Editor’s Note: This PersianPod101 review is up-to-date as of October 21st, 2021. Please note this review contains referral links, however we have a strict editorial policy that says we only recommend products that we have used and think are legitimately worthwhile.
Persian is a truly fascinating language – one of the pillar languages of the Middle East and Central Asia, being widely spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and other nearby countries. There’s also many sizable populations speaking Persian all around the world in countries such as Bahrain, Iraq, the UAE, and even in Europe, Turkey, Australia, Canada and the United States.
The language is widely known as Farsi in Iran (literally translates to Persian), Dari in Afghanistan (renamed for political reasons), and Tajik in Tajikistan (was named by the Soviet Union). Though they all have their differences and local dialects they all come under the common umbrella of Persian and are mutually intelligible to one another.
Persian is usually written in Arabic script (with the exception of in Tajikistan) but it actually originates from a completely separate language family to Arabic (the Indo-European Language Family), and in fact shares many historical origins with most European languages and the languages of Northern India.
For travel, Persian language skills opens doors to a much deeper travel experience of Iran’s rich and diverse culture. Over 20 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are found in Iran with exquisite mosques & palaces, desert cities and vast mountain ranges just waiting to be explored.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at PersianPod101 – how the program works, it’s teaching approach, the pros & cons, how it stacks up among competitors, the cost structure and the key features. We’ll uncover some sample lessons, break down the methodology and assess its effectiveness as a comprehensive language program for learning the Persian language.
PersianPod101 Review Overview
PersianPod101 is a product of Innovative Language, a company that first started back in 2005 with JapanesePod101. Within their first year they got their first 10,000 students and they now offer over 40 languages!
So what’s the secret to their success? Well, the innovative language courses are structured very differently from most other language courses. They are built around the whole concept of podcast-style lessons, with each lesson being centered around either a podcast or video. This makes it an excellent resource for listening – a skill most language learners find the most challenging.
PersianPod101 follows the same methodology and exact layout as all the other Innovative Language courses. From the main dashboard you can see your progress, your lessons and your teacher (more on this later). You can then navigate to the lesson library where you’ll be greeted with dozens of lesson ‘pathways’ with lots of engaging topics and course tutors.
You can add a lesson pathway to your dashboard by simply clicking ‘Add To Dashboard’ and the pathway will then be ready for you to work through in your own time, and track your progress. In this way, PersianPod101 allows you to fully customize your own syllabus which makes it the perfect tool for those who aren’t a fan of traditional linear methods of teaching.
Once you’ve signed up to PersianPod101 you’ll be granted a free lifetime account as well as access to the Premium membership for the first 7 days (after this you’ll have to pay). There’s 3 levels of membership – basic, premium or premium+, each level unlocking more and more features, such as:
Pros of PersianPod101
Pro #1: Vast Library of Videos and Podcasts
With over 1140 audio & video lessons PersianPod101 certainly isn’t short on content. You’ll discover a massive library of lessons with a diverse range of topics that are both interesting and relevant to daily life. The content is spread over five levels of expertise that roughly relates to the CEFR scale with Upper Intermediate corresponding to B1 level.
Pro #2: Line-By-Line Breakdown of the Dialogues/Audio
Most lessons have an authentic dialogue so you can hear the language in action, depending upon what the lesson focus is. You are first encouraged to listen to the dialogue in isolation to pick out words and phrases that you know already. You can then follow along with the transcript to see what you missed. A massive bonus of the PersianPod101 program is that the dialogue transcripts are broken down line-by-line for you to study at your own pace.
You can play the audio at full or half speed and choose to show the Persian script, the romanization of the English translation. By following this process and breaking it down line-by-line you’ll quickly notice your listening skills start improving.
Pro #3: Content is Modern, Fun and Relevant
Unlike most textbooks, PersianPod101 has a strong focus on relevant and up-to-date language that people actually speak in Iran. You’ll find lessons that cover Persian slang words, social media phrases and informal language. What’s more, we love how there’s a ton of cultural information weaved throughout all the lessons. In fact, in the lesson notes there’s a whole section dedicated to explaining the cultural nuances, traditions and norms.
