Busuu may not be quite as well known as Babbel or Duolingo, but it is definitely one of the bigger names in language learning apps. At first glance, this app may seem like just another regular language learning tool, but it has some hidden depths.
The main focus of Busuu is to teach conversational language skills. Each lesson is designed around a specific subject with words and phrases that you can use in the real world. No more sitting through lesson after lesson about how the cat eats bread or how the dog drinks wine!
This program gives you access to over 1000 lessons in 12 different languages. The lesson format is similar to what you would find on other language learning apps, but the practice exercises are more varied and interesting.
Another standout feature in this program is the social aspect. It allows you to connect with over 100 million other language learners for instant feedback. Not only can they give you feedback, but you can provide feedback for them as well.
There are several other interesting things about this program, but before we go too much further, let’s do a quick review of the pros and cons as well as some of the more basic information you may want to know.
My Likes and Dislikes
Busuu offers a free version as well as a Premium and a Premium Plus version. The premium versions are subscription-based:
1 month of Premium
1 month of Premium Plus
3 months of Premium
$24.99 ($8.33 per month)
3 months of Premium Plus
$28.98 ($9.66 per month)
6 months of Premium
34.92 ($5.82 per month)
6 months of Premium Plus
39.96 ($6.66 per month)
12 months of Premium
$64.92 ($5.41 per month)
12 months of Premium Plus
$68.88 ($5.74 per month)
They also offer one-on-one tutoring sessions with lessons ranging from $11.78 to $15.32 per lesson, depending on how many lessons you purchase in advance.
When I first started looking into Busuu, I thought it sounded a lot like many of the other language apps that I have tried.
The tagline on their website is, “Speak a language in 10 minutes a day.” which made me immediately skeptical. In all fairness, it does not say how many days it will take to become fluent if you only practice 10 minutes a day, but I still don’t care for unrealistic claims like that.
That being said, I decided to go ahead and give them a chance and I am glad I did. Although I don’t think you will get very far only using it only 10 minutes per day, I do think this app offers high-quality content that could help anyone who takes advantage of all it has to offer.
This app is available for Android and iOS and they also have a website. For this review, I used the Android version and did not experience any major issues. The online version is also quite nice for those who prefer to study on their computer.
My first thought upon opening the app was that it was quite attractive. The high definition photos and bright colors on the opening screen make the app seem inviting and exciting, which is always nice when it comes to a learning app.
This is just a minor detail, but I appreciate the lack of a cute animal mascot on this app. Not that I’m against cute mascots, I enjoy using both Lingodeer and Duolingo from time to time. I just found that Busuu’s more professional layout makes it feel more like a learning tool than a game. This is a subtle, but pleasant, touch for those of us who want to be a bit more serious about language learning.
Signing Up For Busuu
The signup process is very simple. You can create a new account or you can sign in using your existing Facebook or Google account. I chose to signup with an existing account, so setup took less than a minute.
After creating an account, you’ll be asked what language you would like to learn and why you’re learning it. There are twelve languages to choose from, including all of the common options such as English, French, and Spanish.
You’ll then be asked if you’re a beginner or if you already know some of your target languages. If you already know some of the basics, you can take a 5 to 15-minute placement test to determine what learning level you should start with.
There are four levels, A1, A2, B1, and B2. These range from beginner to intermediate, making Busuu a good choice for language learners who are just beginning their language journey.
After the placement test, you will be given the chance to set up a study plan. This just involves choosing what days of the week you would like to practice and what time of day is best for you. You’ll also have to input how much time you would like to spend practicing each day.
Although this may seem a bit over the top for the initial signup process, I think it’s a great idea. One of the most important keys to language learning is consistency and having a plan from the very beginning can help you stick with it.
During this process, you will also be asked about your language goals. Once you set up your study plan and goals, the app will calculate an approximate finishing date. I found the date to be a bit unrealistic, but still nice. Learning a new language can feel daunting and never-ending, so having that date could be encouraging for some students.
I should mention that the study plan is part of the Premium version, which you can try for free for 7 days before having to purchase a subscription. If you're using the free version you can skip this step.
When you’re finished setting up your profile, you can begin your first lesson right away. If you choose to set up the study plan, it will automatically start the first lesson for you. If you logged in with the free version, you can look through the lessons and choose whichever one you're interested in.
The Lesson Plan For Busuu
The lessons are organized in a logical way, starting with conversational basics and moving up. Some of the expected subjects include: introducing yourself, how to tell someone what you did yesterday, and how to order coffee.
A few of the more interesting lessons in A1 Spanish have titles like, “He’s so good looking” and “What’s in your bag?”. I looked through a few other lesson plans, including German and Italian, and found a few more fun-sounding lessons, like “What color is your bike?” and “What is your family like?”
