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Babbel’s interactive eBook

Posted on June 20, 2012 by

Babbel’s interactive eBook
This year saw the release of our long awaited Apps for Android in the Google Play Store — and already we are able to announce our next release: as of now our first interactive eBook (Multi-Touch Book) “Learn German: Beginner’s Course 1″ is available in the Apple iBookstore.

What is an interactive eBook?
Interactive eBooks are digital books that you read, or should we say play, on an iPad. They offer many useful features, which enable far more than just reading; for example audio and video, interactive quizzes and individual Study Cards. In this way interactive eBooks close the gap between classical learning with books and mobile learning with Apps.

What does it involve?
Babbel’s Multi-Touch Book contains vocab videos, audio dialogue, interactive tests, a comprehensive glossary and much more. The meaning of a new key word can be revealed by the touch of your finger tip. And if you highlight a phrase with a swipe of your finger and write a comment, an individual study card is generated.

“Learn German: Beginner’s Course 1″ is an ideal introduction to the German language. It comprises five chapters and totals 72 pages. Within it you will find the most important words, helpful sentences and essential grammar. Audio dialogues bring the pronunciation and usage to life, and thanks to the many exercises with interactions and direct feedback, learning is really fun.

What does the interactive eBook cost?
The first eBook “Learn German: Beginner’s Course 1″ is available in the Apple iBookstore for an introductory price of 8.99 USD (5.49 GBP). If you would like to try it out first, you can download a test version with the whole first chapter for free.

Users from the US find the eBook here. All the others here.

Read this text in German.

School’s out for Summer! – Babbel along on Vacation

Posted on June 15, 2012 by

Summer is somehow always smack in the middle of our daydreams. Even as a (school)child, everyone longs feverishly for summer vacation. Who wants to sit and study in a classroom when swimming pools, lakes, long days and balmy nights beckon outside?

There’s less going on at Babbel, too, when it gets really hot out… the users have what we call in Germany hitzefrei, a hotday—the summer equivalent of a snowday. We get it. Sometimes on those kinds of days in our Berlin office we wipe the sweat from our collective brow and envision a cold beer, a real Italian gelato or a swim in the Atlantic. But summer is an important time for Babbel, too. At least in our latitudes, this is peak travel season. In other words, this is the moment when Babbel learners finally put their eagerly acquired language skills to the test.

Italians are some of the first to get the summer started. They already began their holiday on the 9th of June, around the same time as the soccer European Championship in Poland and the Ukraine. Schoolchildren in Poland, on the other hand, don’t begin their vacation until the 30th of June. Same with the British, who’ll have plenty of time before the Olympic Games are held in London from July 27th to August 12th.

Swedish kids get off in the middle of June, and no one celebrates summer and the beginning of vacation quite like our Scandanavian neighbors: from June 22nd to 24th, the Swedish Midsummer is exuberantly feted with music, dancing, tons of food and drink and traditional, magic rituals. Nothing else quite like it

Whether it’s midsummer in Sweden, a beach holiday in Brazil, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands or Turkey, whether surfing in Indonesia, watching soccer in Poland or at the Olympics in London—it comes out not just how well Babbel users learned this year but also how well we’ve done our job. How do our travel language courses hold up? How do soccer fans make out in Poland with the basics offered through our “European Championship 2012” course?

There are apparently people for whom the European Championship and even soccer leaves them cold. But for a lot of us, the tournament is some consolation for when we can’t travel away from home, for whatever reason. At least all of Europe is dribbling through our living rooms.

In any case a “staycation“ isn’t the worst thing that could happen. What’s nicer than one’s own city in the summer? We can go to the pool and have an ice cream afterwards. And then we’ll do just… nothing.

Have a great summer holiday!

In the Beginning There was Edith Piaf: The Making of “Learn German with Music”

Posted on May 8, 2012 by

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

Katja Wilde, Content Project Manager at Babbel, has a vision. Remembering French class from her school days, she stands at home in the kitchen belting out „Non, rien de rien“. Even though she doesn’t always hit the right note—considering the ardor with which she sings—that’s completely irrelevant. She records the Edith Piaf song right then and there.

That’s how it goes when someone works at Babbel and an idea hatches. For outsiders it might seem a bit nuts that it’s considered normal to blurt out cryptic phrases in foreign languages, to suddenly declare the correct term for, say, meatballs, or even to spontaneously turn the kitchen into a recording studio.

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But back to our Katja. She’s thinking about music, listening comprehension, fill-in-the-blank texts, but especially how easy and entertaining this way of learning was for her as a schoolgirl, how it was so much more fun to learn languages intuitively through music instead of through rote memorization. She begins to break down the song into its elements and to come up with various lesson parts. 

Around the same time, just under 2000 Babbel users are being asked how they best like to learn. Their answers confirm Katja’s experience, which Miriam Plieninger, Babbel’s Head of Content, later emphasizes: “Whether you’re singing in the shower, listening to music in the car or singing Karaoke with friends—when you’re singing in the language you’re learning, structures are impressed upon you and you understand words out of context.”

So after the implementation of the “Learn German with Music“ idea was a done deal, the first major challenge was to find the right music. It had to have a catchy melody, be copyright free, and appropriate from a language-teaching point of view. The choice fell on eight folk songs, whose lyrics were scrutinized by Katja and the editorial team, modernized here and there, and simplified.

The next step was when Christine Keck, actress, voiceover specialist and musician at Babbel, got the song lyrics, whose melody she also newly interpreted. She then recorded contemporary singer-songwriter versions of the delightful, though sometimes slightly dusty, tunes (like „Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär“ –“If I were a little bird“).

