How can an alligator in your bedroom help you learn a language?
Is there really anything a robot companion can do to get you to improve?
And, more importantly, is all this worth paying for?
Mondly is a language learning app that has a lot of buzz surrounding it, especially after winning a few awards when it burst onto the scene a few years ago.
It’s based around a combination of daily lessons focused on games and translations into your language, a chatbot and unique augmented reality features. There’s even a virtual reality app!
But is it worth the hype? Let’s dive into the main features in this Mondly review and then take a look at what the program does well—as well as what needs improvement.
An Honest Review of Mondly: Tech as Learning Aid or Gimmick?
The Key Principles of Mondly
Like many other language apps that you can carry in your pocket, Mondly places an emphasis on short but frequent lessons. It prepares a “daily lesson” for you, with sentences and new vocabulary that you can learn in your target language. Everything you learn is then recapped at the end of the class, and you can go back and review it at a later point.
What’s more, you get daily reminders as notifications. You can set these to appear at a time convenient to you. So, if you prefer to learn first thing in the morning, you can ask the app to remind you at 7 a.m.; on the other hand, if you want to do some studying on your lunch break at work, set it to 1 p.m.
As you continue your language learning journey, Mondly keeps you informed of how well you’ve been maintaining your daily study regimen.
Translation into your L1
Unlike methods of learning which focus purely on the target language, Mondly encourages you to learn to translate between your mother tongue or a language you already speak well and the language you want to learn.
This is done through a mixture of typing, speaking and choosing words from a list. You can also hear the words spoken in your target language so that you start to associate the written word with the spoken one.
In practice, this means that it’s a little bit easier to get into learning than it otherwise would be. Mondly prides itself on having a large number of options for the base language, and you’ll find yourself processing the information well, especially at the early stages.
Variety of learning methods
We all know that learning a new language can feel like a bit of a slog at times. That’s why mixing it up is important!
Mondly’s model combines daily lessons tailored for you with a “pathway” through the various topics and levels involved in learning a new language. This is combined with innovative features such as the augmented reality lessons and a chatbot.
I’ll go into more detail about each of these below, but the beauty of Mondly is in their combination. You’re never using the exact same method all the time, so you won’t get bored!
The way Mondly gets you to keep up your language practice is by providing you with daily lessons. Each day, you’ll get a notification reminding you that your lesson is available.
Through “game-like” exercises, you’re introduced to new vocabulary and relevant phrases for a given topic. For instance, you might have a daily lesson about travel, in which case you’ll learn the words for “airport,” “passport” and a way of saying “I’m here on business.” At the end of the lesson, you’re reminded of the new words and phrases you learned in that session.
For those who have used an app like Duolingo, these daily lessons look very familiar. In fact, the format and style of the lessons are almost exactly the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s a format that works. But what makes Mondly more unique? That’s where the other features come in.
Weekly quizzes and monthly challenges
After going through a week’s worth of daily lessons, you can take the quiz to review what you learned. Once you complete all the weekly quizzes for the month, you’ll have access to the monthly challenge.
Unlocking quizzes and challenges this way encourages learners to keep up with their daily lessons. This, together with the leaderboard, is all part of that gamified format. I have to admit, I did enjoy that feeling of unlocking a certain number of levels to get to the “boss” stages, and it allowed me to see my progress like I would in a video game.
Oxford language tests
If you need to learn English and are planning to take a proficiency test, Mondly has a new Oxford English course you might be interested in.
In 2020, Oxford University Press partnered up with Mondly to create a new English module on the app. This new language course is based on guidelines from the Common European Framework of Reference for Language, or CEFR, and it also includes practice tests for A2, B1 and B2 levels.
Based on the Oxford 3000 (the 3000 most important and useful words in English) and the Oxford Practice Grammar Tests, this course has been customized for Mondly users, meaning the questions have been modified to be relevant to the topics already offered on the app. Plus, the tests are available in all 33 languages.
The module contains over 3500 questions and 108 English language progress assessments for each available language. Overall, this module is definitely useful as test prep, no matter what your mother tongue is.
The language learning chatbot is designed to emulate a conversation, giving you a chance to put the language you’re learning into practice.
The app gives you a virtual interlocutor and you’re invited to respond to conversational prompts, such as a general greeting or a restaurant role-play. Mondly suggests some responses to these, but it’ll also accept other correct replies.
Although the conversations themselves are far from realistic, the speech-to-text functionality in Mondly is pretty good, so I found it enjoyable. At first, you can just go with the suggested responses, but it’s nice to try and think about what else you could say, too!
This function is a big selling point for Mondly. Using augmented reality technology, you can generate a CGI teacher in your office, living room or wherever!
Your teacher will speak to you in your language, before conjuring objects to teach you about them. The first lesson is about animals, and she makes a big impression by appearing to create a lion out of thin air.
