Learning a new language is now more accessible than ever!
With many resources available online, from tutors to penpals, more and more people are adding a second language to their skill set. One popular option is mobile apps, which allow people to fit learning into their day, no matter how busy their schedule may be.
Language learning apps are great as they often break down much larger lessons into small 5-10 minute chunks, perfect for practising on commutes, during a lunch break, or even while sitting in a waiting room at the doctors.
Today we are going to take a look at the language app 'Babbel', a German app, and see what users have to gain by learning with it!
What Is Babbel?
The app's name is based on the imperative mood of 'babbeln'. A word meaning 'to chat' in Germany's Hessian dialect. A fitting name for an app which teaches people how to talk to others!
Babbel began its journey in 2007, when Markus Witte and Thomas Hill partnered up. The language app finally went live in January 2008 and has since grown in popularity. With 2018 reports suggesting the app now has over 1 million active users.
Since its startup, the developers expanded their company, opening up additional offices outside their head office in Berlin. As well as expanding the number of languages offered.
Currently, users can choose from 14 different languages to learn. Including French, German and Spanish, as well as others like Swedish and Turkish. With 7 interface languages available too!
The Features Babbel Has To Offer
As with any app, Babbel boasts a wide array of features which are designed to make learning a new language fun, engaging and efficient.
These features include;
Placement Tests: Similarly to a few other learning apps, Babbel offers a placement test when first starting one of their courses. This is great as it allows users who already have some knowledge of their target language to skip what they already know, and prevent learning from becoming too repetitive.
This works especially well with Babbel as they offer a wide variety of modules within each language, and do their best to match people up with what suits them and their goals best.
Voice Recognition: Babbel allows users to practice their pronunciation and speech in their target language as they learn the words
This feature is especially great, as it offers instant feedback and identifies which words are perfect, and which need a little more practice, by highlighting them in red and blue! Whereas other apps, like Duolingo, just tell you that the pronunciation was wrong, without offering much else in terms of feedback.
'Mock' Conversations: One defining feature of Babbel is the 'mock' conversations it offers.
Most of Babbel's content is based around words and phrases which are used in everyday life and conversation. As such, one of the activities they offer is completing a script which is part of a 'story' within the module.
For example, in one module of the German course, the user follows Freddy as he moves to Kreuzberg, interacting with the people he meets. At various points the user is required to complete sections of the interactions by selecting the correct phrases they have been taught.
This helps users learn different contexts, and understand how what they learn applies in real life. Something many other apps struggle to do.
Variety Of Module Choices: As was mentioned earlier, Babbel offers a wide variety of modules within its language courses.
These can range from levelled modules (e.g. Newcomer, Beginner, Intermediate) as well as refresher modules, for people who have already learned the language but may not have used it for a while.
Then there are additional topics in some languages, for example in German, Babbel offers 'Business German', 'Countries and Traditions', and even a 'Special' module which covers things like idioms!
Following on from these, there are modules which are designed to teach things like grammar, speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing. Providing in-depth and well-rounded courses which tackle all the vital skills needed for fluency.
Regular Quizzes: Unlike other apps, Babbel has frequent 'pop' quizzes throughout each module, meaning users can regularly track their progress and see how well they retain the information which is being taught.
On top of these 'pop' quizzes spread throughout the lessons, there is also a final quiz at the end of each module. This really helps people using the app to test their skills as they learn the language, finding which areas are weaker and need a bit more focus!
Review Tab: Another thing this app has to offer is the review tab. Found at the bottom of the screen for mobile users, this page shows users all the words and phrases they have learned so far, and allows them to listen back to the voice actors speaking them.
As you progress, Babbel will select words to be reviewed. Because the program uses spaced repetition, users will often see words they learned a few lessons prior appearing for review. This helps the brain to remember them, and build stronger connections to allow for faster recall next time!
Podcasts: The final feature we are going to discuss today, the podcasts Babbel offers.
Unfortunately, these aren't available in all languages, however for the courses which can offer them it can be a great resource!
By listening to natives speaking in their target language, users can hone their listening skills, as well as understand the different contexts in which words and phrases may be used in 'real life' settings.
Pro's And Con's Of Babbel When Learning A New Language
Babbel has a lot of content to offer its users. All of which offers a unique learning experience, which is engaging and educational. But as with any app, there are still going to be some limitations.
So let's take a look into the pros and cons of learning a language with Babbel!