Later the editorial team began to work on translating lyrics into English and the design and order of the exercises. They extracted countless sound bytes, named them, and uploaded them to the server. The Babbel developers tinkered with the complex technical implementation of the new formats, including a Karaoke component.

Taking four months, the production phase was significantly longer (and perhaps a little more difficult) than it had been for other Babbel formats. But it paid off: now Babbel learners who are native speakers of English, Italian, Spanish and French can learn German singing. And if you ask Katja, the mastermind behind the idea whether it was worth it? “Je ne regrette rien“, she announces. She doesn’t regret a thing.

Learn German with music!

Dust and Dirt and Candlelight

Posted on May 4, 2012 by

Read this post in German (Deutsch)

Kabelsalat. Photo by strickerat. http://www.flickr.com/photos/strickerat/397768938Many 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?!”

Babbel for Android!

Posted on March 26, 2012 by

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.

What’s next?

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!

Download Links:

Overview of all Android Apps

English
Spanish
French
Italian
German
Brazilian Portuguese
Swedish
Dutch
Turkish
Polish
Indonesian

A quick look back at a great year

Posted on January 8, 2012 by

2011What did 2011 bring for Babbel – our users as well as our team?
A whole lot of growth…

Courses tripled:
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.

Team tripled
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.

2011=>2012
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!

Love – the strongest motivation to learn a language?

Posted on December 21, 2011 by

What actually moves people to want to learn a language? The list of reasons is of course endless: For some it’s a hobby, or even a true passion. Others are learning a language for pragmatic reasons, as part of their education or for working abroad.

Yet the strongest motive is often a bilingual friendship or relationship. Many Babbel users say they are learning so that they can better understand their partner and their partner’s family, and to become more independent in the home country of their partner.

We feel there has been a lot said about bringing up children to be bilingual, but not enough about what came before: bilingual couples and their needs when learning languages! So now we’re putting our feelers out and asking you for your experiences (first-hand or from friends). Lend us 5 minutes of your time and tell us something!

>> Short questionnaire on bilingual relationships

Because love can be a fantastic gateway to learning a language, and emotions not only help to motivate but also to solidify the learning in the brain, we have devoted an entire course format to this one subject: In our new English Course ‘Love Letters‘ you can follow the story of Nicholas and Olivia, who met and fell in love through an online dating portal. It’s an enthralling love story that will have you on the edge of your seat while you’re learning the language that all lovers speak.

Up to now, the course is available for the reference languages German, French, Spanisch and Italian. Other learning languages are in the making. Stay tuned!

Babbel helps train conductors to fight “Denglish”

Posted on November 8, 2011 by

The ticket collectors and guards on German trains are notorious for their English pronunciation so we decided to produce a course for them: “Train English”. We offered this for free. One of the big German rail companies was interested at first, but then decided that their staff didn’t need any help after all..!

Read more in the German blogpost if you do speak some German, a complete English post is coming up soon!

Train Conductor

Image from flickr (Creative Commons License) http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/193701100

 

Distinguished Learning: Babbel Gives Certificates for Completed Courses

Posted on June 28, 2011 by

Babbel Certificate
While gold stars might be for kids, no one grows out of appreciating a little pat on the back. So in response to demand among our dedicated users, we at Babbel have started to award certificates for completed courses.

Whether the goal is to pump up your next job application or simply to have an accolade to hang on your wall, proof in writing of what you’ve achieved can be a great incentive to keep pushing through your language study.

Icons next to the name of the course in the Course Overview let you know which ones you’ve successfully completed, and you can just click on them to download and print. They identify exactly what you’ve learned in a course, so you can demonstrate specific knowledge and level. The Beginner’s course even signifies the level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF).

The best part is that there’s no final exam required in order to be awarded a certificate—your knowledge is continually monitored through the interactive exercises. Once again Babbel distinguishes itself from traditional classroom learning: test anxiety has become a thing of the past!

www.babbel.com

Four New Languages!

Posted on June 15, 2011 by

New languages: Indonesian, Polish, Dutch and Turkish
Babbel is adding four new languages to the roster: Polish, Dutch, Turkish and Indonesian. That makes eleven languages in total! With these new additions Babbel is offering learners the chance to engage with cultures that welcome a lot of travelers, but don’t often have a lot of foreign students of their languages.

Studying the local tongue is a great way to get a perspective on the place you’re visiting. It also makes getting around a lot easier!

Babbel’s four new languages are also astonishingly widely spoken outside the places you might immediately assume. On a visit to Chicago or London, Polish could come in quite handy, as would Turkish in Germany. Chicago is one of the largest cities of the Polish Diaspora, and it’s been said that Berlin is one of the biggest Turkish cities outside of Turkey.

As for Indonesian, the language is very closely related to Bahasa Malaysia, the language spoken in Malaysia, and both Belgium and Suriname count Dutch as one of their official languages.

The kick-off packages contain vocabulary and phrases and also incorporate popular Babbel features such as the automatic Review Manager and the Pronunciation Trainer with real-time speech recognition (all the better to get your tongue around those Polish sibilant sounds or those umlauts in Turkish). As usual at Babbel, new content is permanently in the works and new learning material will follow soon.

With a three-month subscription, access to all content within the Turkish, Polish, Dutch and Indonesian courses is available at a special rate of €9,90 per quarter. However, a sample lesson is always free of charge, with no obligation to purchase, so why not try it out?!

Learn Polish
Learn Dutch
Learn Turkish
Learn Indosian