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Babbel Review

Neue Apps für Windows Phone 8

Posted on March 15, 2013 by

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Im Oktober 2012 hatten wir elf Babbel-Apps für Windows 8 Tablet und PC veröffentlicht, die seither mehr als 390.000 Mal installiert wurden. Damals hofften wir auf eine Fortsetzung der angenehmen Zusammenarbeit mit Microsoft, wussten aber noch nicht, ob und wie es konkret weitergehen würde. Denn alles steht und fällt mit der Resonanz der Anwender. Umso größer die Freude über den Erfolg der App, der uns veranlasste, die für Windows Phone 8 optimierte Version nachzulegen – die wir jetzt, sehr angemessen im Rahmen der CeBIT, erstmalig präsentieren konnten.

Es wird die Kanzlerin bestimmt freuen, das Lernen der polnischen Sprache zukünftig auch auf ihrem Windows Phone 8 fortsetzen zu können.

Die neuen Windows Phone 8 Apps gibt es momentan in elf Babbel-Sprachen im Windows Phone Store.

Hier schon mal ein paar visuelle Eindrücke der schicken App:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Italian idioms course spices up your Babbel lessons

Posted on November 29, 2012 by

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

Posted on October 30, 2012 by

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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 Babbel.com. 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:

ENG>DEU: http://www.babbel.com/learn-german-online/65356-new
ENG>SPA: http://www.babbel.com/learn-spanish-online/65408-new
ENG>FRA: http://www.babbel.com/learn-french-online/65390-new
ENG>POR: http://www.babbel.com/learn-portuguese-online/88007-new

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

Posted on May 8, 2012 by

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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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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!

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On Holiday with Babbel

Posted on March 13, 2012 by

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With such a long winter, Germans love to go on holiday. Five people are taking a holiday in the Canary Islands from the Babbel office alone!

To make the best out of any trip, you should be able to communicate in the local language at least a little. Here are nine cases where our travel-themed courses can give you a hand:

1. Planning

Whether you’re sightseeing in Rome or on a package tour in Tuscany, “Preparativi” (Preparations) gives you A to Z! Here you’ll find the fundamentals for planning your Italian holiday.

2. Hotels and Accomodation

Just got there and already problems with the room? Here you’ll find everything you need to book the right room or politely complain (for example in Spanish)

3. Manners and Customs

How does it really work with tapas? Are you supposed to give a tip? Impress your friends and acquaint yourself with manners and customs.

4. How to get from A to B

In the urban jungle you can quickly lose the big picture. Here you’ll find lots of useful phrases for navigating public transportation, parks and nightlife (for example in German).

5. Communication

Ciao! Come stai? Per favore, grazie –  The most important Italian greetings and polite phrases at a glance. You’ll get the conversation underway quickly.

6. Culture



How about a trip to the Louvre? But to speak eloquently about art, you’ll need the necessary vocabulary. You’ll find the most important words here.

7. Bars and Cafés

Spend the day on the beach and experience long nights partying on the streets of Rio. With the vocabulary course Bars and Cafes you’ll have a lot of fun!

8. Culinary

Holiday in France without great food and wine? Forget it!
 All the necessary words and phrases for (almost) everything edible and drinkable. You’ll also find the best phrases for ordering in a restaurant or cafe here.

9. Flirting

¡Hola guapa! (Hi beautiful!)
The Spanish temperament sometimes rubs off on holidaygoers. Go for it… but say it right! Here you’ll learn the words and phrases to give a compliment.

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Four years of Babbel

Posted on January 17, 2012 by

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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.

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Babbel – two years after 2.0

Posted on November 13, 2011 by

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 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

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)

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Babbel helps train conductors to fight “Denglish”

Posted on November 8, 2011 by

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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

 

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Distinguished Learning: Babbel Gives Certificates for Completed Courses

Posted on June 28, 2011 by

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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

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Anne’s Language Learning Tips

Posted on May 30, 2011 by

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AnneAnne 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.


8. Sing!

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)
French (Français)
Italian (Italiano)
Spanish (Español)

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