The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Extra fuel for Babbel

Posted on April 10, 2013 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch)

We recentely announced a new round of funding: Reed Elsevier Ventures and Nokia Growth Partners join the company as new investors. The existing Investors IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft and Kizoo Technology Capital also  took part in this Series B. This is of course good news: new liquidity for the company and new opportunities to explore. We will use the new funds to expand internationally and bring easy language learning to as many countries as we can. We will also increase ouravailability on different mobile andonline platforms to make Babbel  accessible wherever you are and on any device that can connect to the internet. And of course the very product itself will improve. We feel that this is only the beginning: Babbel is already a pretty  good learning tool, but there are so many ideas how to make it even more engaging, sticky and fun that we can’t wait to try them all.

Both new investors belong to large corporates that operate in areas adjacent to ours. Does this mean that Babbel is now exclusively tied to Reed Elsevier and Nokia and will not work with other major players like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Holtzbrinck on the one hand and Samsung, Apple, Sony  on the other hand (to name only a few)?

Such a limitation is not in the interest of Babbel (and as a consequence its investors/stakeholders). Of course, we will make use of the links into Reed Elsevier and into Nokia andcooperated in any area where it makes sense. And there are a number of ways where this can substantially help us. But if Samsung, Sony or HTC want to pre-install Babbel on all of their Android devices or Apple wants to cooperate in some education initiative, we will definitely  be there to talk.

So it seems that we got the best of all worlds and this is both exciting and a little scary. Of course, we have great respect of what lies ahead us, because it won’t be an easy ride. But it is great to work for Babbel and be part of this story. I am personally proud to be a member of this team and together with the others I’m ready for any challenge.

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Beware the False Friends!

Posted on March 28, 2013 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch), French (Français), Spanish (Español)

Babbel is taking on those false friends. But don’t worry – this isn’t a life coaching course we’re pushing, but our newest project! Who you choose to make real friends with is still up to you. The idea of our brand new course format is to help you confidently navigate through choppy linguistic waters on your own…

 It is rather “false friends” of the lexical variety are the subject of this course. These are specific words that quickly lead to misunderstandings between native and foreign languages. At first glance seductively simple and logical, they look and sound confusingly alike between languages. For example, say someone wants to comment on the latest demonstration against a corrupt politician in French, Italian or Spanish. Logically, it seems the word to use would be démonstration, dimostrazione or demostración. They seem so close to the English – but yet, in reality, so far! In the Romance languages it refers not to a “demonstration” but a “presentation.”

 And while in English, French and Spanish you might go to the gymnasium, gymnase or gimnasio to work out, at a German Gymnasium you’re much more likely to find young teens diligently studying toward university.

 But it gets really confusing when very similar words have completely different meanings between languages. For example, a gift in English brings a smile, while Gift in German (“poison!”) would naturally turn that smile upside down. What expression would it inspire among the Scandinavians, though, when gift means “married” in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish (gift in Swedish ; gift in Danish) ??? ¡Díos mío! Definitely starting to feel lost in translation…

Click here to inform yourself on some of the dangers in the language you’re currently learning:

German False Friends

French False Friends

Spanish False Friends

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New apps for Windows Phone 8!

Posted on March 27, 2013 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch)

Eleven apps are now available for Windows Phone 8 on the Windows Phone Store

In October 2012 Babbel published eleven apps for Windows 8 Tablets and PCs. These Apps have been installed over 390,000 times so far. When we released the apps, we hoped that our enjoyable collaboration with Microsoft would continue, but were unsure as to how it would develop and unfold. Everything hinges on the feedback of the users after all. The resounding success of the apps is extremely gratifying, not least because it has driven us to up the ante yet further by offering an optimised version of the apps for the Windows 8 Phone. We premièred these apps, rather appropriately, during the awards ceremony at the CeBIT on March 5th.

Chancellor Merkel will doubtless be delighted that she can continue studying Polish on her Windows 8 Phone in the future.

