There’s almost no one who’s been with Babbel as long as Barbara. Around five years ago, the Italian translator and Finnish studies specialist started in content and support (at that time still as a student). As of this year, she’s an integral and essential part of our content team. Barbara is always unpacking yet another new language and knows what it means to have eyes lined with ham.
We use language to convey our thoughts and describe what we see. But the fact that we employ metaphors and images to do so is something we don’t always realize. You could say, “I already know the ropes,” but what ropes are those? Idioms are deeply embedded in our consciousness, and we often take them at face value. But idioms give spice to language. They express what we mean, short and sweet, and depending on the language, can bring some of the more absurd images to mind…
That we at Babbel in particular can warm to such a theme is obvious: We’ve already published special courses for French, Spanish, Portuguese, English and Spanish “idioms.” So, fresh out of the oven, here comes the new course on Italian idioms. Now you can find out what the Italians mean when they say “to arrive at the bean” (“capitare a fagiolo“), “to pretend to have a trader’s ears” (“fare orecchie da mercanti“), or to get two birds with a broad bean (“prendere due piccioni con una fava“).
Fundamentally, Babbel thinks important for you to commit phrases you’ve learned to long-term memory, and the intelligent review manager and audio-visual presentation of idioms help with that. But it’s certainly not always easy for us to find the right images, especially for things like, “It’s not flour from your sack” (“non è farina del tuo sacco“, which in English would be “it’s not your own work”) or “to have eyes lined with ham” (“avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto“, in English “to stick one’s head in the sand”).
That was the challenge that we on the Babbel content team were happy to take on, though not without a good dose of humor: Why not bring the idioms to life ourselves? And so we actually put ham on our eyes and held a sack of flour in our hands for the camera, under the amused and perhaps envious gaze of the rest of the Babbel crew, who nevertheless must’ve gotten a sense of how fun our jobs can be.
If you’re “just dying” (meaning, you can’t wait) to try out this course, follow this link: We hope you “in bocca al lupo!“—no, not get in the wolf’s mouth, but break a leg!
Further new courses also are available for:
“I studied French in school.“ How many times have I heard this as a Babbel Content Manager? Since so many of you seem to harbor a desire to dust off those language skills and polish them up without having to take a long, involved course at the same time, we’ve redesigned our refresher course to make it even more effective and fun.
Studying languages is really like riding a bicycle . . . you never forget it. Just lack of practice and re-entry can make it tough sometimes. That’s why we here at Babbel have developed a new course concept so you’ll be to able to express yourself and communicate in everyday situations again.
Logically interlocking units bring dormant vocabulary and grammar knowledge back to life—and have you review them effectively in common dialogues. The idea here is to combine the refreshing of basic essentials with their use in an everyday speaking context.
You’ll repeat useful words and sentences and then use them in a dialogue. This prepares you for the grammar lesson that follows. So for example, once you’ve practiced “J’en prends 100 grammes” (I’ll take 100 grams of that) in the French “Shopping” section, you’ll go over the grammar of it once again in detail, including why and when you use the pronoun “en.” At the end, the grammar knowledge you’ve reviewed is combined with the vocabulary from the last lesson—the “grand finale,” as editorial director Miriam Plieninger calls it. And the cycle is complete.
The new edition of the refresher course is available for German, Spanish, French and English at Babbel.com. This comes in parallel with the release of the Beginner’s Course 5 for German, and the Beginner’s Course 4 for Brazilian Portuguese. More refresher courses as well as new course formats for higher levels are planned for next month.
Link to courses:
Dari is our product manager for mobile Apps and these days he’s a very sought after man here at Babbel. Nevertheless our Blog author Aishah was able to track him down and ask him a few questions to coincide with the upcoming Windows 8 Release on 26th October (and the corresponding Babbel App for Windows 8). Privately Dari is a committed Apple user. Nevertheless he is certainly very happy with the new Apps, especially from a visual perspective.
What do you do at Babbel? Do you actually ever get around to learning yourself?
