Bliu Bliu Review: Worth Your Time?

So I recently discovered the language-learning website Bliu Bliu and decided to try it out. I’ve been using it for a little while now and have made it a part of my daily routine studying Spanish.

What do I think?

Cafe in Nida, Lithuania
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Let me spare you the suspense and give you my verdict:

Bliu Bliu is genius. Use it.

Now let me explain why.

(As I usually mention in my reviews, I have no affiliation with Bliu Bliu whatsoever. My reviews are always honest and unbiased.)

How Bliu Bliu Works

Basically, Bliu Bliu predicts your language-learning level and then provides you content you should be able to understand.

There are two basic activities:

  • Surfing – You “surf” through short snippets of text, approximately 20 to 50 words long. Words you might not know are underlined. If you know an underlined word, you click it and add it to your “Words you know” list.
  • Drilling – You see the words you don’t know used in five or more unrelated sentences. This encourages you to try and infer the meaning from context.

There are also a couple other things you can do, like reviewing recently learned words and words you’re not picking up via drilling. But the vast majority of your time on the site will be spent surfing and drilling.

How Bliu Bliu Really Works

Bliu Bliu is all about developing language skills using comprehensible input, which I’ve discussed at length before.

Quick recap of comprehensible input: Some linguists (language scientists) believe that to really know and use a language, you have to acquire it subconsciously, rather than learn it consciously. How do they say that you “acquire” a language? By exposing yourself to hours upon hours of comprehensible input–that is, input you can understand.

Bliu Bliu provides you comprehensible input by scouring the Internet to find it for you. The algorithms and technology it uses to accomplish this are obviously kept under wraps, but I can make a few educated guesses.

First, I’m guessing that Bliu Bliu filters what it finds on the Web so that you only see texts in which you understand at least 90% of the vocabulary. So in any short passage, you won’t see more than two or three underlined words.

Second, I think that Bliu Bliu exposes you to your newly learned words several times over the next days and months. I’m not absolutely sure about this, but that’s the impression I get based on the texts I’ve been seeing. If this is true, you get a nice spaced repetition effect with this, which will really help the new words sink in.

Furthermore, when you’re learning a new word on Bliu Bliu, you’re not getting the translation of it. The translation is available, but it’s somewhat hidden. Instead, you’re encouraged to learn the new word on its own terms in the language by figuring out how it fits in with the words around it.

For example, let’s say you’re learning a fictional language and you see a series of sentences like this:

  • Maglug is an animal that lives in Africa.
  • Maglugs have long necks and long legs, both of which allow them to eat leaves from tall trees.
  • The exotic maglug, with its long neck and patchy coat, is a popular attraction at our zoo.

You don’t need to have someone explicitly tell you that maglug means “giraffe.” You figured it out on your own. Not all words are learned as neatly and as easily as this, but you’d be surprised at how many can be–especially if you see the word in a variety of contexts as you do in Bliu Bliu’s “drilling” activity.

The Controversy

So here’s where I really had to make a judgment call about whether this site was effective.

I think that comprehensible input is important, but I wasn’t sure if Bliu Bliu’s interpretation of comprehensible input was spot on.

Here’s why: Bliu Bliu pays a lot–a lot–of attention to the individual word. On this site, you learn language one word at a time, and anyone who has spent even a couple weeks learning languages knows how problematic that can be. That’s just not how language operates.

Words by themselves are useless unless they’re combined in a way that makes sense. So there were times when I saw a passage that didn’t have a single word underlined, which meant I should’ve been able to understand the text completely. Yet I still didn’t know what the text actually meant.

It was a little frustrating. I wanted some kind of help with the grammar or the syntax or something.

And then as I continued using the site, I realized that I was getting better at inferring meaning when I was confused. There were fewer times when I was completely lost, and I was getting a lot more comfortable with reading increasingly difficult texts.

“How was this happening?” I wondered.

Then it hit me. After just a few sessions, the comprehensible input was working!

That’s why I think the site is genius. It interpreted a linguistic concept–comprehensible input–in its own unique way, and then delivered a language-learning service that actually works.

Wrapping Up

As of the time of this writing, Bliu Bliu is in a Beta phase, which is good because it means you can try it for free, but it’s bad because they’re still working out a few kinks.

But don’t let a couple little bugs and usability issues stop you from using this very effective language-learning tool. If you did, you’d seriously be missing out.

Should you only use Bliu Bliu in your language studies? Absolutely not. I don’t think you should only use any program, course, website, or method. But it’s a great tool in your language-learning toolbox and a great way to really add a jolt to your studies.


