The Babbel Blog

Language & Learning

Guarding the gates of English

Posted on April 24, 2014 by


Photo by Elias Gayles / CC 2.0

Students are anxious to learn it. Dictionaries try to define it. Media outlets develop extensive style guides for it. Governments try to control it.

What sounds like a new crack epidemic is, in fact, just a language: English.

We live in a world surrounded by many different types of English.  You can enjoy the weird and wonderful offerings of Urban Dictionary, smile when an Indian businessman asks you to prepone your meeting, or watch The Wire and realise you need subtitles.

But ‘proper English’ is still a desirable commodity – and big business. So who gets to decide what it is?

Dead white males

In 1876, the Prussian Minister of Culture, Aadelbert Falk invited delegates from all the German-speaking territories to Berlin, to attend the fabulously named ‘Conference for the Establishment of Greater Unity in German Orthography’. German was reformed and standardised, a process that continues to this day, with the most recent changes in 1996.

France went one better and established the venerable Académie française in 1635, the final authority on all matters pertaining to the French language. It is still alive and kicking today – naturally, its 40 members are known as ‘Immortals’ – with an official dictionary that blows a big fat raspberry towards English, insisting on courriel instead of email.

So why isn’t there something like this for English?

The history of the English language is not that of ordered change or reform but rather that of a great staggering beast, lurching from continent to continent, shaped by accident, war and chance. Whether you blame geography, cultural difference (or perhaps indifference), or colonial expansion, the fact remains that there is no single institution to which English speakers worldwide can point to and say: this defines correct and proper English.

Leather and paper

Dictionaries have always been considered the traditional guardians of established language, and in the case of British English, none more so than the Oxford English Dictionary.

Its remarkably detailed system of quotations, many submitted by a man in a mental asylum, is the linguistic equivalent of fossil bedrock: heavy (over 60kg), tough to dig through, and richly rewarding if you have the tools and the patience.

At the same time on the other side of the Atlantic, Noah Webster was setting out to change the way Americans wrote and spoke. He was by all accounts severe, correct, and humourless, which may be why he wrote a dictionary – one that altered the course of American English forever. Maybe one of these days the US might even tacitly acknowledge his impact by making English an official language.

For over a century these dictionaries were unassailable fortresses. But the digital age is steadily eroding their foundations and challenging their authority.

When did you last use a dictionary? Was that before or after the last time you looked at a Microsoft Word document and saw a squiggly red line under a word? You probably used the autocorrect function, or perhaps you went to an online crowd-sourced dictionary like Wiktionary. It’s certainly faster than going to the shelf, but how much do you trust it?

Many meta-lexicographers (an excellent word to throw around at dinner parties) have long believed that users regard dictionaries as repositories of linguistic truth rather than indicators of actual usage. How we should speak, not how we really speak.

But if enough people use it, at what point does it become ‘proper English’?

Like, literally

David Foster Wallace claimed in 2001 that American language was in the midst of a Crisis of Authority. Today, English as a whole is in the midst of an ongoing Crisis of Identity.

It is simultaneously the language of a faded colonial superpower and its former colonies, the language of a fading superpower, the language of Hollywood, the lingua franca of business, science and the Internet, the default language of international travel, and probably a source of dread for many millions of young schoolchildren across the globe.

Size matters. The volume and speed of English flowing around the world, through phone lines and cables, at airports and in hotels, is greater and faster than at any previous point in human history. It’s hard to monitor and even harder to control. The grammar police, whose furious letters were once a staple of the Letters to the Editor pages, are being drowned in the flood.

The tech giants are key players in tracking and shaping this flow. Predictive text and spell checkers are already arguably more powerful than any dictionary.

Let’s not ignore another set of traditional gatekeepers, those who teach English, either as a first or a second language, and provide testing and accreditation. They have to be authorities: their business model relies upon a very specific definition of ‘proper English’. When Foster Wallace was teaching in American colleges, he often found it helpful to explain to bemused students that Standard Written English is simply a sub-dialect of English – no more or less correct than any other.

The idea that usage + time = acceptance can be seen as democratic or as a sign that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, depending on your perspective. The ‘rules’ of correct English – and the gatekeepers that guard them – are essentially reactive forces. Can they keep up with the speed at which the language is evolving?

For all its insistence on rules, what feels right in a language is often precisely that. We are constantly told that mastering a foreign language means developing ‘a feel’ for it.

“I know it when I see it”, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about pornography.

Perhaps we could say the same about ‘proper English’.

