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Off into the Turkish sign-jungle!

Posted on May 29, 2013 by

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In the middle of the multicultural Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, you will find Germany’s largest Turkish community – and our Babbel offices! What for die-hard, born n’ bred Berliners is an everyday part of the landscape, often makes visitors do a double-take: Many shops and businesses around here not only publicize their wares with German signs, but also Turkish ones.

 Sure, most people already know what “döner” and “ayran” are, but what kind of meat or vegetable arrives on your plate when you order “sığır” or “patlıcan”? Like me, many of you might also be wondering why sometimes the door to the supermarket won’t open even though it seems like there are people inside…? Had I known that the sign “çıkış” meant “exit”, I of course would have been trying to push through the “giriş” (“entrance”) instead!

 With this in mind, among the course editors we had the idea to do a little course where we introduce some basic signs that you might see in Turkey – but also in the German capital. Armed with bicycles and cameras, we combed the Berlin streets, photographing everything that passed in front of our lens. And we discovered that if you keep your eyes peeled, all sorts of signs and sayings start to come out of the woodwork. Besides the dentist’s office “dişçi” (dentist) the book shop is called “kitapçı”. The driving school is branded with “sürücü kursu” (driving courses) and the “baklavacı” (Baklava-bakery) offers Turkish sweets.

 Some words that you come across in the sign-jungle sound a lot like the German – or the English, for that matter: “taksi” (taxi), “kurs” (course), “büro” (office/bureau) and “yoğurt” (yogurt), for example. You can find these so-called internationalisms in many languages; they sound alike and mean the same thing. That means you can often understand more than you think!

 So that the course would be more than just showing the signs and their translations, we studded it with grammar explanations and pronunciation tips, too. So when in doubt, you can ask where the “tuvalet” (toilet) is with the proper emphasis – and say thank you with a “teşekkürler” afterwards!

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Carnaval, Beaches and Caipirinha…

Posted on April 30, 2013 by

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…by the third word you already know what we’re talking about: Brazil!

With those powdered-sugar-sand beaches it is one of the dream destinations of our planet. But given its sheer size, it’s hard to think that it can be characterized in just these three words alone. Between the Amazon and the wetlands in the north to the Alps-like mountainous region in the south, there’s much more to discover in Brazil than just Samba or the Copacabana.

It’s not surprising that, for example, with the Cataratas do Iguaçu, this land of superlatives hosts one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. In the vicinity of this gigantic national phenomenon, there is another, smaller wonder to be found: Cheeky quatís (coatis) who scamper around the national park and swipe away chips and other morsels from right under tourists’ noses.

No matter why you decide on a trip through Brazil, one of the nicest parts of traveling there is coming in contact with the locals. Brazilians are very open. It’s enough just to break out with a “Oi, tudo bem” (Hey, what’s up?) to get a conversation going. But in hopes that your successfully-begun conversations don’t all have to start with your hands and feet (because you don’t have the words yet), we’ve created a “Portuguese for Holidays” course – twelve lessons that deal with the most essential communication basics for your trip to Brazil. Language training in easily digestible bites gets you fit for all relevant situations, such as Orientation, Shopping or Reservations. You’ll also get tips on how to order in a restaurant along with culinary terms such as “feijoada” or “água de coco” (coconut milk). You’ll see how quickly these basics grow into a wider vocabulary once you’re on the ground. As the saying goes, he who orders “Uma cerveija, por favor,” can also get “Mais uma!” That is, he who orders one beer should also be able to order another!

Frauke is a content project manager specializing in Spanish and Portuguese. She spent her last big holiday in Brazil, and traveled to Ilha Grande, Rio and Iguaçu, among others. In the new “Portuguese for Holidays,” you can look forward to lots of other tips about the culture and language.


Go to the “Portuguese for Holidays“ course:

In English, German, Spanish, Italian or French.

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Beware the False Friends!

Posted on March 28, 2013 by

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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

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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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Two new languages! Babbel highlights Norway and Denmark as your next destination of choice!

Posted on February 21, 2013 by

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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.

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Discover the Netherlands with the Dutch beginners course!

Posted on February 19, 2013 by

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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 first Dutch 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

Veel plezier ermeel! (Have fun!)

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Dictation courses: Language learning with wit and charm…

Posted on February 6, 2013 by

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One day it became clear that Babbel users wanted to write more.

But when someone suggested a 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!

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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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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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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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