Spanish is the official language of 20 countries – that’s 20 different cultures and countries for you to explore once you’ve grasped its basics. My relationship with the language began some time ago when I got a new job in Honduras. Arriving with little more than the ability to say hello and ask for a taxi, since then a wealth of culture has revealed itself as my Spanish proficiency has improved.
What I lacked in those early days was someone, or something, to guide my learning and help me when needed. Step forward SpanishPod101, an online Spanish language course designed to help you on your way to speaking Spanish in a fun and enjoyable manner.
Wondering if it’s the course for you? Then read on, because I’ve been putting the hours in on the platform so you don’t have to. By the end of this review you’ll know whether SpanishPod101 is either worthy of your time, or if you think that another option would suit you better. Vamos!
- Free to join
- 1000+ lessons and quizzes
- The option to specialize in a preferred dialect (European, Peruvian, Mexican, or Costa Rican Spanish)
- Tons of resources including: flash cards, vocabulary lists, cultural courses, word banks, and pronunciation activities
- Lesson notes, key vocabulary, and transcripts for each lesson
- Voice-recorder function to perfect pronunciation
- A mobile app that allows you to download audio lessons for offline use
- An online community with whom you can share your language-learning journey
- An outstanding array of resources that’ll ensure learning remains fun and engaging
- An emphasis on developing listening skills that will have you understanding native conversations in no time
- A simple and easy to navigate platform
- Flexibility: tailor your lessons to fit your timetable and learn on-the-go with bite sized classes
- Voice recorder tool that allows you to compare your pronunciation with that of a native speaker
- Reliance on audio lessons may not suit those with a visual learning style
- Would benefit from more active learning methods
Best for: SpanishPod101 has something for learners of every level, but will be of the greatest benefit to those who learn best by listening. For those who require a flexible course and the option to fit their studies around their life, SpanishPod101 is worth considering. The platform also has an extensive selection of learning pathways to choose from, allowing you to tailor your learning to your goals and schedule.
Cost: You can use SpanishPod101 for free by signing up for a free account. There are a range of subscription options available from $3.50 to $47.00 per month.
Overall: SpanishPod101 is an affordable and easy-to-use platform that has a vast selection of resources to cater to learners of every level. The bite-sized lessons, downloadable lessons mean you can learn anytime and anyplace, offering a flexibility that you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Plus, the free membership account, free trial options, and refund policy make it simple to try at zero risk to yourself.
What is SpanishPod101?
SpanishPod101 is an online language course created by Innovative Language Learning that has been helping would-be Spanish speakers achieve their language goals for years.
The course boasts an incredible wealth of resources, including 1000’s of hours of video and audio lessons, word banks, cultural classes, and the opportunity to participate in online group courses via the Zoom App. Such a variety of material allows students to learn in the most effective and enjoyable way possible, and tailor their learning to their personal needs.
Available as both a webpage and as an app with downloadable lessons for offline use, you can access SpanishPod101 from anywhere, and the platform is great for both independent learning and as a study aid complementing a classroom course.
How does SpanishPod101 work?
The comprehensive curriculum provided by SpanishPod101 consists largely of audio and video lessons and covers a wide variety of topics and subject material. SpanishPod101 also allows you to focus your learning on a specific dialect of Spanish as you advance through the course levels, for example European or Mexican Spanish. The lessons are structured in a way that makes it easy for learners to follow along and track their progress.
The core lessons are categorized by the following 5 proficiency levels:
|Level||CEFR Level*||Lessons & Assessments||Length of Content|
|Absolute Beginner||A1 – A2||80 Lessons & 68 Assessments||12hrs 51min|
|Beginner||A2||55 Lessons & 138 Assessments**||8hrs 50min|
|Intermediate||B1||50 Lessons & 57 Assessments**||9hrs 41min|
|Upper Intermediate||B2||90 Lessons & 70 Assessments||20hrs 59min|
|Advanced||C1||19 Lessons & 27 Assessments**||1hrs 29min|
*Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
** If following the Mexican Spanish pathway
There are a host of other features also available on the platform, such as flashcards, cultural classes, and access to a community forum; which will help you to practice and reinforce everything that you learn.
You can access SpanishPod101 either through the website, or on the Innovative Language Learning app, which allows you to download lessons so you can learn on the go and continue studying even when offline.
What is a lesson like on SpanishPod101?
