The Babbel Blog

Language & Learning

Je t’aime… moi non plus – how to break up when you cannot make up

Posted on February 14, 2013 by

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At this time of year, it’s really worth taking a closer look at what actually brings a couple together. It’s most likely a mixture of a number of things; physical attraction, personality, charm, interests, but successful communication is of utmost importance. To make a relationship work, its constituents must be able to understand one another. Everyone has his or her own way of expressing and conveying feelings, but how is this process complicated when these constituents don’t speak the same language? Couples in a bilingual relationship face a somewhat harder challenge than those in monolingual relationships. While everyone knows how to say ‘I love you’ in several languages, not everyone can express himself or herself well if and when a relationship turns sour.

The vocabulary lessons conjured up and developed at Babbel draw upon realistic dialogues inspired by everyday life. And part of modern life is undoubtedly ‘breaking up’; that moment when single life beckons once again. But how do you break up in a foreign language? How do you find the right words to make your soon-to-be ex-partner understand your reasons? We turned Saint Valentine on his head to help all you freedom fighters out. Enough Schmulz. Let’s learn something practical.


And for all those who are lucky in love, there’s tons of vocabulary and a veritable bundle of courses available on Babbel that teach you how to give compliments, express feelings, and keep the flame alive until the next Valentine’s Day arrives.

In French
In Italian
In Spanish
In German
and many more!

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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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How to make words stick in your mind: The didactic background of Babbel

Posted on February 28, 2012 by

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Miriam – our Head of Content – was asked to contribute to a book about E-Learning. Here is a short summary of her chapter “Babbel: a mix of didactic methods for digital language courses”.

“How does learning with Babbel actually work?” Ullrich Dittler, Professor of interactive media, asked me for his book ‘E-Learning. Einsatzkonzepte und Erfolgsfaktoren des Lernens mit digitalen Medien.’ (E-Learning. Implementation strategies and the secrets of success for learning with digital media). The answer: Babbel is so effective because we do not rely on just one method of learning. Rather we have developed a comprehensive mix of methods, which accommodates the many different learning requirements of our users.

 

Imitating words and practising: With us you can learn all new words by listening and repeating – this fixes them in the memory whilst simultaneously training the pronunciation. Subsequently a meaning is attributed to the word (with an accompanying picture and translation to avoid confusion) and the words are written out. Therefore the words are always ‘drilled’ using the same pattern. These so-called “Pattern Drill” exercises belong to the behaviourist approach to language didactics.

Short and colourful vocabulary segments: New vocabulary is introduced in small units of three or four words or chunks (e.g. in the sense of “I am called …” or “I come from …”) – this is about as much as can be retained in the short term memory at any one time. Vocabulary is trained on several levels (repetition, translation, writing), subsequently one is occupied by one or two further items. The items always come from the same subject area, one is better able to keep them in mind as a result of their thematic relationship. All words are accompanied by a picture, consequently for many learners they are especially easy to remember.

Revising after a sensible amount of time: New words are automatically added to the Review Manager. These are then regularly recalled for revision at ever increasing intervals, according to the “Spaced Repetition” process, until they can be revised without mistakes.

Explaining the rules: We are sure that adult learners want to understand the rules of a new language because they do not learn, as children do, through mere repetition. Therefore the courses contain many explanations of grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary in the native language of the learner. Our courses have been developed to be linguistically contrastive. Rules are formulated differently for each combination of mother tongue and learning language (a German will learn Spanish in a different way from an Italian). The understanding of the function of memory and the processing of information for the last three points is based on a cognitivist approach to language didactics.

Free learning: From a large number of courses and lessons, our users choose those which interest them in particular. Some prefer to work their way through the beginner’s courses one after another, while others just keep surfing through the overview of courses, spontaneously picking one out at whim. Each person works their way through the course material at their own speed. With the community functions they are then free to put their learning into practice. According to constructivist language didactics, each user develops their own individual skills, with which to identify new information subjectively and process it with the benefit of their existing knowledge.

Communicate quickly and for real: Babbel users should quickly be able to make themselves understood. Therefore in the beginner’s courses the most important phrases for everyday situations are gradually covered (e.g. we find “I would like a coffee” more important than “The ball is red”). Through learning chunks one soon knows whole sentences, even if one still has not mastered the relevant grammar (e.g. how to use the conditional form “would” in other sentences). Since in real conversations in a foreign language one will often not know all the words, the whole vocabulary of our dialogue will not necessarily have been learned before the exercise. In this way one learns to work out the meaning of unknown words from their context – if necessary one can have the answer revealed.

And because in reality one can often express oneself in many different ways, we have made it possible in many written exercises to have multiple synonymous correct answers. The advanced writing exercises for our Business English courses are especially clever: they are evaluated by an intelligent and constantly growing database of answers, so that even at sentence level many variants can be marked as correct. This approach to language learning is based on communicative language didactics.

Learning together: The Babbel community is the place for social learning processes. Here one can simply interact but also put the learning into practice. In each case one communicates in multiple languages – and consequently solidifies one’s knowledge. With these kinds of processes of interaction within networks, where one often learns new things ‘as a byproduct’ it is connectivist language didactics that come into play.