 

 

The Windows Phone 8 Apps are available in the Windows Phone Store for eleven Babbel languages.

Here are a few impressions of the apps:

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Babbel Acquires San Francisco Based PlaySay

Posted on March 21, 2013 by

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Babbel CEO and co-founder Markus Witte is giving some insights into the motivations in acquiring PlaySay. Founded by Ryan Meinzer in 2008 PlaySay is ‘a language learning experience’, offering a unique, visionary and fun way to learn Spanish and English. The 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt finalist PlaySay Inc., which has its headquarters in San Francisco, has seen its app ranked #1 in the education category of the iTunes store in ten countries, including the USA.

 

We already saw several great news in the first few months of 2013: Babbel apps for new platforms, coming along with important awards and even a presentation of our Polish vocabulary trainer to German chancellor Angela Merkel and Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk.

Now we’re taking a step to increase our presence in the United States by acquiring the the language learning firm PlaySay. A very unusual step — most San Francisco start-ups are not bought by a German start-up.

In our case, we feel that combining PlaySay and Babbel makes a lot of sense. We’ve watched the success of PlaySay since we saw their pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco back in 2011. Since then, PlaySay was mentioned by some major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and others and had its app as a #1 in the education category of the US App store and 10 other countries.

The current PlaySay app will be continued for the time being. All users are invited to join Babbel as well to combine both learning experiences. The product teams are in discussions of providing an integrated product.

The acquisition of PlaySay is opening a number of opportunities in the US market, especially since we have Ryan Meinzer, the PlaySay CEO, by our side as an advisor and supporter. Babbel’s CTO Thomas Holl and I will be in San Francisco with Ryan in early April to lay the foundations of our presence in California.

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Neue Apps für Windows Phone 8

Posted on March 15, 2013 by

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Im Oktober 2012 hatten wir elf Babbel-Apps für Windows 8 Tablet und PC veröffentlicht, die seither mehr als 390.000 Mal installiert wurden. Damals hofften wir auf eine Fortsetzung der angenehmen Zusammenarbeit mit Microsoft, wussten aber noch nicht, ob und wie es konkret weitergehen würde. Denn alles steht und fällt mit der Resonanz der Anwender. Umso größer die Freude über den Erfolg der App, der uns veranlasste, die für Windows Phone 8 optimierte Version nachzulegen – die wir jetzt, sehr angemessen im Rahmen der CeBIT, erstmalig präsentieren konnten.

Es wird die Kanzlerin bestimmt freuen, das Lernen der polnischen Sprache zukünftig auch auf ihrem Windows Phone 8 fortsetzen zu können.

Die neuen Windows Phone 8 Apps gibt es momentan in elf Babbel-Sprachen im Windows Phone Store.

Hier schon mal ein paar visuelle Eindrücke der schicken App:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One more time! Babbel awarded at the CeBIT

Posted on March 14, 2013 by

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This post in German


Having developed numerous courses for the Polish language, we know that it isn’t an easy language to learn. Angela Merkel appeared to concur as she tried out the Polish Babbel App, with the word cześć” (hello) proving a particular stumbling block for her.

Despite the odd tongue twister, Merkel and her language exchange partner, the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, appeared to enjoy their Babbel experience, as you can see in the accompanying picture. Every year a different country partners the CeBIT, and this year it was Poland’s turn. For this reason we bestowed our Polish app the honour of being used by such luminaries.

 

The latest technological trends are presented once a year at the largest IT fair in the world. The prize ceremony for the ‘Innovation 4 Society Award’, in which the Microsoft initiative Chancenrepublik Deutschland (Opportunity Republic Germany) recognises outstanding, socially beneficial work from both young and established IT companies. took place shortly after the opening of the CeBIT.