Why learn a language if not to get an insight into the people who actually speak it? You’ll find topics on Persian holidays, pop culture, cuisine, artists & poets, family life, movies and history. There’s also lots of topics that you’ll find very useful for actually living in Iran, such as opening a bank account, asking for directions and staying with a host.
Whilst the quality of lessons do vary, the tutors are generally very engaging and the videos/podcasts are professionally made (much better than your average youtube video).
Pro #4: Skill-based Approach to Learning
So far we’ve focused mainly on the listening aspect of PersianPod101’s methodology, but there’s also many lessons that give you a chance to improve your reading and writing, as well as your speaking skills. In the lesson library you can filter all the lessons by category and media type. This way you can select lessons that focus solely on the skill you need to improve most.
There’s reading lessons that go through a series of miniature books, and listening lessons that get you listening to an animated video and then tests you on your comprehension and understanding. By centering the lessons around a specific skill, PersianPod101 allows you to focus on the skills you need to improve the most.
Pro #5: Lots of Handy Vocab Tools & Bonus Features
Alongside the main lesson pathways there’s a whole load of extra features to build up your repertoire of vocabulary. The most useful feature in our opinion is the word bank, which allows you to save any specific vocab you encounter throughout your lessons and view them later. In your word bank you can revise these terms, categorise them and group them into flashcards. This way you’ll never lose a word!
There’s also a dictionary, most common words list, vocab lists, ‘word of the day’ emails and common Persian phrases (more on these tools later).
Cons of PersianPod101
Con #1: Not Structured Particularly Well
Unfortunately, we found that the lessons pathways were a bit all over the place. The official curated pathways that you are recommended to start with are not always the best. It’s a bit hit and miss and takes a little exploring to find the topics & grammar points that you’re after. This way of learning may suit those who prefer to learn independently, but as a structured syllabus we found it to be lacking.
For this reason, you may find PersianPod101 to be most useful as a supplementary tool alongside a more structured textbook or methodical syllabus. Otherwise, without a structure to follow you could easily develop gaps in your knowledge or find yourself running into complex grammar structures that you haven’t yet had a chance to grapple with first.
It takes a certain amount of self-awareness and discipline to self-diagnose your own language needs and select the lesson pathways that are right for you. So unless you have the premium+ membership (with a personal teacher) you might end up more confused than when you first started.
Con #2: Quality Can Vary
As we mentioned, some pathways are better than others, and some tutors are more engaging than others. Thankfully, the large amount of content allows you to browse around until you find a tutor or lesson pathway that really interests you. This is something that you don’t get from most other teaching platforms, where you’re usually stuck with the same teacher and a pre-set string of topics.
Con #3: English Heavy
I’m a big fan of immersion when it comes to learning a language, for many reasons. It’s important to expose yourself to as much authentic material as possible so you can start to distinguish the specific sounds and patterns that’ll put you into the headspace of ‘thinking’ in Persian rather than translating and thinking only in terms of rules (which is both slow and exhausting).
PersianPod101 has a load of dialogues and native speakers which is awesome, but we felt like there was way too much English being interjected within the lessons. Whilst it is important to get the understanding across, the constant English explanations doesn’t help with actually getting used to the language. What you can do, though, is actually listen to the dialogues without the lesson videos (and then listen to the explanations afterwards).
Also, the amount of English does actually drop off rather dramatically as the levels progress, with level 5 videos being conducted in almost complete Persian (with subtitles).
Features of PersianPod101
PersianPod101 come with a buffet of features, making it one of the top language programs on the market. Click below to check out what’s on offer:
From your dashboard you can see all of your pathways and your learning progress (number of lessons completed, flashcards reviewed and hours studied). From here you can also read any latest news and see any new lessons that have been recently published – new content gets added to the platform regularly.
Within each lesson you have the option to record your own voice and compare it alongside a native speaker. This is a great way to break down the specific sounds and to work on your own pronunciation. Just click on the microphone symbol next to any of the vocab or phrases and hit record. You can listen to the native speaker at full or half speed.
In PersianPod101, everything is downloadable for offline learning. This means you can learn virtually anywhere and cram in extra lessons whilst on the go – when you’re exercising, waiting in line, washing the dishes or on a lunch break.
Not only are the transcripts and lesson notes available as pdfs but you’ll also get the option to download a lesson checklist. This ensures that you are completing everything correctly and is a great motivational boost to track your own learning and record your progress.
