- Busuu is a language-learning app that offers 12 language options for native English speakers, along with a comprehensive placement test, and the ability to connect with native speakers.
- Both free and premium versions of Busuu are available. However, helpful bonus features in the paid versions include customized study plans and offline learning opportunities.
- Premium Plus users can receive proficiency certificates aligned with an international certification framework via Busuu’s partnership with McGraw-Hill.
If you’ve been struck with the desire to learn a foreign language in these socially distanced times, there are plenty of apps out there that will help you do it from the comfort of your couch.
Busuu differentiates itself with an award-winning program that follows an internationally recognized scale for assessing language learning fluency, and uses a comprehensive placement test when you sign up for a new language. It also allows users to connect with native speakers for conversations and feedback on lessons.
The app’s approach seems to work: A study it commissioned with an independent research team from the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina found that 22 hours of Busuu Premium were equivalent to a college semester of language learning and that every user who participated improved in their chosen language’s proficiency.ON THIS PAGE
What is Busuu?
Founded in Europe in 2008 and now 100 million users strong, Busuu calls itself the “world’s largest community for language learning.” The platform offers browser- and mobile-based professionally designed courses that follow the models of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages for proficiency assessments. Busuu offers lessons from beginner to upper-intermediate.
Courses are designed by in-house educational experts and focus on developing foundations for reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Conversations with native speakers are an essential part of their learning curriculum. For native English-speakers, course options include:
The platform also offers two paid versions with additional features: Premium and Premium Plus. Premium offers additional lessons and offline learning capabilities.
Premium Plus users can get certified in a language level through the app’s partnership with McGraw-Hill Education, receive hyper-customized study plans, and learn multiple languages at once.
If you opt for the basic version, expect frequent ads enticing you to upgrade.
Where to access Busuu
Busuu is available via its browser-based platform at busuu.com and via a smartphone app, which means you can work at home or on-the-go. Premium versions of the app allow you to download content for offline learning.
You don’t need any gear beyond a microphone- and audio-enabled device (if you’re in a busy spot, you can skip the pronunciation exercises). You can switch back and forth between devices, though the program will save from the beginning of a chapter, not the specific exercise you left off at.
There’s also an Amazon Alexa skill available that’s a quizbot to help keep practicing and reviewing fun and fresh.
How Busuu works
First, users create a profile via the website or app (available free from your phone’s app store). Then they select the language they’d like to study. A comprehensive five-minute language test with a variety of exercises (fill-in-the-blank sentences, audio recognition) will rate language ability on a scale ranging from A1.1-B2 — that’s the CEFR scale many European language schools use to assess students.
While all users have access to basic learning exercises and conversation opportunities with native speakers, access to customized study plans and additional grammar and vocabulary lessons are only available as part of the premium paid versions. Be aware that if you only use the free version, there will also be many ads that try to hard-sell you on the upgraded version.
For all lessons, both in free and premium models, each lesson screen helpfully gives you an estimate of how long it’s expected for you to complete the lesson. You can skip around between lessons if you’d like to switch it up, and each lesson is focused on a specific conversational theme.
Lessons are similar to those on other apps like Duolingo and Babbel, with exercises such as transcribing an audio snippet and fill in the blank exercises. But with Busuu, they’re centered around specific conversational scenarios to help make them more relevant and easier to grasp. They’re also broken down into different sections users need to “pass” by achieving scores of 75% or higher.
Even basic users have the ability to converse with and get feedback on lessons from native speakers. Busuu helpfully offers speaking prompts to engage conversation partners. Users also have the ability to respond by recording a message or typing a response. The platform has smartly built in an element of safety to this feature — users must send a friend request, which the other potential partner needs to accept before the conversation begins.
The app’s paid Premium version offers offline learning, more advanced grammar lessons, and additional vocabulary. They have an even higher-tier version called Premium Plus that allows for customized study plans. Premium Plus is the only version where you can utilize custom study plans, earn a certificate, or learn more than one language at once.
The more expensive Premium Plus version is particularly useful for those learning the language for a specific reason. With this paid model, you have the ability to target learning to a specific purpose (determined through a brief questionnaire) so you don’t start getting vocabulary lessons more related to, say, tourism, when you’re learning goals are centered around an upcoming business meeting.
How much does Busuu cost?
Busuu offers a free plan that includes conversations with native speakers, while two other premium levels offer more advanced features. You can opt to pay quarterly, every 12 months, or every two years, with different discounts offering better value for longer subscriptions.
Premium plans are offered for $11.30 per month for a monthly plan, $6.59 per month for an annual plan, $6.12 per month two-year plans. However, the official prices are billed in euros as it is a European-based company.
Premium Plus plans are offered for $12.43 a month for monthly plans, $7.53 a month for annual, and $7.06 per month for two-year plans.
Plans can be canceled at any time within 14 days after purchase.
The bottom line
For those wanting to align with a recognized curriculum for language learning proficiency, Busuu is an excellent choice with creative, comprehensive options for at-home study. The ability to test into a level but also move around once you’re within the level is helpful for those who want to switch it up or focus on a specific conversation topic.
If you are learning a language for a specific reason and prefer more customized study guides, or if you want a certificate to show your fluency, the upgraded Premium Plus model is well worth the money. While the free version is adequate, the biggest draw of the basic Premium subscription is the offline learning ability.
However, those looking to achieve ultimate fluency will be disappointed with the free or premium models, as lessons end at the upper intermediate level.
While the exercises aren’t too different from formats offered on other apps, there’s plenty of variety to keep learning fresh, and the ability to converse with native speakers is a serious added draw.