For me it’s more a case of “learning by testing”. But of course a lot of it sticks. I would say my favourite language to learn is Spanish.
I’ve been at Babbel for about a year. When I started here the vocab trainer for iPhone had already been developed. Since then we have optimised the Apps for iPad and also brought one out for Android.
As you say, there is already Babbel for iOS and Android. Why then soon for Windows 8 as well?
Our Apps for iOS and Android are very successful – the subject of learning is not only becoming more and more relevant, but also more popular. We had the opportunity to take a look at Windows 8 and the technology behind it as part of a collaborative project with Microsoft in Berlin. Coming into direct contact with Microsoft experts tipped the balance. Of course I had already wondered if and when we would start work on an App for Windows 8. But now we are going to be the first provider of a language learning App in the Windows Store, and that’s something we can be very proud of.
What is special about Windows 8?
I find the most interesting aspect is their attempt to join together mobile and stationary usage. Windows 8 doesn’t just support conventional PC use via mouse and keyboard, but also touchscreens, which are most widely distributed among mobile devices. Also the design of the user interface has changed dramatically. For us it is a welcome change, which suits our audiovisual vocab trainers perfectly.
What was it like to collaborate with Microsoft? Was it the start of a beautiful friendship?
It was definitely an enjoyable collaboration, especially since we didn’t just work with a contact person for the business side, but we also had access to a developer at Microsoft. This direct communication made the whole development process much smoother. We are excited to see how things develop, although as yet we haven’t forged any concrete plans. First of all we need to wait and see how Windows 8 and especially the Babbel Apps for Windows 8 are received by the users. The much-loved voice recognition will be added as an update, since for technical reasons we were unable to include it in the release version. A conversion for Windows Phone 8 would likewise be another interesting step. For the time being it will be just for PC and tablet. Another option would be to integrate all of the web-accessible courses into the App. We certainly have a lot to think about.
What can the user expect from the Babbel App for Windows 8?
With the official release all of the eleven Babbel languages will be available as individual Apps in the Windows Store under the category ‘Education’. As far as content and didactics go, we will be staying true to our existing Apps and the Babbel concept. In my opinion our Apps fit really well to the new Windows 8 look. But most of all the user can expect one thing: lots of fun!
There is no denying that these are challenging times. While there are incredible advances being made in local communities everyday – from improved healthcare, to more accessible education — social issues still impede the progress of countless communities around the world. The incredible thing is that we each have the ability to support progress toward a more sustainable global community. Some commit their time and efforts to projects on the ground, while others support social activism through advocacy. Babbel is proud to have been able to lend our support by giving the gift of language; for over a year, Babbel has given away language courses to the CCS volunteers.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” – Nelson Mandela
Connecting across cultures is no easy task and to be truly accepted into a new community is a process that takes patience and time. Learning how to communicate in the local language, even if you’ve just got the basics, is an incredible tool for any intrepid international volunteer who’s looking to genuinely engage with local people.
For Megan, the Brazilian Portuguese Babbel courses were an invaluable resource as she prepared for her CCS experience in Brazil. The level of communication that she was able to reach with Babbel helped her connect with her Brazilian coworkers, made conversations more meaningful and as a result, she felt that her work had added impact.
“I love that you can start with the beginner level, and work through levels linearly, if that’s how you learn best.”
“I also love the topic-based courses. For example, many of my volunteers don’t have much time, and instead can focus on the ‘travel’ course to teach them targeted phrases to prepare them for travelling to Brazil.”
The Babbel system offers an efficient and fun overview of a language, while simultaneously teaching grammar and useful phrases. Some students of the program start at a level at which they’re already comfortable and simply use the program to refresh skills, while others choose start from the beginning.
Preparations for an international volunteering experience can be a bit of whirlwind. The excitement of the upcoming experience, combined with tying up loose ends at work or school, and packing can leave little time for learning the basics of the local language. With Babbel, it’s easy to get ahead by dedicating just a bit of time each day. Megan learned most of what she brought with her to Brazil during her lunch breaks at work.
