Thursday, March 16, 2023

Language App Irreview: Speakly


I was introduced to Speakly via a YouTube review (I forget what channel, but I thiiiink it was Days of French 'n' Swedish) and decided to give it a look.  I was impressed with its presentation and intrigued by one of its (paid) features: recommended music.

So, I downloaded it and - being the cheapskate that I am - limited myself to the free features.  Selecting Finnish as my language (you're only allowed one language in the free version), I dove right in into the vocabulary exercises (which are the only free exercises).

Basically, you are presented with words and short phrases that you need to memorize and identify later, or full sentences that you need to translate.  This exercise lasts as long as it takes for you to get five (5) responses correct.  And that's pretty much it.  But, these are not easy.  Speakly, if anything, is not designed for beginners.  For those familiar with the CEFR system, it feels like the app assumes you to already have an A2 proficiency in whatever language you're learning.

That stated, Speakly is not gamified.  In fact, it requires that you effectively grade yourself.  If you really wanted to, you could cheat and just tell the app you're doing just fine.


Long story short, the Finnish exercises are HARD.  So hard, that I actually made the decision to delete the app (which, given the sheer number of language apps that I use, seemed quite an attractive proposition).  For whatever reason, however, I decided to first give the full version a try, so activated the seven day trial.

The full of version of Speakly not only allows you to do more languages, it unlocks the four paid exercises.  Unfortunately, Speakly does not yet offer Japanese, so I was only able to add French and Spanish.  And, in doing so, I can honestly state that this app is not for beginners.  Luckily, I can handle the French and Spanish exercises on offer, and am nowhere near as frustrated with them as I was with the Finnish exercises.


The first of the paid exercises is simply a review of words and phrases that you've already learned.  Quite simply, Speakly's review is just tapping through the reminders and being done with it.  It is - and I don't think I'm exaggerating - this worse review system of any app I've used.  Like the free exercise, it requires that you grade yourself.  Unlike the free exercise, you can literally actually just tap through it and earn your XP for the day.

The second paid exercise is a listening exercise which, in theory, is pretty awesome.  But these are not for the casual learner.  These are long audio clips (anywhere from four to eight minutes) and I can't imagine most bothering with them.  Clearly useful, there is again no mechanism on the app to ensure you actually learned anything.

Paid exercise #3 is a "live situation" conversation.  The app mimics a conversation by asking two questions which you are supposed to answer.  But then the app tells you what to say.  First, in English.  And then in your target language.  At which point you merely record yourself saying what the screen is telling you to say.  Pretty lame, if I'm being honest (and what else would I be here?).  And the voice recognition isn't great, either, so can be very (very) frustrating.

The final paid exercise is pretty simple and what should be the app's main selling point, were the execution of the feature not so lame.  Basically, the more XP you have in a language, the more songs in that language the app recommends.  You tap the song and the app directs you to Spotify.  That's it.

Essentially, there is nothing in the paid version of Speakly that you can't get from YouTube and a dictionary. 


I like the app.  The free exercise is short, sweet, and a good way to increase proficiency in a language you're already somewhat proficient in.  The paid version is not worth the money.  Speakly is definitely not for beginners but... I decided to keep the app.  I just stopped using it for Finnish and now only use it for French.

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