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!
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
Many 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?!”
After just a few delays, Babbel is available in the Google Play Store as an Android app!
Babbel Android was one of our users’ most common requests, and we are delighted to finally make this dream come true. Now all of you out there with Android devices no longer have to wait to take advantage mobile learning with Babbel. We’d like to give a big thank you again to our beta testers, whose feedback had a direct impact on improving the app. We’re super happy with the results and we hope you’ll have a lot of fun with the new apps and learn a lot, too!
What can the Babbel app for Android do?
The app includes the Basic and Advanced Vocabulary with 2000-3000 words for each learning language. As usual, all vocabulary packages are organized by topic and presented audio-visually (spoken out loud by native speakers and illustrated with pictures). You can decide which themes interest you the most, and get started right away.
We’ve also optimized out speech recognition software and integrated it into the Android apps. It will now be even more effective in analyzing your pronunciation and helping you practice. Of course, the popular review manager is also on board—presenting you words you’ve learned for review in ideal intervals, so that what you’ve studied permanently embeds itself in you long-term memory. You don’t need a constant internet connection for the Babbel apps, so you can study vocabulary easily and flexibly—at home or on the go.
How much do the Babbel Android apps cost?
The Android apps are completely free for all eleven languages and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. The first lesson from every category is ready to be studied right after download. To download additional vocabulary packages and use the intelligent review manager, you’ll need a free Babbel account, which you can sign up for directly on the app. If you already have a Babbel account, then you can simply log into the app, download everything you’d like to learn and go.
Should I expect ads in the app, since it’s free?
No. You shouldn’t be distracted by advertising. Babbel remains, as always, an ad-free premium product.
Those of you who are familiar with Babbel know that the Basic and Advanced Vocabulary is just a small part of what Babbel has to offer. Product innovation and product development are still dominant themes at Babbel. The Mobile Team has already begun with the development of new apps that will bring more features and courses to mobile devices. Our Content Team is also busy working on new lessons and courses. Very promising!
Overview of all Android Apps
Miriam – our Head of Content – was asked to contribute to a book about E-Learning. Here is a short summary of her chapter “Babbel: a mix of didactic methods for digital language courses”.
“How does learning with Babbel actually work?” Ullrich Dittler, Professor of interactive media, asked me for his book ‘E-Learning. Einsatzkonzepte und Erfolgsfaktoren des Lernens mit digitalen Medien.’ (E-Learning. Implementation strategies and the secrets of success for learning with digital media). The answer: Babbel is so effective because we do not rely on just one method of learning. Rather we have developed a comprehensive mix of methods, which accommodates the many different learning requirements of our users.
Imitating words and practising: With us you can learn all new words by listening and repeating – this fixes them in the memory whilst simultaneously training the pronunciation. Subsequently a meaning is attributed to the word (with an accompanying picture and translation to avoid confusion) and the words are written out. Therefore the words are always ‘drilled’ using the same pattern. These so-called “Pattern Drill” exercises belong to the behaviourist approach to language didactics.
Short and colourful vocabulary segments: New vocabulary is introduced in small units of three or four words or chunks (e.g. in the sense of “I am called …” or “I come from …”) – this is about as much as can be retained in the short term memory at any one time. Vocabulary is trained on several levels (repetition, translation, writing), subsequently one is occupied by one or two further items. The items always come from the same subject area, one is better able to keep them in mind as a result of their thematic relationship. All words are accompanied by a picture, consequently for many learners they are especially easy to remember.
Revising after a sensible amount of time: New words are automatically added to the Review Manager. These are then regularly recalled for revision at ever increasing intervals, according to the “Spaced Repetition” process, until they can be revised without mistakes.
Explaining the rules: We are sure that adult learners want to understand the rules of a new language because they do not learn, as children do, through mere repetition. Therefore the courses contain many explanations of grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary in the native language of the learner. Our courses have been developed to be linguistically contrastive. Rules are formulated differently for each combination of mother tongue and learning language (a German will learn Spanish in a different way from an Italian). The understanding of the function of memory and the processing of information for the last three points is based on a cognitivist approach to language didactics.