The Babbel system is designed for the user to learn whenever is convenient. There are no timetables and deadlines. Babbel works with a set of courses that can be approached in a linear or thematic way. The classical approach to language learning — grammar, grammar, and more grammar — would put far too great of a burden on the busy schedule of a learner for them to achieve a worthwhile standard of parlance in a short time. Likewise a ‘phrasebook’ approach is not always enough.
So for Megan, day-to-day activities, like ordering food and drinks, negotiating cab fares, and getting around town were made much easier thanks to the language skills that she gained with Babbel. Above all, her knowledge of Portuguese enabled her to make a lasting connection with her new neighbors in Salvador, as well as the staff and beneficiaries at the local organization that she worked to support.
Last year, Babbel offered all volunteers of the Cross-Cultural Solutions — CCS –, a nonprofit organization specializing in culturally immersive international volunteer experiences, a chance to try out its online language course free of charge. By utilizing the Babbel program to learn a new language, volunteers were able to better communicate with local people during their international experience.
Babbel talked with Megan Heise, a Cross-Cultural Solutions Program Site Specialist for Brazil and Ghana, who’s volunteered with CCS in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ghana herself. Megan used Babbel to learn Brazilian Portuguese prior to her international volunteer experience with CCS in Salvador, Brazil.
If you are interested in digital and distance learning, you must have heard of the excellent independent news and information center Wired Academic. Its editor, Paul Glader, also writer, journalism teacher at King’s College and entrepreneur came to visit us in Berlin to interview Markus Witte, CEO of Babbel. Glader is writing for several publications ranging from ESPN.com to The Washington Post and is travelling and studying German in his spare time. Wired Academic is profiling several language learning programs and startups in the United States and Europe. This is the third in a series of such profiles.
Click here to read the article!
A fair bit of time has passed since the upheaval of Dust and Dirt and Candlelight, and although the heavier particles have now settled, there is still a good amount of dust in circulation. There have been quite a few changes recently, of which many users are probably still blissfully unaware, despite notification via the Babbel board. This Features Series hopes to shed a bit of light on the darker corners of the Babbel universe.
Every day in the Support Team we get to read the general wishes of our users as well as new and helpful suggestions for improvement. Often these make complete sense and we are equally excited about their implementation as you are, and equally disappointed when our heroic programmers don’t have these assignments completed and on our desks by yesterday. On the other hand, we are witness to the herculean efforts of our developers and editorial team, and we see great things happening, which we wish were there for all to see. So with this in mind I shall, together with Aishah, be keeping you informed of new Features on Babbel.
First of all we want to show you what you yourselves can do to join the fight against Spam and Harassment. Alongside the active use of the ‘Report’ function in the Messages section and with Friend Requests, as well as the ‘Report as offending’ function in Chat, you can do the following:
Under Profile > Settings there are two options with regard to receiving messages within Babbel. If you check both the boxes by ‘Babbel Messages’ you can assert that 1) only people who are your friends can send you messages and 2) only users with at least 100 Babbel points can send you friend requests. So you now have the great advantage of being able to specify that only users who are active beyond just the Community functions can be your friends. In general Spammers can’t be bothered to do any real work or learning. So only when these requirements are fulfilled can someone qualify as your friend and only then may they write to you.
Most Wanted Feature Request
Interestingly this simple but ingenious idea was suggested to us by one of our dedicated users. Proof if you need it that we are actually listening to and acting on your suggestions. Nevertheless we should also mention that some suggestions do not always fit in with the wishes of other users, and are even sometimes in direct contradiction. However there was one request where our users were unanimous and that was our ‘Most Wanted Feature Request’. This one wish, which has been by far the most frequently and also most vehemently requested, was that simple typing errors should not be counted as mistakes; that there absolutely must be a possibility to confirm that the word you had entered was the one you had intended to write.
Of course such a simple idea does not necessarily mean an equally simple task when it comes to the programming. However, when our developer Trond finally presented us with an immediately usable solution, it was a time for celebration here at Babbel.
