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.
English for work, Spanish for the next holiday or Italian for the nice neighbour from across the road: For all those who have resolved to achieve a lot in 2014, there is now something new from Babbel. Just in time for the new year, we have released our new app for Android devices.
Mobile learning on the go is currently a central theme for us. The comprehensive apps for iOS started it all for us a few months ago. Since then many of you have been waiting for an app that is more than a simple vocabulary trainer for your Android phone or tablet. And here it is so now also Android users can learn languages while they travel. All the popular courses from Babbel are finally available in mobile format, and your learning progress is automatically synchronised between all devices and the Web.
Optically the app matches the new uniform look of Babbel with its clear lines. In addition to the new logo, it presents the new icon symbol for the mobile user interface a large “B” with a plus in front of it no frills, just concentrating on the essentials. This is Babbel 2014!
Also new is the fact that there is no longer a separate app for each learning language: For the first time now all languages are combined in one app. So you can switch freely between languages and try out the first lesson of each course for free. Babbel customers automatically have full access to all courses in their purchased language(s).
So go ahead and download it, log in and discover and maybe the good intentions will also work out!
Click here to go to the new app in the Google Play Store
This article by Babbel CEO and co-founder Markus Witte, about the the revolution taking place in private learning, was originally published in Wired.
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.
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), Italian (Italiano)
Don’t take this course if you’re hungry!!!!!
Or as a customer of babbel commented on completion of our recently released Spanish course:
“Congratulations!!!!! Your section on Food in Spain and Latin America is outstanding. Very well constructed, interesting and helpful in understanding food & culture. Only negative…as I study I become hungry.”
So before you set off on this culinary journey through Andalusia, Valencia or Mexico, it would be advisable to fill your refrigerator with a good selection of savoury and sweet dishes. With each new vocabulary question you will get cravings for a different culinary delight. Before you head off to Galicia, buy yourself some fish or sea food. Stock up on juicy steaks for the lesson on Argentina. Check your supplies of blackberries, custard apples, and papayas, to get a bit of a feel for how incredibly delicious Chile’s freshly squeezed juices are.
Scallops in a special white wine sauce: a Galician starter
Please note, you’d do best to get hold of a cookbook! This course contains no recipes, rather it is a culinary journey through some of the regions of Spain and Latin America. Among other things, you get an idea of what varieties of coffee there are and what dishes to cook for starter, main course or dessert. So along your journey you won’t just be learning gastronomic vocabulary, but you will gain a cultural insight into the diverse cuisine of the Spanish-speaking world.
Hot chocolate with fried pastries is a popular hangover-cure throughout Spain.
So, if you want to know how tortilla in Spain differs from tortilla in Mexico, or you want to get to know the shellfish a bit better, which in Chile is called jaiba but in Spain is known as cangrejo then eat your fill and click here: “Food in Spain and Latin America”
About the blogger: Frauke is, among other things, content project manager for Spanish and has tried the varied menus on her travels through the Spanish-speaking world. Her mouth always starts watering when she thinks back to the Chilean hot dogs, Andalusian tapas or Castilian chickpea stews.
Click here to go to the course
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
Anyone who hears the name Poland and still thinks of socialist chic and endless Siberian iceage seasons has missed something. Certainly since its entry to the European Union in 2004, Poland has no longer been an insider tip as a holiday destination and tourists from all around the world have been thronging to the showcase metropolises of Krakow, Warsaw, Danzig and Breslau.
City breaks are actually some of the most popular types of vacation for tourists to Poland: The former Krakow residence of the Polish King Wawel, the new alte Starówka (old town) in Warsaw – which after its almost complete destruction in the Second World War has been rebuilt to original designs – and Breslau, the European City of Culture 2016, all invite you to stroll about, explore and discover. The weather too is actually nicer than its reputation, a trip to Poland can be very pleasant, even in its coldest months. Anyone who drives to Warsaw should definitely take a detour through Lublin, two hours to the south east: It is a particular cultural highlight in August! Traders from Western and Eastern Europe sell their ethnic wares at the historical Jagiellonian annual fair, while the Ukrainian cult band Dakha Brakha performs on the Plac Po Farze. Soon afterwards you will find high wires being stretched between the renaissance buildings in the historical old part of town at the Carnaval Sztukmistrzów (festival of street performers), and at night the town is lit up by fire jugglers while the Cirque Baroque performs at the Palace Square.
Poland also has much to offer nature lovers: Several mountain ranges (Tatry, Beskidy, Bieszczady), a national park with a wild Bison population (Żubry) – which incidentally gave its name to probably the most famous Polish Vodka Żubrówka – and even a small desert! The “Polish Sahara” (Pustynia Błędowska) extends a proud (?!) 33 km² to the north of Krakow – so nobody will die of thirst here. The Baltic Coast bike trail stretches over 500 km from Usedom to Kaliningrad, and the Masury Lake District (Mazuren) has meanwhile become the new sailing paradise for Warsaw high society. Warning – mosquito spray (spray na komary) is essential here!
Especially if you are travelling far from the larger cities you should also pack in your luggage, alongside Lonely Planet and your wash bag, a few basic Polish phrases. That’s why you will learn in the new course “Polish for holidays” how to order a cool beer and where you will find tasty Piroggen after a long day’s sightseeing. You can practice communicating with the natives and you will also be primed with helpful tips for a visit to the pharmacy in case of a small emergency. And if phrases like zwiedzić muzeum (visit a museum) make you dizzy: Take courage! Because anyone who dares to have a go at twisting their tongue around the eccentric consonant combinations of the Polish language will unlock a friendliness and enthusiasm in their Polish counterparts, since they know themselves that their language is not one of the easiest in the world – and they are even perhaps a little proud of this fact….
Click here to go to the course
About the blogger: Katharina grew up bilingual German-Polish and has been a Content trainee in the Babbel team since July.
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!
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
.. More next tuesday. Stay tuned..
Read this post in German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), Italian (Italiano)
If you ask what the Germans are famous for when you are in another country then the chances are that lederhosen, dirndls, beer and the humble Bretzel, or ‘pretzel’ as they are known in the English-speaking world, will be pretty high up the list. The Oktoberfest itself has also made a name for itself as the largest folk festival in the world and is a magnet for visitors from all over. There are enough reasons, then, to make the trip there yourself and to form your own opinions about the colourful happenings ‘on the Wiesn’.
Oktoberfest has a lot more to offer than just beer tents and prezel-chewing visitors in dirndls and lederhosen. Did you know, for example, that there are historical wooden fairground rides dating from the 19th century that are accompanied by their own live brass bands? In the 1930s the Krinoline carrousel was still hand-driven by four powerful men because that was the only way the particular rotary motion could be generated at the time.
In fact, some of the time-honoured traditions turn out to be much younger upon closer inspection. At the start of the 19th century traditional Bavarian costume was not worn at the Oktoberfest at all, rather French fashion…
There is so much to discover. With our Oktoberfest course, beginners can prepare themselves linguistically and of course arm themselves to order beer from a true Bavarian waitress. The short dialogues and information cards are also peppered with cultural and historical facts. In the last of six lessons, courageous learners can try their hand at the Bavarian dialect because this is what every new arrival will encounter sooner or later at the Oktoberfest. So then. O’zapft is! Des wird a Mordsgaudi!
Frauke and Maren are project managers at Babbel and have designed and written numerous German courses together. For the Oktoberfest course they went on a journey of research into the linguistic, historical and gastronomic depths of the so-called Wiesn.