The Babbel Blog

Online Language Learning

Speaking a language is like riding a bicycle… New courses for returning learners!

Posted on October 30, 2012 by

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Katja Wilde, Content Project Manager at Babbel

This post in : German (Deutsch), Francais (French), Spanish (Español), Italian (Italiano)

“I studied French in school.“ How many times have I heard this as a Babbel Content Manager? Since so many of you seem to harbor a desire to dust off those language skills and polish them up without having to take a long, involved course at the same time, we’ve redesigned our refresher course to make it even more effective and fun.

Studying languages is really like riding a bicycle . . . you never forget it. Just lack of practice and re-entry can make it tough sometimes. That’s why we here at Babbel have developed a new course concept so you’ll be to able to express yourself and communicate in everyday situations again.

Logically interlocking units bring dormant vocabulary and grammar knowledge back to life—and have you review them effectively in common dialogues. The idea here is to combine the refreshing of basic essentials with their use in an everyday speaking context.

You’ll repeat useful words and sentences and then use them in a dialogue. This prepares you for the grammar lesson that follows. So for example, once you’ve practiced “J’en prends 100 grammes” (I’ll take 100 grams of that) in the French “Shopping” section, you’ll go over the grammar of it once again in detail, including why and when you use the pronoun “en.” At the end, the grammar knowledge you’ve reviewed is combined with the vocabulary from the last lesson—the “grand finale,” as editorial director Miriam Plieninger calls it. And the cycle is complete.

The new edition of the refresher course is available for German, Spanish, French and English at Babbel.com. This comes in parallel with the release of the Beginner’s Course 5 for German, and the Beginner’s Course 4 for Brazilian Portuguese. More refresher courses as well as new course formats for higher levels are planned for next month.

Link to courses:

ENG>DEU: http://www.babbel.com/learn-german-online/65356-new
ENG>SPA: http://www.babbel.com/learn-spanish-online/65408-new
ENG>FRA: http://www.babbel.com/learn-french-online/65390-new
ENG>POR: http://www.babbel.com/learn-portuguese-online/88007-new

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Babbel for Windows 8 – Five questions for Dari Salimi

Posted on October 23, 2012 by

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Dari is our product manager for mobile Apps and these days he’s a very sought after man here at Babbel. Nevertheless our Blog author Aishah was able to track him down and ask him a few questions to coincide with the upcoming Windows 8 Release on 26th October (and the corresponding Babbel App for Windows 8). Privately Dari is a committed Apple user. Nevertheless he is certainly very happy with the new Apps, especially from a visual perspective.

 

What do you do at Babbel? Do you actually ever get around to learning yourself?

For me it’s more a case of “learning by testing”. But of course a lot of it sticks. I would say my favourite language to learn is Spanish.
I’ve been at Babbel for about a year. When I started here the vocab trainer for iPhone had already been developed. Since then we have optimised the Apps for iPad and also brought one out for Android.

As you say, there is already Babbel for iOS and Android. Why then soon for Windows 8 as well?

Our Apps for iOS and Android are very successful – the subject of learning is not only becoming more and more relevant, but also more popular.  We had the opportunity to take a look at Windows 8 and the technology behind it as part of a collaborative project with Microsoft in Berlin. Coming into direct contact with Microsoft experts tipped the balance. Of course I had already wondered if and when we would start work on an App for Windows 8. But now we are going to be the first provider of a language learning App in the Windows Store, and that’s something we can be very proud of.

What is special about Windows 8?

I find the most interesting aspect is their attempt to join together mobile and stationary usage. Windows 8 doesn’t just support conventional PC use via mouse and keyboard, but also touchscreens, which are most widely distributed among mobile devices. Also the design of the user interface has changed dramatically. For us it is a welcome change, which suits our audiovisual vocab trainers perfectly.

What was it like to collaborate with Microsoft? Was it the start of a beautiful friendship?

