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German dialects course: Why Babbel is called Babbel and other funny stories behind the scenes of the new course

Posted on January 7, 2013 by

This post in: French (Français), German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), Italienian (Italiano)

“Wos babbelscht’n du do?” – This isn’t German. Or is it…? Actually it is. It’s Hessian dialect for “Was redest du denn da?” (“What are you talking about?”). Listen to Hessian dialect

If you learn a new language, it’s most useful to learn its standard variety. But many languages like German have different dialects which give us the best insight into what the people are like and how they live. We at Babbel thought that making a dialect course might not only be a nice example of what German can sound like, but also be a chance to give a broader idea of how diverse Germany and its people are.

During the production of this course, we had a lot of fun discovering German ourselves, which is the mother tongue of many of our employees. And we were astonished at how many of us can speak a dialect (“Hey, I didn’t know that you can speak Hessian, wow!”). This led to a lot of funny discussions à la “No, I never ever heard that word before in my life!” or “Really, you call a meatball Bagges? No way!” The lunch break was the ideal time to ask colleagues where they come from and where they grew up. Just to be followed by the question “So you surely can speak a dialect, can’t you?” To make a long story short: We got to know each other better and from a completely different angle.

When it came to recording, we were in stitches. Some sentences had to be re-recorded over and over again because our speakers kept collapsing with laughter. But the result was worth the stomach pains from laughing. In the dialect course, which currently consists of six dialects (Berlin dialect, Upper Franconian, Hessian, Swabian, Saxonian and Bavarian), you’ll learn that you’ll get the same bread roll, if you buy a Weckla in Swabia, a Semmela in Franconia or a Schrippe in Berlin. You’ll come to understand a Bavarian if he’s talking about a Hallodri (scallywag) and get to know what a Hessian Kräbbel (jam donut) is. You’ll not only learn regional vocabulary on food and every day life, but also a lot about the region where the dialects are spoken and how their people are wired. And you’ll finally unravel the mystery of why Babbel is called Babbel: it’s Hessian dialect for to talk, to speak. So let’s get started and babbel German with the dialect course!

Maren has been working with Babbel since September 2011. As a project manager she authored the dialect course amongst others. She grew up in Berlin, but since her mother is from Hesse and her father from Bavaria, she got to know the regional varieties of German from her childhood on. Her relatives in Saxony and Thuringia and not least her husband from Franconia contribute to the fact that she sometimes orders a Schrippe in Bavaria or is looking for a Kräbbel in Berlin…


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How learning a new language fulfils seven of your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on December 31, 2012 by

This post in: French (Français), German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), Italienian (Italiano)

It’s that time of year again: 2013 is on the way and you’re looking back and contemplating the year passed. As you’re taking stock of what worked out and what didn’t quite, you decide to use the New Year as chance to change for the better. New Year’s resolutions last little longer than the euphoric effect of a glass of bubbly. Often you take on too many changes at once. But at, we’ve figured out a way you can keep at least seven of your resolutions….

Easy as pie. Learn a new language!


Some of the more common New Year’s resolutions of the 21st century:

1. Less stress.

One of the most oft-mentioned resolutions is to reduce daily stress. Now you’re probably imagining, what’s a Babbel language course have to do with a visit to the spa?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the psychological term “flow.” Flow means a feeling of being immersed in and concentrating on an engaging mental activity. From the bodily point of view, flow can be observed in the synchronization of heart rate, breathing and blood pressure.

Studying is often associated with tedium and stress. At, the developers knew this from the outset. Their aim when designing the Babbel language courses was to integrate the learning process seamlessly. In other words, the idea was to make it so easy and entertaining that you learn effortlessly, having fun through measurable progress and a sense of achievement.

2. Be healthier

Studying is not the most movement-intensive activity, but it exercises that most vital of muscles, your brain. In a study, Swedish researchers at Lund University reported that learning a foreign language has a direct influence on the growth of your brain. Consistently learning new grammatical structures, acquiring new vocabulary and practicing pronunciation all have a direct impact on our capacity for memory. Other studies show that people who speak two or more languages are affected by dementia only much later in life, if at all.

