In this ELSA Speak review, I will unpick the structure and features of this English language learning app and provide my honest opinion about whether or not I recommend it to learners.
ELSA Speak is an English pronunciation app with activities based on correct pronunciation, listening, word stress, conversation, and intonation. This sets it apart from other language learning apps which focus more on grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing.
In order to write this review, I signed up for the app and tested the activities at an intermediate and advanced level.
I will share my experiences and detail my favorite aspects of the ELSA app, as well as areas for improvement.
How's it going? I'm James, a lover of travel and languages. So much so that I blog about them on this site. I hope you find this information useful! 😊
How I Did This Elsa Speak Review
Before we dive into this review of ELSA Speak, let me introduce myself. I am a native English speaker and a keen language learner. This means I can assess English pronunciation lessons both as a fluent speaker and as someone who understands the language learning process.
I engaged with all of the activities and noted the vocabulary I was being exposed to. In this review, I will address how effective I found the activities and how useful I found the English language that was being taught.
By the end of this review, you will be familiar with the structure and key features of the English learning app. Moreover, we will address frequently asked questions and my personal opinion about the app and its utility. Let’s get started.
What Is ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant)?
ELSA, English Language Speech Assistant, is an engaging app specially designed to help learners of English improve their pronunciation.
ELSA’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology uses voice data of people speaking English with various accents and provides instant feedback on pronunciation as you go through the activities.
This pronunciation app is unique and uses cutting-edge AI-powered technology to pinpoint mistakes in pronunciation and fluency.
You can choose your level (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and then tell ELSA why you are practicing English (job opportunities, education, travel, living and working abroad, culture and entertainment, or other).
ELSA Speak offers 5 kinds of games: pronunciation, listening, syllable stress, conversational English, and intonation. Within these exercises, there are 3 levels: easy, medium, and difficult.
Both the conversational English and pronunciation lessons have 2 modes: regular and advanced. Regular mode corrects pronunciation errors on specific underlined words. Advanced mode analyzes every syllable for mistakes.
I will now explain how each activity works, with a focus on how practical and useful the language is and how effective the lessons are at achieving their purpose.
These lessons test your pronunciation of a sound in a word, rather than the whole word. The sound is then highlighted and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) spelling is provided.
Using phonetic spelling can be very helpful for language learners who use this system.
For those who do not, the pronunciation lessons are still very effective as they also use audio clips so you can mimic the sounds to practice correct pronunciation.
ELSA Speak provides listening practice using audio files and multiple choice. You see a word on the screen, such as “nice” and two audio clips.
One audio file says “nice”, while the other says “night”. You must choose the audio clip with the correct ending sound.
This is excellent practice for differentiating between similar consonant and vowel sounds when people speak English.
These lessons instruct learners on where to place the stress in a word. You will be presented with words such as “action” with the “ac” in bigger, bolder font. This teaches you that the first syllable is stressed in this word. You practice and receive feedback from the AI assessment tool.
All the words provided are useful and practical words in everyday English, so learning how to stress them is very useful and helps with fluency.
In these lessons, you are provided real-life scenarios such as ordering at a restaurant or showing your boarding pass before flying. You are given natural-sounding dialogue to practice useful, everyday English.
This is a great speaking practice exercise as it puts vocabulary in an authentic context. You press the record button, speak English on your phone and the app provides instant feedback.
It is both effective in instructing natural conversation and practical in its context.
If you want to speak English like a native, you will need to understand intonation. This is the way your voice fluctuates from higher to lower pitches as you say a sentence.
For instance, in English, it is common to end a question with a higher pitch.
ELSA asks you to record yourself speaking to practice intonation with phrases like “we’ll see how it goes tomorrow“.
This can be less intuitive than other speaking skills taught by ELSA Speak, so the practice is very beneficial.
The more you hear examples provided by the ELSA app, the more natural this skill will become.
ELSA Speak Review: Other Great Features
The below-listed features are all free, but more perks are unlocked with ELSA Pro, such as AI assessment of each syllable of a word and medium and difficult lessons.
Relevant English Vocabulary
When you sign up for ELSA, the app asks you why you want to learn English. There are different options for different needs, such as business English or English for living and working abroad. This means you can tailor your learning to your needs.
Wide Variety of Exercises
On the ELSA app, there are more than 1600 exercises covering over 40 topics that will be updated continuously.
This breadth of content and vocabulary means learners will develop a thorough word bank while they work on their speaking.
With ELSA Pro, you can do unlimited exercises per day, while with the free version, you are limited to five.
You can check the meaning of any words you do not understand by saying them to the speaker or scanning them with your camera.
ELSA will check the meaning and assess your pronunciation.
There is also a feature that allows you to watch people saying words or phrases, which gives natural examples of when it is used in context.
You can add your friends who also want to learn English and compete on the leaderboard. This is a great motivator to get in your regular practice.
