The Ins and Outs of Speechling — Is This App for You?
More and more language-learning apps pop up everyday, but not every one focuses on pronunciation.
Speechling does (it specializes in that, in fact).
Even so, is it actually good? Here’s what LTL thinks of Speechling.
As of July 2020, Speechling offers English (US and UK), French, Spanish (Latin America and Spain), Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), German, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Korean.
We only tried their Chinese (Simplified) curriculum, although all languages presumably follow similar teaching methods.
What is Speechling?
In short, Speechling is an online educational service, a non-profit based in the U.S.
They have a website, and is available for download on both Android and iOS.
Speechling specializes in online speech tutoring, though they offer a cohesive curriculum in reading and writing as well.
Specifically, their audio recordings are recorded by real people in effort to provide students with a more real education in what languages sound like. (This is elaborated upon more on their White Paper page.)
In summary, their entire curriculum is geared towards speech.
How do I use Speechling?
Speechling’s website is very intuitive and user-friendly — the design makes sense, and it’s also pleasing to the eye.
Their app falls subpar in comparison to the website, but it’s still good and helpful for on-the-go learning.
Furthermore, their curriculum is split into numerous modules from Beginner to Expert.
There are also different foundations such as “Nouns” and “Verbs“, and themes (aka “Phrasebooks”) such as “Asking for Help” and “Weather”.
As its name suggests, Speechling focuses on speech. This is done mainly through “Speechling Conversations”.
For all three options, you get around 10 seconds (this is extended if you get premium) to answer a question, describe an image, or say anything you want.
Within 24 hours, your assigned coach will provide you feedback on where you can improve.
Their curriculum is also centered around speech, and will be elaborated upon later.
Additionally, Speechling has a search option, where users can search up characters or phrases.
Related sentences pop up afterward.
Sentences are spoken in Chinese by both male and female voices; offered in pinyin, Hanzi, and English; and can be recorded by the user for pronunciation comparison and speech coaching.
Given that, “Search” is less of a dictionary and more about the application of vocabulary.
Your progress is visualized in “Skill Tree”, which is broken down into different sections.
Speechling also offers an user guide on their website.
Speechling’s curriculum is presented in their “Toolbox”, and is broken down into five categories:
- Dictation Practice: Type what you hear.
- Listening Practice: Practice your skills.
- Flashcards: Build your vocabulary.
- Multiple Choice Quiz: Test yourself on your progress.
- Fill In The Blank: Learn in context.
Dictation Practice: Type what you hear.
After playing a short audio recording of a Chinese sentence, you type out a transcript of what they said.
Listening Practice: Practice your skills.
Speechling plays a sentence in Chinese and English in order to help you practice your comprehension skills.
You can also record the sentence after to compare your pronunciation and send to your speech coach if you want.
Flashcards: Build your vocabulary.
Speechling plays a Chinese sentence, and underneath is its written form.
“Flashcards” tests if you understood what the audio said, which is translated in English.
In particular, “Flashcards” is broken down into three study modes:
- Speak: You repeat the sentence in Chinese.
- Understand: Select ‘Easy’, ‘Okay’, or ‘Hard’ based off how much you comprehend. The sentence will be recycled later depending on how much you understand.
- Lecture: Speechling plays the sentence in Chinese.
Multiple Choice Quiz: Test yourself on your progress.
Speechling plays a Chinese sentence, and it’s also written out.
You choose the correct English translation; this is essentially the same idea as “Flashcards”, though this time the English counterpart is presented as a multiple choice quiz.
Fill In The Blank: Learn in context.
In this exercise, Speechling presents a partial sentence, and you have to type the character that fits in the blank.
The sentence is also translated into English.
As a side note, I found “Fill In The Blank” to be hardest but most helpful as it requires more reading comprehension than other exercises. There isn’t Chinese pinyin here and because Chinese grammar isn’t always reflected in English grammar, “Fill In The Blank” meant more reading and understanding actual Chinese characters. Which I’m bad at.
Free Or Premium?
Like most apps, Speechling is a freemium service; they offer free learning tools that can be upgraded for access to more.
Unlike many other apps, Speechling’s free tools are actually quite extensive.
Speechling emphasizes their “free” online speech tutoring.
Their website says that even free, students are given “up to 35 coaching sessions per month” (I only got 10).
These coaching sessions are with real teachers who give feedback within 24 hours.
Regardless, users still get full access to their curriculum comprised of flashcards and quizzes without paying.
The main selling point of their premium program, which costs $19.99 per month, is their “unlimited, personal, 1-on-1 coaching”.
For more avid language-learners, 35 sessions per month is not enough.
If you don’t want more than a few coaching lessons per month, then their free version should be enough.
Speechling’s website is well-designed — some educational platforms tend to favor good design over clear explanations of vocabulary, for instance, which is nice to look at but unhelpful for learning a new language.
Speechling ensures that language-learning is still the priority.
Regarding the educational material itself, Speechling is likely better for beginners and intermediate learners, as it seems to be geared towards them more.
The more advanced your language ability becomes, the more likely you’ll need more personalized teaching.
Speechling offers this to some degree, but not enough.
Another key point you should keep in mind is that most (if not all) language learning apps aren’t meant to build fluency but to build a foundation.
Becoming truly fluent requires a lot more tailored learning that likely extends beyond just the Internet.
Speechling is a good option for building a foundation, and then some.
Overall, I would recommend Speechling. It emphasizes its speech tutoring, and for good reason — many services often lack this, and Speechling understands that pronunciation is frequently a difficult part of learning a new language.
For Chinese especially, mixing up tones can completely change the meaning of sentence.
The caveat of this? You have to wait for your feedback to come in, and you don’t get a notification when it does (at least I didn’t).
Speechling requires some form of commitment where you have to come back a day later and actually check how you did. It understandably doesn’t offer immediate feedback, so it’s easy to record your sentence and forget to come back to it.
For those who want to learn faster, there’s no instantaneous way to check you pronunciation the way some other apps do (albeit with limited accuracy).
It all depends on what you prioritize.
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Speechling – FAQs
What is Speechling? Where do I download it?
Speechling is an online educational service that focuses on pronunciation and speech.
They have a website and Android and iOS apps.
Can I learn Chinese on Speechling?
You can! They offer both Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, as well as multiple other languages.
Is Speechling free?
Speechling is free for the most part; many of their services are accessible without membership.
With premium ($19.99/month), you’d get unlimited speech coaching sessions amongst other things.
Even so, the app is still very usable without premium.
Can I become fluent with Speechling?
You can learn a lot of Chinese with Speechling, but you probably won’t become fluent, if I’m being honest.
Then again, remember that it’s incredibly difficult to become fluent with only an app in the first place.
Most apps are designed to provide people with a foundation (and then some), not gain fluency as it requires a lot more personalized lessons.
Should I download Speechling?
You only get a very limited number of free speech coaching sessions per month, but all in all, Speechling offers a lot even when it’s free.
For those who want to improve their pronunciation and accent, Speechling would be a good choice!
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