The platform’s lesson structure has been designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing you to learn at your own pace and your own schedule.
A level 3 Mexican Spanish lesson (left) and the level 3 Mexican Spanish learning pathway (right) on the Innovative Language Learning mobile app
The majority of lessons are audio-based and last between 5 and 10 minutes for the Absolute Beginner classes, and 8 and 15 minutes for the level 3 classes. The hosts and teachers introduce a native conversation and then break it up into the individual words and phrases. When introducing the vocabulary of the lesson, the hosts include pauses and encourage the listener to repeat the keywords.
Outside of the central learning pathways there are hundreds of other potential learning pathways available to you, each exploring a different topic. You can choose the type of learning pathway you want to focus on based on your own personal needs and goals.
After every few lessons you take a multiple-choice progress test, which is usually quite easy if you are consistent with your practice, but can be difficult if not!
What is the method behind SpanishPod101?
The method behind SpanishPod101 is based on the concept of ‘spaced repetition’, which is a learning technique that involves reviewing material at increasingly longer intervals to maximize retention. The platform uses this method to help reinforce learning and build fluency for the Spanish student.
SpanishPod101 exposes its students to native speakers with a variety of speaking styles and pronunciation, accustoming you to the level of conversation you want to engage in from the beginning of the course.
SpanishPod101 also incorporates a range of other learning techniques, including audio and visual aids, interactive exercises, and cultural insights. These help students learn the language in a way that is engaging and enjoyable, and provide them with a range of tools to help them succeed in their language-learning journey.
How I reviewed SpanishPod101
As I already possess a conversational level of Spanish, I was keen to see how SpanishPod101 could help me improve my language skills, and so I took the plunge and enrolled myself on the level 3 Mexican Spanish course.
Before starting the lessons I took advantage of the offered diagnostic test, a multiple-choice exam that can help to confirm that your pathway selection is appropriate to your level, and (if you’re a Premium Plus account holder) allow your teacher to identify specific lessons to improve your performance.
Once the diagnostic test confirmed I was on the right pathway I continued with the course. My personal preference was to download the lessons to my phone from the app and then listen to them when I was alone or had free time throughout the day. It’s my belief that they make the perfect accompaniment when you are cooking, cleaning, or commuting.
Of course no review would be complete without examining what the experience for a complete beginner is like. Depending on how deeply you want to jump in, there are a number of pathways available in the Absolute Beginner pathway. From the ‘Basic Bootcamp’ to ‘Beginner S.O.S.’, the range of material can be a little overwhelming.
I explored the 5-lesson ‘Introduction to Spanish’ course which is a fantastic quickstart guide to introduce you to Spanish vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation before you decide to commit to a longer pathway.
Along with level 3 Mexican Spanish I spent the majority of my time exploring the level 1 Absolute Beginner course, which utilizes bite-sized lessons no more than 10 minutes long and regular progress assessments.
Pros of SpanishPod101
SpanishPod101 has a number of fantastic qualities, but here are some of the ones that I love the most:
Learn from anywhere with the app
I love learning on the go, and it’s really important to me that I don’t waste time during my day when I could be doing something constructive. SpanishPod101’s app allows me to do just that: I can download the lessons to my phone and then listen to them at leisure throughout my day, without requiring an internet connection.
Although on the app you don’t have access to all the resources that are available on the website, this is not an issue as it aids the app's simple navigability, making it easier to identify and select the lessons you want to learn.
I personally am a big fan of the downloadable podcast-style ‘Culture Class’ lessons, which give you a fantastic insight into the culture of the countries whose language you are studying. For example you can choose to learn about Mexican superstitions or Spanish social media phrases, all whilst passively improving your own Spanish ability.
Fit your lessons around your life
A key selling point of SpanishPod101 is how it allows you to tailor your studying to your own routine and schedule. Only have 5 minutes while you wait for the bus? No problem, why not try the 3-minute Mexican Spanish pathway, or practice with some flashcards.
SpanishPod101’s versatility means you can’t use the old excuse of ‘I don’t have time’ when it comes to learning a language, you can fit the lessons into your day whenever you get a break or find yourself doing a mundane activity.
SpanishPod101 is a great tool for every level of ability, I feel that it can be an excellent supporting tool to supercharge your listening skills, vocabulary knowledge, cultural understanding, and speaking skills (using the voice recording function).
