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… Babbel.com, 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.
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.
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!
The Babbel team proudly announces to have been rewarded with the “digita 2013″ in the category “private learning age 16+”. Katja and Regine received this important trophy on occasion of the education and media fair didacta in Cologne on Wednesday. The jury praised the “innovate and motivating” approach of the Babbel learning system which, in turn, motivates us to carry on and get better and better. Read the full statement here (in German, obviously) .
We admit that it feels great to get an award, and we did face some serious competition out there. But we are almost equally thrilled by this lovely video that was made by didacta, and that features two charming, bright young gentlemen who probably succeed better in explaining (again, in German) what Babbel is than most other people who have tried, including ourselves.
For the superstitious amongst us 13 is an unlucky number, but for language lovers it’s quite the opposite! Why? Because Babbel has now welcomed Norwegian and Danish to the fold, boosting the number of wonderful languages offered to a very fortunate 13!
Do you like the sound of cross country skiing in Norway or summer holidays in Denmark? We’ve just put the finishing touches to Beginners’ Courses for Norwegian and Danish, two more Scandinavian languages to add to the Swedish courses already available on Babbel. These courses provide a helping hand as you take the first steps in the languages, presenting the most important vocabulary for everyday situations as well as the grammar you need to build sentences creatively and independently.
For those who think that all Scandinavian languages are the same, think again!
Content Manager Karoline looked for inspiration in the Fjords
Danish may look similar to Swedish and even share a lot of vocabulary, but the pronunciation is quite something else. Whilst a “d” at the beginning of a word should be pronounced just like an English “d”, it suddenly becomes an English style “th” sound if placed with a fellow “d” in the middle of a word. The rather harmless looking sentence, “Hvad hedder du”? (“What’s your name?”), for example, sounds markedly different to what you may expect.
Our Danish Beginners’ Course has been suitably garnished with pronunciation classes to help you soar above such linguistic hurdles. In the Norwegian Beginners’ Course, users will be brought closer to the first grammar points, enabling them to get acquainted with unfamiliar combinations of consonants such as “kj” and “tj”. Armed with such invaluable information, you may even get through your first sentences in Norway without being found out as a foreigner.
With a little bit of practice, you may even release a near-native sounding, “Kan du kjøpe tjue kjeks?” (“Can you buy twenty biscuits?”).
On top of vocabulary and grammar, both courses also offer an insight into the regional cuisine and lifestyle of our Nordic neighbours. Should you one day lose your way whilst investigating a fjord, then you’ll realize that Norwegians are always willing to help. And if you bump into a Danish acquaintance, he may bid you farewell with the grateful words “Tak for sidst” even if you haven’t done anything to deserve them.
So that’s just a taster of what you can learn in the Beginners’ Courses for Danish and Norwegian. There’s plenty more inside, all of which you can try out on your next trip to the Scandinavian Peninsula.
Karoline has been working at babbel.com since September 2012 where she likes to sit on this huge gym ball. Her focus is set on Scandinavian languages, but her thorough knowledge of Dutch led to her participating in the building of this course. Love brought her to the Netherlands 10 years ago, and she has remained faithful to this language so far.
Opinions on Dutch vary from “it sounds so cute!” to “do you have something caught in your throat?” With our firstDutch course for beginners you will not only learn correct pronunciation, but also vocabulary and the basic rules of grammar so you can defend yourself on your next visit to the Netherlands or Belgium.
Up until now there was only a vocabulary trainer for Dutch, but now you can learn, for example, idioms and how to respond to questions in the negative. That might sound trite, but maybe you’ve learned how to say “I’d like a tea,” but you need to know the negative, because you might not want a tea just now. Important for us also was to provide a lesson with helpful phrases for everyday encounters, so for example you can say that you don’t understand, or ask if someone can show you the way better by indicating directions on a map. Perhaps you even dare to order a “koffie verkeerd” (a café au lait), or a “kippensoep” (chicken soup) and “een portie bitterballen” (a serving of meatballs).
German speakers often hear the word “lekker” in Dutch, and as the homophone means “delicious” or “good tasting” in German, they wonder if perhaps the Dutch are obsessed with food. But it will become clear that the Dutch use “lekker” for lots of other things, like “lekker slapen” (sleep well). The charm of the language lies in the art of making everything into the diminutive, from “cadeautje” (little present) to “autotje” (little car). For the learner, it has the advantage that whenever an article is unclear, one can simply use the diminutive and the article is always the same.