I found most of the lessons to be interesting and helpful. I like that this app focuses so much on teaching you words and phrases that you’re actually going to use. There are also grammar lessons scattered throughout, so you can learn the structure of the language as you go without it being too overwhelming.
If you chose to take the placement test and you were placed in one of the higher levels, you can still go back and review all the lessons in the earlier sections. This is a handy feature if there is a specific subject that you would like to brush up on.
You can also skip around in the section that you’re currently working on, although you probably won’t want to. The lessons build on each other, so it’s best if you go in order.
Busuu Lesson Structure
The lesson structure is fairly basic but enjoyable. For many of the lessons, you will begin by listening to a few audio clips or watching some short videos. These clips contain the new words or concepts that you’re supposed to memorize for that lesson.
The videos for the beginner lessons are a little awkward, but that is to be expected when the dialog can only contain words that a beginner would understand. All of the media on the app is high-quality. The videos are well-made and the audio is great.
Once you’ve gone over the new words, you will then be asked a variety of questions based on what you have just learned. The exercise format will be familiar to anyone who has tried any of the other more popular language apps, although there is a bit more variety to the exercises.
You’ll get to do things like multiple-choice fill in the blanks, arranging words to create sentences, and writing out the missing word or words. There are also some speaking activities where you get to experience the joys of voice recognition software.
The voice recognition feature did seem to pick up my voice fairly well, but it was a bit touchy. Thankfully, you can skip these activities without it hindering your progress.
Some of the exercises are a bit more interesting, like matching words to their opposites or marking how you would say something if you were a man or a woman. Each lesson includes just a few questions so it doesn't get too repetitive.
I found that a few of the questions were a bit too easy, but sometimes it’s nice to have a few easy questions thrown in, just to remind you of how much you already know.
One thing that this app really has going for it is the amount of listening practice it provides. There are audio clips for every word or phrase that you’re meant to learn and all of the recordings are from native speakers. Listening to native speakers is always better than robotic recordings.
One of the listening activities that I found particularly useful is the conversation simulations. Some of the lessons will include a recorded conversation that contains all the words and concepts from that lesson.
You’ll get to listen to the full conversation and then do a short quiz about it. I like this format because it gives learners the chance to hear new words in a normal context which makes them easier to remember. It also tests your comprehension skills and your ability to extrapolate and infer meaning which is another key element in language learning.
Speaking of helpful recordings, this app also includes the option to record yourself speaking your target language. This is by far one of the best features of this app.
At the end of some of the longer lessons, you’re given the chance to write or record your answer to an open-ended question. Your answer is then submitted to the Busuu learning community so that other users can give you feedback about it.
I found that many of the responses were quick and encouraging. I did a few recordings and within minutes I had received multiple responses. I also left feedback for a couple of other users who were trying to learn English. I enjoyed being able to help others while also enhancing my learning experience.
This feature is great for a couple of reasons other than the fact that it's just fun. Firstly, the open-ended questions force you to think in your target language. This isn’t just you reading something off the screen and recording it. You have to think of the answer and how you would say it in your new language.
Secondly, receiving feedback from native speakers is very important when it comes to perfecting your pronunciation. Most apps rely solely on voice recognition software for speaking practice, which is mediocre at best. Although doing some one-on-one tutoring is the best way to work on your pronunciation, this feature provides a slightly less intimidating way to experience feedback from real people.
Overall, I found the lessons to be useful and well put together. They are a little lacking in explanations, which I will discuss in a bit more detail in the Drawbacks section, but I found the format to be entertaining and easy to follow.
Exploring The Busuu App
Although the lesson plan makes up the main body of the app, there are a few other features that are worth mentioning.
There are four sections on the app outside of the lesson plan. These include Review, Social, Notifications, and Profile.
Review allows you to look over everything that you have learned so far. As you go through lessons, you can mark words and phrases that you want to add to this section. It is divided into two parts: vocabulary and grammar. This gives you easy access to quick review exercises, so you can brush up on what you already know or just practice for fun.
The Social section is where you can see practice exercises from other users and leave feedback for them. There are written and audio exercises, so you can leave written or recorded corrections and notes. This section also shows your friends list. You can search for friends based on your target language and the languages you already speak. Having friends allows you to get feedback faster.
Notifications contain exactly what you would expect. All of your notifications concerning the feedback you receive and any feedback that you’ve left. This makes it easy to keep track of all your social interactions on Busuu.
The Profile section is also just what it sounds like. This is where you will see your progress, the exercises you’ve submitted, and any corrections you’ve received or given. You can add a profile picture and fill in a short “About Me” section. You will also find the language placement test in this section if you didn’t take it at the beginning.
Extra Learning Materials
Depending on which language you choose, you’ll also have access to a few extra learning materials.
For example, most of the languages will include an additional section of lessons specifically about travel. These lessons focus on the words and phrases that would be the most helpful if you’re planning to vacation in a place where you’ll need your new language.