There’s literally hundreds (yes, hundreds) of vocab lists for every occasion. You can filter them by topic or by what’s most popular. Learning through vocab lists helps you to build an associative web of vocab that stems from a single topic. Within each list you’ll find around as many as 50 related words, each with their own example sentence and audio clip. Again, you have the option to record yourself alongside the native speaker and also to add any specific words to your word bank or a flashcard deck.
This feature is optional – you’ll receive an email every day with a new word and how it’s used in context.
As already mentioned, you can curate your own flashcard decks and save any words to your word bank. If you are familiar with any other flashcard tools such as Anki or quizlet then you’ll feel right at home with many of the same features being incorporated into PersianPod101. Inside your word bank you can assign labels and export your entire list as a pdf or excel file at any time.
Persian has over 220 million unique words! With so many ways to express something it’s no wonder Persian is referred to as one of the most poetic languages in the world. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, it’s best to start with only the most common words. In this section you’ll find a list of 2537 words that are spoken most frequently in everyday language. You can even narrow it down to the most common 100, 200, 500 etc.and filter by category (colors, clothing, animals etc.)
The dictionary is nothing special, but it does have the audio clips at full and half speed for each entry which makes it very useful.
Signing up to the Premium+ membership will give you direct one-on-one access to a professional language teacher. Together you’ll create a personalised learning program that focuses on your strengths and weaknesses, taking into account your own learning goals, what you want to achieve, and the timeframe you have in mind.
Your teacher will track your progress and assign you regular assessments and homework tasks. The schedule is fully flexible and is based upon your needs and commitments. Once you reach certain milestones in your program, you’ll be awarded with CEFR-based certificates that you can put on your CV and prove to potential employers that you are proficient in Persian.
To give you an idea of what to expect from the lessons, we’ve provided you with 3 sample pathways and showed you a sneak peek of what’s inside. But first, let’s walk through the process of a typical PersianPod101 lesson:
- First you’ll read the lesson introduction to give you an idea of the lesson’s objective and overall theme.
- Next, you’ll listen to the podcast or watch the video.
- Then, you’re prompted to go through the lesson notes to cement what you’ve already learnt. The grammar points, vocab and cultural insights are summarised in an easy and digestible manner.
- You’ll then go back and read the line-by-line transcripts whilst listening to the audio to confirm your understanding.
- Review the audio again and compare your pronunciation against the native speaker’s using the self-record fucntion.
- Study the vocabulary list and listen to the audio clips.
- Add your favorite words to your word bank and review until memorized.
- Study the grammar list’s detailed explanations along with the examples that are given.
- Practice, practice, practice! Make use of the flashcards, writing questions and leave comments in the comment section to practice what you’ve learnt.
Of course, you don’t have to do everything in this order – this list is according to their specific checklist. You may want to listen to the dialogues only, or just go through the grammar points – it’s entirely up to you!
Some Example Lesson Pathways
Here’s some sample pathways for the Beginner, Intermediate and Upper Intermediate levels:
Pathway: ‘Culture Class: Essential Persian Vocabulary’ (25 Lessons, 2.5+ Hrs of Audio Content)
Content: A series of fun and fast paced lessons that focus on building up essential vocab and phrases through a range of different topics that all center around the Persian culture. You’ll discover popular Persian dishes such as ‘kookoo sabzi’ and ‘aabgoosht’, modern pop culture trends & musicians, info about different cities & tourist attractions, traditional clothing and traditional culture. Each lesson is around 5-10 minutes long and contains a short dialogue, transcript and detailed cultural insights into the Persian culture.
Who Should Buy PersianPod101?
PersianPod101 is an impressive language tool, but it’s not for everyone. Those who’ll get the most out of PersianPod101 are those who:
Who Should NOT Buy PersianPod101?
Those who might not be a best fit for PersianPod101 are those who:
PersianPod101 vs. Competition
PersianPod101 isn’t the only language program for learning Persian – lets see how PersianPod101 stacks up against it’s competitors.
PersianPod101 vs Chai and Conversation
Chai and Conversation is very similar to PersianPod101 in that it focuses on audio lessons, specifically two people having a casual conversation in Persian. It really immerses you in the culture and feels much more intimate than PersianPod101.
