Editor’s Note: The following Glossika Review has been fully updated on March 4th, 2023.
Getting to grips with any new language is like learning a martial art: you repeat one move over and over again, hundreds of times until it’s eventually burned into your brain and your response becomes automatic.
When picking up a language, the actual learning of new content is the easy part. Once the high of understanding a new grammar pattern subsides, the next step is the grind. Practicing thousands of words and phrases in context, etching them into your brain so you can instinctively utter them accurately when the situation arises.
This is the less-so glorified side of language learning, but an essential component nonetheless. Glossika is one language program that excels in this regard, and also receives a lot of criticism for it’s inevitably dull drilling method. So is Glossika worth it?
Read on to find out in our comprehensive Glossika review.
Glossika Review Overview
“Glossika sorts natural languages by structure and difficulty, delivering memory, pronunciation and fluency skills to language learners between any two languages.” (Source: Glossika homepage)
Glossika focuses heavily on spaced-repetition and memorization. However, unlike many flashcard apps, you are trained to recall full sentences with a strategic range of grammar structures to help you assimilate the grammar rules.
You learn 5 new sentences at a time and then do 5 ‘reps’ of each sentence. A rep consists of listening to the audio clip (of a native speaker), and either writing it out or recording yourself saying it. This learning stage does not follow a sequential order, but a spaced repetition arrangement.
However, the real value of the spaced repetition system is at the review stage. You’re recommended to spend as much time reviewing as you do learning new content, and this is where the real progress happens.
Glossika has a built-in memory bar to tell you when sentences start fading from your memory so you can review them at precisely the right moment, reinforcing what you’ve learnt.
So, Does the Glossika Method Actually Work?
In a word, yes. And many students who’ve completed tens of thousands of reps can testify to its effectiveness, getting tremendous value from it.
Daily practice of the mass immersion method definitely helps with internalising the grammar, syntax, and pronunciation of the language. You can also learn a lot of new vocabulary, though this isn’t the main focus of the program (unlike other platforms, like FluentU and Anki for example).
Listening to a native speaker again and again, and mimicking how they speak does wonders for your speaking skills, and many students comment on how much confidence they’ve gained in only a short period of time using Glossika. Playing your own voice back to you and comparing your own pronunciation with the native speaker makes it glaringly obvious where your errors lie, allowing you to self-correct.
So, it works. But whether it’s right for you is the real question you should be asking. Unfortunately, the method can be rather boring and can easily turn into a daily chore. Though it does track your progress with weekly reports and some pretty nifty graphs, there isn’t much ‘gamification’ like you often see with other popular language programs.
To some, this may come as a relief, allowing you to get to the real meat of the learning without distraction, but some learners will definitely find it tedious. It’s well known that we generally absorb information much more efficiently when we are actively engaged in an activity or topic that we actually enjoy and find interesting.
That’s not to say that this laser-focused approach doesn’t work however, as the enjoyment comes later when you start to see big improvements to your language skills and discover your new-found ability to converse with locals. So, it really just depends upon the person, your motivation, and your specific learning style.
A Quick Walk-through
Upon signing up, you’ll be prompted to choose a language. Here lies the biggest strength of Glossika – they offer a whopping 60+ languages, including a bunch of really rare ones like Georgian, Uzbek and Mongolian. Pretty cool, right?
You can also choose from a massive list of source languages, making it a great tool for ‘laddering’ – for example, learning French to Spanish, Russian to Chinese etc. (perfect for polyglots & language enthusiasts).
After you’ve selected a language, you’ll take a quick comprehension test to find out which level you should start at on the standard CERF framework. The test itself is very simplistic, consisting of less than 10 listening comprehension questions. However, if it grades you incorrectly (like it did to me several times) you can always click ‘start at this level’ and give it a try and come back to it again.
Glossika claims to work for absolute beginners through advanced speakers, though you probably need at least a small base in your new language before starting out. This is because Glossika teaches nothing beyond new sentences. So the ideal student for Glossika would be around the B1 (intermediate) level, having already a basic knowledge of the language.
“Glossika teaches nothing beyond new sentences”
For example, their beginner level (at A1) starts with sentences like ‘that’s impossible’ and ‘his car’s dirty’, which is just too overwhelming for someone with no prior knowledge of the language, especially with no instruction on pronunciation, tones etc.
From your dashboard you can get started learning new content. There’s two training modes: intensive ‘full-practice’ mode or ‘listening-only’ mode. You also have the option to toggle the speaking element on or off. The lessons consist of:
- Typing (repeat what you read & hear)
- Dictation (type what you hear)
- Listening (listen to the audio as many times as you like)
- Recording (record yourself and play it back)
Glossika recommends following their ‘Glossika 4’ daily schedule, which consists of 4 short sessions of either reviewing material or learning new sentences. And that’s all there is to it!