One of the biggest advantages Babbel has over some other apps, is that they use voice actors for any audio in their courses. Some apps, such as Duolingo, use text to speech. While text to speech isn't inherently bad, hearing an actual person pronouncing words can be much more engaging.
Babbel also seems to include speaking activities more often than other apps, with almost every lesson offering an opportunity to practice pronunciation with their voice recognition feature! This can be great as many apps tend to put less effort on this aspect of learning languages, as well as providing less feedback on the handful of speech tasks they do offer.
Another great aspect of Babbel is that it puts a lot of focus on learning things which are applicable in day-to-day life. Users begin with things like introducing themselves, and other general 'chit-chat' phrases, before progressing into more complex sentences. It also teaches different contexts, for example, the 'Newcomer' module in German teaches the difference between informal and formal greetings, and when to use them.
Combined with this 'practical' learning style, Babbel also offers modules in some languages which teach even more words and phrases (all of which are designed for general day-to-day experiences) as well as lessons on grammar!
As grammar is something which can often be neglected favouring teaching a larger vocabulary, it is great to see a language app which teaches both in detail.
Babbel may also be great for anyone who has already learned their target language previously, and just wish to consolidate what they learned. Almost half of the languages offered in Babbel have a 'Refresher Course' designed for people who have learned a language previously, and simply need to recap what they know.
However, that does lead us into one of the first disadvantages of Babbel, and that is that not all courses are created equal.
Some have much more content included (and these are typically the languages which include Refresher courses, among other modules) while others simply cover the basics, for example Turkish. The Turkish course on Babbel offers up to beginner 2, and a couple of extra modules. Whereas the French course offers lessons all the way up to 'Advanced'.
There is also very little content available for free users. While this isn't an issue in and of itself, it would be nice for users to get a bit more content with a free membership before committing to a membership. Especially as the lessons are quite short, and having access to just the first one does not give users an accurate representation of what the app entails.
If developers offered up to the first 'pop' quiz (which is typically around the 5th lesson) this would give users a few lessons to decide if they want to commit to a full membership!
Especially since the smallest membership they offer is paid quarterly. Unlike other language learning apps, Babbel does not offer a monthly membership subscription, which may put some users off. Especially since it means paying a larger upfront cost for an app that only offers a couple of minutes of content to free members.
How Much Does Babbel Cost?
Overall, Babbel is a very affordable app for anyone wanting to learn a new language.
Similarly to Duolingo, Babbel also offers a 7-day free trial for each language course, so users can still have a substantial test on the app before purchasing a membership. And despite not offering a monthly payment option, it is still fairly inexpensive to opt for the quarterly membership.
It is important to note that when using Babbel on a mobile app, users must pay an individual membership for each course they wish to learn. However, if they access Babbel through a web browser it is possible to purchase 'Babbel Complete' which is billed annually at £99.
But for the standard memberships within the apps, Babbel offers users 3 payment options;
- Every 3 months: £38.99
- Every 6 months: £59.99
- Every 12 months: £83.99
The yearly membership offers the best value for money.
Since it is less than £10 more for the 'Babbel Complete' subscription, anyone who is considering learning more than one language may consider purchasing that instead, for the best possible value!
Similar Apps For Learning Languages:
Alongside Babbel, there are a few other popular apps which people may want to consider.
Duolingo: Duolingo is quite similar to Babbel, in that it teaches users vocabulary island grammar.
Though Duolingo does offer a much larger variety of languages. As well as each course and all its content being completely free!
Memrise: Memrise is great for learning vocabulary, though it places very little importance on the grammar of target languages.
As such, Memrise often works well with other apps which do teach grammar as well.
Busuu: Busuu offers a unique opportunity to learn tips and tricks from native speakers, thanks to their 'community' feature.
This feature allows users of the app to help one another on their language learning journeys in a way that other apps have yet to match!
One thing to remember when learning languages with an app, is that many have limitations. Nothing will help a person achieve fluency in their target language, than interacting and speaking to natives of it. (Even Busuu's community feature will only take users so far!)
Babbel is a great app for people wishing to learn a new language. However, for some of the 'less popular' language options, users may wish to compliment the lessons on Babbel with those from other apps, like Duolingo.
Developers should also consider offering access to the 'Babbel Complete' membership via the mobile apps. As this is where numerous users choose to learn, many will be missing out on a membership which may actually save them money in the long run!
Overall, if a person is looking to learn a 'popular' language like French or German, then Babbel has just about everything they could ask for and is definitely worth the price of premium.