A word about pronunciation: The “g” might sound strange at first, because it is irregularly spoken. But you’ll get used to pronouncing the guttural “g” and you’ll quickly get over the ‘something caught in your throat’ prejudice. There is also a clear North-South divide when it comes to the pronunciation of this sound. In the South (in Belgium) it is pronounced more smoothly than in the North. This was one more reason for us to have a voice from the South and a voice from the North in the audio for the course. With the two options you can hear the difference and practice your listening comprehension from the outset
At this time of year, it’s really worth taking a closer look at what actually brings a couple together. It’s most likely a mixture of a number of things; physical attraction, personality, charm, interests, but successful communication is of utmost importance. To make a relationship work, its constituents must be able to understand one another. Everyone has his or her own way of expressing and conveying feelings, but how is this process complicated when these constituents don’t speak the same language? Couples in a bilingual relationship face a somewhat harder challenge than those in monolingual relationships. While everyone knows how to say ‘I love you’ in several languages, not everyone can express himself or herself well if and when a relationship turns sour.
The vocabulary lessons conjured up and developed at Babbel draw upon realistic dialogues inspired by everyday life. And part of modern life is undoubtedly ‘breaking up’; that moment when single life beckons once again. But how do you break up in a foreign language? How do you find the right words to make your soon-to-be ex-partner understand your reasons? We turned Saint Valentine on his head to help all you freedom fighters out. Enough Schmulz. Let’s learn something practical.
And for all those who are lucky in love, there’s tons of vocabulary and a veritable bundle of courses available on Babbel that teach you how to give compliments, express feelings, and keep the flame alive until the next Valentine’s Day arrives.
One day it became clear that Babbel users wanted to write more.
But when someone suggesteda dictation course, a murmur rippled through the editorial department. Everyone remembered their schooldays well—classrooms with an unreasonably stiff atmosphere, boring texts that had little resemblance to reality
For those of you with bad memories: the new Babbel format keeps you especially in mind! Here, in contrast, writing and listening comprehension can be practiced with wit, charm and fun. Unlike the teacher in the classroom, the dictation feature has a repeat button, so you can listen to the sentences as many times as you like—without the pressure.
Little stories that make for a smirk or even the occasional burst of laughter sweeten up this new experience of dictation. Not only will you be able to practice writing without having to resort to the old, tired formulas, but you’ll learn how to put everyday vocabulary words to use, too. We have little use for purely written language: our dictation courses are based on the spoken language.
Tales of strange encounters, misunderstandings and other incidents are partially based on Babbel authors’ true experiences. In one, for example, you will find out how Katja’s jacket ended up in a tree—and how she got it back. Meanwhile you’ll also be exposed to important grammatical issues such as verb endings and agreement. So, you won’t necessarily hear whether with “préféré” you need to write “é” or “ée”, but you’ll be able to deduce it from the context. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to do it cold, either—you’ll know because you’ll already have gone over the words and practiced them!
For whom is soon to set foot upon French soil, beware of verbal mud traps that may await. High school French abilities are quickly exhausted as soon as the French begin to jauntily jabber in their local lingo.
Imagine you’ve just landed in Paris and you’re exploring the city immersed in euphoric Francophilia. Lost in thought, gazing upwards while strolling through the charming streets and alleyways, you accidently bump into another pedestrian. He responds with a “T’es vénère ou quoi!“ What did he mean? How should I respond? Your automatic reaction is “Excusez-moi”. Your counterpart seems to have calmed down. “C’est pas grave,” he answers, “Je peux te taxer une clope ?” Once again that feeling of having landed in the wrong town. You think, “Taxer” – taxi? Does he need a taxi? What’s a clope? Clop! Maybe he means a horse-drawn taxi? You decide on the first and more logical option and stammer in your best French, “Là, il y a un taxi!” (There’s a taxi). Suddenly the face of the Frenchman contorts into an expression somewhere between astonishment and disbelief. Whoops! Wrong answer.
The new Babbel courses for French slanghelp get you back on your feet. Here you won’t just learn that “taxer” means “to bum”, “cimer” means “thank you” and “une clope” is “a smoke”, but that in their slang the French switch endings and twist, cut off and leave out words. So it happens then that from énervé” (annoyed) you get “vénère”.