3. Drink/smoke less

Engaging in a new and exciting hobby distracts you from other habits. With the money you save by not buying two packs of cigarettes a month, you can already pay for a one month course with (see item 4).

4. Save money

A language course need not be expensive. Compared to traditional courses, language courses offered online are quite affordable and offer high quality content. But not only that. A new language can be learned through the regular reading of articles and texts in foreign newspapers on the web, or by watching movies in their original version with subtitles. This lets you save money to take a trip, for example, which leads us right to the next resolution…

5. Take a trip

Lack of incentive and motivation can make it difficult to follow through on your resolutions. In many countries you might visit English can get you pretty far, but for others you should definitely have a command of the essential words and phrases in the local language. It’s a great way to get to know new and interesting people.

6. Find a better job

A survey by the German Federal Institute of Education shows that one in three working people needs at least basic skills in a foreign language, and one in every six needs more specialized knowledge. “Depending on the position, additional language skills can always be an advantage when it comes to standing out from other applicants, especially with a slightly unusual language,” says Anne Seeanner, Public Relations Manager at Monster Germany.

Several studies in multilingual regions or countries like Canada and some U.S. states also show that bilingual people earn up to 20% more than their monolingual counterparts.

7. Help others

You also don’t have to learn languages all alone. With language exchanges (“tandems”) people meet each other and share their native languages. It’s that easy with resolutions.

In honor of these many resolutions, is offering a New Year’s special. Between the 3rd and 14th of January there is a special year-long subscription price for your preferred language for €48. Just to compare, a standard 3-month subscription costs €33.30.

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The new course on Spanish slang will whip you into shape!

Posted on December 20, 2012 by

This post in: French (Français), German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), Italienian (Italiano)

It comes easily, blatantly and directly: slang. It’s already fun in your own native language to put out all the stops, or to find further colloquial synonyms for cash, knackered or broke!

What’s even more exciting is to go on a sort of discovery tour in a language that you’re currently learning, especially when you knock a local’s socks off with your smashing foreign language knowledge.

What rolls off the tongue for you in your own language, may look suddenly silly in a foreign language. So, how do you actually express yourself with a small interjection like: “bloody hell!” when you can’t even find the words for it.

When I was learning Spanish and could say „Estoy tiesa“(I’m broke) instead of “No tengo dinero” (I don’t have any money) for the first time, I was tickled pink. My Spanish friends were also very happy. So, we “hicimos un fiestón” (had a big party) right on the spot, and I learned “¿Tienes un resacón?“ (Do you have a major hangover?) the very next morning. It’s even a little different if you tell your friends: “Anoche lo pasamos bomba y hoy estoy hecha polvo” (Last night we went on a bender, and today I’m knackered), rather than just saying: “Anoche hicimos una fiesta y hoy no estoy muy bien.” (Last night we had a party and today I’m not feeling very well).

Not so simple, is it? For Babbel users it will be a bed of roses with the Spanish colloquial course with topics, such as love, party, the beach and people. The French colloquial course offers categories like youth slang, Verlan or shortened word forms. Keeping this in mind, we have paid special attention to the fun aspect in these courses with authentic dialogues, as well.

Knock yourself out!

Since April 2012, Frauke has worked in the content division at Babbel. As a project manager, she has created, among others, the Spanish colloquial course. Since she first tried out her knowledge of Spanish vocabulary and phrases in Sevilla (Spain) at the age of 20, she knows very well the advantages of being proficient in the ‘true’ local language as fast as possible.

Apart from both of these courses, we have also published the following on 20 December:

German Dialects Course
German Beginner’s Course 6
Portuguese Refresher 1 (new release)
Italian Refresher 1 (new release)
Dutch Beginner’s Course 1

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New Italian idioms course spices up your Babbel lessons

Posted on November 29, 2012 by

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

"avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto"There’s almost no one who’s been with Babbel as long as Barbara. Around five years ago, the Italian translator and Finnish studies specialist started in content and support (at that time still as a student). As of this year, she’s an integral and essential part of our content team. Barbara is always unpacking yet another new language and knows what it means to have eyes lined with ham.



