoughts - Yabla's flashcard system


And now, about the flashcard system...

I like it, but it could be much better.

What I like about this flashcard system is that it gives you context for each foreign word you review. You can check out the caption where the word occurs by clicking on the Caption button, and you can check the translation of the caption by clicking on the Translation button. Checking these captions before giving an answer helps you remember much easier the true meaning of the word compared to trying to remember the correct meaning of such a word in isolation.

... and no, checking the captions before answering is NOT cheating. Checking the definition before answering is what would be cheating, because the correct definition of the word is what you are trying to recall.

Also, the flashcard system shows you the title (and thumbnail) of the video where the captions come from, which helps you identify even more the context of the corresponding word.

Now, what I don't like about this flashcard system is that it doesn't seem to implement any kind of Spaced Repetition algorithm. Without spaced repetition you don't know the optimal time spans to review each word. This means you will be reviewing some words too early and others too late, which translates into time wasting.

I think it wouldn't be hard at all for Yabla's staff to at least implement a Leitner System for their flashcard system. A more sophisticated spaced repetition algorithm, like Anki's SM2 algorithm would be even better... but oh well.


Yabla's subscription prices and Final Thoughts


Here are Yabla's payment options:
  • Monthly Subscription: US$9.95 / Month
  • Semester Subscription: US$54.95 / Semester
  • Yearly Subscription: US$99.95 / Year
That means that if you decide to go for the yearly subscription, that would cost you about US$8.32 / Month. Personally, I think that if you commit to using the service everyday, or almost everyday, then the price is very fair.

As payment options Yabla offers Credit Card (Master Card, Visa, Amex or Discover) and something called a Purchase Order (used primarily for big groups of people, like classes). They also accept Paypal.


Now... should you pay for this service at all? Do I recommend it or not? This is what I think:

If you like to use native content to learn your target language (like TV shows, movies, videos, etc.), and if your target language is featured as a Yabla sub-site, then I suggest that you first try out the demo videos for that language, and that you get used to dissecting videos with the Yabla player. Also, try some of the sample flashcard sets for your target language.

If after some testing you feel you could use Yabla everyday as part of your language learning, then I suggest you first pay for a monthly membership, and spend the next 7 days watching as many videos from Yabla's catalog as possible. The idea is that you use this time to check out if there is enough interesting content to you within Yabla.

If you've watched a lot of Yabla videos, but you feel most of them are just not fun or interesting enough, then I suggest you ask for a refund and leave it at that. I think you will find enough fun videos within the catalog to keep you busy and entertained for a long time... but if it doesn't happen, then just ask for a refund before the 7 day period.

Alternatively, you could also pay US $9.95 and watch even more videos for a month, in order to make a better decision... but it's very, very important that you find interesting videos within Yabla. Otherwise, you will not feel motivated to use the service frequently (or at all!)... and you might end up paying for a service you are barely using.


There is another thing: If you would rather learn your target language by practicing with natives as frequently as possible, as opposed to just using videos and media as "substitutes", then you probably don't need a service like Yabla. If your main priority in your language learning project is Speaking, and being able to communicate with natives as soon as possible, then I suggest you check out the work of Benny Lewis (The Irish Polyglot) at FluentIn3Months.com

If your priority is learning to understand (Listen and Read) the language in question before being able to produce it, then I think Yabla will do you a LOT of good, specially if you are either a complete newbie or up to upper-intermediate learner in your target language. I think even advanced learners could find Yabla useful... but because of their skills, they have a much easier time finding and using native content for their language learning.


¡Check Yabla!


Well, what do you think? You think Yabla isn't really for you? Or you'd like to try out the service?

If you've decided that you will check out Yabla English, then I invite you to clic on the image or blue button below:


¡Click here to buy Yabla English!


Or if you are interested in learning a language other than English, Yabla offers video libraries for other languages too as I mentioned at the beginning:

I wish you success in your language learning journey! :D


Summary


Yabla Languages is a collection of video-libraries in different languages. All videos contain accurate subtitles in the language they are on. Yabla offers videos in Chinese, Italian, Spanish, German and French.

It also offers videos in English, where more than half of those also include subtitles in Spanish, German, Italian, French and Portuguese to better help native speakers of those languages use this service.

Yabla's video player allows you to analyze each video subtitle-per-subtitle, which is very useful to apply the "deciphering" method to them. You can also slow down each video.

I really like this service, I think it's super useful, and I'm seriously thinking about buying a subscription to Yabla French once I can afford it. As long as you are ok with the video content within Yabla (there are hundreds of videos to choose from), I totally recommend you add this powerful service to your language learning arsenal.

If you want to check out Yabla then click the link below corresponding to the language you want to learn:

Note: The following are affiliate links. If you buy something through any of them, I earn a commission:

Yabla English. Yabla German. Yabla French. Yabla Spanish. Yabla Italian. Yabla Chinese.


Last updated: April 28 of 2016

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