If you’re learning a language at the moment, take a second to consider this question: why?
Recently, the question has been framed in economic terms. Freakonomics began it with a podcast that questioned the financial benefits of language learning. Over at the Economist’s Prospero blog, Robert Lane Greene argued that the numbers were higher than had been estimated and varied greatly depending on language.
It’s a debate worth having – albeit a bit sad that we reduce the beauty (and unquantifiable benefits) of learning a new language to an economic return on investment.
But how decisive is this factor? For which age groups and nationalities? What are the main reasons that make people want to learn a language?
Gregory Simon in his natural habitat – Photo by James Lane for Babbel.com
One sunny Wednesday morning in March, Gregory Simon was getting ready for work. He showered, dressed, threw back a cup of coffee and left.
A couple of hours later he arrived in the office, looking rather frazzled.
“My bike just got nicked!”
With our Babbel birthday/ Christmas party last Friday, the weekend was slightly shorter for our 110 Babbel colleagues than usual. We had lots of fun celebrating Babbel’s six birthday and its numerous milestones achieved so far. In this video you can see what some colleagues of our team remember as a personal highlight of 2013 and they wish Babbel for the future!
by Markus Witte (Co-founder)
Hard to believe: the sixth year since we went online with Babbel is here. We are once again happy and proud to confirm that it was our most successful one yet. So much has happened in this last year: there was a financing round of over 10 million US Dollars, 45 great new people joined the Babbel team, including several experienced managers. In addition a new office, two new learning languages (Norwegian and Danish), new apps for two platforms (iOS and Android) – and a new logo! But above all millions of new users, for whom this is all happening.
What started with four founders in a small office in a cramped old apartment in Berlin-Kreuzberg, has grown into a buzzing hive of over 100 full-time employees. And there are also, believe it or not, more than 150 authors, pedagogues, editors, translators, narrators and supporters who work freelance while maintaining other professions such as teachers, musicians and actors. Added together that is a huge number of people, who are all creating Babbel together.
We feel that this is an excellent reason to celebrate. And since January is from the outset for us the liveliest month (through your and our many good intentions), we have even delayed Christmas somewhat. So, on Friday we will be rocking around the Christmas tree. And then it continues with the seventh year, for which we again have a lot planned. Some things shall be a surprise, and other things will go live before we discuss them. However the following are certain: there will be Russian, our first learning language that does not use the Latin alphabet. And we intend to whip the Review Manager into shape. And also learn a lot of new things ourselves. And continue to have lots of fun. And create.
As of today Babbel presents itself with a completely new look: new colors, new shapes – and a new logo. For months our team of designers, brand experts and representatives from design agencies toiled from dawn till dusk on logo ideas. Since Babbel’s beginnings we have continued to evolve and develop, and the new logo with the “human plus” reflects this development. We wanted to display the same recognisable Babbel design across all our platforms, from the website to the mobile apps.
Why? I hear you ask. Darjan Salimi and Ray Pham explain everything in an interview with Babbel copywriter Nina Pollex.
Babbel suddenly looks very different. What’s the reason for this so-called “redesign”?
Darjan: The time was just right. We started off really small in 2007 and are today one of the fastest growing startups in the world. A lot has changed. And also, since the introduction of the new mobile apps, we’ve been wanting to create a consistent design across all platforms. Babbel has grown up, it has become a brand. And we want to also show that visually.
The new colors catch your eye immediately. What else has changed?
Ray: The entire user interface is now much cleaner and clearer and therefore much easier to use. That was important for us. Users should be able to navigate quickly and intuitively on our page. The design is flatter, more modern and I think has also become more aesthetic. And of course there’s a whole new logo! But that is just the beginning. Design is always a fluid process, and we still have a long and exciting road ahead.
Why didn’t you simply stick with the old, familiar logo?
Ray: The old logo looked youthful and playful with the rounded letters and the quotation marks. We had the feeling that it no longer suits us. Learning should be fun, but it’s more than just a game. It is something that in the best case can have an everyday influence and impact on the user’s whole life. That’s what the plus in the logo stands for. It looks more professional and more serious. It is mature, just like Babbel. We don’t have to hide, and that’s what we’re showing with this logo.
Can you tell us a little more about the significance of the Plus in the logo?
Ray: I do believe speaking a new language is always a Plus. We want everyone to have the opportunity to expand his or her knowledge with Babbel. This is the positive impact that is depicted in the Plus. The Plus immediately reminds the onlooker of the human form, and symbolises the fact that we put the learners and their needs at the very heart of the product. The Plus is a “Human Plus”.
How long have you worked on the project and how did the idea come about?