We use language to convey our thoughts and describe what we see. But the fact that we employ metaphors and images to do so is something we don’t always realize. You could say, “I already know the ropes,” but what ropes are those?  Idioms are deeply embedded in our consciousness, and we often take them at face value. But idioms give spice to language. They express what we mean, short and sweet, and depending on the language, can bring some of the more absurd images to mind…

That we at Babbel in particular can warm to such a theme is obvious: We’ve already published special courses for French, Spanish, Portuguese, English and Spanish “idioms.”  So, fresh out of the oven, here comes the new course on Italian idioms. Now you can find out what the Italians mean when they say “to arrive at the bean” (“capitare a fagiolo“), “to pretend to have a trader’s ears” (“fare orecchie da mercanti“), or to get two birds with a broad bean (“prendere due piccioni con una fava“).

Fundamentally, Babbel thinks important for you to commit phrases you’ve learned to long-term memory, and the intelligent review manager and audio-visual presentation of idioms help with that. But it’s certainly not always easy for us to find the right images, especially for things like, “It’s not flour from your sack” (“non è farina del tuo sacco“, which in English would be “it’s not your own work”) or “to have eyes lined with ham” (“avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto“, in English “to stick one’s head in the sand”).

That was the challenge that we on the Babbel content team were happy to take on, though not without a good dose of humor: Why not bring the idioms to life ourselves? And so we actually put ham on our eyes and held a sack of flour in our hands for the camera, under the amused and perhaps envious gaze of the rest of the Babbel crew, who nevertheless must’ve gotten a sense of how fun our jobs can be.

If you’re “just dying” (meaning, you can’t wait) to try out this course, follow this link: We hope you “in bocca al lupo!“—no, not get in the wolf’s mouth, but break a leg!

Further new courses also are available for:

French: Refresher course 2
Swedish: Numbers
Portuguese: Grammar

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Come il cacio sui maccheroni…

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Leggi questo articolo in: Tedesco (Deutsch), Inglese (English), Francese (Français), Spagnolo (Español)

"avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto"Sono in pochi a lavorare per Babbel da tanto tempo quanto Barbara. Quasi cinque anni fa la traduttrice e fennista italiana (all’epoca ancora studentessa) iniziava a lavorare alla didattica e all’assistenza clienti di Babbel; da quest’anno è parte fissa ed essenziale del nostro reparto didattica. Barbara sa cosa vuol dire essere poliglotta ed è sempre pronta a mettersi in gioco. Si direbbe che non ha gli occhi foderati di prosciutto eppure…

Utilizziamo la lingua per esprimere i nostri pensieri e per descrivere quello che ci circonda. Che nel fare questo ci serviamo di innumerevoli metafore e altrettante immagini non ce ne rendiamo sempre conto. Chi volesse contraddire questa affermazione sottolineando di sapere come usa la propria lingua, potrebbe esclamare: “Conosco i miei polli!”… Ma appunto, cosa c’entrano i polli? I modi di dire sono nel profondo del nostro inconscio e raramente ci rendiamo conto di farne uso. Eppure i modi di dire sono il sale della lingua. Rappresentano in modo intenso e conciso esattamente quello che vogliamo dire e, a seconda della lingua, evocano le associazioni più strampalate.

Che a noi di Babbel questo tema stia particolarmente a cuore lo si vede chiaramente dalla nostra offerta didattica: per le lingue inglese, francese, spagnolo, portoghese e svedese è già presente da tempo un corso speciale sui corrispettivi modi di dire. Appena sfornato invece, per gli studenti di italiano come lingua straniera, è il corso di modi di dire italiani, online dal 29 Novembre.

