Bluebird Languages | Reference eReviews

Language-learning app Bluebird aims to bring language instruction to everyone, regardless of mother tongue. Affordable, responsive, easy to set up, and simple to access, Bluebird is an excellent resource with an enormous amount of content.

Bluebird Languages



A language-learning app for tablets and Android and Apple phones, Bluebird aims to bring language instruction to the entire population of Earth, regardless of mother tongue. The database is huge, with more than six million hours of language-learning content—the equivalent of about 630,000 audiobooks. Approximately 164 languages are available for study, estimated to be 97 percent of the spoken world, with 12.5 million research-based interactive audio lessons narrated in 146 languages.

The app has multiple instructional options, through either prerecorded lessons or personalized courses. For example, one can study English in eight different varieties: American, Australian, British, Canadian, Indian, Irish, New Zealand, and Scottish. Prerecorded lessons cover core vocabulary words, important verb forms, complete sentence construction, critical phrases for traveling and everyday living, and complex conversations. Prerecorded lessons run 30 minutes, daily lessons are six minutes, and conversation lessons last 45 minutes. Personalized audio courses can be easily developed based on a user’s occupational or personal interests. Each personalized course is tailored to the user’s available time, skill level, age range, and other related factors. Personalized courses range from five to 60 minutes depending on preference. In total, 24,000 language permeations are possible (for instance, Czech to Korean; English to Mexican Spanish).

Regardless of type, each lesson has studio-quality audio, time-coded subtitles, time-coded photos that illustrate each instructional phase, a phonetic text option, indicators of noun gender and articles when relevant, scored quizzes, and five playback speeds. Access is straightforward, via a simple PIN code that is set up by a patron’s institution. All of Bluebird’s content and functionality is unlocked once a PIN is used. Lessons are automatically stored and can be played offline. Bluebird features the spaced repetition learning method (reviewing material at progressively longer intervals until it’s committed to memory), offers unlimited concurrent remote access, and provides detailed usage statistics.



Once the Bluebird app is downloaded, users see a start-up screen where they can log in or register. One registers by inputting an email address, password, and four-character PIN code unique to that institution. Users are required to enter the PIN only once. A fake email address can be entered for users who don’t have email, but if future support is a concern, one will need a real email address to get a response from Bluebird. After sign-in, an alphabetical list is displayed of the 164 languages available for learning. Once a language is selected, a screen outlines the various activities one can pursue: daily lessons, personalized courses, five large learning levels of core vocabulary, essential verbs, creating sentences, powerful phrases, and conversation. Approximately 10,000 phrases and up to 338 hours of prerecorded audio are standard for each language. Daily lessons feature short warm-up lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners.

Helpful features enhance learning and use. Narration, learning text, and photographs are time-coded, making it easy to return to where a user left off. Audio can be cast to a smart speaker, lessons can be bookmarked for offline use, display text can be changed to phonetic text, and playback speed can be slowed down. Moreover, users can jump back or ahead in ten-second increments during a lesson. Each lesson has a series of quizzes that can be taken in any order from beginner to advanced. Quiz scores are saved. In addition, lessons have flash card exercises to assist in memorization. PDF study guides can be downloaded for any daily lesson or personalized course.

Creating a personalized course is quick and easy. It begins with identifying items of interest from a menu of subject options (travel, vehicles, sports, shopping safety, etc.) or from a list of occupations (librarian, accountant, mechanic, etc.). Those interests are used to build vocabulary in the personalized course. Users then identify an applicable age range, name the course, select its length (four weeks to one year), and pick the number of phrases to learn each day (four to 12).

Prerecorded lessons are designed in a building-block approach by level and are organized into more than 400 topical units. Core vocabulary lessons teach the language’s most common 2,000 words and last about 30 minutes. Users will also find 77 complete conversations, how to conjugate the language’s 100 most common verbs, and how to build sentences using more than 2,200 conversational phrases.

The app’s side menu provides quick access to a variety of functions: account information; statistics; bookmarked lessons; the last 50 completed lessons; links to all languages being studied; options to change the interface or narration language; online help; contact details for Bluebird support; and Bluebird’s Twitter.

In general, there tend to be more options for the most widely known languages. For instance, users looking for Arabic (Egyptian) or German will find categories including daily lessons, personalized courses, core vocabulary, essential verbs, creating sentences, powerful phrases, and conversation; however, those searching for Hiligaynon, Sambalpuri, or Xhosa will find only powerful phrases.

Selections and features generally load relatively quickly, although given that a 30-minute language lesson contains about five megabytes, users’ Wi-Fi could be challenged at times. A new language can be started easily by selecting the “back” button and making a new selection from the drop-down menu of languages. The audio, narration, and teaching are always clear; the visuals are excellent; and the lessons are highly engaging, with strong learning tools.

An admin dashboard provides institutional statistics on registrations, lessons, quizzes, collective time spent, learned languages, levels, units, and downloads. Statistics can be filtered by the date of registration, update, last action, or score.



Fees start at $495/year. Contact for more information.



Affordable, responsive, easy to set up, and simple to access, Bluebird is loaded with user-friendly features and contains an enormous amount of content. This is an excellent resource for users seeking a handy, enhanced mobile experience for language learning.

Rob Tench is a Librarian at Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA.

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