Free learning: From a large number of courses and lessons, our users choose those which interest them in particular. Some prefer to work their way through the beginner’s courses one after another, while others just keep surfing through the overview of courses, spontaneously picking one out at whim. Each person works their way through the course material at their own speed. With the community functions they are then free to put their learning into practice. According to constructivist language didactics, each user develops their own individual skills, with which to identify new information subjectively and process it with the benefit of their existing knowledge.
Communicate quickly and for real: Babbel users should quickly be able to make themselves understood. Therefore in the beginner’s courses the most important phrases for everyday situations are gradually covered (e.g. we find “I would like a coffee” more important than “The ball is red”). Through learning chunks one soon knows whole sentences, even if one still has not mastered the relevant grammar (e.g. how to use the conditional form “would” in other sentences). Since in real conversations in a foreign language one will often not know all the words, the whole vocabulary of our dialogue will not necessarily have been learned before the exercise. In this way one learns to work out the meaning of unknown words from their context – if necessary one can have the answer revealed.
And because in reality one can often express oneself in many different ways, we have made it possible in many written exercises to have multiple synonymous correct answers. The advanced writing exercises for our Business English courses are especially clever: they are evaluated by an intelligent and constantly growing database of answers, so that even at sentence level many variants can be marked as correct. This approach to language learning is based on communicative language didactics.
Learning together: The Babbel community is the place for social learning processes. Here one can simply interact but also put the learning into practice. In each case one communicates in multiple languages – and consequently solidifies one’s knowledge. With these kinds of processes of interaction within networks, where one often learns new things ‘as a byproduct’ it is connectivist language didactics that come into play.
What are your thoughts about these learning methods? Do you use additional ones? Feel free to discuss the above with us!
The Babbel founders: Markus, Lorenz, Toine, Thomas
Four years ago, on 15 January 2008, the official beta version of babbel.com went live. It had taken us (i. e. the four founders Lorenz, Markus, Thomas and Toine) eight months to build this first, still limited version of the language learning system. Back then Babbel was an interactive vocabulary trainer with a few community features. That day, we were sitting in our “office”, the front room of a rambling old apartment in Berlin, Kreuzberg, re-loading the page every other minute and were just amazed. Our assumption had sort of been that learning languages online was a concept with a future, but this rapid user growth – we were speechless. By the end of the month about 20.000 people were using the platform. It dawned on us that we must have hit the bull’s eye.
Another reason for that quick growth was that we managed to attract the attention of the right people: TechCrunch, for instance, one of the most important blogs in the whole internet industry, covered our launch – thus introducing us to experts and journalists in no time. Ever since the TechCrunch people from London and San Francisco have continued to report on Babbel news. This wasn’t just considered an accolade within the start-up community, it also helped to spread the word in the rest of the world. We would like to use this opportunity to thank M.G. Siegler, Steve O’Hear, Nick Gonzalez and, above all, Mike Butcher, who is known to generally support the start-up scene in Berlin. It’s their job, of course – it’s just that they are doing it really well.
Four years later, success is still with Babbel. The team continues to grow, the learning system has matured and is being used by so many people – we couldn’t have dreamt this. Last year was the best year in the history of Babbel (fortunately, we have been able to say this every year so far). We start 2012 with a great team, many ideas and quite elaborate plans, and we are looking forward to it. Next Friday we are going to celebrate all of this extensively. We would like to thank everyone who has tried and shared Babbel, with a special shout-out to our customers. Thanks to these people who have realized that it does pay out after all to spend money on an online learning tool, we are able to maintain our team and improve the product.
So we continue to make use of all this to build the best inter-active language learning system ever.
There also is a German version of this post.
What did 2011 bring for Babbel – our users as well as our team?
