The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Why are people really learning languages?

Posted on June 18, 2014 by

If you’re learning a language at the moment, take a second to consider this question: why?

Recently, the question has been framed in economic terms. Freakonomics began it with a podcast that questioned the financial benefits of language learning. Over at the Economist’s Prospero blog, Robert Lane Greene argued that the numbers were higher than had been estimated and varied greatly depending on language.

It’s a debate worth having – albeit a bit sad that we reduce the beauty (and unquantifiable benefits) of learning a new language to an economic return on investment.

But how decisive is this factor? For which age groups and nationalities? What are the main reasons that make people want to learn a language?

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Quiz: Brazilian football sayings

Posted on June 6, 2014 by

Brazilian football sayings

Are you a connoisseur of football formations? Can you differentiate between half-backs and wing-backs? Do you know how Hungary revolutionised tactics in the 1950s?

Us neither. 

Take our quiz to discover some colourful Brazilian football sayings – and dazzle your friends during the World Cup with your amazing street slang.

 

How to memorise vocabulary: User tips

Posted on June 4, 2014 by

How to memorise vocabulary

We asked you for your favourite ways to memorise vocabulary, and the tips were great. Some are old classics and some are slightly more off-the-wall. Which ones do you use, and what would you add? Tell us in the comments!

 

1. Exercise while saying the words – Joseph

This has been proven to be effective. A study in 2010 tested subjects who bicycled while learning vocabulary, and found “that simultaneous physical activity during vocabulary learning facilitates memorization of new items”.

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Why grammar (and broccoli) are good for you

Posted on May 27, 2014 by

grammar

This month Babbel focuses on grammar, with a range of healthy new courses. There are also new pronunciation courses, in-depth Italian, and false friends.

 

Poor old broccoli, pariah of the vegetable world. Despite the fact that it’s extremely good for you and US President Obama has declared that it’s his favourite food, broccoli is still reviled by children all around the world – and a fair few adults.

A bit like grammar. Years of being forced to conjugate verbs or grapple with textbooks the size of telephone books have left many of us bruised, battered, and wondering if it’s all worth it.

But grammar doesn’t have to be intimidating. The trick is to prepare it properly.

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7 Reasons Why We Love Listicles But They’re Killing Our Brains

Posted on May 22, 2014 by

Listicles

 

We like lists because we don’t want to die.

- Umberto Eco, The Infinity of Lists

 

What’s a listicle? It’s an article written in the form of a list. You know, the ones you see with titles like ‘11 Things to Never Say to a Man Whose Head Has Been Sheared Off by a Sheet of Glass’ or ‘25 Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber’ (wait! come back!).

Depending on your taste they can make you laugh or simply confirm that humanity is a lost cause. Websites like Buzzfeed and Listverse grew famous for them, newspapers embraced them, and people, inevitably, started to hate them.

They are the purest textual expression of a distracted, modern mind. So it’s probably worth asking: what are they doing to our brains?
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Roll on: the story of the Babbel bikes

Posted on May 14, 2014 by

Babbel bikes

Gregory Simon in his natural habitat – Photo by James Lane for Babbel.com

One sunny Wednesday morning in March, Gregory Simon was getting ready for work. He showered, dressed, threw back a cup of coffee and left.

A couple of hours later he arrived in the office, looking rather frazzled.

“My bike just got nicked!”

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Turkish delights

Posted on May 9, 2014 by

Turkish Delights

Turkish delight’ by Dewet / CC 2.0

Babbel’s Turkish Delights course, full of useful phrases and everyday expressions, is out now.

You are in a shop in Istanbul. You thank the shopkeeper for giving you such a great discount on that rug you really can’t afford, and say goodbye.

“Laughing, laughing,” he replies.

Turkish is filled with these kind of small idiosyncrasies. If people want to thank you for your physical labour, they say ‘health to your hands’. The correct response to someone who sneezes is ‘live long,’ and the reply roughly translates as ‘you see it too’ (i.e. I hope that you live long enough to see my long life).

Babbel’s new course, Typical phrases and useful expressions, is available for both German and English users.

It’s perfect for those who already know a little Turkish, and want to learn the little phrases and expressions that are so helpful in everyday life – whether you’re in Istanbul or Berlin.

Why Italians talk with their hands (and Scandinavians don’t)

Posted on May 7, 2014 by

Why Italians talk with their hands

Photo by Haraldo Ferrary / CC 2.0

 

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie

That’s amore…

 

Love. Fury. Passion. Italians are well known for expressing themselves through body language and hand gestures, as if the feelings bubbling up inside them can’t be expressed in mere words, but require an accusing finger, an appeal to the heavens, a shake of the fist.

Scandinavians, on the other hand, are not.

According to traditional stereotypes, our northern brethren are more reasoning and reserved. It’s not that they don’t feel extreme emotions – just that they are less inclined to express them physically.

Yes, these are cultural cliches, although few people would dispute that Italians talk with their hands to express themselves. But what if there is a biological imperative behind it? What if gestures actually help our brain develop? What if there is a link between how we use our hands and how we solve problems?

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Portuguese for everyday life

Posted on April 30, 2014 by

Portuguese for Everyday Life

At some point in their life everyone experiences a moment of acute embarrassment, when they wish the ground would just open up and swallow them. But what about a faux-pas that you didn’t even know you were making?

Three simple fingers can cause a lot of chaos, as anyone who’s seen ‘Inglorious Basterds’ will know. If Lieutenant Hicox had held up the correct three fingers while ordering a beer, he would never have been revealed as an enemy spy.

Small cultural differences can have a big impact – especially in Brazil.

Imagine you’re in Rio or Sao Paolo and you want to signal to someone on the other side of the street that ‘everything is okay’. Which of the above gestures should you use?

If you picked the middle one then you might want to reconsider. In some cultures this can signal that everything’s fine or that the meal was particularly good, but in Brazil this gesture often refers to the other end of the digestive tract. Yes, that’s right. No wonder the person on the other side of the street is beaming.

Babbel’s new course, Portuguese for everyday life, can help you avoid some of the major pitfalls. It’s filled with language and customs you might encounter on the street. You’ll learn colourful vocabulary for parties and practical phrases for everyday interactions, and discover how Brazilians celebrate.

If you’re a little more confident, you can test your listening comprehension. There are various conversations about travel, shopping, and of course football.

Time to brush up – the World Cup is right around the corner.

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?

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