  • Claudio Santori Spadini

    Thanks for the review. We appreciate and agree with everything. We are also sorry for the bugs, and the usability issues, we are working hard, improving everyday.
    We love the idea of combining Bliu Bliu with other tools: you won’t believe how fast you can progress :)

    • Ron G.

      Hi Claudio! Thanks for stopping by. In my day job, I write documentation for IT programs, so I completely understand about little things that pop up during development. I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all, except that I try to be honest on my site. Anyway, you guys are well on your way to great things.

      • Claudio Santori Spadini

        I wasn’t complaining, we are proud of all our bugs :)

      • lili

        Yes, it’s better to be honest. We all understand bugs can be fixed with time.

    • lili

      Hi Claudio. I have repeated bugs about launching the custom words session or the new words sessions, no button to launch it, and the button “boring words?” doesn’t work (it never worked since I use the site). Could you fix it? Thanks. And also, add a way to have several words, having an English verb without the particle, like “up”, etc, is a problem. Having expressions could be interesting.

  • Natalie

    Wow, thanks for sharing this cool site, Ron. It’s really amazing. I’m doing some Russian on there to see how it is. I might move on to a few other languages I want to know to see how that works out. :)

    • Ron

      Awesome! Please let me know how it goes for you after using it for a while.

  • Aleksander Booker

    @languagesurfer:disqus , how long did you use the site before writing your review? And now that it’s been a couple of months, are you still using it/have you seen more significant progress?

    • Ron G.

      Hey Aleksander, thanks for stopping by! I used it for a few weeks before I wrote the review, and then used it for another month or so after that. I saw good progress, but I switched gears to experiment with some other strategies (like my current listening-only project). I’m planning on using it again after this current project is over, though.

      To get to what I think you’re really asking, I didn’t use it for a real long time (as is typically needed with acquisition-based strategies) and I didn’t see my language skills go through the roof with it. But I did notice a definite bump up in my vocab bank and in my comfort level with reading Spanish texts, which is pretty cool considering my time investment of ten minutes a day.

      • Aleksander Booker

        Awesome. Thanks for the quick response. It sounds like Bliu Bliu is worth it for the vocabulary boost, but definitely should only be considered supplemental material.

        • Claudio Santori Spadini

          Well, we are still in beta and for now we think we are an amazing supplemental material…planning to become something more in 2014 :)

          • Linh Phan

            Hi! let make it available on mobile

          • Claudio Santori Spadini

            Mobile coming soon…apparently this summer

          • Lisa

            I discovered Bliu Bliu earlier today and I have already spent an hour on it and I love it!!!

  • lanaken

    I signed up for this for three months to try it out in January and have just noticed that two more payments have been taken from my credit card. So watch out for Mr Santori’s simple life draining your bank account. I have just cancelled the subscription again but it wasn’t clear on the website that this was successful. Hmmm…

    • Claudio Santori Spadini

      I am pretty sure this will be solved quite fast. I don’t deal directly with Bliu Bliu anymore but I will make sure this is solved. We never took any extra money from anybody

      • lanaken

        Ciao Claudio, Ho gia visto la tua risposta.. Ti ringrazio per il tuo aiuto risolvere questa problema cosi’ rapidamente . Bliu Bliu e anche Claudio sono onesti.

        Hi Claudio, I’ve jsut seen your response.Thank you for sorting out this problem so quickly. Bliu Bliu and also Claudio are honest.

        John Kirton

  • lili

    ReadLang + Bliu Bliu seems a good couple to use together, along with other apps, like Duolingo, Ling-8 and Busuu. Using all of them is really good, but I’m still searching for an app with a good voice recognition (Livemocha had this, but it’s dead), and writing and oral understanding exercices, grammar tests, etc…

  • Arnaud Bernier

    Great review! I just signed up for the Bliu Bliu Russian Challenge in March (learn a language in 30 days) and wrote a post with a link to your article on my French blog “Langues bien pendues”

  • Fabrizio Ulivieri

    Bliu Bliu are not serious people. They have fake contacts (they never reply to phone calls, they maintain that they are based in Vilnius in Pylimo g. 2-203 but they are not…) they withdraw twice the same sum of money from your credit card and do not reply to your requests to return the money…
    Honestly once I had a better opinion about them, not now. Their fault.

    I cancelled my subscription.


  • lili

    That’s a great site, but too many bugs! When I try to launch the custom words practice or the new words practice, very very often, the button is missing! Sometimes I wonder if this site is abandoned. That’s a pity, 4 years later so many bugs. I can still use it, but the fun is lost when I want to launch a session and I’m forced to do something else, like a text session.