It was definitely an enjoyable collaboration, especially since we didn’t just work with a contact person for the business side, but we also had access to a developer at Microsoft. This direct communication made the whole development process much smoother. We are excited to see how things develop, although as yet we haven’t forged any concrete plans. First of all we need to wait and see how Windows 8 and especially the Babbel Apps for Windows 8 are received by the users. The much-loved voice recognition will be added as an update, since for technical reasons we were unable to include it in the release version. A conversion for Windows Phone 8 would likewise be another interesting step. For the time being it will be just for PC and tablet. Another option would be to integrate all of the web-accessible courses into the App. We certainly have a lot to think about.

What can the user expect from the Babbel App for Windows 8?

With the official release all of the eleven Babbel languages will be available as individual Apps in the Windows Store under the category ‘Education’. As far as content and didactics go, we will be staying true to our existing Apps and the Babbel concept. In my opinion our Apps fit really well to the new Windows 8 look. But most of all the user can expect one thing: lots of fun!

Try out German here
Brazilian Portuguese here
French here
Italian here
Spanish here
Dutch here
Indonesian here
Polish here
Swedish here
Turkish here


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Building bridges with languages – a volunteer’s experience with Babbel

Posted on October 19, 2012 by

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

© Cross-Cultural Solutions Volunteer with local children

There is no denying that these are challenging times. While there are incredible advances being made in local communities everyday – from improved healthcare, to more accessible education — social issues still impede the progress of countless communities around the world. The incredible thing is that we each have the ability to support progress toward a more sustainable global community. Some commit their time and efforts to projects on the ground, while others support social activism through advocacy. Babbel is proud to have been able to lend our support by giving the gift of language; for over a year, Babbel has given away language courses to the CCS volunteers.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” – Nelson Mandela

Connecting across cultures is no easy task and to be truly accepted into a new community is a process that takes patience and time. Learning how to communicate in the local language, even if you’ve just got the basics, is an incredible tool for any intrepid international volunteer who’s looking to genuinely engage with local people.

For Megan, the Brazilian Portuguese Babbel courses were an invaluable resource as she prepared for her CCS experience in Brazil. The level of communication that she was able to reach with Babbel helped her connect with her Brazilian coworkers, made conversations more meaningful and as a result, she felt that her work had added impact.

“I love that you can start with the beginner level, and work through levels linearly, if that’s how you learn best.” 

“I also love the topic-based courses. For example, many of my volunteers don’t have much time, and instead can focus on the ‘travel’ course to teach them targeted phrases to prepare them for travelling to Brazil.”

The Babbel system offers an efficient and fun overview of a language, while simultaneously teaching grammar and useful phrases. Some students of the program start at a level at which they’re already comfortable and simply use the program to refresh skills, while others choose start from the beginning.

Preparations for an international volunteering experience can be a bit of whirlwind. The excitement of the upcoming experience, combined with tying up loose ends at work or school, and packing can leave little time for learning the basics of the local language. With Babbel, it’s easy to get ahead by dedicating just a bit of time each day. Megan learned most of what she brought with her to Brazil during her lunch breaks at work.

The Babbel system is designed for the user to learn whenever is convenient. There are no timetables and deadlines. Babbel works with a set of courses that can be approached in a linear or thematic way. The classical approach to language learning — grammar, grammar, and more grammar — would put far too great of a burden on the busy schedule of a learner for them to achieve a worthwhile standard of parlance in a short time. Likewise a ‘phrasebook’ approach is not always enough.

So for Megan, day-to-day activities, like ordering food and drinks, negotiating cab fares, and getting around town were made much easier thanks to the language skills that she gained with Babbel. Above all, her knowledge of Portuguese enabled her to make a lasting connection with her new neighbors in Salvador, as well as the staff and beneficiaries at the local organization that she worked to support.

Last year, Babbel offered all volunteers of the Cross-Cultural Solutions — CCS –, a nonprofit organization specializing in culturally immersive international volunteer experiences, a chance to try out its online language course free of charge. By utilizing the Babbel program to learn a new language, volunteers were able to better communicate with local people during their international experience.

