Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Greekpod101.com review

Greekpod101 is a product of Innovative Language Learning.  From the following review, it should be obvious that I have no affiliation to this company!  In fact I am not peddling any product on this blog that can be bought or sold.

My current language interests are driven by seminary requirements to learn Greek and Hebrew.  Normally pastor students do the minimum they need to check these requirements off, and then forget the languages.  My goal has been to familiarize myself with the modern versions in order to better appreciate the Biblical text as living languages.  Since I am also much interested in classical writings in both Greek and Hebrew, there is an additional incentive to learn.  Finally, unlike many other western languages, much of the vocabulary and grammar of Greek and Hebrew is shared with their ancient versions, thus, this there is a practical angle to this.  Then there is the fact that Hebrew and Greek represent the fifth and sixth languages that I have invested considerable time trying to learn.

What attracted me to this product was the vocabulary learning program.  But before commenting on the vocabulary tools, I will comment on the rest.  And before that, I will note that my favorite tool for language learning so far has been the Pimsleur method.  The Pimsleur system provides a lot of drill on pronunciation and grammar, while slowly introducing vocabulary.  In the case of Greek, however, they only have two of their 30 lesson modules available, so it is really limited, far beyond Pimsleur's usual level of limited.

The language lessons in GreekPod101 really provide no drill that I can see so far.  You simple hear, and repeat.  Thus, the key aspects of language, conjugating verbs, adjectives nouns along with choosing articles, etc., are really not possible in this system.  You will need to get that drill somewhere else, but language drill is one of the most important aspects.  Questions and answers are key.  A plus is that they can automatically send you the current lesson to look at.  I have been ignoring these recently, however, since they really aren't that helpful without the drill.  A separate aspect that bugs me with all the language learning products I have worked with recently is the boiler plate at the beginning and ending of each lecture.  This just wastes time.

Another annoying aspect to this system is the way they bombard you with spam, offering various discounts, which really just means that the original price is puffed up all the more.  This is irritating.  Then add to this that some of the early introductory lessons wasted time with too much silliness. There is a series of additional quick propaganda tapes about learning languages that added more annoyance by offering up sales rhetoric under the guise of study advice. 

Anyway, if they didn't have something good, I wouldn't have wasted the time to find out the above.  So far I have been pleased with the vocabulary program.  It does a good job of drilling you on whether you recognize the spoken Greek, the written Greek, or can correctly translate back into Greek from English.  a heavy emphasis on native Greek speakers gives me some confidence that my pronunciation is in the ballpark.  This I have use diligently to the point that I have about 600 vocabulary words I have committed to memory, out of a rumored 2,000 that are stored in the system for Greek.  The time spacing formula is quite effective at reminding you of the words you are weak at while not wasting a lot of time on those that you are familiar with.  If I can keep this going, I should know well over 1,000 words before my Greek semester formally starts.  Hopefully I can get the entire 2,000 words down by the end of the first semester, in addition to what is required by the class.

As much as I like this system, it still has some issues.  For example, the nouns don't quiz gender, which is a very big thing in Greek.  Then there are a few quality check things where the audio for a word is completely different from the printed.  In one case, the audio was left out altogether.  Most of the native Greek readers were using good quality recording equipment, but one did not, making a lot of the audio a bit tricky.  Ideally, the 3 or 4 readers would each do all the vocabulary, so that we could hear different speakers say the same word at random.  A male voice in the mix would be nice.

Separately, I purchased the Innovative Language Learning WordPower Hebrew program for my iPhone.  This is also a vocabulary drill program, but very different from the online version.  There seems to be a large amount of helpful vocabulary built in that is divided up into various categories to ease studying.  What is lacking is the three modes of drill that the online version has along with the spaced repetition.  The only drill I see is from the written to the audio and translation.  This greatly limits the usefulness of the iPhone programs compared to the full subscriptions.  A quality problem jumped out at me on the second usage, since the Hebrew verb "to go" was given audio in a participle form, rather than the usual 3rd masculine singular perfect, which is what the written text used.  

All this leaves me a little hesitant as to whether to recommend or not.  What I really would like is a vocabulary drill bundle for a couple languages, but not at the prices they are currently charging.  If they could provide some specific koine and classical word bundles for Greek, I would be in heaven.


Max Coutinho said...

Hey Looney,

I have tried Hebrewpod101 and I didn't like it either. It's not for me (since I have this intrinsic need to understand the etymology of words and their place in grammar). As for vocabulary acquisition I prefer sites like Streetwise Hebrew (http://www.streetwisehebrew.com/) it has lovely podcasts and it teaches you how people talk in Israel - great stuff. For practise I have been chatting with Hebrew speakers I meet on the social media.

Remember when you once asked me about Israeli-Hebrew speaking radios? I was recommended a super site that I enthusiastically recommend: http://tunein.com/search/?query=Israel
The stream and sound are pristine (unlike the other ones I sent you a while ago).

Happy learning to both of us :D.


Rummuser said...

Some years ago when I started to learn Vedanta I found my lack of Sanskrit knowledge dissatisfying as I was learning everything in English. When I studied Sanskrit I found it to be quite easy and simple to follow because the devnagari script is common to it and Hindi/Marathi. The Vedanta lessons now take on new dimensions.

In your last post you had said in your response to my comment that you wish you were retired. I can assure you that if is a great way to live. Do look forward to it.

Looney said...

@Max, streetwisehebrew looks like some fun. I am with you on the etymology, etc. The radio stations look entertaining too. Thanks for the links.

Looney said...


I could probably keep myself well entertained studying and exercising if I were retired. My swimming partner retired when he was about my age. Part of my problem is that I enjoy my work also!

There seems to be quite a lot more insight when studying a text in the original language. Is much written in Sanskrit besides the Vedas?

Rummuser said...

The Upanishads, The Puranas, The Bhagwat Geeta and all other philosophical and relgious texts are in Sanskrit. Local language works are almost always translations with only Tamil with original work as it is claimed to be older than Sanskrit. I am fluent in Tamil incidentally. It is my mother and father tongue.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I have experienced the same issue as you with greekpod101 and in the end, I simply don't trust them so I didn't subscribe to any of their schemes.
For just a little more than 2$, I bought the full App "Greek in a week" from the Apple appstore. There is no grammar at all, only lots of vocabulary, and sometimes you need to look for the translation yourself as the images are not completely clear.
But it's well worth it as a complement to some dry book-based method as you get 2 speakers (male and female) with 2 different accents (I think the man is from Crete).
The price is very low and is a one-off (no monthly subscription so you take it in your own time).
Just remember to switch off the sound effects which are quite annoying, especially when you get too many wrong answers!
Good luck anyways!

Anonymous said...

correction: the app is called "Greek in a month" (which by the way is equally unrealistic...)