So how does the program stack up as a serious option for learning a new language? Let’s take a closer look at the pros & cons.
The Pros: What We Love About Glossika
Pro 1: Your Subscription Covers All 60+ Languages
Unlike other programs that you pay per language, with Glossika you can try out a massive range of languages, all included in your subscription. This is ideal for anyone who is taking on the monumental task of learning multiple languages at once.
Importantly, it includes less popular languages — often difficult to find in online language programs — such as: Thao, Icelandic, Cebuano, Kazakh, and Uyghur.
In fact, Glossika is determined to support language preservation and therefore offers the following languages free of charge:
- Hakka and Hokkien (Taiwanese)
- Manx and Welsh (UK)
- Wenzhounese (China)
More popular languages like Spanish, French, German etc. are also available in the paid subscription.
Pro 2: Glossika Focuses Heavily on Speaking Skills
In other programs, you might find little in the way of speaking practice unless you find a community of like-minded speakers. However, Glossika makes you repeat each sentence you hear while recording it, training your muscles to get better and better at the pronunciation. This really enhances your confidence when speaking to someone in person.
Pro 3: It’s a Very User-Friendly Concept
After the initial ”wait, is this all?” feeling subsides, you will find that Glossika runs on a very straightforward platform and is incredibly easy-to-use. Your new sentences pop up on the screen and you simply repeat them completing a “rep.” Your “reps” are calculated as you go.
Pro 4: Intuitive Interface
The bilingual sentences (and stressed/IPA texts) are effective as they allow you to absorb the vocabulary and patterns of the new language (i.e. syntax/grammar) without huge effort as they are quite intuitive.
Pro 5: Natural Pace and Intonation
Even if the speed is extremely quick at times, the natural cadence of the language was clear to me when listening to the sentences (with the aid of the text in front of me). This was very useful as vowels are often almost elided when spoken in the manner that native speakers are likely to confront us with.
The Cons: What Glossika Could Improve On
Con 1: Many Translated Sentences - Not All Are Taylor-made For Each Language
Glossika generally uses the same generic root sentences for each language, and so most of the culture-specific information can get lost. It seems like they’ve fallen into the same trap as their more popular twin, Rosetta Stone, by starting from a set of English phrases and building all their various language courses from there.
What you end up with is a bunch of sentences with no real relationship to the target language. This technique breaks down, as mentioned, with a complete loss of cultural nuance, let alone the fact that each language is completely unique in terms of grammar and choice of words. To attribute the same translation for every language is a crude misrepresentation and a fatal error.
In the case of Glossika Russian, seeing non-Russian names for people is a pity as the names vary depending on the case used and I am more likely to be speaking to someone called Igor or Sveta in Russian than Brigitte or Daisuke!
Con 2: Seemingly Random Sentences
Along similar lines, the phrases are not the most useful. The reason for this is that the phrases are chosen for their range of grammar and sentence structures, rather than usage of application. So whilst this does help in the long term, you can find yourself learning some pretty pointless & random phrases. I wonder how often you’ll need to say ‘A scandal involving an oil company is an oil company scandal.’
Con 3: Lack of Explanations/Formal Lessons
Glossika claims that you’ll intuitively figure out the grammar structures, however our experience was not as straightforward. Even at an intermediate level, it’s often necessary to have a separate textbook or language course to look up specific grammar rules and understand certain patterns.
Complete immersion is a nice concept in theory but in practice it’s often easier to simply have some things pointed out & explained to you to aid you in your learning. Some basic grammar boxes (a sentence or two) every so often would make a world of difference.
Con 4: No Voice Recognition Software
Nowadays, many language learning apps utilize voice recognition software to give you instant feedback on your pronunciation. It seems like Glossika have missed a trick with this one – having this as additional input into their AI algorithm would make their SRS that much more powerful.
The alternative is to rely on your own awareness (which is limited in a new language as new sounds are difficult to distinguish). However, this in itself is incredibly useful, and a function that many other language programs lack.
Con 5: No Mobile App* (UPDATE: Now there is an app! :)
Update: In a very welcome change, Glossika now has a great mobile app for iOS. We’ve tested it and think this is a big step in the right direction.
Possibly their biggest pitfall and a potential deal-breaker. With all the major players in the language learning industry having custom-built apps, it’s really a no-brainer. It makes sticking to their 4 session-per-day schedule an almost impossibility, with most people not having access to a PC all the time. The only alternative is to use the website in your app’s browser, but this has its own issues. Firstly, your phone screen must stay in the “awake” mode in order for Glossika to keep working. So, if you step away for a bathroom break or even to write something down, you may need to start over. Additionally, there is no offline version to use when you do not have internet access.