Babbel talked with Megan Heise, a Cross-Cultural Solutions Program Site Specialist for Brazil and Ghana, who’s volunteered with CCS in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ghana herself.  Megan used Babbel to learn Brazilian Portuguese prior to her international volunteer experience with CCS in Salvador, Brazil.

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Wired Academic predicts “Towering Growth Trajectory”

Posted on October 11, 2012 by

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Language Learning: Berlin’s Babbel.com Builds Towering Growth Trajectory

If you are interested in digital and distance learning, you must have heard of the excellent independent news and information center Wired Academic. Its editor, Paul Glader, also writer, journalism teacher at King’s College and entrepreneur came to visit us in Berlin to interview Markus Witte, CEO of Babbel. Glader is writing for several publications ranging from ESPN.com to The Washington Post and is travelling and studying German in his spare time. Wired Academic is profiling several language learning programs and startups in the United States and Europe. This is the third in a series of such profiles.

Click here to read the article!

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New Features on Babbel.com, Part 1: DIY Anti-Spam and Anti-Typo

Posted on October 10, 2012 by

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A fair bit of time has passed since the upheaval of Dust and Dirt and Candlelight, and although the heavier particles have now settled, there is still a good amount of dust in circulation. There have been quite a few changes recently, of which many users are probably still blissfully unaware, despite notification via the Babbel board. This Features Series hopes to shed a bit of light on the darker corners of the Babbel universe.

Every day in the Support Team we get to read the general wishes of our users as well as new and helpful suggestions for improvement. Often these make complete sense and we are equally excited about their implementation as you are, and equally disappointed when our heroic programmers don’t have these assignments completed and on our desks by yesterday. On the other hand, we are witness to the herculean efforts of our developers and editorial team, and we see great things happening, which we wish were there for all to see. So with this in mind I shall, together with Aishah, be keeping you informed of new Features on Babbel.

Lazy Spammers

First of all we want to show you what you yourselves can do to join the fight against Spam and Harassment. Alongside the active use of the ‘Report’ function in the Messages section and with Friend Requests, as well as the ‘Report as offending’ function in Chat, you can do the following:

Under Profile > Settings there are two options with regard to receiving messages within Babbel. If you check both the boxes by ‘Babbel Messages’ you can assert that 1) only people who are your friends can send you messages and 2) only users with at least 100 Babbel points can send you friend requests. So you now have the great advantage of being able to specify that only users who are active beyond just the Community functions can be your friends. In general Spammers can’t be bothered to do any real work or learning. So only when these requirements are fulfilled can someone qualify as your friend and only then may they write to you.

Most Wanted Feature Request 

click to enlarge

Interestingly this simple but ingenious idea was suggested to us by one of our dedicated users. Proof if you need it that we are actually listening to and acting on your suggestions. Nevertheless we should also mention that some suggestions do not always fit in with the wishes of other users, and are even sometimes in direct contradiction. However there was one request where our users were unanimous and that was our ‘Most Wanted Feature Request’. This one wish, which has been by far the most frequently and also most vehemently requested, was that simple typing errors should not be counted as mistakes; that there absolutely must be a possibility to confirm that the word you had entered was the one you had intended to write.

Of course such a simple idea does not necessarily mean an equally simple task when it comes to the programming. However, when our developer Trond finally presented us with an immediately usable solution, it was a time for celebration here at Babbel.

So how do you do it? Simply log into Babbel and copy this link into the address bar of your browser, then press Enter: http://www.babbel.com/go/confirm-by-enter

And if you decide you don’t want it anymore, simply do the same but use this link: http://www.babbel.com/go/no-confirm-by-enter

Why are we not simply building it in as standard? Well, we are actually. First of all we wanted to give you the choice, but it has already proved so popular that it is now standard in the new Review Manager.

Stay tuned. In the next installment we will be telling you all about the star wars and heart aches!

 

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