Darjan: It was actually launched in the summer, while we were working on the development of our new apps for iOS. We had to change a lot, to optimize Babbel for small screens, also the design. But the interim results instantly felt so good that we quickly decided to bring the new design to all other platforms.
What was the biggest challenge?
Darjan: We were working simultaneously on three construction sites: the apps, the web page and the trainers within the courses. It wasn’t easy to coordinate everything in such a narrow time frame. Everybody helped. It was a team effort, and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.
Ray: For me, the biggest challenge was the new logo. We wanted to create the best Babbel logo of all time; one which gives a new face to babbel while remaining accessible for our regular customers. Despite all the changes, we haven’t forgotten who we are. Babbel’s heart is still the same.
What does Babbel mean for you personally?
Ray: It’s such a great feeling to learn something new that it can give you a huge amount of energy. Babbel gives you exactly this feeling and in the best possible way.
Darjan: For me, Babbel is a success story that shows that you can achieve a lot with a good idea and plenty of effort. And I’m glad to be a part of it.
The facts about the new look at a glance:
- New logo — more serious, can be used more flexibly, more recognisable
- New design of website and apps – more modern, clearer, easier to use
- Duration of the project: about half a year
The following were involved:
- Five Babbel designers from five different countries
- Nerd Communications
Read this post in German (Deutsch), French (Français), Spanish (Español), Italian (Italiano)
Start screen for German learners
Start screen for English learners
For months our developers, designers and language teachers have toiled, heatedly debated and worked long coffee and Club Mate-fuelled nights. And now the fruits of their labor are here to coincide with the release of iOS 7: the new Babbel apps!
The Babbel “D-Team”
For the first time the new apps offer all of the popular premium features of the web version on the iPhone and iPod Touch, such as interactive dialogs, grammar, vocabulary, listening and writing exercises as well as improved speech recognition. Furthermore, we have given the mobile user interface a complete makeover: it now has a clean and modern look, is easy to use and offers even more learning fun and motivation with short animations and sound effects.
How does cross-platform learning work?
All courses in your pocket!
The mobile apps offer almost everything that the online program does (brand new courses, business
English and the intermediate-level B1 course are currently exclusively available on babbel.com) and are included with the regular subscription as standard. That means users can log in to all of the platforms using one login and learn with no extra costs. The new app is valid for all mobile devices. Once loaded and installed, a user’s learning progress is automatically synchronized between their iPhone, iPod Touch and the web.
Babbel is moving language learning out of the living room and out into the street, the park, the train, the cafe, when and wherever it suits. Users can study what they want and for as long as they wish. A few new pieces of vocabulary while waiting in line for the supermarket checkout or a grammar lesson when commuting to work. “Many people want to learn a new language but don’t have the time or the motivation,” says our CEO, Markus Witte. “The new app can help with that because it is always available and can be accessed anywhere. I am extremely proud of my team and the result of all the hard work!”
Check out the Spanish App!
Check out the French App!
New apps – soon for Android too
The apps for our three most popular languages, English, Spanish and French, are already available for free download. More languages will follow soon. As always with Babbel, the first lesson of each course is free to try. A subscription includes complete access to all of the content. Subscriptions are no longer set up via babbel.com but directly through the app. A one-month subscription can be purchased for 9.99 euro, a three-month subscription for 19.99 euro and a 6-month subscription for 33.99 euro. The free vocabulary trainer apps for the iPhone will continue to be provided as an extra until further notice.
And for all Android users: soon there will be apps for you too!
click here to go to the App Store
Read this post in German (Deutsch), French (Français), Italian (Italiano)
Enthusiasm is growing in educationnal apps and foreign languages. Since the launch of the first Babbel Apps, we are very proud to announce our apps have been downloaded over 10 million times across all platforms! A 10 Million thanks to our users!!
While the platform preferences vary from country to country, the Babbel apps were ranked first in different platforms across 35 countries! The most popular learning languages are English, Spanish and French, followed by Italian and German as shown in the infographic below.
Designed as a complement to the full web version for iOS, Android, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Amazon, the free vocabulary trainers gain in growing popularity all over the world.
With audiovisual learning content and lots of varied reading, listening and writing exercises on themes such as “Culture,” “Digital World,” “Sports” or “Holidays,” users can study the 3000 most important words and phrases in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, Indonesian, Turkish, Polish and English. This kind of interactive study – added to the targeted combination of reading and listening as well as matching and writing – guarantees that the learning sticks and that we remain motivated and active.
But there is more to come. We will keep you updated with more updates on our apps in the next coming months!
Read this post in German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), French (Français), Italian (Italiano)
…by the third word you already know what we’re talking about: Brazil!