How Long Does the Course Take to Complete?
Of course, this answer depends on how much you spend using Glossika every day, however the Glossika learning guide says:
“We’ve found that the same holds true with language: you need to do lots of reps. You’ll start to feel the effects of fluency coming on when you hit 30,000 reps. You’ll be confidently using the language at around 60,000 reps. And we recommend to keep pushing until you’ve done 90,000 reps.”
Given that the average language course on Glossika involves around 3000 sentences, and that you learn 20 new phrases per day (taking 30-60 mins), then it’ll take roughly 150 days to cover all the phrases. Realistically, you are looking at around a year of consistent use for a decent level of fluency.
Who Should Try Glossika?
Those who should try Glossika include those who:
Who Should NOT Try Glossika?
Those who might not benefit from Glossika include those who:
Glossika vs. Competition
Glossika vs. The DIY Anki Method
Glossika in practice is far from perfect and has many issues that need ironing out, however the concept is brilliant. Many people have tried to emulate the same methodology themselves by creating their own flashcards on Anki (a well known flashcard app that uses spaced-repetition in a similar way to Glossika).
If you are studying a more mainstream language then you might even get lucky and find an audio sentence deck that already exists in the public library in Anki, otherwise you’ll have to painstakingly create them all yourself from scratch.
The benefits of this method is that you can choose phrases that are actually useful to daily life, or base them off common word lists, or your interests. The downside is that it takes time and could get costly if you are paying a native speaker to record all the sentences for you.
Glossika vs. Duolingo
Duolingo is a game-like learning platform that makes language-learning fun. As you advance through the levels, you earn experience (XP) and lingots, which you can use in the Duolingo store. Duolingo is a free program that just recently started offering French and Spanish podcasts for a fee.
Most of the work in Duolingo consists of filling in the blanks, putting words you hear in the order, and translating by typing words in the answer spaces.
Glossika vs. Innovative Languages’ Pod101
Pod101 courses by Innovative Languages claim to be the fastest and most fun way to learn a language. There are multiple resources within the course to guide you on the way to fluency. There is a free account, but you can also upgrade to a variety of paid subscriptions.
Pod101 courses include a structured learning pathway along with other pathways like ordering food, surviving emergencies, and checking into a hotel. Along with video and podcast lessons, you can access a variety of learning tools like voice recording, flashcards and quizzes.
Check out our full review of RussianPod101 to get an idea of what’s available.
Glossika vs. Pimsleur
Pimsleur is similar to Glossika in that it is strictly a listen and repeat learning program. You can try Pimsleur for free for seven days and then you must subscribe to continue learning.
Designed with similar ideas to Glossika, the Pimsleur Method is one that focuses on learning by listening and repeating like you did to learn your native language. It promises to have you speaking conversations in just 90 days with 30 minutes of daily practice. There are no sound grammar or cultural lessons.
Read our review of Pimsleur Spanish to see if it’s for you.
Glossika offers a free seven-day trial, which is a great way to find out if it is right for you. After that, there is a Basic subscription for $16.99 a month and a Pro subscription for $30.99 per month. You can also choose to pay for an entire year upfront to get a discounted rate.
The basic subscription offers you unlimited access to one language of your choice, while the pro subscription gives you access to every language offered by Glossika.
Glossika Referral Scheme
They have a pretty handy referral scheme open to everyone. Refer a friend and you’ll get $10 off and they’ll receive $5 off. You can refer as many people as you like and the $10 off can even carry over into subsequent months.
Discounts & Offers
They often have big discounts around Christmas time and on Black Friday, so check back here around those times if you are looking to purchase an annual membership.
Glossika Review: Conclusion
Overall, we were very happy with what we saw – a solid approach to language learning that works efficiently for an enormous range of languages. Glossika would make a great supplementary resource for listening and speaking practice when added to a more comprehensive course (if you can bear the cost).
We feel it’s best suited for those with at least a low-intermediate understanding of their target language. As a supplementary method for learning a language that you already have some knowledge of or you already speak a cognate language well (family from the same language family like Russian and Ukrainian), we found Glossika to be great.
Personally, I found it was very easy to use and helped me a lot with internalizing grammar patterns and native speed pronunciation. For those who can’t get past the brute force approach, why not try incorporating it into your daily routine by listening to it at the gym, completing lessons when on a hike through the woods or even whilst cleaning your apartment. Afterall, you have nothing to lose with the free trial.
For me, the biggest draw was the lack of a dedicated app. With a tayor-made app, Glossika has the potential to be an excellent resource. It is still very valuable for me to learn Georgian as a powerful supplementary resource, however it could be much better.