So how do you do it? Simply log into Babbel and copy this link into the address bar of your browser, then press Enter: http://www.babbel.com/go/confirm-by-enter
And if you decide you don’t want it anymore, simply do the same but use this link: http://www.babbel.com/go/no-confirm-by-enter
Why are we not simply building it in as standard? Well, we are actually. First of all we wanted to give you the choice, but it has already proved so popular that it is now standard in the new Review Manager.
Stay tuned. In the next installment we will be telling you all about the star wars and heart aches!
Aishah El Muntasser does not only write blog posts for Babbel. For over a year she has been answering our customers’ questions quite tirelessly. In order to be able to really help she insists on trying all the new stuff herself. Which sometimes means jumping in at the deep end. Read her latest report here:
I’m in my mid-thirties and hopelessly old-fashioned. I recently had an iPad in my hand for the first time in my life—and the Babbel iBook “Learn Spanish: Beginner’s Course 1” was to blame for that. I was impressed. I hadn’t completely taken in this new experience when yet another device was plopped down in front of me: a Kindle, with the new eBook “Learn German: Beginner’s Course 1”. I was again impressed but confused: which one was better? So-called multiple device users would never ask themselves that question. For them it’s the most normal thing in the world to own multiple mobile devices.
Fortunately there are several people on the Babbel team whose life is instinctively tech-inclined. Anne, for example, has an iPad and a Kindle and takes both (!) along with her on vacation. So I asked her, “what exactly is the difference?”
I personally don’t see any big difference, except that the Kindle (Touch) is smaller, not so colorful and “interactive”, which means that there isn’t happening that much. Both have highlighting and note-taking features, and both books introduce essential vocabulary words in conversational situations. Both also have explanations and examples of grammar, as well as review sessions with answer keys.
Anne clues me in that the Kindle doesn’t light up as much, so eats much less energy and rarely needs to be charged. Also the display doesn’t reflect in the sun. Both of these aspects make Kindle the winner for a trip to sunny places. She takes the Kindle Touch from my hand and in the first moment awkwardly swipes around the screen, murmuring that hers is the kind with a keyboard. And then she makes the thing seem so appealing to me that I want to have one too. But just the simple Kindle, I’ll stay old-fashioned.
It’s not a matter of either-or, but rather play-it-by-ear: what does the situation call for, format and handling-wise? Learning vocabulary with an Android telephone on the bus, doing interactive grammar exercises on the couch with an iPad, or flipping through a Kindle book on the beach? After iPhone/iPod, iPad and Android, Kindle is now the fourth possibility to learn with Babbel on-the-go. The Babbel eBook for Kindle is the closest among them to a classic text book.
And for those of you who don’t want to have anything to do with any of it, you can just do the online courses. You can… but don’t have to choose.
Following on the tails of “Learn German: Beginner’s Course 1″ there’s now “Learn Spanish: Beginner’s Course 1,” the Spanish iBook for iPad. If you’re curious, we roughly described what an eBook actually is and its (interactive) possibilities here.
Dedicated Babbel users who already study with the online courses and have the iPhone/iPad or Android app might wonder: Why yet another way to learn (that’ll cost extra)?
Fact is, with this electronic text book, the Babbel editorial team has cooked up yet another, uniquely entertaining and effective way to learn. In the introduction of the book “complementary learning” is mentioned, and it’s true: The Babbel eBook brings the online courses’ rigorousness of content together with the convenient on-the-go nature of the apps. It uses known Babbel content—which from a didactic point of view is of course totally “Babbel”—but it’s not quite the same. Like a classic, bound textbook (that many of our users secretly or openly are jonesing for) the comprehensive 77-page eBook is put together in a linear fashion, divided into five lessons with subchapters.
The Babbel eBook is more closely packed in with material than the online courses. New vocabulary and phrases are introduced with audio dialogues and so-called “Keywords” are linked to the glossary and quizzed with “study cards” – good old-fashioned flashcards on digital index cards – right at the end. Users can even create their own flashcards with the “highlight” feature.