Some elements of this feature aren’t bad. While just giving you the names of animals and the like is nothing groundbreaking, you can approach them and see vocabulary, for example, of different body parts and related vocabulary with a visual aid.
This means you can learn the word for “nose” while seeing it on the nose of a lion. I first checked out Mondly a while ago, and I still remember that il becco is “beak” in Italian thanks to a cute computer-generated chicken!
With that said, the augmented reality in Mondly, unfortunately, felt more like a gimmick to me than an effective learning tool. I couldn’t stop and resume the lessons at will, which meant I had to commit to a certain amount of time that I didn’t always have.
Meanwhile, I thought that the robotic voice and smooth features of my virtual lecturer made the whole experience quite uncanny!
In addition to augmented reality, Mondly has also ventured into the virtual reality world with an extra VR app.
Mondly VR is a pioneer in the digital language learning landscape. It’s meant to be a complement to the main app, where you can get vocabulary lessons from your virtual teacher and communicate with her through the chatbot and speech recognition tool.
But it’s not just your teacher that you can practice your language skills with. The main appeal of this VR component is the conversations with virtual characters in realistic scenarios in different parts of the world.
You’ll be immersed in all kinds of situations that require you to speak to locals, such as shopping, booking flights and ordering food. One minute you’re checking into a hotel in Paris, the next, you’re making friends on the train as you travel across Europe. It’s basically simulating real situations with native speakers.
I found this app quite handy for pronunciation practice and a good way to boost some confidence in speaking abilities. In each conversation, I responded to questions by selecting one of the provided answers, prompting the audio pronunciation. From there, I repeated the audio, and I had to repeat it back until I said it correctly in order to move the conversation along.
From my experience, that the speech recognition tool is far from perfect and by no means a substitute for real-life feedback. But I’d still say it’s not bad as a stepping stone for face-to-face interactions, which can be quite intimidating.
There are slightly fewer language options on the VR app, with 30 to choose from, so that’s something to be mindful of—though that’s still plenty!
Mondly for kids
Naturally, you can’t have a language gaming app without having a version for kids.
If you have children or younger siblings who want to learn a language or need a supplement to their language studies, Mondly Kids has got you covered. It’s an adorable app filled with beautiful illustrations and cool sounds that will keep the little ones entertained and engaged.
The learning pathway guides children through themed landscapes and pictures corresponding to the topics. The learning pathway here is straightforward to give kids more guidance and structure in their language acquisition.
There are 11 topics and 77 premium lessons. All in all, kids can learn up to 400 words through digital flashcards, complete with fun illustrations and native speaker audio.
Mondly Kids is also perfect for learning a language as a family.
Mondly for business
Mondly has also expanded into the corporate world by creating MondlyWORKS, which is currently being used by the likes of Delta Airlines and Canon Medical.
It’s an award-winning program for companies that want to improve communications and relationships internally and externally with partners, clients and customers. Along with usual Mondly features, MondlyWORKS also had a dashboard that allows managers to track the usage and progress of employees.
What’s great about the business app is the wider selection of languages. Unlike on the main app, MondlyWORKS gives companies access to 41 languages, although I find it rather strange that all 41 languages aren’t offered across the apps. There’s also a total of 1056 language courses, with many business-centric modules to assist employees in all their meetings.
The Pros of Mondly
There are definitely a few things going on in Mondly that make it worthy of some investigation if you’re keen to use your smartphone to help you learn.
Innovative features to keep you interested
Language learning software is an increasingly competitive field, so even when it doesn’t quite hit the mark, it’s good to see the developers of Mondly being somewhat innovative in their features.
There’s a certain “wow” factor to the augmented and virtual reality features—and a real bonus that it works in every language—while the chat tool and effective speech-to-text software offered me a varied and engaging experience.
By completing lessons on Mondly, you earn points. These affect your place on a leaderboard, both against all other users in the world and any of your friends who you may have on the app.
A bit of competitive spirit helps get things going for me, and there’s nothing like sitting below your colleague on the board to motivate you to do a few more lessons!
A large array of source and target languages
Mondly boasts 33 languages (but only 30 on Mondly VR and 41 on MondlyWORKS), all of which can be used as either source or target languages. That means it’s just as easy to be a French speaker learning Afrikaans as it is to be a Mandarin speaker learning Italian.
Some of the languages could do with further development. For example, the alphabet switching wasn’t perfect when I was learning Arabic, and it caused some of the options to jump around in translation exercises. Despite these glitches, this is a real strength, especially for people who are frustrated by the number of tools that focus too much on using English as a base.
The Cons of Mondly
Having said all of that, Mondly has some drawbacks that I found quite disappointing as I tried to push on in my learning.
Lack of differentiation between levels
A huge drawback of Mondly is that it’s too heavily aimed at lower levels. When you first sign up, you’re asked what level you already have in the language. I had a go at Italian (in which I’m around an upper-intermediate level) and Arabic (at which I’m a complete beginner) but the classes and materials were exactly the same!