A whole lot of growth…
The range of courses available has more than tripled – from around 60 to 190 Courses! (And that’s not even including the many subsidiary courses and individual vocabulary and translation exercises in all the different languages!)
In June an exciting project came to fruition when four new languages went online: Dutch, Turkish, Polish and Indonesian. We now offer comprehensive basic and advanced vocabularies in these languages as well as dedicated iPhone Apps.
Our content Team has also developed some new and innovative course formats: e.g. the ‘Music’ course (at the moment still only available for people learning German – our German spokeswoman Tini has recorded new singer-songwriter versions of old folk songs especially for the course), the ‘Love Letters’ course, which works a bit like an online soap opera, and courses for learning numbers in several different languages. And for some languages we now offer a useful course in ‘Idioms’. In addition we have added new lessons to existing courses, and revamped them to make them work even more intuitively.
Users doubled, Customers quadrupled:
The number of people who learn online with Babbel.com has doubled in the year 2011 – from about one million to more than two million. The iPhone Apps have three times as many users as they had at the end of 2010 – also almost two million. At the same time the number of paying customers has quadrupled.
We can also now count whole organizations and companies among our clients, from Hotel.de to an american branch of ‘Doctors Without Borders’, Spellbound Entertainment AG, the day school ‘Sesam’ to the Cottbus Fire Brigade. We produced a course in ‘Railway English’ especially for german train attendants – we just couldn’t listen any more to ‘Senk you for trevelling viz …’! We offered access to this and other Babbel courses free of charge for the staff of major railway operators. It seems however that their train attendants’ English knowledge is no priority: they turned the offer down.
Mobile Apps: more and not just for iPhones
Last year there was quite a lot of activity in the mobile arena. We now have a dedicated Mobile Team, which amongst other things is developing the new Android Apps. At the moment they are still in the Beta testing phase. Unfortunately we had to delay the release as a technical problem meant the App didn’t yet conform to the high standards we demand of our products. We are therefore working flat out on a solution. Anyone who would like to have a look at the Beta version of the App can download it from here: http://www.babbel.com/home/beta-android
At the same time we have developed an App that is optimized for the iPad, which can already be found in the App Store. We haven’t yet trumpeted its release as we first want to find a way to offer its content for free to all Babbel Online users. Sometimes Apple doesn’t make life so easy! We will of course keep you up to date with developments and hope soon to find a satisfactory solution.
Technology: faster and better
The Babbel servers were moved from the USA to Europe. There they are better able to cope with the growing demand on their resources (the daily number of logins to Babbel has quadrupled). As a result of the move they will be able to make Babbel an altogether faster experience. In addition many improvements, large and small, have been made to the learning portal itself.
The team of permanent staff tripled last year: 30 people are now working every day to make Babbel bigger and better. They take care of the course material, the technical side, the mobile applications, customer support, product design and spreading the joyous Babbel message! In addition we work with over 80 freelance authors, editors and translators. Consequently we have had to expand our offices here in Kreuzberg and will be needing even more space this year.
After this fantastic year we are looking forward to the next one full of confidence.
We have big plans; new ideas and exciting projects; and 2012 has already started well – but there’s more to come. Onwards and upwards!
And in this spirit we wish you a Happy New Year!
Two years ago we broke new ground with the release of Babbel 2.0. This was a significant step forward. Instead of Babbel being a platform almost entirely financed by advertisements (with some additional products on the side) we decided to create a high-quality learning portal that would be financed solely through user subscription fees. You can read more on the reasoning and thought behind that decision in my blogpost of November 2009.
The orientation of a product is always determined by those who pay for it. We wanted Babbel’s orientation to be determined by language learners themselves. This ultimately led us to conclude that the transformation of Babbel into a fee-based portal was a necessary step. Nevertheless, we realised what a radical decision this was.
