If there’s one thing we know, it’s that videos make great language-learning tools.
You can listen to your target language being spoken.
You can stop, rewind and slow down.
You can add subtitles for reading practice.
Plus, videos allow you to see a huge range of different scripted and authentic situations.
And since everything’s online these days, it’s all available at the click of a button!
FluentU is all about making the most of video content to help you learn or improve a language. But of course, we’re not the only ones to see the value in this amazing tool.
In this post, we’ll be looking at another platform: Yabla.
Yabla is an online language-learning tool that focuses on video content.
The philosophy is simple: By using a range of original and authentic videos at all levels, language learners can practice their listening and learn new vocabulary in context.
Yabla also features language games and written lessons to make the experience even richer.
So, is this program right for you? Check out our Yabla review below to find out!
Yabla Review: A Look at the Program’s Video-based Learning System
The main feature of Yabla is its video content, currently available in six languages. In order to provide a rich and varied experience, there’s a mixture of original content commissioned by Yabla and licensed content from other sources, including popular TV shows and films. All the videos contain native speakers, giving you a real authentic experience.
For example, if you’re learning Italian, you might start off by watching two real people talking about their families. This could then be followed by a clip of an Italian detective drama or a scenario that teaches you some useful business vocabulary.
Each video is accompanied by subtitles in your language and your target language. You can switch these on and off as you wish. You can also click individual words that are new to you and see them translated into English.
Lessons, games and vocabulary materials
While Yabla is centered on video content as a learning mechanism, there are also other features. What features you have access to depends on the language you’re learning.
For instance, if you’re studying French, you can add to your learning by clicking on the “Lessons” tab. This brings up lots of short articles that focus on a particular aspect of the language, like different ways of translating the word “when” into French, depending on the situation. The written explanations are supplemented with clips from Yabla’s video library to help you see how the language is used in context.
You can also play a series of fun language games and get yourself on the leaderboard for your chosen language. While you’re watching a video, simply click the “Games” button to access enjoyable activities like “Missing Word” to test your comprehension.
Learners of Chinese, on the other hand, are given a different set of tools. These include a pinyin chart to help you understand the different sounds used in Mandarin, as well as a flashcard utility so you can memorize vocabulary.
So how good is Yabla, really? Let’s take a look at some of the things it does really well, as well as some of the drawbacks.
The Strengths of the Yabla Program
Range of videos
Some people think that watching authentic video content is only useful at higher levels, but that’s simply not true! There’s a great variety of videos on Yabla, featuring natural language at every level. The videos come with a simple rating system from one to five, which means that you can see at a glance how difficult the content is.
I also love how you can see a mixture of language-focused original videos—both in acted scenarios and explanations to the camera—with videos taken from TV and film. This means you can still get the explanations you need as a student of the language but you can also feel like you’re watching the same kind of thing as a native speaker would watch!
As mentioned in the introduction, Yabla isn’t the only learning program to effectively harness videos for teaching a language. FluentU also strives to make authentic videos like music videos, movie clips and inspirational talks approachable to learners at any level.
Seeing your target language as it’s actually used by native speakers is a powerful way to learn the nuances, rhythm and word usage in a way that you just can’t get with content made for learners.
There are a lot of different views out there on the best way to use subtitles when you’re watching videos in a language you’re trying to learn or improve.
Some people say that the writing draws your eye, distracts you from the spoken language and prevents you from improving your listening comprehension, especially when you have the translation. Others, however, believe that seeing the subtitles can help you connect their sounds of the words with their spellings and meanings.
The great thing about the subtitles on Yabla is that you can choose to have them in your target language, in English, in both or in neither. This option for customization is also present in FluentU and other video-based learning programs because it puts the learning decisions in the hands of the learner.
You might find, for example, that the first time you watch the video you want to try to understand it without subtitles and then add them the second time so you can check how well you understood. Or you can do it the other way around—the choice is yours!
The other really useful thing about the subtitles on Yabla is that you can click on a word to bring up the dictionary definition and translation. You can also add it to your flashcard list for later revision.
While testing out this program, I was watching a clip from the TV series “Il Comissario Manara” (Commissioner Manara) in Italian on Yabla. The main character speaks so fast! Luckily, I was able to use Yabla’s video controls to turn the speed down to 75% or even 50% of the full speed in order to comprehend it better.
This is so useful when listening to authentic clips of native speakers. You can get into the rhythms of the language without worrying about losing the thread due to the pace being too fast.
Embedded video clips in lessons
Although they’re not available in every language, the lesson-style articles are brilliant. By showing short clips of specific grammar or vocabulary, explaining them and comparing their usage, Yabla really gives you a feel for some of the nuances of your target language.
You can take a look at these even if you’re not subscribed to the service. For instance, check out this lesson on German expressions of enthusiasm. The examples are given in English and German, and you just need to click on “Play Caption” to watch the clips.
Yabla Features That Could Be Better
Selection of languages
While this is sure to develop in the future, at the moment Yabla only offers six languages to learn—French, German, Italian, Chinese, Spanish and English.
If you’re learning Korean, Russian or Japanese and want to get a similar video-based experience, you can get that on FluentU. (FluentU also offers the languages on Yabla, in case you want a double-dose of video-based learning.)
Other language learners are out of luck—for now. Keep an eye out for new language offerings on both platforms!
Cost of new languages
Yabla requires a new subscription for each language. If you’re signed up to learn French and then you think you want to take up Chinese, you’ll need to pay a second fee.
This isn’t a problem if you only want to learn one language at a time, but it’s a bit of a shame not to be able to explore alternatives without committing to them.
You can always try out the language on another platform like FluentU, first—which does allow you to access all of its languages with a single subscription—before you decide to sign up for another language on Yabla.
At present, Yabla doesn’t have a downloadable app. This means you have to rely on having an internet connection to practice.
However, the upside of this is that the website is mobile responsive, so as long as you do have that connection then you can use your tablet or smartphone to study. (If you really want a dedicated app, you can find FluentU’s apps on Android and iOS and simply use Yabla at home and FluentU on the go!)
What do you think? Has our review of Yabla made you want to try it out?
All in all, despite a few drawbacks, the videos, games and lessons on offer make Yabla a really interesting way to use video content to drive your language learning in a fun and engaging way!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.