And the winner in the category ‘Established Company’ is… Babbel.com, with its Windows 8 App sitting pretty as the most successful educational app in the Windows Store! The jury substantiated their choice by drawing attention to the ‘exemplary coupling of intelligent learning content and digital technology’, as well as the same ‘innovative learning methods’ which had previously convinced the jury of Digita. The Babbel delegation celebrated as Markus, one of the Babbel founders, presented the Babbel App to Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Tusk. Frau Merkel appeared to be quite intrigued by the App as she brushed up on her knowledge of Polish in front of the audience.

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Meet the Team: Gregory

Posted on March 1, 2013 by

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Gregory, one of our dearest colleagues and favourite Frenchmen, is from Annecy, a picturesque town in the French Alps. He is the face of French support. When he isn’t supporting, he can be found playing with mobile devices and spreading good vibes.

Lac d’Annecy

What are you doing at Babbel?

I started in May 2011 as a freelancer in support, and since March 2012 I have been working here full-time. I get to do more and more technical support, including testing and experimenting with new products, like new apps for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and also Windows 8 Tablets. Last but not least, I also translate into French, and do some recordings for YouTube videos.

Which languages do you use on a daily basis?

At Babbel I mainly use English and German since those are our working languages. Sometimes also French. And German I’m trying to push more and more. I feel most comfortable, of course, in my mother tongue. It’s just comforting to be able to say what you mean. La langue suit la pensée – only then the language follows your thoughts.

Can you tell us a little about your experience of learning German in Berlin?

When I first got here I could only speak a few words of German, could barely understand what was being said, and had problems explaining myself. Sure enough, I mostly got to know other French people, and in my work life as well. But the bosses were German and Swiss, and they forced – or let’s say encouraged – us to speak German. And ever since I’ve been with Babbel my German has improved considerably.

In the first few months I tried out language tandems a lot, which means I met German people who wanted to learn French. From what I experienced the results weren’t very successful, however, since many people had problems imagining how a foreign person learns German. Vice versa, a Frenchman is likely to have a hard time explaining exceptions in French grammar.

What advice can you give to language learners?

Surround yourself with people. I find it very helpful if others correct me. Also, I like watching German TV or films in German.

Is there a first German word or expression that particularly stuck to your mind?

It’s sort of strange, but yes. I was 14, 15 years old, and we read a German text at school. One sentence went like “Ich mache Yoga” (I do yoga), and the whole class was on the floor laughing. Nothing special about this sentence, but the pronunciation just cracked us up!

Which (other) languages would you like to know?

Russian, Spanish and Brasilian Portuguese.

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Excellent! We receive the German Educational Media Award

Posted on February 25, 2013 by

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The Babbel team proudly announces to have been rewarded with the “digita 2013″ in the category “private learning age 16+”. Katja and Regine received this important trophy on occasion of the education and media fair didacta in Cologne on Wednesday. The jury praised the “innovate and motivating” approach of the Babbel learning system which, in turn, motivates us to carry on and get better and better. Read the full statement here (in German, obviously) .

We admit that it feels great to get an award, and we did face some serious competition out there. But we are almost equally thrilled by this lovely video that was made by didacta, and that features two charming, bright young gentlemen who probably succeed better in explaining (again, in German) what Babbel is than most other people who have tried, including ourselves.

 

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Two new languages! Babbel highlights Norway and Denmark as your next destination of choice!

Posted on February 21, 2013 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch)

For the superstitious amongst us 13 is an unlucky number, but for language lovers it’s quite the opposite! Why? Because Babbel has now welcomed Norwegian and Danish to the fold, boosting the number of wonderful languages offered to a very fortunate 13!

Do you like the sound of cross country skiing in Norway or summer holidays in Denmark? We’ve just put the finishing touches to Beginners’ Courses for Norwegian and Danish, two more Scandinavian languages to add to the Swedish courses already available on Babbel. These courses provide a helping hand as you take the first steps in the languages, presenting the most important vocabulary for everyday situations as well as the grammar you need to build sentences creatively and independently.