Babbel is very reasonably priced when compared to traditional e-learning products like CD-ROMs (our business model was initially questioned for being “too cheap”). But we benefit from the advantage of not having to press CDs and ship them around the world. While you have to fork out between 80 and 500 euros for most mail-order products, with Babbel language learning costs only a few euros each month. Despite this,
In November 2009 Babbel had 500,000 registered users. Today the number of people using Babbel, both online and on smartphones, rose to over 3 million. This proves that many people are willing to pay for high quality courses, even if they are online-based. In the past six months alone, our customer base has more than doubled. The numbers speak for themselves. Some of our users are so motivated that they take an active part in Babbel’s development by acting as beta testers. They continue to inspire us with their feedback and I would like to take this opportunity to thank these users for their dedication. You contribute greatly to the success of Babbel and to the ongoing growth of the team and its products!
In the meantime, six new learning languages and two new interface languages have been added to Babbel. That means 20 possible language learning combinations have turned into 70! In addition to just studying vocabulary, you can now choose from a broad range of integrated courses: from the beginner’s course for those with no prior knowledge, to the more challenging refresher and grammar courses; from idioms and tongue-twisters to numbers and “Denglish”. With new music courses coming up, and many others in development – that’s hundreds of courses in various formats covering a wide range of topics.
In the technical field, Babbel has also made giant leaps forward. We’ve developed and introduced, for example, a real-time browser-based speech recognition tool that doesn’t need to be installed and that helps you perfect your pronunciation. With the introduction of eleven iPhone apps (downloaded by over 1.5 million users!), you are now able to learn and practise vocabulary on the go.
The Babbel Team 2011
2011 has been the first year since Babbel was founded that we have been able to pay salaries solely from our earnings. In other words, our company is now stable and can continue to grow self-sufficiently.
Our new office in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin is now home to 30 permanent employees – three times as many as there were only a year ago – and that’s not counting our pool of over 60 freelancers. That makes a total of almost 100 people working on content development, translation, technical development, and support. (We are, by the way, still looking for specialised staff in several departments. Read more!)
We count ourselves lucky in that we have forged a team of exceptionally motivated and gifted people. This makes working at Babbel fun, which, of course, has a direct impact on the product itself.
We now have a development team working specifically with mobile apps. At present, they are working on new apps for Android and iPad. These are all due for release later this year with more mobile offers to follow next year.
A highly-skilled specialist from Norway is now working on further improvements to Babbel’s speech recognition tool and on ways of implementing more voice-controlled exercises. Furthermore, specialists from AI research, cognitive science, and the many linguists and teaching experts who surround me are all using their knowledge to develop even more new features and content. These include new course formats that cater to the requirements of specific career profiles, changes to the platform itself and, last but not least, completely innovative approaches that will change the learning experience with Babbel profoundly.
We really do have a lot in mind for the future – so everybody stay tuned!
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
The results are finally in from the survey inspired by Anne’s Learning
tips. 1774 people – speakers of English, German, Spanish, French
and Italian – have participated. To tell you the truth, the feedback was
overwhelming: free comments alone added up to over one hundred pages.
We read every last one of them, we sorted them, we evaluated them.
Here we assemble our first conclusions for you. They considerably
rattle the idea, or shall we say, myth, of the “learning type”.
General agreement with the Learning Tips was high, over 75%. But there
were two particular tips on which opinions where clearly split:
1) Set a plan and don’t stick to it
2) Your style of learning keeps changing
Only 57% agreed with these tips. 24% weren’t sure. 18% wouldn’t
recommend them to others.
18% of participants make a plan and stick to it.
Plan at least how often a week you will take up your study, and stick to that, even if you only rehearse some vocabulary
29% are concerned about getting muddled if they diverge from a plan
I’m afraid that without following a plan I could become disorganized
35% have a plan that they don’t stick to
I set a plan but usually by the end of week one it is in dissarray…..panic at work or distractions at home etc
Sticking to the wrong, but well intended plan hinders. Be flexible and open.
16% don’t need a plan
I think it’s important to just keep at it. You don’t need a plan for that… just dedication!