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Perché la vostra lingua madre influisce sull’apprendimento di una lingua straniera

Posted on April 3, 2014 by

Perché per la maggior parte degli italiani è più facile imparare lo spagnolo che il tedesco – e una volta che si conosce già lo spagnolo, diventa ancora più facile imparare il francese? E come mai troviamo invece particolarmente difficili lingue come il turco o l’indonesiano?

La risposta è semplice e ha a che fare con il concetto di “famiglie linguistiche”, gruppi di lingue simili derivate dallo stesso antenato comune. Ben sei tra le lingue dei corsi che offriamo appartengono al gruppo germanico: tedesco, inglese, olandese, danese, svedese e norvegese (le ultime tre fanno parte delle lingue scandinave, che si assomigliano ancor più tra loro). La seconda famiglia principale rappresentata su Babbel è quella delle lingue romanze (o latine), a cui appartengono spagnolo, portoghese, francese e italiano.
Le lingue appartenenti alla stessa famiglia hanno molto in comune. Ad esempio, le espressioni temporali si assomigliano molto tra lingue dello stesso ceppo. Una stretta parentela linguistica si rispecchia spesso anche nella somiglianza di regole e concetti grammaticali.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-03-18 um 14.05.42

Cosa implica questo nello studio delle lingue straniere e nei corsi di Babbel?

I nuovi corsi per una lingua di studio vengono creati in tedesco e successivamente adattati alle altre sei lingue di riferimento. In questo processo di adattamento e traduzione cerchiamo solitamente di restare il più possibile vicini alla lingua di studio nella scelta e nell’utilizzo di parole e frasi. Grazie a questo accorgimento, più le lingue che già parlate assomigliano a quella che state studiando, più vi risulterà facile e veloce memorizzarne le regole grazie alle connessioni tra l’una e l’altra. Se state studiando una lingua che appartiene alla stessa famiglia della vostra lingua madre, il corso offrirà meno spiegazioni aggiuntive di quelle solitamente necessarie se steste studiando una lingua appartenente ad un’altra famiglia.

Come adattiamo i corsi di Babbel alla vostra lingua madre

Ecco un esempio: la differenza tra i verbi “pouvoir” e “savoir” per un tedesco che impara il francese non è così ovvia come per un italiano. Mentre nella lingua italiana esistono gli equivalenti “potere” e “sapere”, entrambi i verbi si traducono in tedesco con “können”. Le spiegazioni su quando utilizzare “pouvoir” (ossia, quando qualcosa è permesso o possibile) piuttosto che “savoir” (che significa più “conoscere, sapere, essere in grado di”) vengono quindi tralasciate nei corsi di francese per italiani. Ovviamente, tutti gli utenti di qualsiasi madrelingua che stanno studiando il francese dovranno comunque fare gli stessi esercizi sulle singole forme dei due verbi.Bildschirmfoto 2014-03-18 um 14.30.01

Invece di tradurre i nostri corsi di lingua dal tedesco in altre lingue dobbiamo a volte aggiungere delle spiegazioni. Ad esempio, i tedeschi sono già abituati a declinare i verbi: “ich bin, du bist, er/sie/es ist, …”. Questo implica che nel corso di francese per madrelingua tedeschi sarebbe superfluo spiegare che esiste una forma diversa del verbo per ogni pronome personale.
Per gli svedesi invece, che per tutti i pronomi personali utilizzano la stessa forma del verbo (“jag är, du är, han/hon/den/det är, …”), aggiungiamo appunto delle note specifiche, come potete vedere nell’immagine qui sotto:

Un esempio di spiegazioni aggiuntive per la coniugazione dei verbi nel corso di francese per madrelingua svedesi.
Un esempio di spiegazioni aggiuntive per la coniugazione dei verbi nel corso di francese per madrelingua svedesi.

Avete notato che anche se tedesco e francese appartengono a due famiglie linguistiche diverse, si assomigliano molto almeno da questo punto di vista? Un suggerimento: per sapere quali sono le trappole da evitare nella lingua che state studiando, provate i nostri corsi “Falsi amici”! Vi aiuteranno a non confondere più frasi e parole che sembrano simili a quelle della vostra lingua madre ma hanno in realtà tutt’altro significato.

Buon divertimento con le lingue!

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Pourquoi votre langue maternelle détermine la manière dont vous apprenez une langue étrangère

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Comment se fait-il que la plupart des Français ont plus de facilité à apprendre l’italien que l’allemand ? Pourquoi est-il moins difficile d’apprendre l’allemand si on parle déjà l’anglais ? Et pourquoi le turc ou l’indonésien sont-elles des langues particulièrement difficiles pour nous ?