An abundance of resources
When I first logged in to SpanishPod101 I was absolutely blown away by the sheer wealth of resources that are available on the platform. Even if I were to study Spanish as a full time job it would take me months to make my way through all the material available.
Some of the extra pathways available from the Absolute Beginner Lesson Library
There are tools available to help improve your:
- Vocabulary (words banks, survival phrases, common word lists, word of the day)
- Pronunciation (voice-recording function and specialized ‘How to sound like a native’ pronunciation pathways)
- Reading and writing skills, with stories available for every ability level, that are also available as audio books.
The combination of fun and relevance
The lessons on SpanishPod101 are genuinely enjoyable and brought a smile to my face on more than one occasion whilst listening to them. We learn the best when we are having fun, and when the learning doesn’t feel like a chore. SpanishPod101 does a good job of ensuring that we retain a sense of the light-hearted whilst studying the language.
That said, the lessons remain both pertinent and culturally relevant, and I felt that I gained a great deal of cultural knowledge about Spanish-speaking countries alongside language development.
Cons of SpanishPod101
I’ve still yet to find the perfect online Spanish course, so here is where SpanishPod101 falls short:
Heavy reliance on passive learning
The emphasis in SpanishPod101 is on audio lessons, 5 to 15-minute audio clips where the aim of the game is to listen and repeat. Whilst this is a highly important skill to develop, a more comprehensive course should be looking to equally develop listening skills alongside speaking, reading, and writing.
That’s not to take away from the quality and importance of these lessons, but to truly master a language you need to engage with it in an active way, producing said language as well as passively absorbing it.
Lack of visual materials
This point is particularly pertinent to beginners, who require exposure to a wider range of resources than more practiced learners. Whilst the Absolute Beginner library does feature some video lessons, including an ‘Immersive Practice’ pathway, these should be used in conjunction with the audio lessons, and not as an extra.
Although every lesson is supported by written materials, for example audio transcripts and lesson vocabulary, the focus towards audios may be a hindrance to visual learners, who would benefit from more video classes and reading practice.
Need for more structure
Yes, SpanishPod101 provides recommended learning pathways and ordered lessons. However, the lessons don’t appear to follow a particular structure and, because the platform’s focus is flexibility, this may be a problem for students who prefer a classroom-style approach to learning.
I was also never quite sure whether I was getting the most that I could out of SpanishPod101. There's just so much you can do that it was frankly a little overwhelming. I explored quite a bit with different learning pathways, but always felt tempted to steer off-course and try something new. However I didn’t know how beneficial or not this would be.
I believe this is where the Premium Plus account likely earns its money: having a tutor assess my ability and guide me to complete the pathways they believe to be most relevant to me would undoubtedly be the most effective way of using the platform.
Who is SpanishPod101 for?
In my opinion, SpanishPod101 has something for everyone, it is well suited to:
- Complete beginners looking to learn the basics
- Novice speakers looking to develop their listening and speaking skills
- Advanced and intermediate learners wanting to maintain proficiency and expand their vocabulary base
- Students of any ability looking for study aids to develop their listening ability
Let me explain this a bit.
Because the lessons are predominantly audio-based, SpanishPod101 is a fantastic platform for developing your listening skills and practicing pronunciation. The course also boasts further resources such as flashcards and audio books that can expand your vocabulary.
However the lack of visual content definitely decreases its usefulness for beginners, who may require more assistance and a broader choice of learning material. I think SpanishPod101 is still a worthwhile investment for beginners, but it would be more effective when used in conjunction with other learning methods.
That said, the importance of listening to native conversations should not be underestimated, and I found SpanishPod101 a brilliant tool to work on my listening skills. The more you listen to a foreign language, the better your ability to distinguish individual words becomes. This is one of the most important skills to develop when learning a foreign language.
So, if you just want to use it on your commute to work on your listening skills, I think this is a great tool. Just be sure to continue working on the other skills (reading, writing, and speaking) with other Spanish learning resources.
How much does SpanishPod101 cost?
