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 (15)

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!

Diane • Posted on Thu, October 12, 2017 - 9:56 pm EST

How much space did the program take on your computer?

john quine • Posted on Sun, December 03, 2017 - 12:58 pm EST

Hello again Ellen.
The thing that worries me slightly is the fact that all the courses are translated from English and may just be a literal translation. I am interested in Glossika Italian (and possibly German) and would appreciate your personal comments as to the authenticity of the Italian translations. Having more than a passing interest about how people learn L2, sentence mining looks king. Ellen, do you find that the content is useful for a near beginner?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, December 03, 2017 - 1:12 pm EST

Hi John! You mean like a word-for-word machine translation or something? No, they are not that; they are translated by a human. My impression is that there is a single translator as opposed to a team cross-checking each other’s work, which means there is some subjectivity and inevitably errors arise, but I have seen them make efforts to implement edits along the way.

When I did the German, I recall that was annoyed by some translations, specifically of a certain category of simple negative simple sentences that were translated with “nein” instead of a fuller and far more relevant/helpful rendering with subject/negation/verb. That may have been fixed by now, as that was a couple of years ago.

The Italian I was happy with. I didn’t test all 3,000 Italian sentence combinations, but I felt satisfied with the translations and got a lot out of what I did.

What I don’t know now, and actually I just wrote to them last night asking about this, is how you buy a single language these days. They have moved to a subscription system, and it’s not immediately clear to me how it works now. I will see what I can find out, okay? Or maybe you already know…

john quine • Posted on Mon, December 04, 2017 - 2:52 pm EST

Many thanks Ellen,
I had read that with some languages, some of the translations whilst being grammatically correct would not be said by a native. These may have been referring to the earliest versions.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, December 04, 2017 - 2:58 pm EST

Hi John, well, I personally can’t judge that for an awful lot of languages. Most any, in fact, unless it’s something really egregious in a language I know well. I try to be really conservative about assuming that as a nonnative speaker I can judge how standard something is for native speakers. One can easily fall into all kinds of linguistic potholes and ditches trying to make that assessment, as I’m sure you know. I have also seen native speakers of languages, including my own, opine in error that things “would not be done that way,” because they simply don’t realize the diversity of their own language. So it’s complicated! I am under the impression that the Glossika translators are all native speakers, but of course, there is variety among native speakers. So ‘round in circles we go! :)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, January 31, 2018 - 12:23 am EST

Hi Diane, I’m so sorry! I didn’t notice your question until now and just put it live now. I haven’t used Glossika on my computer, but rather, have stuck to my phone. Between Pimsleur and Glossika I ran out of space on my roomy phone. I’m not sure which was bulkier.

Cat • Posted on Thu, May 17, 2018 - 3:49 am EST

Hi Ellen!
Between Glossika and the Pimsleur Fitness Program, I hope to get a nicer, toned butt soon :D But seriously, I love both programs. Thank you for your reviews!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, May 18, 2018 - 2:50 pm EST

Cat, I laughed out loud! Thank you!

Joe • Posted on Mon, December 03, 2018 - 2:49 pm EST

So would you recommend me to get the one for Russian?

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