La réponse est simple, si vous avez déjà entendu parler de familles linguistiques: il s’agit de groupes de langues similaires qui découlent d’une même langue de base. Ainsi, six des langues que nous proposons font partie des langues dites germaniques: l’allemand, l’anglais, le néerlandais, le danois, le suédois et le norvégien. Parmi celles-ci, les langues scandinaves se ressemblent tout particulièrement. La deuxième grande famille linguistique que l’on trouve chez Babbel est celle des langues romanes: l’espagnol, le portugais, le français et l’italien en font partie. Au sein d’une famille linguistique, les différentes langues ont beaucoup de points communs. Parmi ceux-ci, on compte par exemple les expressions concernant le temps. Le lien familial linguistique influence aussi les règles et les concepts grammaticaux.


Qu’est-ce que cela implique dans l’apprentissage d’une langue étrangère et dans le suivi de cours chez Babbel ?

La plupart du temps, nous élaborons les nouveaux cours pour une langue d’apprentissage en allemand, puis nous les adaptons aux six langues que nous proposons. Nous veillons généralement à rester le plus proches possibles de la langue d’apprentissage, c’est-à-dire que nous privilégions les mots et les structures de phrases similaires à celles de la langue d’apprentissage. Le principe est simple: plus la langue que vous maîtrisez déjà est proche de celle que vous souhaitez apprendre, plus vous en comprendrez les règles et le fonctionnement. Ainsi, quand vous apprenez une langue appartenant à la même famille linguistique que votre langue maternelle, vous aurez besoin de moins d’explications que quelqu’un dont la famille linguistique diffère de la langue d’apprentissage.

Voilà comment nous adaptons les cours Babbel à votre langue maternelle

Voici un exemple: la différence entre les verbes “pouvoir” et “savoir” n’est pas aussi évidente pour un Allemand qui apprend le français que pour un Italien. En Italien, en effet, il existe les verbes correspondants “potere” et “sapere”, alors qu’en allemand, il ont un seul et unique verbe correspondant: “können”. Les explications concernant la situation dans laquelle il vaut mieux utiliser “pouvoir” – quand quelque chose est autorisé ou possible – ou “savoir”, qui implique davantage une notion de “capacité, de connaissance, d’habilitation” sont superflues dans les cours de français pour les italiens. Bien entendu, toutes les personnes qui apprennent le français doivent cependant apprendre les différentes déclinaisons des verbes “savoir” et “pouvoir”.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-03-17 um 18.13.14

À l’inverse, il est parfois nécessaire d’ajouter des explications dans la traduction de nos cours allemands dans une autre langue. Ainsi, les Allemands ont l’habitude de décliner les verbes:  “ich bin, du bist, er/sie/es ist, …”. Dans le cours de français pour les Allemands, il n’est donc pas nécessaire de préciser, par exemple dans la présentation du verbe “être”, qu’il existe une forme verbale pour chaque pronom personnel. Les locuteurs suédois, en revanche, qui se servent de la même forme verbale pour tous les pronoms personnels- “jag är, du är, han/hon/den/det är, …” auront besoin d’une explication supplémentaire comme celle-ci:

Voici un exemple d’explication supplémentaire pour la conjugaison des verbes francais à l’attention des apprenants suédois
Voici un exemple d’explication supplémentaire pour la conjugaison des verbes francais à l’attention des apprenants suédois


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Why your native language determines how you learn a foreign language

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Why do most English native speakers find it easier to learn German than Polish? Why is Spanish not so hard if you can already speak French? And why are Turkish and Indonesian even more tricky for us?

The answer is obvious if you’ve ever heard of language families. These are groups of related languages ​​that descend from a common base language. Six of the languages we ​​offer are Germanic languages​​, namely English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, whereby the Scandinavian languages ​​are more similar still to each other. The second major language family on offer at Babbel are the Romance languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian, for example. The languages ​​within a language family have much in common. For example, time expressions sound similar in related languages. Moreover, close linguistic relationships are often also reflected in grammatical rules and concepts.


What implications does this have for learning a foreign language and the courses offered by Babbel?

