Complete Language Transfer Review: Effective Audio Course but No Visuals or Authentic Content
Language Transfer is a free audio-based language learning program based on the linguistic concept of “language transfer,” which is the influence your native language has on the acquisition of a second language, affecting aspects like pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.
Founded by Mihalis Eleftheriou, Language Transfer provides self-motivated learners with a pathway to fluency in nine languages. Interestingly, they also have a musical theory program.
I tried out the program for two weeks to see how well it works. I decided to focus on Italian for this review. It’s a language I know the basics of, but nothing more than that, so I’ll be experiencing it from a beginner’s perspective.
What I found is that this free program is very effective and fun to use, but it’s all audio-based and doesn’t give you a chance to practice writing or speaking with others.
Read on for my full 2024 review of Language Transfer so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it. I’ll cover the program’s key features, its pros and cons and then I’ll let you know the final verdict: Does it work and is it worth it?
Name: Language Transfer
Description: Language Transfer is a free language learning program.
Language offered:French, Swahili, Italian, Greek, German, Turkish, Arabic, Spanish and English for Spanish Speakers
Offer price: Free
These free audio-based language learning courses use the innovative learning technique and the concept of language transfer to help you learn a new language fast, but the program lacks authentic content and visual elements.
- User Friendliness - 9/109/10
- Delivers on Promises - 8/108/10
- Authenticity - 7/107/10
- Value - 10/1010/10
- Totally free program
- Excellent audio-based courses
- Fun and easy to use
- Audio only program
- Lacks authentic content
- Lacks visual elements and video
- Key Features of Language Transfer
- Pros of Language Transfer
- Cons of Language Transfer
- Language Transfer Versus Other Language Learning Programs
- How Much Does Language Transfer Cost?
- The Final Verdict: Is Language Transfer Worth It?
- And One More Thing...
Key Features of Language Transfer
Language Transfer says at the starting point of each of its courses that this learning experience will contrast starkly to other language learning that you’ve done. They say it’s a revolutionary approach because it’s language learning the way your mind is built to learn languages—through thinking.
There’s no other tools besides your mind and there’s no memorization required. They say that only half of the program is teaching you a language—the other perhaps more important aspect is teaching you how to be a better learner in general.
The course is basically a series of conversations or lessons between Eleftheriou and volunteer students. He talks them through understanding the language like a friend would explain a complex subject to you. You’re supposed to pause the track and say what he instructs you to say. He tells you not to take notes and to stay in the moment. If you find your mind wandering off, which mine did a few times, he tells you to pause, take a break and then come back to the lesson.
I don’t think, however, that you could completely learn a language from Language Transfer, so it would be better used alongside something else very visual like FluentU or Duolingo.
Language Transfer app
The Language Transfer app is as simple and streamlined as their online program. It’s just the same audio classes that are on the website laid out in a very straightforward and user friendly way.
Once you select a language to study, you get a list of the various audio lessons in order.
I have been using the app a lot, because you can listen to the lessons literally anywhere. I listen to them on the tram that I take to go into the city center, and sometimes I listen to them at the gym or while I’m cooking dinner.
I find that listening to each class session multiple times really helps with my memory.
Free audio courses
The same content that’s found on the Language Transfer app is also found on the website. It’s a very simple site that starts with a list of languages, an About section and the free language courses.
They’re presented as SoundCloud files, but they’re also available to download and on YouTube.
Pros of Language Transfer
Even though this program is bare bones and goes against a lot of the advice of language learning experts (utilizing all the language skills, using authentic content, using visuals and video, etc.), I found it to be both enjoyable and effective for me.
Here are my top pros for Language Transfer after using it for two weeks:
It’s 100% free
This is a no-brainer, right? Why spend money on a language learning program if you can get one for free? Even if you’re a visual learner and want to study your language another way, there’s certainly no harm in adding Language Transfer into the mix.
High-quality audio lessons
I don’t know exactly what it is that I like so much about these audio lessons, but I find myself wanting to sit down (or walk around) listening to them more than I have in most other language learning programs.
Basically, as I wrote above, each audio lesson is the Language Transfer founder Mihalis Eleftheriou having a conversation with a volunteer student. Each lesson is around five minutes long.
Eleftheriou starts each session with some explanation about the particular language and how it relates to English, if at all. He usually starts talking first about the language’s common sounds and any pronunciation issues for English speakers.
He chooses some cognates and asks the student to pronounce them how they think they’d be said in Italian, in my case. Then he corrects the student’s pronunciation. Before you listen to the student, he recommends that you briefly pause the audio track and say the word yourself.
Then he gives you cognates between the target language and English. For Spanish, for example, he says that you can transfer about 3,000 English words into Spanish.