Grammar directly follows the beginning dialogue and – thanks to the practical explanations – never comes off as dry. But whether it’s about grammar or vocabulary, the spirited commentaries on language application, meaning and local use (in Spain or Latin America, accordingly) and the immediate quizzing of what’s just been learned that make for a positive learning experience. Charts visualize language structure while “slide shows” at the end of the lesson showcase local cultures.
How do I greet people in Spain? What kind of public transportation possibilities await me in Chile? What’s up in Bolivia? How do they celebrate birthdays in Mexico? And what’s the Day of the Dead all about? The Babbel eBook answers all these and many more questions in an appealing way.
All in all we’re feeling pretty good about our product. We think that anyone picking up the book in the iBookstore for the introductory price of 6.99 Euros is making a very sensible investment.
Native English speakers who live in or are planning to travel to the Spanish-speaking world and would like to immerse themselves in these regions, this textbook is highly recommended as the key to opening the door to their language and culture! We wish you all muchísima suerte with Spanish!
The world of music is a rich universe of linguistic intertextuality. Words have crossed borders as much as sounds have. In England music lovers use the French word encore to call for more at the end of a concert. Italian words such as piano (quiet), forte (loud) and presto (quick) are universally used to indicate stylistic interpretation. And many citizens of Europe and the world have had their best lessons in English from the export of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Well now it’s time to return the favour. Babbel have put together a course designed for touring musicians and DJs, helping them address their audience and deal with the everyday experiences of being on the road. The course is also perfect for fans of live music to learn the idioms and phrases based around the culture of going to concerts and clubs.
Warning: This course will not make you a better guitarist.
For that you’ll just have to keep practising! But you will learn how to talk about it. The course focuses amongst other things on live music experiences. So the next time you’re playing the main stage at the Hurricane festival you will be able to communicate with the sound engineer when your amplifier starts to make weird noises. But whether you’re a rockstar or a rock fan, DJ or techno head, this course covers everything from bouncers and queueing to ear plugs and stage diving.
They say what happens on tour stays on tour. So why not spend a little time learning how to communicate with the fans backstage in their own language? Do you prefer dubstep or disco? Reggae or Metal? Learn a rich vocabulary of musical terms for genres and instruments and how to express your opinion or talk about the digitalisation of music. This course is all about making contact, whether with the audience or with other music lovers. But don’t expect to become fluent overnight. For that you’ll have to take the advice given to the musician who asked a passer-by in New York, “How do I get to Madison Square Garden?” The answer of course was “Practice!”
Try out Rockstars and Fans now. Click the following link and get ready to rock!
Note: the picture above belongs to Ed East, guitar player of the British band Chikinki, and co-worker at Babbel
It has been proven that the two strongest types of memory come from taste and smell. And for many of us, the most powerful memories we have of holidays and trips abroad are the smells and tastes we experienced on our travels, sampling the local cuisine and delighting in the delicacies, nourished from the landscapes we are exploring.
Whether it is moules frites accompanied by a glass of rosé at the harbourside in Marseille or a plate of tapas and a carafe of rioja on the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, it is often these words that form our first experiences of another culture and, above all, of its language. And it is true that the most culturally important of these gastronomic phenomena are so powerfully rooted in their language that they bear no translation. Tapas is tapas in any language, as is Spaghetti, and everyone understands what you mean when you offer them a glass of Bordeaux.
And yet who hasn’t been confronted with a menu in a foreign country and felt overwhelmed by a page full of words that suddenly sound more intimidating than appetizing? Well, Babbel has now put together a course that will help broaden your knowledge on international Gastronomy and Wine. You’ll be able to learn in seven languages how to describe wine, talk about everything from vegan to molecular cuisine and unlock the secrets of herbs and spices. So, when you’re next abroad, you’ll be able to make the right choices in the restaurant or on the local market stalls, choose the dishes that are seasoned to your liking and the best wines to suit your tastes.