For those who think that all Scandinavian languages are the same, think again!

Content Manager Karoline looked for inspiration in the Fjords

Danish may look similar to Swedish and even share a lot of vocabulary, but the pronunciation is quite something else. Whilst a “d” at the beginning of a word should be pronounced just like an English “d”, it suddenly becomes an English style “th” sound if placed with a fellow “d” in the middle of a word. The rather harmless looking sentence, “Hvad hedder du”? (“What’s your name?”), for example, sounds markedly different to what you may expect.

Our Danish Beginners’ Course has been suitably garnished with pronunciation classes to help you soar above such linguistic hurdles. In the Norwegian Beginners’ Course, users will be brought closer to the first grammar points, enabling them to get acquainted with unfamiliar combinations of consonants such as “kj” and “tj”. Armed with such invaluable information, you may even get through your first sentences in Norway without being found out as a foreigner.

With a little bit of practice, you may even release a near-native sounding, “Kan du kjøpe tjue kjeks?” (“Can you buy twenty biscuits?”).

On top of vocabulary and grammar, both courses also offer an insight into the regional cuisine and lifestyle of our Nordic neighbours. Should you one day lose your way whilst investigating a fjord, then you’ll realize that Norwegians are always willing to help. And if you bump into a Danish acquaintance, he may bid you farewell with the grateful words “Tak for sidst” even if you haven’t done anything to deserve them.

So that’s just a taster of what you can learn in the Beginners’ Courses for Danish and Norwegian. There’s plenty more inside, all of which you can try out on your next trip to the Scandinavian Peninsula.

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Discover the Netherlands with the Dutch beginners course!

Posted on February 19, 2013 by

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Read this post in German (Deutsch), French (Français), Italian (Italiano), Spanish (Español)

Karoline has been working at babbel.com since September 2012 where she likes to sit on this huge gym ball. Her focus is set on Scandinavian languages, but her thorough knowledge of Dutch led to her participating in the building of this course. Love brought her to the Netherlands 10 years ago, and she has remained faithful to this language so far.

Opinions on Dutch vary from “it sounds so cute!” to “do you have something caught in your throat?” With our first Dutch course for beginners you will not only learn correct pronunciation, but also vocabulary and the basic rules of grammar so you can defend yourself on your next visit to the Netherlands or Belgium.

Up until now there was only a vocabulary trainer for Dutch, but now you can learn, for example, idioms and how to respond to questions in the negative. That might sound trite, but maybe you’ve learned how to say “I’d like a tea,” but you need to know the negative, because you might not want a tea just now. Important for us also was to provide a lesson with helpful phrases for everyday encounters, so for example you can say that you don’t understand, or ask if someone can show you the way better by indicating directions on a map. Perhaps you even dare to order a “koffie verkeerd” (a café au lait), or a “kippensoep” (chicken soup) and “een portie bitterballen” (a serving of meatballs).

German speakers often hear the word “lekker” in Dutch, and as the homophone means “delicious” or “good tasting” in German, they wonder if perhaps the Dutch are obsessed with food. But it will become clear that the Dutch use “lekker” for lots of other things, like “lekker slapen” (sleep well). The charm of the language lies in the art of making everything into the diminutive, from “cadeautje” (little present) to “autotje” (little car). For the learner, it has the advantage that whenever an article is unclear, one can simply use the diminutive and the article is always the same.

A word about pronunciation: The “g” might sound strange at first, because it is irregularly spoken. But you’ll get used to pronouncing the guttural “g” and you’ll quickly get over the ‘something caught in your throat’ prejudice. There is also a clear North-South divide when it comes to the pronunciation of this sound. In the South (in Belgium) it is pronounced more smoothly than in the North. This was one more reason for us to have a voice from the South and a voice from the North in the audio for the course. With the two options you can hear the difference and practice your listening comprehension from the outset

Veel plezier ermeel! (Have fun!)

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