SpanishPod101 offers a range of pricing plans to suit different budgets and learning needs. The platform's pricing plans range from a free plan to PremiumPlus. The pricing options can be a bit complicated, so I put together this table to give you a better idea of the pricing for different subscription offers:
|24-month subscription*||12-month subscription||6-month subscription||3-month subscription||1-month subscription|
|Basic||$3.50 / month||$5 / month||$6 / month||$7 / month||$8 / month|
|Premium||$8.71 / month||$15 / month||$20 / month||$22 / month||$25 / month|
|PremiumPlus||$16.63 / month||$26.33 / month||$36.67 / month||$41.67 / month||$47 / month|
Prices accurate at the time of publishing. See section below for information on the free plan.
Here’s a breakdown of what you get with each plan:
- Basic: Access to all lessons and in-depth lesson notes (over 1000 audio and video lessons and assessments)
- Premium: Tons of vocabulary resources and study tools, including a grammar bank, flash cards, assessments, and much more
- Premium Plus: Everything in Premium, plus 1-to-1 access to a teacher, hand graded assessments, and guidance and personalized assessments.
*The prices for the 24-month subscription are based on a deal offered by SpanishPod101. I
checked every day I was using the platform and the deal was always offered to me (even
though it says it’s expiring in 5 hours every time it’s offered).
Is SpanishPod101 free?
It is completely free to join SpanishPod101. Subscribing with a free membership can be a
a great way to sample the platform before paying any money for extra content.
Here's everything you get with a free account on SpanishPod101:
- 3-5 new lessons every week
- The first 3 lessons of every learning pathway
- Spanish word of the day
- Vocabulary and phrase lists
- Throwback Thursday lessons – a free random lesson every Thursday
Heads up! When you register for a free membership with SpanishPod101, they'll give you a 7-day free trial for Premium. You don't have to provide any payment details, so this is a great risk-free way to try all the features of SpanishPod101.
On top of the 7-day Premium trial, when you sign up for the free membership they'll offer you 30 days of Premium for just $1. You have to provide payment details for this, but you can simply go to your account and click “cancel auto-renewal” in the payment section to avoid renewing for $25/month (the month-to-month fee for Premium).
Aside from 30 days of Premium, that $1 also gets you the “Fast Track to SpanishFluency
Package.” This includes:
● 60 downloadable beginner lessons that aren't available elsewhere
● One free download at the innovative language store
● A 7-day fluency fast email course
SpanishPod101 also regularly rewards its members with extra resources. When I first signed into the website, there was September’s Gift of the month available to download. The gift included a PDF conversation cheat sheet, vocabulary cards, and audiobooks.
Finally, SpanishPod101 regularly offers hefty discounts for all packages. At the time of writing there is a 35% Summer Sale discount for Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus packages.
If you don't like your paid version of SpanishPod101, you are guaranteed a refund within 60 days of purchase.
Just email contactus@SpanishPod101.com that you want a refund, and they will get back to you within one working day.
Features of SpanishPod101
SpanishPod101 has a range of features that make it an ideal choice to help you learn Spanish:
- Fun and engaging lessons: SpanishPod101’s curriculum is packed with enjoyable audio and video lessons, quizzes, audio books, worksheets and more
- Flexible learning: SpanishPod101 is available anyplace anytime, and allows you to learn at your own pace and schedule
- Mobile app: You can access SpanishPod101 on the move through the platform’s app, which also allows you to download lessons for offline use
- Cultural insights: These are drip-fed into nearly every lesson on the platform, and there are also specific cultural pathways available. These serve to provide a context for you on your language journey
- Personalized learning: The premium plus plan provides access to one-on-one tutoring and personalized learning plans
- Online community: Every lesson includes a comments section allowing you to engage with both SpanishPod101 tutors and other learners about the lesson content
What languages can you learn with SpanishPod101?
Surprise surprise, Spanish is the only language you can learn on SpanishPod101. But if you’re a fan of the platform and want to learn another language, the creator (Innovative Language Learning) offers 33 other languages on similar platforms, each with their own app and website.
All you have to do is search “[insert language]Pod101” and chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to create a separate account on each new -Pod101 website.
Alternatives to SpanishPod101
The internet is saturated with online Spanish courses, and it can feel overwhelming trying to decide which one is the best fit for your needs. So here is a comparison of SpanishPod101 to other popular online Spanish language websites:
SpanishPod101 vs Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone provides a more structured and interactive environment than SpanishPod101, but SpanishPod101 offers more creative lesson topics and a more flexible learning environment.
Rosetta Stone also possesses the Dynamic Immersion feature that has made it so successful.
With SpanishPod101 it can be too easy to rely on a more passive learning experience by just listening to audio lessons.