We generally create new courses for target languages in German and then adapt them for the other six languages ​​in which we offer courses. We ensure that translations and adaptations remain as close as possible to the target language. This means that as many related words and similar sentence structures as possible are used. It is commonly true that the more similar the language you already speak is to the language you are learning, the faster you will understand the rules and relationships. If you are learning a language that belongs to the same language family as your native tongue, you will often require fewer additional explanations than someone whose mother tongue belongs to a different language family.

How we tailor the Babbel courses to your native language

Here is an example: the distinction between the verbs “pouvoir ” and “savoir” is not as obvious to a German speaker learning French as to an Italian. This is because in Italian there is a correlation with “potere” and “sapere”, whereas both verbs translate to the same word in German, namely “können” (can / may). The explanations of when to use “pouvoir” (when something is allowed or possible) and when to use “savoir” (more “know, be acquainted with, be able”) are simply omitted in the French courses for Italian speakers. However, the individual verb forms “savoir ” and “pouvoir” must of course be practiced by all French learners alike.

savoir vs pouvoir

Conversely, we sometimes need to add explanations to the translations of the version for German speakers for other languages. For example, German speakers are accustomed to inflecting verbs: “ich bin, du bist, er/sie/es ist…” (“I am, you are, he/she/it is…”). Thus we do not specifically point out that there is a separate verb form for each personal pronoun when introducing “être” (to be) in the French course for German speakers. Swedish speakers, who use the same verb form for all personal pronouns – “jag är, du är, han/hon/den/det är…”, are given an additional explanation as follows:

 Swedish localization

Can you see the difference? Although German and French do not belong to the same language family, they are very similar in this respect. If you want to make learning easy, try some of our “true friends” courses! There you will find words and phrases in your target language that are probably already familiar to you from your native language. You want to avoid pitfalls? Then take a look at the latest “false friends” courses for Polish. They will help you to avoid mixing up terms that sound similar to words in your native language but mean something completely different.

Have fun learning languages!

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Vive la France! und weitere Gründe, warum man Französisch lernen sollte

Posted on March 20, 2014 by

Anlässlich des Internationalen Tags der Frankophonie, der heute überall auf der Welt gefeiert wird, haben wir ein bisschen über die französische Sprache nachgeforscht und dabei einige erstaunliche Fakten herausgefunden, die wir gerne mit euch teilen möchten.

Französisch eine der sehr wenigen Sprachen, die auf der ganzen Welt gesprochen werden, und rangiert damit auf dem sechsten Platz hinter Mandarin Chinesisch, Englisch, Hindi, Spanisch und Arabisch. Weltweit gibt es derzeit über 220 Millionen Menschen, die französisch sprechen.

In Europa findet man die größte französischsprachige Bevölkerung (außerhalb Frankreichs) in Belgien, der Schweiz und Luxemburg. Französisch ist Europas zweithäufigst gesprochene Muttersprache , nach Deutsch aber vor Englisch. Demographen sagen sogar voraus, dass die hohe Geburtenrate in Frankreich Französisch bis 2025 zu der meistgesprochenen Muttersprache in Europa machen wird (falls ein größeres Land wie die Türkei nicht vorher ein Teil der EU wird).

Französisch ist die am zweithäufigsten gelernte Fremdsprache der Welt, zusammen mit Englisch, und wird in den Bildungssystemen der meisten Länder weltweit als Fremdsprache unterrichtet. Bei Babbel ist es eine der gefragtesten Lernsprachen unter unseren Nutzer_innen und wächst stetig weiter, ebenso wie unser französisches Team, das euch über neue Französisch-Kurse immer auf dem Laufenden halten wird!


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Le français: Une langue mondiale ?

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À l’occasion du Jour International de la Francophonie, célébré aujourd’hui dans le monde entier, nous avons mené une petite enquête sur la langue française et fait d’intéressantes découvertes, que nous souhaitons partager avec vous.

Le français est l’une des rares langues parlées dans le monde entier. C’est la sixième langue la plus parlée au monde, après le mandarin, l’anglais, l’hindi, l’espagnol et l’arabe. Il y a actuellement plus de 220 millions de francophones dans le monde.

En Europe, les plus grandes populations de francophones se trouvent essentiellement en Belgique, en Suisse et au Luxembourg. Le français est la deuxième langue maternelle la plus répandue en Europe. Les démographes prévoient même que le taux de natalité en France fera passer le français en tête de l’Europe d’ici 2025 (sauf si un grand pays comme admettons la Turquie rejoint l’Union Européenne).

La langue de Molière est également la deuxième langue la plus apprise au monde. Avec l’anglais, elle est enseignée comme langue étrangère dans le système scolaire de la plupart des pays. Chez Babbel, elle est l’une des langues les plus sollicitées parmi nos apprenants. Et cela ne fait qu’augmenter!


