The Babbel Blog

Online Language Learning

Beware the False Friends!

Posted on March 28, 2013 by

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

Babbel is taking on those false friends. But don’t worry – this isn’t a life coaching course we’re pushing, but our newest project! Who you choose to make real friends with is still up to you. The idea of our brand new course format is to help you confidently navigate through choppy linguistic waters on your own…

 It is rather “false friends” of the lexical variety are the subject of this course. These are specific words that quickly lead to misunderstandings between native and foreign languages. At first glance seductively simple and logical, they look and sound confusingly alike between languages. For example, say someone wants to comment on the latest demonstration against a corrupt politician in French, Italian or Spanish. Logically, it seems the word to use would be démonstration, dimostrazione or demostración. They seem so close to the English – but yet, in reality, so far! In the Romance languages it refers not to a “demonstration” but a “presentation.”

 And while in English, French and Spanish you might go to the gymnasium, gymnase or gimnasio to work out, at a German Gymnasium you’re much more likely to find young teens diligently studying toward university.

 But it gets really confusing when very similar words have completely different meanings between languages. For example, a gift in English brings a smile, while Gift in German (“poison!”) would naturally turn that smile upside down. What expression would it inspire among the Scandinavians, though, when gift means “married” in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish (gift in Swedish ; gift in Danish) ??? ¡Díos mío! Definitely starting to feel lost in translation…

Click here to inform yourself on some of the dangers in the language you’re currently learning:

German False Friends

French False Friends

Spanish False Friends

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New apps for Windows Phone 8!

Posted on March 27, 2013 by

Read this post in German (Deutsch)

Eleven apps are now available for Windows Phone 8 on the Windows Phone Store

In October 2012 Babbel published eleven apps for Windows 8 Tablets and PCs. These Apps have been installed over 390,000 times so far. When we released the apps, we hoped that our enjoyable collaboration with Microsoft would continue, but were unsure as to how it would develop and unfold. Everything hinges on the feedback of the users after all. The resounding success of the apps is extremely gratifying, not least because it has driven us to up the ante yet further by offering an optimised version of the apps for the Windows 8 Phone. We premièred these apps, rather appropriately, during the awards ceremony at the CeBIT on March 5th.

Chancellor Merkel will doubtless be delighted that she can continue studying Polish on her Windows 8 Phone in the future.



The Windows Phone 8 Apps are available in the Windows Phone Store for eleven Babbel languages.

Here are a few impressions of the apps:

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Babbel Acquires San Francisco Based PlaySay

Posted on March 21, 2013 by

Babbel CEO and co-founder Markus Witte is giving some insights into the motivations in acquiring PlaySay. Founded by Ryan Meinzer in 2008 PlaySay is ‘a language learning experience’, offering a unique, visionary and fun way to learn Spanish and English. The 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt finalist PlaySay Inc., which has its headquarters in San Francisco, has seen its app ranked #1 in the education category of the iTunes store in ten countries, including the USA.


We already saw several great news in the first few months of 2013: Babbel apps for new platforms, coming along with important awards and even a presentation of our Polish vocabulary trainer to German chancellor Angela Merkel and Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk.

Now we’re taking a step to increase our presence in the United States by acquiring the the language learning firm PlaySay. A very unusual step — most San Francisco start-ups are not bought by a German start-up.

In our case, we feel that combining PlaySay and Babbel makes a lot of sense. We’ve watched the success of PlaySay since we saw their pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco back in 2011. Since then, PlaySay was mentioned by some major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and others and had its app as a #1 in the education category of the US App store and 10 other countries.

The current PlaySay app will be continued for the time being. All users are invited to join Babbel as well to combine both learning experiences. The product teams are in discussions of providing an integrated product.

The acquisition of PlaySay is opening a number of opportunities in the US market, especially since we have Ryan Meinzer, the PlaySay CEO, by our side as an advisor and supporter. Babbel’s CTO Thomas Holl and I will be in San Francisco with Ryan in early April to lay the foundations of our presence in California.