47% could never fit into any one type
My teacher has tried to work out my learning type too…I don’t seem to be any, I change!
We all have different learning skills and tolerances – we have to hone to our needs.
33% never thought about it
I thought learning types were fixed—but if that’s not the case, even better. I’d like to learn more about that.
18% think there are set learning types
Actually, I believe that for a person one learning type dominates, even when all of them are there.
31% of those who think that there are set learning types, invented their own terms for their particular “type”:
Chaotic learning type
Set aside the time every day to work on a task, do not miss.
Out of all survey participants, only 5% considered themselves
specifically a visual, auditory, or sensory learning type:
I’m a visual learner.
We consulted Curtis J. Bonk, Professor of Instructional Systems
Technology at Indiana University and author of the book, “The World Is
Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education” about the idea
of learning types. He thinks that although there are learning style
models for environments such as classrooms, the online world offers a
whole new way of learning.
“People have different learning situations, styles, benefits and
opportunities. The options available in online environments can make
learning formats even more diverse. With this in mind, successful
learning should be a result of interacting with content in an
individually preferred way. Some learn better by speaking the language
while others learn with the help of visual exercises. The more diverse
and fun the learning options and products, the better the success
rate,” Prof Bonk says.
There is no such thing as a specific “style”
Everyone has their own particular way of learning. We all have our own
strengths, weaknesses, methods and tricks. Thanks to everyone who
participated for all your comments and suggestions! We learned a lot
and we’re going to share what we learned. Promise!
I listen to how the others do it. That gives me new ideas.
Read this post in German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), French (Français), Italian (Italiano)
Babbel Team members Anne, Janet, David and Crisi explain why, of all things, they chose to learn Turkish, Dutch, Polish and Indonesian.
When I was a little girl, I was always wondering about the kids who shared our backyard in Berlin. They were constantly calling out my name. When I leaned out of the window and asked what they wanted, they would look at me blankly. As soon as I ducked back inside, it would start again: “Ann-eh! Annnnnnn-eh!“
It turns out that Anne, (Ann-eh, as it is pronounced in German) is in fact the Turkish word for “mom“. Had a grownup in my vicinity spoken Turkish, they probably could have saved me weeks of headaches!
Almost thirty years later I’m finally learning Turkish. Even after just a few weeks of studying, Berlin has become a completely new city for me. Businesses with once mysterious names suddenly reveal themselves to be “The Star Driving School” or “The Harbor Café”. All of a sudden my neighbors have names that I can pronounce. And I can ask for all the goodies in the markets by their proper names and not just by pointing at “that…”
In the park and on the metro my ears prick up. Listening out for Turkish has changed my perception of the city and of the people who live here. Sometimes I even understand some bits and pieces.
People ask me, “why Turkish?” Well, it meets my three main requirements for learning a language: good music, good food, and fun grammar!
Now I wish I had started thirty years ago. The question is not “why Turkish” but “why only now?”
Anne from Berlin directs the Support Team and is learning Turkish with Babbel.
Dutch is an underdog of the European language set. It suffers from something of an image problem, much like the country and its people, a less an obvious choice in the language learning stakes than its more widely spoken, sexier cousins, English, German or French, or exotica like Japanese or Mandarin. I started learning Dutch because my significant other (husband) is from Zeeland, in the south of the Netherlands, but I’ve realised along the way that the Dutch language has plenty of charm of its own.
Worldwide more than 30 million people speak Dutch, not just in Holland but in Belgium, South Africa, the South Pacific and South America. And English words of Dutch origin are countable in the thousands. Cookie, biscuit and many, many seafaring terms: dok=dock; boei=buoy, jacht=yacht; schipper=skipper.
Dutch grammar is much less daunting than German, the spelling is more logical than English but the pronunciation is, let’s be honest, a challenge. The easiness of mastering the 13 vowels and four diphthongs depends on where you come from – if you’re a native Swiss-German, Norwegian or Hebrew speaker, you’ll pick it all up more quickly. It’s been described as “A nearly fatal throat disease” for the guttural, throat constricting ‘sch’s and ‘g’s.