Moreover, you can “ask for help” by posting a word you are struggling with. Your ELSA Speak community can help you correct it.
The exercises that instruct conversational English assess fluency, intonation, and pronunciation.
The AI does this by assessing your speech compared with audio files of people speaking English as their native language.
The ELSA Speak app will test your level and give you scores in percentages for various aspects of English pronunciation, such as the difference between the vowel sounds /ʊ/ (in good) and /u/ (in food).
There is an assessment test that helps to identify your level of language when you begin using the ELSA Speak app and a personalized lesson plan is developed accordingly.
English Pronunciation Assessment
ELSA Speak also has a score predictor for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) speaking exam.
This is an internationally standardized test for speaking English. It provides a score and a detailed report based on your pronunciation of several sentences in a roughly five-minute speaking test.
If you are using the ELSA Speak app as preparation for this exam, you will receive specific feedback and a score based on the IELTS scoring system.
ELSA helps you to learn English in a manner that is geared toward passing exams and speaking fluently.
ELSA Speak Review: The Best Bits
The practicality of English Words and Phrases
You learn a lot about pronunciation, intonation, and other vital skills for speaking English, but you are also exposed to very useful words and phrases for everyday communication.
The topics covered are super practical and relevant to people’s day-to-day lives.
Effectiveness of Lessons
All the features of the app are geared toward high-accuracy pronunciation and the constant AI assessment ensures this.
You develop speaking skills far beyond being able to make yourself understood; you learn how to stress certain syllables in words and develop a greater understanding of how tone can change meaning for native speakers.
Areas To Improve
Tailored To American English
The only downside I found in ELSA Speaks is that you need to develop a neutral American accent to be deemed correct by the app during a speaking assessment.
For instance, I (with my English accent) got a low score of only 19% on the /ʊ/ and /u/ vowel sound section of the level test!
Limitations of The Free Features
Without ELSA Pro, you can only do 5 exercises a day, which makes it harder to get invested in your daily practice and competition on the leaderboard.
ELSA Speak Review: Would I Recommend ELSA Speak?
Overall, yes, I would recommend ELSA Speak to anyone learning English who wants to learn to speak proficiently. There are no similar apps that offer the same level of syllable-by-syllable evaluation of English pronunciation.
I tested out ELSA Speak as a native speaker but someone who understands the language learning process, and I found the lessons to be effective and the content to be relevant and useful for everyday life.
Having a portable means of practicing English speaking on the go is a great tool and means any time you have five minutes, you can do some daily practice.
Moreover, you can practice your English skills at home, away from onlookers, for a relaxed and pressure-free English learning journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ELSA Speak free?
You can use many features of ELSA Speak with the free version of the app.
However, with the ELSA Pro subscription, you can access Pro features. These include unlimited daily exercises and syllable-by-syllable assessments for pronunciation.
Is ELSA Speak worth buying?
For these special additional features, I would say ELSA Speak Pro is absolutely worth purchasing. ELSA offers a free trial of the Pro features so you can see for yourself the benefits.
What is the best app for English pronunciation?
The level of detailed feedback about pronunciation, intonation, stress, and so on provided by ELSA is unique to this app.
While other apps will focus more heavily on grammar and language skills such as reading and writing, ELSA is the ultimate app for developing speaking skills.
ELSA has an impressive speaking assessment feature, word bank, and dictionary with video files so that you can check phonetic spelling and pronunciation.
What does ELSA Speak do?
ELSA Speak makes the process of learning a new language much more straightforward.
Sometimes when we learn new words, we find it challenging to pinpoint the different sounds and differentiate vowels.
However, ELSA uses phonetic spelling and detailed feedback to help you find these nuances so that you can practice pronunciation until you sound like a native speaker.
Summing Up This ELSA Speak Review
Thank you for reading my ELSA Speak review. You now know how the app is structured and that it uses very clever AI technology to assess your pronunciation, intonation, and so on.
In this way, ELSA is a unique language learning app, unlike its competitors which focus on grammar, reading, and writing.
If you want to speak ELSA-approved English, which is geared toward IELTS standards, I recommend signing up today.
This is a good app for beginners as well as more advanced learners, as it offers multiple levels of difficulty and goes from basic pronunciation to in-depth lessons on how to stress certain syllables or words in a sentence.
I found the contents of the lessons, word choice, and topics to be relevant, helpful, and engaging, and the exercises to be effective in imparting the desired information.
Remember, you will be learning with an American, not an English accent. Good luck!
James is the founder of travel-lingual.com and the author of this ELSA Speak Review. He is a tutor of English, Spanish, and Italian. Furthermore, he has visited 35 countries and has tried dozens of language courses to date.
He has worked as a language teacher in France, Spain, Argentina, and Costa Rica. His love of languages led him to create this blog, to share best practices in language learning and inspire others to learn!