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Zu Muttersprachen, Dialektcoaching und charmanten Akzenten

Posted on February 21, 2014 by

Heute ist Internationaler Tag der Muttersprache, deswegen möchten wir gern die Frage beantworten, wieviele lebende Sprachen es eigentlich gibt. Die ausführlichste Quelle die man dazu finden kann ist Ethnologue (herausgegeben von SIL International), ein Verzeichnis aller Sprachen auf der Welt. Auf der Webseite von Ethnologue gibt es eine Weltkarte, auf der die zurzeit gesprochenen Sprachen dieser Welt aufgelistet werden. 2013 waren das 7.105 unterschiedliche Sprachen, während 2009* noch 6.912 gezählt wurden. Dort könnt ihr euch auch die einzelnen Sprachen nach Kontinenten und Regionen geordnet anschauen. Dabei erfährt ihr dann zum Beispiel, dass es in Europa nur 284 unterschiedliche Sprachen gibt, während die Webseite für Asien 2.304 Sprachen registriert hat.

Dialekte sollte man nicht mit eigenständigen Sprachen verwechseln. Ein Dialekt – auch Mundart genannt – ist eine Variation einer Sprache und unterscheidet sich von der sogenannten Standardsprache in der Aussprache, dem Wortschatz und der Grammatik. Ein Dialekt ist aber auch nicht dasselbe wie ein Akzent. In diesem Akzent-Archiv, in dem um die 1.000 Tonaufnahmen von Englisch-Sprechern aus aller Welt gesammelt wurden, könnt ihr euch die verschiedensten Akzente in der englischen Sprache anhören. Klickt dazu in der Weltkarte einfach auf die entsprechende Flagge.

Wenn ihr mehr über Dialekte und den Unterschied von Dialekten und Akzenten lernen möchtet, schaut euch doch mal unser Interview mit dem Schauspieler und Aussprache-Coach Robert Easton an, der Al Pacino für den Film „Scarface“ einen kubanischen Akzent antrainiert hat.

Jeder hat einen Akzent, seid stolz auf euren. Schließlich kann ein Akzent auch ein Aphrodisiakum sein – die CNN hat die 12 sexiesten Akzente aufgelistet (auf Englisch). Solltet ihr euren Akzent nicht mögen, kann euch unser Aussprachetrainer und viele Übungen zum Hörverständnis, Aussprache und sogar Zungenbrecher weiterhelfen!



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Languages, Dialects and accents – which one is yours?

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As today is International Mother Language Day, we wondered if it was possible to find the answer to a Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-20 um 17.21.35simple question – how many living languages are actually spoken around the world? Well, the most extensive source we could find is Ethnologue (published by SIL International). It maps the world’s languages and, as of 2013, includes 7,105 distinct languages. In 2009, by the way, only 6,912 living languages were listed. You can browse the maps on Ethnologue to see the different statistics for continents and regions. For example, there are only about 284 languages in Europe, whereas in Asia alone the website lists 2,304 separate languages.

Dialects are not to be confused with languages. A dialect is a variation of a language which differs from the so-called standard language in its pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. If you want to learn more about dialects (and the differences between dialects and accents) check out our interview with actor and dialect coach Robert Easton from 2008. Robert was Al Pacino’s personal “Cuban-accent-coach” in “Scarface”!

As with languages and dialects, there’s also a distinction between dialects and accents. Check out the speech accent archive which is a compilation of almost 1,000 speech samples from all around the world. With all speakers reading the same English text, you’re able to hear just how much accents vary, even within a single English-speaking country. Just browse the world map and click on the flag corresponding to the location where the text was recorded.

By the way, be proud of your accent, it can be a great aphrodisiac! CNN compiled a list of the 12 sexiest accents on the planet. And anyway, if you don’t like your own accent, Babbel‘s voice-recognition tool and many prononciation exercices might just be able to help you out.

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The Learning Revolution: It’s Not About Education

Posted on January 8, 2014 by

Wired, the US magazine on emerging technologies, published an article from Markus Witte, CEO and co-founder, on the the revolution taking place in private learning. Read it here:

The education system is changing. Established teaching methodologies are reaching their limits in most developed countries. New requirements are needed. In the search for solutions, technology is playing an increasingly prominent role — allowing for new approaches such as the “inverted classroom,” Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) and “mobile learning”. We keep hearing of an “education revolution” — one in which technology will bring upon a radical transformation in schools and universities.