Mondly might be a good way to get an entry into a new level, but it’s not as good a platform as the likes of FluentU, which use authentic materials aimed at all different levels.
It makes authentic material approachable whether you’re a complete beginner or an advanced student.
For those looking to deepen their understanding and usage of a language they already somewhat know, Mondly is far from ideal. By pairing Mondly with more robust language learning programs like FluentU, you can increase your learning scope and apply newly learned information to an authentic context.
The monthly fee covers only one language
While there’s a free version that allows you to try some features, the amount you can use is extremely limited. You can access some daily lessons but only the first conversation of the chatbot and the first set of vocabulary lessons. Packages start from $9.99 per month, and this gives you access only to a single language.
If you want access to all the offered languages, you’ll need to commit to paying for an entire 12 months (or at least, that’s the only offer I saw when I was browsing their premium options).
This is a bit limiting, especially when you consider that other programs, like FluentU, allow you to access all the languages they offer under one umbrella subscription.
Some features feel contrived
While I appreciate Mondly’s attempts at innovation, the result is often something that feels a long way from natural. The conversations in the chatbot are stilted, while the augmented reality function really just replays set pieces in a way that captures your interest at first but loses its impact as the novelty fades.
I found Mondly VR better for conversation practice, though the interactions were still predictable. It’s also unfortunately limited to learners with VR headsets.
There are plenty of programs that use tech to improve your experience, but do it in a balanced and natural way. FluentU, for instance, uses interactive subtitles, video-enhanced flashcards and adaptive quizzes that take your prior learning into account to create a personalized learning experience.
Innovative technology is an excellent way to maintain learner interest and motivation. If you’re taken in by the cool tech of Mondly, then enjoy! If you’d rather have something more authentic and natural, you might want to look elsewhere.
How Does Mondly Compare to the Competition?
Is Mondly better than Duolingo?
Earlier, I made a comparison between Mondly and Duolingo, so you might be wondering if one of these very similar apps is slightly ahead of the game more than the other.
Taking away the AR and VR component of Mondly, one difference between the two gamified formats is the learning progression. Duolingo takes on a structured, more linear path, while Mondly gives some control in the order of topics you cover.
And even though both are free apps, a free account with Mondly grants you very limited access to their content. Duolingo is completely free, but you can upgrade to a paid subscription to remove ads and download lessons.
Is Mondly better than Babbel?
Mondly also has a lot in common with Babbel. Both offer a sense of freedom in your learning path, and you can learn your target language according to your L1 (as long as your mother tongue is one of the languages offered on each app).
Mondly also has 33 languages available compared to Babbel’s 14, which might affect your preference in picking between these two. And note that Babbel’s selection is mostly European languages, so there’s definitely room for improvement in that area.
But because Mondly is also heavily focused on beginner content, Babbel is a step ahead in language advancement, since there’s also a stronger focus on grammar. Some languages on Babbel even contain podcasts for those who want to learn while on their commute to school or work.
Is Mondly better than Rosetta Stone?
Rosetta Stone’s teaching philosophy is a stark contrast from Mondly. While the latter allows you to learn through your native tongue, the Rosetta Stone immerses you in your target language right away.
For those who can’t move or travel to the place of their target language, this kind of immersion is pretty much the next best thing. But if you’re a beginner, you might feel in over your head with a program like this.
I’d say you’d have to be at least pre-intermediate in your target language to reap any kind of benefit with Rosetta Stone, while true beginners are better off sticking with Mondly to build that foundation. So for me, it’d be more effective to study Italian on Rosetta Stone and Arabic on Mondly.
False beginners can give Rosetta Stone a shot, but they might still struggle to get past the beginner stage. Language goals are meant to be challenging, not unattainable.
Is Mondly better than FluentU?
Given that Mondly takes a different approach to language learning from FluentU, it’s hard to say if one is superior to the other. Your preferred learning method might sway you to a particular program, but it’s possible to make the most out of the two, no matter what kind of learner you are.
With me, for instance, I can work on my reading and listening skills through FluentU while I can practice my writing and speaking skills through Mondly. By pairing the two programs together, I can tackle both receptive and productive language skills.
I can also take the words I learn from Mondly and see how they manifest in a realistic setting with the help of FluentU videos.
Summary: Innovative but Insufficient
We hope you’ve learned everything you want to know about the program in our Mondly review!
While Mondly makes some interesting moves in the field of language learning, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the good parts are rehashed from existing platforms and the areas in which they’ve tried to innovate still need some work. That said, I’d be interested to see what they’re up to a little while from now, once they’ve had a chance to further update their features.
It’s worth downloading the free version and, if the features strike your fancy, have a go at the premium subscription. However, with the price still far from cheap for a product like this, it has a way to go before catching up to some of the leaders in the area.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.