The Babbel Blog

Online Language Learning

Mistrzostwa Europy 2012 – Getting Ready for Euro 2012 with Babbel

Posted on May 21, 2012 by

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Babbel users – who are also football fanatics will be especially well prepared for when the Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland begins next month. The new course “European Championship 2012” covers all the essential Polish language vocabulary regarding the themes “Piłkanożna” (Football) and “MistrzostwaEuropy” (European Championship).

Before travelling to Poland, English speaking (and cheering) fans can prepare for the match and for their linguistic encounters outside the stadium – in only 11 lessons. Therefore, when the UEFA Euro 2012 kicks off with Poland vs. Greece on the 8th June in Warsaw, neither one will be in a “Spalony” (offside) position.

From England’s perspective, the championship will kick off in the so-called “group of death” D on the 11th June with the match against France. With opponents France, Sweden and Ukraine, the preliminary round will be no walk in the park for Roy Hodgson and his squad. We will be crossing all our Babbel fingers in advance for a quick first goal against France. We wish all teams and fans an honest and peaceful Championship with great “Piłkanożna”!

The football course is not only available online at Babbel, but is also available as a free app for Android and iOS – to optimally prepare you for the title. There are also courses for French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Swedish native speaking fans.


Let us know about your language-related football experiences with the Championship in Poland, we’d love to hear from you!

Check our Babbel Shirts for the Euro 2012! For girls and boys!

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In the Beginning There was Edith Piaf: The Making of “Learn German with Music”

Posted on May 8, 2012 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), French (Français), Italian (Italiano)

Katja Wilde, Content Project Manager at Babbel, has a vision. Remembering French class from her school days, she stands at home in the kitchen belting out „Non, rien de rien“. Even though she doesn’t always hit the right note—considering the ardor with which she sings—that’s completely irrelevant. She records the Edith Piaf song right then and there.

That’s how it goes when someone works at Babbel and an idea hatches. For outsiders it might seem a bit nuts that it’s considered normal to blurt out cryptic phrases in foreign languages, to suddenly declare the correct term for, say, meatballs, or even to spontaneously turn the kitchen into a recording studio.

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But back to our Katja. She’s thinking about music, listening comprehension, fill-in-the-blank texts, but especially how easy and entertaining this way of learning was for her as a schoolgirl, how it was so much more fun to learn languages intuitively through music instead of through rote memorization. She begins to break down the song into its elements and to come up with various lesson parts. 

Around the same time, just under 2000 Babbel users are being asked how they best like to learn. Their answers confirm Katja’s experience, which Miriam Plieninger, Babbel’s Head of Content, later emphasizes: “Whether you’re singing in the shower, listening to music in the car or singing Karaoke with friends—when you’re singing in the language you’re learning, structures are impressed upon you and you understand words out of context.”

So after the implementation of the “Learn German with Music“ idea was a done deal, the first major challenge was to find the right music. It had to have a catchy melody, be copyright free, and appropriate from a language-teaching point of view. The choice fell on eight folk songs, whose lyrics were scrutinized by Katja and the editorial team, modernized here and there, and simplified.

The next step was when Christine Keck, actress, voiceover specialist and musician at Babbel, got the song lyrics, whose melody she also newly interpreted. She then recorded contemporary singer-songwriter versions of the delightful, though sometimes slightly dusty, tunes (like „Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär“ –“If I were a little bird“).

Later the editorial team began to work on translating lyrics into English and the design and order of the exercises. They extracted countless sound bytes, named them, and uploaded them to the server. The Babbel developers tinkered with the complex technical implementation of the new formats, including a Karaoke component.

Taking four months, the production phase was significantly longer (and perhaps a little more difficult) than it had been for other Babbel formats. But it paid off: now Babbel learners who are native speakers of English, Italian, Spanish and French can learn German singing. And if you ask Katja, the mastermind behind the idea whether it was worth it? “Je ne regrette rien“, she announces. She doesn’t regret a thing.

Learn German with music!

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Dust and Dirt and Candlelight

Posted on May 4, 2012 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch)

Kabelsalat. Photo by strickerat. http://www.flickr.com/photos/strickerat/397768938Many years ago they decided to completely rewire the electricity in my flat. First a lady from the building management came along, then two gentlemen with ties and big note pads and finally, several months later, two electricians. Those two were really thorough and my flat was gutted: walls were drilled open, old cables ripped out, new ones laid. My “vintage” fuse box was exchanged for an alien flat white plastic thing. Newspapers from the 1920s were found hiding behind my skirting boards and all the light switches were re-positioned.

After a few days of dust and dirt and candlelight I had fancy new electrics throughout the flat. I could now drive a nail in the wall without having to use a metal detector: the cables no longer zigzagged through the walls but ran in an orderly manner in strict adherence to modern building regulations. With my brand new plastic fuse box, it was a piece of cake to flip the switches on and off or to create, as if by magic, a cosy ambiance in the living room. But I became a stranger in my own flat because the light switches were no longer where they used to be. I would enter a room, slap my hand against a now naked wall and remain in the dark. Literally. It wasn’t nice.

At Babbel, we are also going through a fancy makeover: rewiring, rebuilding — and moving the light switches around. For example, all community features — the board, the people page, messages and friend requests — are being completely re-vamped.

Why all this trouble?

  • Many users want to use Babbel on iPads or other mobile devices. This is a step in that direction.
  • Babbel will run considerably faster afterwards.
  • We will be able to tackle spammers much more effectively.
  • We will be able to realize your suggestions quicker and easier.

Take our upcoming writing exercises: the new version we developed has resulted in many more of you getting involved. Beginners in particular are now much more inclined to take the plunge.

The course overview pages are also getting an overhaul and should go live in a few days. We would also like to streamline the Babbel login: everyone will be able to log in using an email address alone.

Those of you who are used to the “old” Babbel are may feel like I did when my flat was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. We are very aware that some of these changes may be very irksome, but they have not been made on a whim. Every month we receive hundreds of suggestions and requests from you and we read each and every one of them. Every month we get together to look at your feedback and ideas. We read them, we discuss them, we argue about them, we categorize them, and we count them. Some requests are easy to fulfill. Others require fundamental changes and involve long and meticulous preparation. But the construction work has started now. With dust and dirt and candlelight…

If it had been down to me back then, they needn’t have moved the light switches at all. I knew where they all were and had gotten used to reaching behind the fridge whenever I came into the kitchen. However, that was just me. The real difference only struck me a few weeks after the dust had finally settled: never more do I hear the screams that once haunted the dark corners of my flat — “Anne, where’s the @!#*&$ light switch?!”

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