July 3, 2016 | Review Period


A Dazzling New Entry in the Global Language-Learning Market

Last October, using a big discount offered to Polyglot Conference attendees, I acquired for my personal language library a healthy portion of the products offered by Glossika, a small but shockingly productive publisher based in Taiwan.

Glossika Language Pileup!

Glossika Language Pileup!

I don’t normally buy products for languages I am not yet studying and may never study, but I was so convinced of the value of this undertaking and its approach that I felt compelled to buy in advance things I didn’t even know for sure I would ever use. It has taken me a while to get around to really trying it out, but recently I had a breakthrough moment.

Walking five miles in Central Park last month, accompanied by Glossika’s Italian offering, I found it to be an astonishing playground of auditory input. The Glossika audio content tested every corner of my brain and totally wore me out, and it reminded me of scores of small things I had learned but forgotten about the Italian language.

This is what you get: 3,000 sentences (or often pairs or trios of sentences at a time) per language, and in multiple formats. You get audio, and a ton of it, with different options for different learning preferences. You get each sentence written down for you in the original script, romanization (if relevant), and IPA (to help with pronunciation). Each sentence is also translated.

Glossika Offers Many Languages!

Glossika Offers Many Languages!

And a Ton of Content per Language!

And a Ton of Content per Language!

This is hardcore translation and pronunciation and fluency boot camp!

I have tried some of their other languages too, I mean besides Italian, but until my breakthrough evening in the park I hadn’t quite figured out how to use Glossika in a way that fit my personality and learning preferences. On that night I used it for a much-needed review, roaming around freely from one lesson to the next, out of order, and I relearned so much in a small amount of time that I was overwhelmed and even a bit emotional.

This company deserves a review in every major publication that ever reviews language products. It is the most impressive new entrant I have seen in the seven years I have been reviewing teach-yourself language-learning tools.

Some Glossika Greek and Dutch

Some Glossika Greek and Dutch

Mike Campbell, the American polyglot behind this concept, has used translators and freelancers from around the world, and clearly I can’t vouch for the quality of each language. That will by definition vary depending on the skill of the translators and audio providers involved. 

I recall that some of the German translations irritated me a bit — but apart from minor editing complaints about what I have tested so far, I consider Glossika to be a critical and groundbreaking addition to the learners’ market. 

Mike has documented languages small and large, widely studied and barely studied. What would-be speakers of all languages most need and frequently lack is high-quality audio content — and this is comprehensive, intelligent, creative, analytical, brilliant stuff.

At high velocity Mike and his team have published materials for an extraordinary array of languages, using this 3,000-piece set of relevant, wide-ranging content. There’s German, Spanish, Turkish, Icelandic, Japanese, Serbian, Arabic, Hakka, Hungarian, Mongolian, Thai, French, Polish, Indonesian, Armenian, Georgian, Belarusian, Spanish, Catalan, Cantonese, Hindi, Mandarin, Dutch, Wenzhounese, Taiwanese, Russian, Estonian, Swahili, Greek, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, and some I might have missed.

A Peek Inside a Glossika Book on Georgian

A Peek Inside a Glossika Book on Georgian

Greek and Dutch are examples of languages for which I simply could not find enough audio content when I was studying them several years ago. There is already quite a lot of audio material for Spanish and German and French and Italian (Pimsleur, for example, now offers 150 half-hour audio lessons for each of those languages), but for many other languages there has been little material available. Problem solved!

I have never met Mike in person, but I have communicated with him regularly over a period of years and have found him to be a dedicated, linguaphilic, polyglottally quirky guy who wants to create a product that actually works and not just another feel-good product built of false promises in a shiny, consumer-pleasing wrapper.

This stuff is for real. Glossika is not a standalone product or a beginner’s product; it is most appropriately used by those with at least a beginner’s foundation in a language.

If you want to learn how to speak, if you know something of a language already, and if you are able to take control of your learning process and have the courage and resilience to try and persist day after day, Glossika could really transform your speaking ability in your target language. I am incredibly excited it is here.

Comments (6)

Israel • Posted on Tue, July 05, 2016 - 8:26 pm EST

Wow, did you really buy all of that in one go? (I wish I had the storage space for all those books!) All the way from Taiwan?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, July 06, 2016 - 5:58 pm EST

I think technically 2-3 separate purchases (I already had Swedish, for instance), but mostly one big bulk one using the discount. Technically getting Glossika books makes no sense. You can get them as PDFs. PDFs require considerably less space. But I really like the books. I struggle with this issue a lot. I had to get rid of some nonlanguage books to accommodate the language ones.

Shannon Kennedy, Eurolinguiste • Posted on Thu, July 07, 2016 - 2:35 pm EST

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Glossika, Ellen. I’ve been quite curious about their products lately and I always appreciate your opinion on learning resources!

Nicholas • Posted on Wed, February 22, 2017 - 12:12 am EST

Greetings Ellen! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’m curious to know if you have also tried the triangulation packages that they offer as well.  In these triangulation packages it seems you can have 3 (or more) different languages combined into single audio files. So the same sentence would be repeated in 3 or 4 different languages.  I have some experience using my L2 in order to learn an L3.  However, this new triangulation method could be a way to use your L2 (source language) to review an L3 (target language) and learn a brand new L4 (target language). Too overzealous perhaps? haha.  I’d be very interested to hear your experience or insights.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, February 22, 2017 - 12:14 am EST

I haven’t tried those, Nicholas! I’m not opposed to doing it, not at all, but I have little, er, lust to do so without an outside push. :)

I feel as though my brain is pretty engaged with the traditional package for now.

But who knows what the future will hold?

I hope you will report back if you try it!

Nicholas • Posted on Wed, February 22, 2017 - 7:06 am EST

Thanks. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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