Some of the languages include other extras as well. For example, the Spanish courses include access to articles and videos from El País as well as a Spanish podcast. The Japanese section has extra lessons about Hiragana and Katakana. The French section has additional lessons specifically for pronunciation.
Your subscription gives you access to every language they offer, making this a great choice for those who are interested in learning multiple languages. The free version offers access to most of the main features, but it’s well worth the cost of a subscription if you choose to go with Premium.
Talk With a Tutor
There is a new section on the website where you can take one-on-one lessons with a tutor. I did not try this function so I can't attest to how well it works. I also could not find much information about their tutoring service, probably because it is such a new feature.
What I can say is that the lessons are not included in your subscription and they are a bit more expensive than those offered through other services, so it's hard to say if it would be worth the extra cost.
Drawbacks Of Busuu
Just like every language learning program, Busuu does have a few drawbacks.
Lack of Explanation
The biggest issue that I had with this program was the lack of explanations in some of the lessons. This happens with a lot of language apps because they are focused on offering quick lessons. They just want to get the words out there so you can start memorizing them without worrying about a bunch of grammar.
I do appreciate that many people dislike long grammar explanations, but we all know that at some point we have to learn at least a little grammar if we are going to speak any language fluently. They could easily relieve a lot of confusion with a little more explanation thrown in there, especially for particularly confusing concepts.
Not A Great Choice For Asian Languages
I have to be honest here and say that Asian languages are not my focus. That being said, I often use this to my advantage when trying new programs.
Whenever I look into a new language service, I will nearly always start with an Asian language because that gives me a good idea of how new language learners will approach the program.
Sadly, my experience with this app was not great. The lack of explanations that I mentioned earlier made it very difficult to even get started. I tried both Chinese and Japanese and had the same problem with both courses.
I think if you had a foundational knowledge of the language, this might not be as much of a challenge, but as someone who does not, I can say I would not recommend this app for beginners who want to learn one of the Asian languages.
No Experience Required
This is not so much an issue with the app as much as an issue with the users, but I think it deserves a mention. You don’t have to prove your fluency in a language to give feedback about it, so I noticed some people giving incorrect corrections.
I understand that this is all part of getting feedback from other language learners instead of just professionals, but I’m afraid that it may lead to misinformation and confusion.
Personally, I enjoyed this feature and I think that it’s a great idea, but I also think it would benefit users if Busuu implemented some kind of monitoring system where these incorrect corrections could be reported and removed.
Random App Issues
Just for the sake of giving a complete and detailed review, I feel I should mention the few tiny issues I had with the app.
Firstly, the voice recognition feature is not great. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has encountered voice recognition software before. It is getting better, but overall the technology just isn’t there yet. Just don’t rely on the regular speaking activities to give you a realistic idea of how good your pronunciation is.
Secondly, I did find the app to be a bit slow. In between lessons, it would pause like it had frozen up but then it would suddenly continue to the next thing. It would only stop for a few seconds, but I could see how this may irritate some users.
Overall, I do not think these drawbacks are deal-breakers, except perhaps if you’re interested in learning one of the Asian languages. If you want to learn any of the other languages they offer, I would say that the benefits of using this program far outweigh the drawbacks.
If you are interested in learning Japanese or Chinese, do not despair, there are some great alternatives that you can try. If you’re a beginner, then Lingodeer will be the app for you. It offers a very similar format and was originally designed for Asian languages, so these courses are much higher quality than what you would find on most other language apps.
Duolingo is another good choice for beginners. Although their Asian language courses are not steller, they offer a lot of other languages and the majority of the material is completely free.
If the social angle is what you’re most interested in, then you may want to look into Tandem or HelloTalk. These are free apps that offer fun ways to connect with other language learners.
Busuu Review: Final Thoughts
Although Busuu’s tagline may be a bit of an exaggeration, I would say that this app is a quality language learning tool that could definitely help language learners to reach fluency faster.
The quick lessons and varied practice exercises make it a good choice for those who are on the go as well as those who have struggled with losing interest in other language programs.
The quality media content offers plenty of opportunities to listen to native speakers which is very beneficial for students of all levels.
The feature that truly sets this app apart from other language learning apps is the social element. Even though some of the feedback isn’t top quality, I found most of it to be helpful and very encouraging.
I would recommend this app to anyone interested in learning the Romance languages. The lessons are well structured and the material is fairly comprehensive. Usually, I wouldn’t recommend using a single app exclusively, but this app has enough content that it could easily be used on its own to achieve a lower intermediate level.
Busuu is a fun program that provides quality content without being too overwhelming. The app itself is well designed and easy to use. Best of all, you can try it for free, so why not? I hope this has encouraged you to continue on in your language learning journey or perhaps even start a new one.