Come sempre anche in questi corsi Babbel dà particolare importanza alla possibilità di memorizzare quanto imparato in modo permanente: per fare questo vengono in aiuto l’intelligente sistema di ripasso e la rappresentazione visuale delle espressioni introdotte. Tuttavia non è sempre facile trovare le immagini giuste soprattutto per espressioni come “Non è farina del tuo sacco” oppure “avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto”.

Per il corso di modi di dire italiani abbiamo deciso di accettare questa sfida con una buona porzione di autoironia: perché non realizzare noi stessi fotografie divertenti per spiegare questi modi di dire? Ed eccoci così veramente con delle fette di prosciutto sugli occhi e un sacchetto di farina in mano davanti alla macchina fotografica e allo sguardo divertito, incredulo e forse anche un po’ invidioso dei colleghi che hanno visto coi loro occhi quanto possano essere divertenti le nostre mansioni.

Se anche voi non vedete l’ora di provare uno di questi corsi, cliccate direttamente su questo link. In bocca al lupo, qualsiasi sia la lingua che avete scelto!

Il 29 Novembre accanto al corso “Modi di dire italiani” (accessibile solo con lingua di riferimento diversa dall’italiano) abbiamo pubblicato i seguenti corsi:
Francese: Esercizi di ripasso 2
Inglese: Esercizi di ripasso 2
Portoghese: Grammatica portoghese (nuove lezioni)

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

Posted on October 30, 2012 by

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 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:


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Aprender idiomas es como ir en bicicleta: no se olvida, pero hay que practicar

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Katja Wilde, Content Project Manager de Babbel

Este post en: Alemán (Deutsch), Inglés (English), Francés (Français), Italiano

“Aprendí francés en la escuela.” ¡Cuántas veces he oído esta frase como redactora de Babbel! Mucha gente desea desempolvar sus conocimientos de idiomas sin   tener que apuntarse a un curso intensivo. Por eso, hemos creado una nueva edición aún más eficaz y emocionante de nuestro programa de reactivación de conocimientos.

De hecho, aprender idiomas es como ir en bicicleta, nunca se olvida. Lo que lo hace difícil es la falta de práctica. Por este motivo, en la redacción de Babbel hemos desarrollado un nuevo concepto para que los usuarios puedan volver a comunicarse en situaciones cotidianas.

Las unidades de aprendizaje enlazadas entre sí activan los conocimientos de vocabulario y gramática retenidos en la memoria del usuario y a la vez practican de forma eficaz el uso de los mismos en ejercicios de dialogo propios de la vida cotidiana.

Nuestro concepto se basa en la idea de combinar de forma adecuada el repaso de los conocimientos fundamentales y su aplicación en contextos lingüísticos cotidianos. Después de un repaso de palabras y oraciones útiles, se practica el uso de las mismas mediante ejercicios de dialogo. A cada lección de vocabulario le sigue una lección gramatical en la que se profundizan los conocimientos.

Por ejemplo: si en la lección de vocabulario “Hacer la compra” se ha aprendido la oración francesa “J’en prends 100 grammes.” (Me llevaré 100 gramos de esto.) en la siguiente lección de gramática se explicará de forma exhaustiva el uso del pronombre francés “en”.

Al final, tanto los el vocabulario como los conocimientos gramaticales se practicarán mediante un ejercicio de dialogo, “la gran final” es cómo lo llama Miriam Plieninger, directora del departamento de redacción de Babbel. Y el círculo se cierra.

La nueva edición del programa de reactivación de conocimientos estará disponible a partir del 30 de octubre de 2012 para los idiomas de aprendizaje inglés, alemán, español y francés en Además se publicarán el Curso de alemán para principiantes 5 y el Curso de portugués brasileño para principiantes 4. Para los próximos meses está prevista la publicación de otros cursos de reactivación de conocimientos y nuevos formatos de curso para niveles de aprendizaje superiores.



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

Posted on October 19, 2012 by

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

Language Learning: Berlin’s 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 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, Part 1: DIY Anti-Spam and Anti-Typo

Posted on October 10, 2012 by

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:

And if you decide you don’t want it anymore, simply do the same but use this link:

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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