Then he subtly guides the conversation into teaching the volunteer student super useful words and phrases like “is,” “I am…” and “I want…”
He always gives an explicit explanation of the pronunciation, accent and grammar, so if you’re the type of learner who likes that kind of explanation, you’ll love this. I did.
Innovative teaching method
There aren’t many other language learning programs that take this same approach, with the notable exception of Pimsleur.
The course is designed around the concept of “language transfer,” which are the elements of your native language that you transfer to a new language when you’re learning it. There are both positive language transfer elements like knowing vocabulary because they’re cognates, and negative language transfer elements like pronouncing the Spanish word passión (passion) like in English, which sounds like “pashun.”
Eleftheriou says that the course writing process is the most difficult part of writing and designing Language Transfer courses. He often draws mind maps when he’s involved in the writing process.
If you’re interested in learning more about this approach, click over to this interview with the Language Transfer founder.
Cons of Language Transfer
Even though I love this program, I don’t think it’s enough on its own to learn an entire language. Here are my main cons for Language Transfer:
Lack of video and visuals
The Language Transfer program is entirely an audio experience. There are no learning materials to look through, no videos to watch, no photos or illustrations to look at.
This is by design, but if you’re a really visual learner, this may be annoying to you. For me, also a visual learner, this didn’t bother me at all with this program, because I liked the audio lessons so much.
Lack of speaking and writing skills
Even though Language Transfer recommends that you pause the audio track to pronounce the words and phrases yourself, since you’re by yourself most likely when you listen, no one will be there to correct you.
You’re recommended not to write anything down or take any notes, so you also don’t get any practice writing.
This program is much better for those who want to become communicative quickly, but not for those who will need to fill out a form in Italian, for example.
Language Transfer Versus Other Language Learning Programs
Language Transfer vs. Pimsleur
I’m starting with a match-up with Pimsleur because it’s the only other language learning program that takes a similar audio-only approach like Language Transfer does.
In this match-up, Pimsleur feels older, more stately and more traditional. It’s also, at least for me, a little more boring and it has a much slower pace.
I would choose Language Transfer by a country mile for this comparison, especially because it’s totally free.
Here’s our full Pimsleur review.
Language Transfer vs. FluentU
Since one of the features I most missed while using Language Transfer was video, I wanted to start this comparison section with FluentU, which has video at the heart of its program.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from foreign friends (non-native English speakers) who’ve told me that they learned English through watching movies (and TV shows and skateboarding videos, etc.). In fact, I’ve heard it so many times, I definitely believe it.
FluentU works really well for me because I’m a person who really likes to watch movies, TV, music videos, news and vlogs on YouTube already. So it feels like a really sustainable and fun way to learn and review a language and it’s worked really well for me.
I find myself spending hours on FluentU, all while feeling engaged, while 30 minutes sometimes felt like a lot on Pimsleur because of its dryer learning style.
Overall, I’d choose FluentU here, but I really think FluentU and Language Transfer would complement each other nicely, and the cost would still be very affordable.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Language Transfer vs. Duolingo
I mentioned Duolingo in this review because one of the elements that I was missing the most while using Language Transfer was the fun colors and other visual elements like illustrations that Duolingo has.
I think that Duolingo is more fun and more gamified, and that cute little bird is always encouraging you (some would say pestering you), but for more serious or thinking types, Language Transfer might feel like a better fit.
Here’s our full review of Duolingo.
Language Transfer vs. Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone has those vivid photographs that really make a huge difference for me.
While Rosetta Stone teaches words and phrases in context like a native speaker would learn their own language, Language Transfer uses more English and explicit explanations of grammar and translations of words, phrases and sentences.
This, for me, makes Language Transfer more of an “adult” language learning program. You can immerse yourself in your target language, but you can also get an explanation of why something is the way it is. I like that personally, since I’m not actually a child.
Here’s our full review of Rosetta Stone.
How Much Does Language Transfer Cost?
It’s totally free!
But if you want to pay something, Language Transfer accepts donations via PayPal and on Patreon.
The Final Verdict: Is Language Transfer Worth It?
I can say with full confidence that Language Transfer is well worth it, especially because it’s free.
I went from knowing about 2-3 sentences in Italian to being able to explain pretty complex things about how I am feeling, what I need, what I want and what I like in a very short period of time. And since the program always focuses on accent and pronunciation, I felt that I got that down pretty well, too.
You can listen to the audio files at home and on-the-go, which made it an easy and fun addition to my language learning journey.
However, I don’t know how far I could advance into Italian just using Language Transfer alone. That’s why I recommend it as an addition to whatever program you’re currently using.
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)