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Neue Apps für Windows Phone 8

Posted on March 15, 2013 by

Im Oktober 2012 hatten wir elf Babbel-Apps für Windows 8 Tablet und PC veröffentlicht, die seither mehr als 390.000 Mal installiert wurden. Damals hofften wir auf eine Fortsetzung der angenehmen Zusammenarbeit mit Microsoft, wussten aber noch nicht, ob und wie es konkret weitergehen würde. Denn alles steht und fällt mit der Resonanz der Anwender. Umso größer die Freude über den Erfolg der App, der uns veranlasste, die für Windows Phone 8 optimierte Version nachzulegen – die wir jetzt, sehr angemessen im Rahmen der CeBIT, erstmalig präsentieren konnten.

Es wird die Kanzlerin bestimmt freuen, das Lernen der polnischen Sprache zukünftig auch auf ihrem Windows Phone 8 fortsetzen zu können.

Die neuen Windows Phone 8 Apps gibt es momentan in elf Babbel-Sprachen im Windows Phone Store.

Hier schon mal ein paar visuelle Eindrücke der schicken App:











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One more time! Babbel awarded at the CeBIT

Posted on March 14, 2013 by







This post in German

Having developed numerous courses for the Polish language, we know that it isn’t an easy language to learn. Angela Merkel appeared to concur as she tried out the Polish Babbel App, with the word cześć” (hello) proving a particular stumbling block for her.

Despite the odd tongue twister, Merkel and her language exchange partner, the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, appeared to enjoy their Babbel experience, as you can see in the accompanying picture. Every year a different country partners the CeBIT, and this year it was Poland’s turn. For this reason we bestowed our Polish app the honour of being used by such luminaries.


The latest technological trends are presented once a year at the largest IT fair in the world. The prize ceremony for the ‘Innovation 4 Society Award’, in which the Microsoft initiative Chancenrepublik Deutschland (Opportunity Republic Germany) recognises outstanding, socially beneficial work from both young and established IT companies. took place shortly after the opening of the CeBIT.

And the winner in the category ‘Established Company’ is…, with its Windows 8 App sitting pretty as the most successful educational app in the Windows Store! The jury substantiated their choice by drawing attention to the ‘exemplary coupling of intelligent learning content and digital technology’, as well as the same ‘innovative learning methods’ which had previously convinced the jury of Digita. The Babbel delegation celebrated as Markus, one of the Babbel founders, presented the Babbel App to Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Tusk. Frau Merkel appeared to be quite intrigued by the App as she brushed up on her knowledge of Polish in front of the audience.

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Meet the Team: Gregory

Posted on March 1, 2013 by

Gregory, one of our dearest colleagues and favourite Frenchmen, is from Annecy, a picturesque town in the French Alps. He is the face of French support. When he isn’t supporting, he can be found playing with mobile devices and spreading good vibes.

Lac d’Annecy

What are you doing at Babbel?

I started in May 2011 as a freelancer in support, and since March 2012 I have been working here full-time. I get to do more and more technical support, including testing and experimenting with new products, like new apps for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and also Windows 8 Tablets. Last but not least, I also translate into French, and do some recordings for YouTube videos.

Which languages do you use on a daily basis?

At Babbel I mainly use English and German since those are our working languages. Sometimes also French. And German I’m trying to push more and more. I feel most comfortable, of course, in my mother tongue. It’s just comforting to be able to say what you mean. La langue suit la pensée – only then the language follows your thoughts.

Can you tell us a little about your experience of learning German in Berlin?

When I first got here I could only speak a few words of German, could barely understand what was being said, and had problems explaining myself. Sure enough, I mostly got to know other French people, and in my work life as well. But the bosses were German and Swiss, and they forced – or let’s say encouraged – us to speak German. And ever since I’ve been with Babbel my German has improved considerably.

In the first few months I tried out language tandems a lot, which means I met German people who wanted to learn French. From what I experienced the results weren’t very successful, however, since many people had problems imagining how a foreign person learns German. Vice versa, a Frenchman is likely to have a hard time explaining exceptions in French grammar.

What advice can you give to language learners?

Surround yourself with people. I find it very helpful if others correct me. Also, I like watching German TV or films in German.

Is there a first German word or expression that particularly stuck to your mind?

It’s sort of strange, but yes. I was 14, 15 years old, and we read a German text at school. One sentence went like “Ich mache Yoga” (I do yoga), and the whole class was on the floor laughing. Nothing special about this sentence, but the pronunciation just cracked us up!

Which (other) languages would you like to know?

Russian, Spanish and Brasilian Portuguese.

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