I’ve been visiting the Netherlands on and off for years, but I’ve yet to nail the pronunciation of the beach district where we regularly stay, Scheveningen or, embarrassingly, my significant other’s surname. Fortunately, the Dutch are a forgiving lot and indulge my mutilations of the language with good humour.
Janet from Tasmania, Australia, edits our English courses and learns Dutch with Babbel
The language is completely nuts. What strange letters! How do you pronounce “Wszystkiego najlepszego” anyway? I never imagined I would even come in contact with the language. Italian, French and even Japanese were more important to me. But now I thank fate for introducing me to Polish.
When I came to the eastern German city of Frankfurt/Oder for a year to do a foreign exchange, I wanted above all to improve my German. But living there at the border with Poland you should speak at least a little Polish… and at the university they were offering it. I went back and forth. Isn’t it too hard? Could I do it? I reasoned that I had time to at least get a passing mark.
So I signed up for Basic Polish 1A. The pronunciation turned out to be not that hard at all. I found out that Polish was almost like Russian, except that it uses our alphabet—even though it’s a Slavic language. I found that very interesting.
The Poles I’ve met are very nice and have always been helpful. I also find the country and the culture to be really fascinating.
A year and a half later I still want to learn more Polish. I want to get to know the beauty of a culture like the Polish one closer up.
David, from Bogotá, Colombia, passed both semesters of Polish with the highest marks. He edits Babbels Spanish courses and learns Polish with Babbel.
I like to learn ”just a bit” of all sorts of languages… preferably the more difficult and exotic ones, like Thai or Arabic. All at once.
Usually you can’t get very far with languages if you don’t put in the extra time and energy. But this is actually not the case with Indonesian. It’s my favorite language at the moment. Why? Because…
- It’s the language they speak in several exciting tropical places I want to travel to:
- Indonesia comprises of more than 17,500 islands that cover a total of 1,912,988 square kilometers, and on top of that, there is Singapore and Malaysia.
- Fascinating—some ancient—cultures like Borobudur on Java and Georgetown in Malaysia
- Amazing flora and fauna—Jungles, volcanoes, lakes, tigers, orangutans, the near-extinct Sumatran rhino
- It’s one of the easiest languages you can learn:
- It’s written with Latin letters—no complicated alphabet to learn
- Totally straightforward pronunciation, everything is pronounced as it looks
- Extremely simple grammar
- It’s more widely spoken than you might think:
- Indonesian is spoken by more than 162 million people
- Malaysian is virtually identical to Indonesian—that’s 12 million more people
- In Singapore 12-16% of the people speak it as well
- That’s useful! You can get pretty far with just Indonesian
- The language is just easy to learn—and lots of fun:
- Breaking down compound words can be pure poetry:
- Mata hari=eye day=eye of the day=sun (and of course… Mata Hari!)
- orang utan = person forest
- I’m a big fan of structure! As you can tell from this blog post.
Crisi is a classic “Berliner by choice”. She works in marketing at Babbel and is currently learning Portuguese and Indonesian with Babbel.
Read this post in: German (Deutsch), French (Français), Spanish (Español), Italian (Italiano)
Anne Matthies is head of the Babbel Support Team. Since 1997 she’s been addicted to self-directed learning, and by now she’s reached advanced levels in Italian, English, French, Russian and Chinese. Here she’s gathered together eleven tips that have proven especially helpful in her language learning experience.
1. Set a plan and don’t stick to it
Anyone can understand “I no understand”. That’s fine for communicating on a holiday abroad, but for making a business call it could be embarrassing. Know what your goals are: do you need a foreign language for travel or for your career? Is it to show off, or just for the pleasure of doing something new or thinking in a new way? Set yourself goals. Make a plan for how much time you will dedicate to the new language and what you would like to learn next.
But don’t stick to your plan!
