How many language learning apps have you tried?
For me, I think I’m up to about 10. Seriously! Duolingo, Kwiziq, Memrise, French in Action, Netflix (language filters are your friend), LiveLingua.. the list goes on.
There are a ton of resources out there - ranging from free to quite expensive - and each of them has their own niche as to how they promise language success. And just like they all have a different approach, some are more successful than others.
That leads me to the latest app I tried (and, full disclosure, I was not paid for this review or compensated in any way): Chatterbug Streams. The moment I tried this app all I could think was: Yes!
Streams, as the app shorthands itself, is refreshingly simple. Upon logging on, you choose your base language and then the language you want to learn. Their current offerings are French, German and Spanish; I have no idea if they intend to offer more at this point. I chose German, but after a few lessons I started listening to French too (I’ll get to you soon, Spanish!).
Once you’ve made your choices, the app delivers you to a window with various videos listed out; to me, it looks a bit like YouTube’s Recommendations feed. You can either scroll the list and check out the various topic headers such as First Steps, Travel, Culture, etc, or you can go to the search bar and type in something specific like football or Berlin. I found an entire video on home repairs and DIY on the French side, which for me was awesome since I entertain dreams of one day fixing up an old stone home in France and will probably need to say some basic things (like plomberie or électricité) once I finally get there!
Finally, you can filter the videos by skill level; I really like this since the teachers do a very nice job of keeping their videos specific to the level they’re offering.
And speaking of the instructors, that brings us to the heart of why I love this app. Each video, regardless of who’s speaking, is energetic and upbeat without being over the top. Most are under 15 minutes, so unlike TV shows and movies (where my brain starts to drift after about - shocker! - 15 minutes), I’m able to take in a full video and stay engaged throughout. The instructors throw in pics and quizzes, which are displayed under the video in the app, and there’s a chat stream for the live feeds that lets you interact with the teacher and whoever else is watching live. I find that the videos feel live, even when they’re not. Go watch Max on his recent Out and About video as he walks you up to the Berlin Wall and gives you a bit of a history lesson on contemporary Germany and tell me it doesn’t feel like you’re on a private tour of the city!
In the end, I like Chatterbug Streams a great deal and would recommend it to anyone looking to get into a language or looking to improve their listening skills. I like the simplicity, the presentation, and the fact that the videos are the perfect length for my attention span. It ditches all of the gamification of some of the other language apps, and it has a sprinkling of chat without becoming yet another social media app. And all of this is only $2.99/mo, which is a steal in my opinion. If nothing else, you don’t have to sit through ads just to get to the content, and that alone is worth the price. If there was one thing I could change, I would have the app offer some sort of chronological order, especially at the A1 level. It's a little willy-nilly right now in that sense, and having a little structure - especially early on - would feel more reassuring. Other than that, however, the app is definitely worth a look; a week is free under their trial offer, and a month is less than a grande macchiato. So give Chatterbug Streams a try, and let us know if you like it as much as we do!