The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Portrait: Daniela in Brussels

Posted on December 17, 2014 by

retratoBabbel User Portraits are glimpses into the lives of people around the world. If you would like to share your story with us, just leave a comment below. This month, we talked with Daniela Schaller who has been living in Brussels for a few months with her husband and young son, and who learned Dutch quickly with Babbel.

I started learning Dutch with Babbel in May of 2013. At that time, I had no idea I’d be living in Belgium one day. I’d always been interested in the language, and the defining moment for me to start was the wedding of a friend, who married a Dutchman. I wanted to at least be able to chitchat with him and the other Dutch guests. When my husband got the offer for a  position at the European Parliament, it was a wonderful coincidence.

Arriving in Brussels, I would have placed myself at a beginner level of A1 or A2, but when I took the assessment test at a Belgian language school, I was placed at advanced level B1 or B2. At that point, I’d only learned with Babbel. Here in Brussels, there are tons of beginner’s courses, but barely any for advanced learners – at least none that I can fit into my schedule. I have a young son that I pick up every day from kindergarten. So I’ll just keep learning with Babbel.

What I also really like about Babbel is that I can easily integrate it into my everyday life. When we were still living in Potsdam, I was always learning on  the subway or on the way to work. But now I also like to sit at home for a half-hour and learn while my young son, Nikolai, is playing or sleeping.

Incidentally, Nicolai is learning French in preschool. In Brussels, French is spoken often and Dutch almost never. For that reason, shortly before my move, I also started using Babbel to refresh the French I learned in school . That helps me here a lot, because I speak French literally every day – it started with the apartment hunt, but I also speak French when grocery shopping, at public offices or at the doctor’s . But I also hear English, for example, when it has something to do with registration forms or when my son’s French-speaking teacher realizes that she’s speaking too fast for me.

My husband is just starting to learn French at work, although a lot of German is also spoken there. Little Nikolai might have more of a knack for it than his father! He already says “mama” to me in French and can already count to thirteen. He’s also already started to pick up a lot from the other children. He always says: “All the other kids speak such a funny language.”

If you would like to share your story with us, just leave a comment below!


Translated from the German by Frank Cifarelli.

Why learning a language should be your New Year’s resolution

Posted on December 5, 2014 by

New Year’s resolution

It’s that time of year again. Time to look back at the past year with pride and satisfaction, but maybe a smidgin of regret too. Have you achieved what you wanted? Did you get that raise, find that special someone, write that novel? Or are you sitting on a couch covered in stale Oreo crumbs watching reruns of Cheers and wondering where it all went wrong?

Well, it’s time to let all that go. The new year brings its own momentum, a sense of promise and the possibility of change. For all the awful clichés surrounding New Year’s resolutions, if you make the right ones they can be very motivating. (more…)

Portrait: Aldo from Trieste

Posted on November 26, 2014 by

Portrait: Aldo from Trieste

We’re doing a series of portraits of Babbel users – a snapshot of their lives, and their reasons for learning a language. If you would like to share your story with us, please leave a comment below. This month we spoke with Aldo, a 70-year old man from Italy full of energy and motivation. Canoeing in the morning, chess in the afternoon, and now a new goal: learning English. (more…)

British and Irish food: It’s not as bad as you think

Posted on November 19, 2014 by

British and Irish food

Matthew Youlden, editor in our Didactics department (pictured here with senior project manager Maren Pauli) and one of our favourite polyglots, has created a new Babbel course about British and Irish food. He tells us why food from his country has such a bad reputation, what to do with old bread, and why he has to choose whiskey from Ireland over Scotland. (more…)

Why age is no barrier to learning a language

Posted on October 22, 2014 by


“To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”

– Bernard Baruch, American financier and philanthropist.


Dear reader, are you in the prime of your teenage years? Or are you twenty, fit and raring to go? Is your life laid out before you like a majestic Persian rug?

Good for you. Now shoo. That’s it, skedaddle. Vamoose. Go and read something else.

Ah, that’s better. Now they’ve all cleared out, we can talk about a somewhat delicate subject: whether it’s possible to learn a new language when you’re a bit older. Can you keep all that new vocabulary in your head? Can you learn new grammar structures? Is it too late to start? (more…)

Portrait: Mireille from Lausanne

Posted on October 17, 2014 by

Portrait: Mirelle from Lausanne

We are launching a series of portraits of Babbel users – a snapshot of their lives, and the reasons why they are learning a new language. If you’d like to share your story, let us know in the comments. This month we spoke with Mireille, a 24-year old student from Switzerland who is learning Swedish for a very good reason – love.

My first encounter with Swedish was in school. When I was 16, I met my boyfriend… who was Swedish. (more…)

How we learn languages: The Army Method

Posted on October 8, 2014 by

army method

My grandmother learned French at school in Australia in the late 1950s. For years she studied it dutifully, and the one phrase that she recalls vividly to this day is:

La plume de ma tante est dans le jardin avec le lion.

For those who never had the pleasure or pain of learning French, it translates as ‘My aunt’s pen is in the garden with the lion’. Difficult to slip into casual conversation, to say the least. (more…)

Tongue-twister challenge!

Posted on October 1, 2014 by


When you’re learning a new language, tongue-twisters are a great way to practice your pronunciation. Tongue-twisters are sentences or series of words that are hard to say. They often have similar alternating sounds, like ‘s’ and ‘sh’ or ‘p’ and ‘b’. Although they are typically nonsense, the English classic “She sells sea shells on the sea shore, and the shells that she sells are sea shells, I’m sure” was actually a popular song in 1908 based on the life of Mary Anning, a famous British fossil hunter and collector.

To celebrate the release of our Swedish tongue-twisters course, we’ve selected eight tongue-twisters in different languages – English, German, Italian, French, Danish, Swedish, Turkish and Russian – and turned them into short animations. Can you master them? (more…)

Portuguese for beginners

Posted on September 26, 2014 by


Anja from backpacking blog has been travelling the world for almost 15 years, writing about her travels and her two great passions, surfing and diving. She recently spent several months on the road in South America and was reminded how important it is to have a few phrases of the local lingo up your sleeve. (more…)

Zen and the art of language learning

Posted on September 17, 2014 by

happiness zen language learning

At the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam, there is a lake. Many roads converge to form a circuit around it. As evening falls and the city’s suffocating heat drops, people start cruising around the lake on scooters, driving around and around and around. They aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes I drive around the lake too, feeling the air on my face. (more…)