Babbel has a course on slang for all French enthusiasts who have some previous knowledge but want to dive deeper. The so-called “Verlan“-words with reversed syllables and other colloquialisms are mixed into everyday French—especially among young people under forty. The course treats five important aspects: “Verlan”-words (words with reversed syllables), slang, shortened and omitted words, special endings, and loan words from English such as “fun” or “has been”. These five aspects help so that next time, when someone offers a “clope”, it sounds more like French than like Greek to you.
It’s fascinating, all the things you can do with language learning. In this respect 2012 was a very creative and fruitful year for us, culminating in a nomination for Best German Start Up at the international The Europas Awards to be held in Berlin. Although the entire Babbel team is forward thinking as a matter of principle, staring the future fearlessly in the face, we want to take a moment now to glance back across an eventful year, in which you the Babbel user took a leading role.
Platform and system:
By far the biggest change can be seen in the fact that our editorial team have brought out more than 200 new courses in just 12 months with their unique passion and dedication. In total there are now 6,300 lessons available to you the Babbel user. When you think that on 15 January 2008 we came out with a single vocab trainer for 5 languages, you can see there has been some progress! This year saw the premiere of many new course formats, among others: Lifestyle courses, Dictation courses, Slang, and even a fun Dialect course for German (in which some of the Babbel employees star as guest speakers).
Which course was your favourite so far?
Our newest learning languages, Turkish and Dutch, have been reinforced with their own Beginner’s Courses – a popular request from our users – and a beginner’s course for Polish is in development. We are expecting to be able to release two new learning languages in February: Danish and Norwegian.
Visually Babbel has also changed quite dramatically and the renovations are still underway! The community pages now subscribe to modern design standards and have benefited from a considerably better layout. Even the trainer will soon get a makeover. But fear not, we will stay true to the Babbel style – clean and simple, as you like it.
2012 was a whirlwind year for our mobile development team: In February our App for iPads came out, in March the App for Android, in June the iBook for iPad and the same for Kindle in August. Then in October the App for Windows 8 made its debut – and the grand finale of the year: the iPad App Version 3.0, containing the entire course programme, including the possibility to synchronise your learning progress between Web and App. In total during 2012 about 4.5 Million Babbel Apps were downloaded. It seems we are gradually catching up with your desire for good language courses on mobile platforms.
You (the Babbel users):
Worldwide you are 10 million users, who learn with Babbel on your computer and/or mobile device. This massive increase surely has something to do with the fact that Babbel is available on more and more devices with differing operating systems. More and more people can and want to learn languages with Babbel, unconstrained by time or place. This makes us very happy because, although we are on a steady upwards growth curve, we still have the same goal that we had five years ago when we started: To make understanding and learning a language on the internet easier.
The Babbelonians (the Babbel team):
We too are growing enormously, in the heart of Kreuzberg. Almost every week we have the pleasure to welcome a friendly new face to the team. Meanwhile (now in the middle of January) we are 60 full-time employees. Since our Bergmannstraße office is bursting at the seams, we will be taking over new, bigger premises in Bergmannstraße from the start of March. We’re staying faithful to our neighbourhood, because Kreuzberg brings us luck, as Markus, our commander in chief, puts it.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of you and especially to those of you who have stuck with us through the years!
Finally, all online courses as an iPad mobile version!
Not even a year ago, we proudly announced the release of the Babbel iPad app. Versions 1.0 and 2.0 were “only” vocabulary, like the apps for iPhone, Android, and more recently, the Windows 8 tablet. So as it went, there was the healthily plump “web” section and the significantly skinnier “app” section. But that is, at least for the iPad, no more. As of now, the Babbel app for iPad 3.0 includes all the same courses and lessons as the web version.
The Babbel fans among you know what awaits you: Depending on the language you’re studying, there are up to five types of courses—new, beginner’s, words and sentences, grammar, and extras, under which you find courses and lessons with various different themes. Then there are the lesson exercises that combine reading and listening comprehension with matching and writing; each word or phrase is spoken out loud, and each entry is matched with an image. The speech recognition tool, which tells you how close you are to a native speaker, helps you to practice your pronunciation. Then last but not least, the “refresher” function, the review manager, presents what you’ve learned for review until it sticks.
Users who have already studied with the older version of the app will now be able to synchronize not only their personal vocabulary, but also their learning progress between the app and web versions. On top of all that, the app 3.0 version has not only been fully reviewed contentwise, it has now also a shiny, slick new design.
Since the app section is now up to par with the web section, we’ve adjusted the prices accordingly. For the apps, the same options as the web subscriptions now apply regarding duration, price and conditions.