What are your thoughts about these learning methods? Do you use additional ones? Feel free to discuss the above with us!


Auf Deutsch

En français
En español
In italiano

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Fiery Tongues on Pfingsten

Posted on May 29, 2009 by

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El Greco: Pentecosta

Monday in Germany will be a day off.  It’s Pfingsten.

In England known as Whitsun, or in the US as Pentecost, we at Babbel thought this was worth giving a mention since it’s got to do with some business that concerns us: Speaking in many languages.

It’s celebrated 50 days after the resurrection of Christ (Easter), and around the time of  the Jewish festival called Shavuot, which celebrates Moses receiving the ten commandments at Mount Sinai. Pfingsten signals the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and gave them the ability to understand and speak all languages. According to the Bible, they went out into Jerusalem prophesying and speaking in languages that all the people in Jerusalem could understand — also known as speaking in tongues.

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“An interesting and intelligent teacher”

Posted on February 9, 2009 by

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Not such a bad idea to broaden your target group by teaching them the language you are broadcasting in, right? The British Broadcasting Company – BBC – offers several services to learn and improve your English. Besides the  “The Teacher” videos – who is in his own words “a very interesting and intelligent man” explaining idioms on a whiteboard -  there are episodes of “The Flatmates“, among other things. This programme offers you a new dialogue to listen to every week (mp3) along with background information on some terms related to the show’s subject, e.g. the economic crisis. You can take part in a quiz or vote for what happens next.

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Learning with the heardrum

Posted on February 3, 2009 by

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eardrum“Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language” – that’s Paul Sulzburger’s main argument . The PhD graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, taught Russian for several years to Kiwi students and watched them consistently drop out. What makes it so hard to learn words in foreign languages when we learn new ones in our own language every day? Sulzbeger wondered. His answer is: “When we are trying to learn new foreign words we are faced with sounds for which we may have absolutely no neural representation. A student trying to learn a foreign language may have few pre-existing neural structures to build on in order to remember the words.”

The Victoria University press office speaks of Sulzberger’s work as a “revolutionary approach” – but isn’t being exposed a language and learning it bit by bit the most well known way to learn a language anyhow?

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A few words about Obama’s language

Posted on January 24, 2009 by

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Obama is a language master, not many would disagree. Even at the inauguration, when renowned grammatical stickler Chief Justice John Roberts spontaneously corrected a split-infinitive in a fixed constitutional text when swearing him in, Obama righted the snafu in the act not just for legal accuracy, but for flow.

The speech that followed was rather spare, at least in comparison to the soaring rhetoric to which his campaign followers had become accustomed. Some interpreted it as taking inordinate amounts of slings at the departing administration, while others saw the simple prose, calling for responsibility, duty, service and sacrifice as a nod to, or a “reclaiming” of (an even Reagan-esque) right-wing type of talk.
(more…)

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The Big “1″: Babbel.com celebrates its first anniversary

Posted on January 15, 2009 by

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Polyglot happy wishes to Babbel.com that hasn’t stopped talkin’ since it launched in January 15, 2008! (Pictured at a little birthday shindig from a hazy last night in Berlin above.) Have any multilingual birthday wishes? Comment away… and check out some of behind the scenes features below to see a bit more how the intuitive, interactive language learning platform ticks. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, happy Bday, feliz cumpleaños, joyeaux anniversaire, buon compleanno!

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Martes trece, bad luck in Spanish

Posted on January 13, 2009 by

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Babbel.com is closing in on its first anniversary on Thursday, the 15th, when we will be launching an ‘Inside Babbel’ series chronicling a bit of the goings-on behind the scenes at the language-learning website. But we thought in the meanwhile we’d give you the heads-up on a slightly older anniversary today, which would be the biblical confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel, which ostensibly happened on a Tuesday, the 13th.

While Anglo-Saxon cultures tend to avoid unnecessary travel and watch their backs on Friday the 13th, in Spain, Latin America and Greece Tuesday is the day to look out for. As Martes (Tuesday) in Spanish is linguistically linked with Mars, the god of war and violence, its combination with number 13, long a bad luck número, is almost too much for some to take. According to wikipedia, there’s actually a condition called Trezidavomartifobia, a paralyzing phobia of Tuesday the 13th.

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Liebe Deutsche, liebes Denglish: Germany named love destination for “expats”

Posted on December 18, 2008 by

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Reuters Africa picked up on a little tidbit from a dubiously scientific survey by HSBC International Bank on the “expatriate experience abroad”: Apparently Germany is the number one country in the world for expats to find “love”, with a quarter (24%) of expats located in Germany marrying a local. Germany also came out as the spot where most expatriates (75%, according to the survey) “learned” the language of the host country.

Now, I say dubiously scientific here because I’ve always been suspicious of this whole “expatriate” idea. Not to mention its cutesy shortened form, “expat”. What makes an expat an expat, rather than an immigrant (or shall we say, to make it equallly cute, an “immy”)? HSBC did not set out to define, among the 2,155 persons they surveyed, what an “expatriate” was other than “an individual who relocates to another country”.
(more…)

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