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?
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.
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.
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.