With those powdered-sugar-sand beaches it is one of the dream destinations of our planet. But given its sheer size, it’s hard to think that it can be characterized in just these three words alone. Between the Amazon and the wetlands in the north to the Alps-like mountainous region in the south, there’s much more to discover in Brazil than just Samba or the Copacabana.
It’s not surprising that, for example, with the Cataratas do Iguaçu, this land of superlatives hosts one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. In the vicinity of this gigantic national phenomenon, there is another, smaller wonder to be found: Cheeky quatís (coatis) who scamper around the national park and swipe away chips and other morsels from right under tourists’ noses.
No matter why you decide on a trip through Brazil, one of the nicest parts of traveling there is coming in contact with the locals. Brazilians are very open. It’s enough just to break out with a “Oi, tudo bem” (Hey, what’s up?) to get a conversation going. But in hopes that your successfully-begun conversations don’t all have to start with your hands and feet (because you don’t have the words yet), we’ve created a “Portuguese for Holidays” course – twelve lessons that deal with the most essential communication basics for your trip to Brazil. Language training in easily digestible bites gets you fit for all relevant situations, such as Orientation, Shopping or Reservations. You’ll also get tips on how to order in a restaurant along with culinary terms such as “feijoada” or “água de coco” (coconut milk). You’ll see how quickly these basics grow into a wider vocabulary once you’re on the ground. As the saying goes, he who orders “Uma cerveija, por favor,” can also get “Mais uma!” That is, he who orders one beer should also be able to order another!
Frauke is a content project manager specializing in Spanish and Portuguese. She spent her last big holiday in Brazil, and traveled to Ilha Grande, Rio and Iguaçu, among others. In the new “Portuguese for Holidays,” you can look forward to lots of other tips about the culture and language.
Go to the “Portuguese for Holidays“ course:
In English, German, Spanish, Italian or French.
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
We recentely announced a new round of funding: Reed Elsevier Ventures and Nokia Growth Partners join the company as new investors. The existing Investors IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft and Kizoo Technology Capital also took part in this Series B. This is of course good news: new liquidity for the company and new opportunities to explore. We will use the new funds to expand internationally and bring easy language learning to as many countries as we can. We will also increase ouravailability on different mobile andonline platforms to make Babbel accessible wherever you are and on any device that can connect to the internet. And of course the very product itself will improve. We feel that this is only the beginning: Babbel is already a pretty good learning tool, but there are so many ideas how to make it even more engaging, sticky and fun that we can’t wait to try them all.
Both new investors belong to large corporates that operate in areas adjacent to ours. Does this mean that Babbel is now exclusively tied to Reed Elsevier and Nokia and will not work with other major players like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Holtzbrinck on the one hand and Samsung, Apple, Sony on the other hand (to name only a few)?
Such a limitation is not in the interest of Babbel (and as a consequence its investors/stakeholders). Of course, we will make use of the links into Reed Elsevier and into Nokia andcooperated in any area where it makes sense. And there are a number of ways where this can substantially help us. But if Samsung, Sony or HTC want to pre-install Babbel on all of their Android devices or Apple wants to cooperate in some education initiative, we will definitely be there to talk.
So it seems that we got the best of all worlds and this is both exciting and a little scary. Of course, we have great respect of what lies ahead us, because it won’t be an easy ride. But it is great to work for Babbel and be part of this story. I am personally proud to be a member of this team and together with the others I’m ready for any challenge.
Read this post in German (Deutsch), French (Français), Spanish (Español)
Babbel is taking on those false friends. But don’t worry – this isn’t a life coaching course we’re pushing, but our newest project! Who you choose to make real friends with is still up to you. The idea of our brand new course format is to help you confidently navigate through choppy linguistic waters on your own…
It is rather “false friends” of the lexical variety are the subject of this course. These are specific words that quickly lead to misunderstandings between native and foreign languages. At first glance seductively simple and logical, they look and sound confusingly alike between languages. For example, say someone wants to comment on the latest demonstration against a corrupt politician in French, Italian or Spanish. Logically, it seems the word to use would be démonstration, dimostrazione or demostración. They seem so close to the English – but yet, in reality, so far! In the Romance languages it refers not to a “demonstration” but a “presentation.”
And while in English, French and Spanish you might go to the gymnasium, gymnase or gimnasio to work out, at a German Gymnasium you’re much more likely to find young teens diligently studying toward university.
But it gets really confusing when very similar words have completely different meanings between languages. For example, a gift in English brings a smile, while Gift in German (“poison!”) would naturally turn that smile upside down. What expression would it inspire among the Scandinavians, though, when gift means “married” in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish (gift in Swedish ; gift in Danish) ??? ¡Díos mío! Definitely starting to feel lost in translation…
Click here to inform yourself on some of the dangers in the language you’re currently learning:
German False Friends
French False Friends
Spanish False Friends