SpanishPod101’s biggest advantage is that it is cheaper than Rosetta Stone. Beyond
offering a free account (which Rosetta Stone does not), its Basic and Premium accounts are
cheaper than Rosetta Stone as long as purchased with a 24-month subscription.
However Rosetta Stone currently has an unmatchable offer of.a lifetime subscription to all language courses for $179. Food for thought if you are considering learning more than one language.
SpanishPod101 vs Duolingo
The incredibly popular app Duolingo focuses mostly on reading and writing skills, encouraging learning through translation. It also gamifies your learning journey in an attempt to ‘hook you’ on foreign language learning.
In contrast, SpanishPod101 teaches Spanish through listening and repeating. It doesn’t gamify learning, instead focusing on making its lessons fun and interesting. SpanishPod101 also offers lessons at a more advanced level than Duolingo.
Using Duolingo is a great way to improve your reading and writing skills, while SpanishPod101 is excellent for training your ear to understand conversations.
If you’re trying to decide between the two, you should determine which skills you want to focus on and decide based on that. However my suggestion would be to use them side-by-side as the two platforms compliment each other perfectly.
SpanishPod101 vs Babbel
Like Rosetta Stone, Babbel's Spanish course is more structured and interactive than SpanishPod101. Babbel's courses also offer more active learning opportunities such as grammar exercises and writing activities, while SpanishPod101 mainly utilizes passive listening activities. Babbel's lessons are also longer, which may be preferable to some learners.
However, SpanishPod101 offers more creative lesson topics and a more flexible learning environment.
SpanishPod101 is normally cheaper than Babbel, with a free account option and a more affordable Premium account. However at the time of writing Babbel is offering a 50% discount for a 12-month plan, and has a heavily discounted lifetime access offer for all languages, which for now puts it ahead of SpanishPod101 in terms of price.
What others have said
Of course everything you have read until now is just my opinion, so, to make sure this is the best SpanishPod101 review available to you, I spent some time pouring over Reddit to see what other users thought of the platform
“I discovered they do have a guided course playlist that has an order to it, I’m finding it a lot better than me picking audio lessons at random. The guided courses are still pretty random, but sometimes I hear the same two speakers get a bit more in depth on a topic over a several lessons in a row” – comment from Reddit
Lack of structure does appear to be a key concern among users of the platform, including myself, with the lessons not following any order but randomly following each other.
“SpanishPod101 is pretty good, I used it when I started learning Spanish” – comment from Reddit
But the overall vibe from users of SpanishPod101 was positive, users liked the level of free material and the flexibility of the platform. The main negative comments were the previously mentioned lack of structure, and some reviewers wanted a wider range of materials, not just those focused on listening activities.
However if you see SpanishPod101 as primarily a platform to develop your listening skills it is a worthwhile investment. Gaining confidence in listening to conversations is of the utmost importance if you wish to engage with Spanish speakers and this is where the platform shines.
Conclusion: Is SpanishPod101 worth it?
If you want to learn Spanish it’s definitely worth investing some of your time exploring what SpanishPod101 can offer you. With a free account option that includes 7 days free Premium membership and a guaranteed 60-day refund policy, you can decide if the platform is worthwhile at absolutely no risk to yourself.
I can hand-on-heart say that SpanishPod101 will have something for everyone, especially if you’re an auditory learner, are looking to learn the basics as a beginner, or you want to maintain your listening skills and improve your vocabulary as an intermediate or advanced learner.
I personally love how SpanishPod101 has tested and developed my listening ability, and I will continue to use it, but, in conjunction with other platforms and learning methods that use more active teaching styles.
Learning a new language is more than learning to converse however, and SpanishPod101 recognises this, opening up entire cultures to you with their ‘Culture Classes’, ensuring that your language journey remains fun, interesting, and most importantly, relevant to you.
You have a range of options when it comes to price, including: free membership, a Basic subscription of $3.50 a month, Premium for $8.71 a month and Premium Plus for $16.63 a month (if you opt for the 24-month subscription). SpanishPod101 regularly offers generous discounts for their 24-month subscriptions so I advise you to choose this option if you can.
SpanishPod101 works mostly by listening and repeating, with the desktop version offering a larger array of resources to test your grammatical knowledge and reading and writing skills.
Yes, within 60 days of purchase.