Would you prefer to study the subjunctive or the signs of the zodiac today, even if you really don’t need to? Digress! Enjoy exploring! Fly away! Your plan is like a walking stick that you only need to lean on when your wings are tired — you only need it if you can’t think of anything else to learn. Change it as often as you like.
2. Give yourself time before you speak (if you’ve got the time)
If you don’t have any time pressure, you should put off speaking the language until you really have the urge. Up until then, just listen. At some point it will just bubble out of you; at some point you just won’t be able to help coming out with those strange sounds too!
If a word just comes out of your mouth all by itself, it’s all your own, it belongs to you. I’ll never forget how I suddenly started speaking Chinese while I was in the bath, after months of only listening. Don’t miss out on that kind of experience!
3. Your style of learning keeps changing
They say there are auditory, visual and all sorts of other learners. Sometimes you’re one, sometimes you’re another. Your learning style changes with your mood. Develop a sense of what works best for you right now: Sometimes you might like to close your eyes and just listen, other times the images and letters literally jump out at you. Other times still you might want to paint, write, pronounce or sing everything. Sometimes you want to do it all at once!
4. Study idioms right from the beginning
Idioms and sayings are the spice in the foreign language soup. Search out sayings that particularly amuse you. For example, imagine “laid back” and “down to earth” visually. Literal translations don’t make much sense, but they do often make for a laugh! French speakers literally say “he does cold” for “it’s cold”. Laugh yourself silly; share it with your friends. It will give you a feeling for the language. It will also enrich your vocabulary and keep your spirits up.
5. Be yourself
Don’t limit your studying to preconceived notions or set situations. What do you talk about in your native language? What are you interested in? What gets you upset? Saying something in your new language will become much easier once you really want to say it.
6. Get off the computer once in a while
Flashcards and an automatic review manager are great. But turn off your computer and try to remember what you’ve just learned. Build up memory support in your head. Give yourself some time for it. Sometimes a word “comes back” after a few minutes. You’ll see that when you have to recall something all on your own, it sticks in your mind in a whole different way.
7. Get around
If you’re always sitting in the same chair, learning the same phrase, you might be stuck when you have to reproduce it out on the street. Take your new language along with you wherever you go. Order your favourite meal at your local restaurant in the new language. When you take the train, imagine you’ve forgotten your ticket and you have to explain yourself to the conductor.
Pop songs are great for learning grammar. Search out those licks that get stuck in your head. Listen and sing along, with or without headphones, in the shower, on your bike or in your car.
9. Stage your own immersion day
So you’re learning French? Do a French day! Listen to French radio, watch French films, cook French food, read a French newspaper and search for your newest vocabulary on google.fr. Don’t worry if you only understand a fraction of what’s going on. Put sticky notes with French terms on all of the objects in your house, have conversations with yourself and boss yourself around in French.
10. Allow yourself to make mistakes!
Nothing holds you back more than premature perfectionism. Don’t be afraid to do everything wrong — just write, sing and blabber away. A new phrase will only start to belong to you when you actually use it. Whether you use it correctly at first or not doesn’t really matter. There’s an unbelievable amount to be learned from mistakes. You just have to allow yourself to make them.
If that’s hard to swallow, just remember how cute accents, incorrect grammar and phrasing mistakes are in others. Wouldn’t it be a shame if your French friend suddenly lost her accent and spoke perfect English?
11. Don’t give up…
Learning a new language can seem a bit masochistic at times. You forget everything so quickly! You haven’t done anything for days! You were so proud of yourself for all you learned before, but now you don’t understand a word!
That’s normal. It’s all part of the process. Don’t let it get you down! Kick, scream, moan… but don’t give up. Someday you’ll be giggling, chatting and cheering. A new language is a new world. Conquer it with pleasure.
And you? How do you learn best? What tips do you have for tackling a new language? Take part in our Learning Tips Survey… To the questionnaire
This post in:
German (Deutsch) (original)