There are certainly great hopes for a change to the better but recent news are somewhat discouraging. Some even spoke of a “backlash” after Udacity, one of the most ambitious projects to revolutionize higher education, changed course towards corporate customers. Other, less well-known initiatives are also struggling: I recently spoke on a panel about “the future of education” together with a manager from a large publishing house that develops new digital products for schools and a CEO of a startup that built an adaptive software tool for maths education. Both discussed ways to persuade governments, ministries and committees to use their newest tools. But even to run a test involves a sales cycle of way more than a year — not exactly the pace of a revolution.


Education Will Change With the Way We Learn

Real changes and disruptions usually come “from below”: through the individual decisions of the many rather than through sweeping decrees from the government. From the car to the internet to the tablet to the iPhone — that is, in all the great upheavals that new technologies have created in our lifestyle, culture, and working environment — it has been the many individuals that have decided to adopt changes, not the politicians.

The good news is that there is indeed a revolution going on. But it is not about education systems. It is about learning. It is people taking learning into their own hands. A new trend is initiated by a whole new breed of learning technology start-ups that set out to make learning easier for everybody. Their goal is not to alter elementary education or university teaching. They do not deal with governments; their customers are not countries and states. They are focused solely on their users — people who want to learn something. And this is a powerful force to harness.

Learning tools like Babbel are directly tailored to the user; there are no institutions in between. People decide for themselves whether or not the product helps them toward their goals and is worth their money. It’s a much smaller-scale enterprise than a nationwide introduction of new software for schools or the building of an online university.

These upheavals are also taking place in the learning sphere but outside of the established educational systems. Students are currently not the most active in this change process. As a rule, they study for their degrees and final exams with a goal clearly in mind. Formal education is more about passing a French exam than about being able to actually talk to a French person. This is because a degree or certificate is often equally valuable as the actual knowledge or skills.


The Learning Revolution is Taking Place at Home

More and more people are using new technologies for self teaching. Let’s look at language learning for example. Over 100 million people all over the world are learning languages online today (1) — and only a fraction of them would ever have considered using traditional learning materials or courses to do so. As a part of my research, I have personally talked to some of them: It would never have occurred to the nurse in Louisville to buy a textbook or an expensive CD to learn a language — but now, she’s studying German on her tablet after her shift. The same holds true for the retiree in southern France who started to learn English on his laptop at the age of 70, or for the London banker riding home on the tube practicing Spanish on the latest iPhone. This group of people has decided to self teach because they came across learning tools of a new generation.

Technology is not really generating new demand but makes more things possible. E-mail, cameras in smartphones and Wikipedia are just a few examples of how this works. All these examples “replace” older technologies — and yet they open up completely new spaces.

The choices are manifold and changing at a breathtaking pace. In language learning alone, virtual classrooms, tutoring via video chat, learning communities with user-generated content, crowd-sourced translation services, and interactive services for self-learning offer a dizzying array of choices. Established standards and clear user expectations are nonexistent. Only one thing is for sure — the interest is enormous and the popularity of the internet and smartphone apps for learning is growing by leaps and bounds.

Language learning is only a part of a trend toward self-learning. Other offerings, from computer programming to brain training are popping up like daisies. No matter what the latitude or longitude, private individuals are deciding to learn on their own accord.

This revolution is taking place in living rooms and cafés, on public transport and in offices. It is carried out by people who decide to take their learning into their own hands — and they are finding ever more and better technology-based products to help them.

In the end, the education revolution might be a real, old-fashioned revolution: one that comes from below, takes unforeseen routes and hits the centers late in the process. It might already be in full swing and it might be way more powerful than it seems when we only look at the established education systems.


(1) a guess based on the compound user numbers of Babbel, Busuu, LiveMocha, duolingo = 140M alone. 40% of them probably use more than one platform (= 84M unique users) at least 20M more unique users will use smaller platforms

Read more about Markus Witte and the founding team here.

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Happy European Day of Languages!

Posted on September 26, 2013 by

Read this post in German (Deutsch)

Today is the 12th European Day of Languages. The action goes back to an initiative of the Council of Europe and celebrates the 24 official languages ​​and over 60 language communities existing in the European Union.

That English is the most widely spoken foreign language in the EU, is no longer a secret. What other mother tongues ​​and foreign languages ​​are predominantly spoken in the EU, and what benefits they entail, is shown here. Feel free to share the love, just link back to the original post!




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