Whilst on the surface it sounds like a godsend, in actual fact it is structured really badly in or opinion. The conversations revolve around a phrasebook-type approach, slowly teaching you more and more words as the episodes go on. It’s great as a supplementary tool to get more exposure to native language and culture, but not as a study resource.
Chai and Conversation can be purchased in 6 or 12 month membership plans, costing $99 and $199 respectively.
PersianPod101 vs Persianlanguageonline
Persianlanguageonline is a free resource that provides Perisan videos lessons for beginner to intermediate students. For something that’s free of charge it’s definitely worth checking out, especially since it has lots of downloadable mp3s of native speakers along with the transcripts.
However, you get what you pay for. The user interface feels rather clunky and it’s a huge step up for beginners. It’d best be used alongside a more comprehensive program or textbook.
PersianPod101 vs Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is a little on the expensive side but it’s very comprehensive. Many students however, have expressed their concerns over how modern the language is that’s being taught. It doesn’t teach you how people actually speak Persian day to day, and native speakers often comment on how it sounds like you’ve just swallowed a textbook with lots of outdated phrases and vocabulary that’s now only used in formal writing.
Rosetta Stone has a 3 month, 12 month and lifetime plan, starting at \$11.99/month with an initial payment of \$35.97.
Colloquial Persian by Abdi Rafiee
Colloquial Persian is an excellent beginner’s course in Persian with a clear and methodical approach. The only thing lacking is the listening & speaking practice, which is why PersianPod101 would be a perfect supplementary resource alongside this textbook.
Colloquial Persian varies in price depending on if you purchase it new or used ($30-$50). It’s available on Amazon and in most reputable book stores.
PersianPod101 is available with a monthly membership to one of the three different subscription levels – Basic, Premium or Premium PLUS.
All three levels will give you complete access to the full lesson library (at every expertise level), the full vocab lists and the latest news. Below is a full breakdown of the different subscription plans:
$8/month $2.80/month (using this link)
- Complete access to all podcasts & video lessons
- Access to the app on android, iphone & ipad
- Fully downloadable lessons & lesson notes
$25/month $7/month (using this link)
The Premium Subscription includes all the Basic Subscription features PLUS:
- The complete line-by-line audio transcript (downloadable)
- Exclusive premium iTunes feed
- Access to all bonus lessons
- Interactive quizzes & assessments
- Personal word bank access
- Core 2000 word list
- Spaced repetition flashcards
Premium PLUS Subscription
$47/month $16/month (using this link)
The Premium PLUS Subscription includes all the Basic and Premium Subscription features PLUS:
- Professional assessments
- A personalized learning program created around your needs
- 1-on-1 Instruction from a professional Persian language teacher
$1 for One Month Premium
If you sign up here for your free account, you’ll see a one-time offer for the Premium level for only $1 for the first month. This is a pretty good deal and a great way to find out if the subscription would be worthwhile for you.
Click here to sign up for a free lifetime account and get access to the $1 monthly trial.
Related: See all our Discount / Coupon Codes for PersianPod101
PersianPod101 Review: Conclusion
Overall, PersianPod101 is certainly a great option if you are serious about learning Persian. Whilst the teaching style and methodology might not suit everybody, we felt the unique concept of customising your own syllabus and selecting your own lessons kept everything very fresh and interesting, since one of the main challenges of learning a language is that you can get bored and stop practicing.
With a massive library of comprehensive lessons covering all aspects of Persian language and culture, you’ll have plenty of material to explore on your journey to fluency. The interactive vocab tools, quizzes, assessments, fully downloadable transcripts & notes, enjoyable & engaging videos, and the option for one-on-one instruction, will certainly satisfy the needs of a serious seeker of the Persian language.
Our Verdict: 4.5/5
It’s excellent as a listening tool and packed with tons of cultural insights and high quality content, however as a standalone language program it’s best used as a supplementary resource alongside a more structured textbook or syllabus.
Make sure you sign up using the link below – it not only helps support our website, but also gives you 30% off at the checkout:
Josiah is a digital nomad with a passion for language learning and adventure travel. He’s taught English as a foreign language for many years and is currently learning Georgian, French and Chinese.