The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Tongue-twister challenge!

Posted on October 1, 2014 by

tongue-twister

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…)

American slang – it’s a piece of cake

Posted on July 22, 2014 by

american slangBabbel’s new course, American Slang, teaches you the most useful American expressions and phrases. It got us wondering: why is something that’s easy ‘a piece of cake’?

Here are some of the (possible) origins of some classic American expressions. Take them with a grain of salt!

 

broke – to have no money, or to be bankrupt

Many banks in post-Renaissance Europe gave their customers small porcelain tiles, with the person’s name, credit limit, and the bank written on them. Think credit cards, only heavier. The customer brought the tile with him when he wanted to borrow money, and if he was past the limit, the teller ‘broke’ it.

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Babbel for Windows 8 – Five questions for Dari Salimi

Posted on October 23, 2012 by

Babbel for Windows 8Dari 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 Babbel for Windows 8 release on 26th October (and the corresponding Babbel for Windows 8 App). 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!

Try out German here
Brazilian Portuguese here
French here
Italian here
Spanish here
Dutch here
Indonesian here
Polish here
Swedish here
Turkish here


For Those About To Rock We Salute You

Posted on July 31, 2012 by

The author on stageThe 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

Love – the strongest motivation to learn a language?

Posted on December 21, 2011 by

What actually moves people to want to learn a language? The list of reasons is of course endless: For some it’s a hobby, or even a true passion. Others are learning a language for pragmatic reasons, as part of their education or for working abroad.

Yet the strongest motive is often a bilingual friendship or relationship. Many Babbel users say they are learning so that they can better understand their partner and their partner’s family, and to become more independent in the home country of their partner.

We feel there has been a lot said about bringing up children to be bilingual, but not enough about what came before: bilingual couples and their needs when learning languages! So now we’re putting our feelers out and asking you for your experiences (first-hand or from friends). Lend us 5 minutes of your time and tell us something!

>> Short questionnaire on bilingual relationships

Because love can be a fantastic gateway to learning a language, and emotions not only help to motivate but also to solidify the learning in the brain, we have devoted an entire course format to this one subject: In our new English Course ‘Love Letters‘ you can follow the story of Nicholas and Olivia, who met and fell in love through an online dating portal. It’s an enthralling love story that will have you on the edge of your seat while you’re learning the language that all lovers speak.

Up to now, the course is available for the reference languages German, French, Spanish and Italian. Other learning languages are in the making. Stay tuned!

Full English Grammar Course Online

Posted on July 21, 2009 by

English Grammar - Practise the BasicsEconomies may grow or contract, travel may fluctuate or decline, but one thing seems to stay constant around the world: People want to learn English. Their motivation varies. It may be a matter of career, an aching to sing along with current music, or just the desire to engage in an international dialogue that, like it or not, is often going on in what has become a de facto lingua franca. But learning English is still tough, and let’s face it, can be kind of boring – especially when it comes to sorting out the finer points of speaking correctly.

But we at Babbel.com have perhaps done the impossible: we’ve made learning English grammar fun. Based on tried-and-true materials by the respected British publisher Collins, we’ve created a full, interactive online course that is not only modern and effective, but virtually pain-free. “English Grammar: Practise the Basics” uses our unique, intuitive and entertaining approach to help those still in the early stages to build their skills and confidence – at their own pace, without the expected hair-tearing or embarrassment.

We also understand that often a major discouragement for learners is the cost of quality teaching. That’s why we’re offering access to the course – currently made up of 20 tutorials and constantly growing. It’s available anywhere, anytime, and can be canceled whenever. There’s an introductory trial tutorial, “This or That,” for free, and then a 20-day money-back guarantee. Click here, register easily if you haven’t already – don’t forget to set your learning language to English – and try out the free preview. For our press release, click here.

The Internet Speaks English

Posted on March 17, 2009 by

According to Internet World Stats, with 28.7%,the majority of people online are English speakers. Spanish speaking users come in at a far third with 7.7%, and French speakers fourth with only 4.6%. German is in seventh place with 4.1%.The English-language-dominated world of micro-blogging alone currently has about six million users worldwide, but only a very small fraction of these write in any language other than English. Students young and old understand that to keep up with this dynamic sector, English is invaluable.

Babbel.com is the place to start for those who want to try their hand at twittering, blogging, chatting, shopping or emailing in English.For example, we’ve just released an online tutorial „Talking about Computers and the Internet“, which provides all the most important terms and phrases to participate anywhere online. Audio, visual and participatory functions make the exercise interactive. We also included a part where students can write their own text on the theme, which is then corrected by a friend or someone else from the 230,000 strong Babbel community.

“An interesting and intelligent teacher”

Posted on February 9, 2009 by

Not such a bad idea to broaden your target group by teaching them the language you are broadcasting in, right? The British Broadcasting Company – BBC – offers several services to learn and improve your English. Besides the  “The Teacher” videos – who is in his own words “a very interesting and intelligent man” explaining idioms on a whiteboard -  there are episodes of “The Flatmates“, among other things. This programme offers you a new dialogue to listen to every week (mp3) along with background information on some terms related to the show’s subject, e.g. the economic crisis. You can take part in a quiz or vote for what happens next.

No judgements: Global Language Monitor tracks political buzzwords, filters through Obamarama and surges out of the quagmire

Posted on October 21, 2008 by

After posting last week about the CNN story proclaiming that Sarah Palin spoke at a higher grade level than Joe Biden, I was curious about the organization that made this assessment, and what they thought it meant. Now that curiosity has brought Babbel Blog together with Paul JJ Payack of Global Language Monitor to speak about political buzzwords — from “quagmire” to Obamarama — and, well, everything in the dictionary. Click here to listen to the interview with Paul JJ Payack. Right click to download mp3.

Babbel Blog: What does Global Language Monitor do?

Paul JJ Payack: Basically what we do is monitor global English and its impact upon various areas of culture.

What exactly is “global English”? How does that differ from American English or British English?

Five years ago we thought that it was an interesting idea to monitor the growth of the English language. We started with yourdictionary.com, I was the founding president of yourdictionary.com, and it’s the largest multilingual site on the planet, with about 300 different languages, 30 million pageviews a month. What we decided was that it would be interesting to focus on English. What was happening with English was, in 1960 there were 250 million speakers of English. In 2008 there are 1.35 billion speakers of English. (more…)

Save an endangered word, redefine the dictionary

Posted on October 6, 2008 by

I’ve always found it curious that the Americans have no centralized institution which establishes the end-all be-all of language. I mean, something along the lines of the German Rechtschreibungen, grammars that all of which incorporated a rather catastrophic spelling reform mandated by an official agreement between German-speaking countries in 1996. Or the Real Academia Española (the Royal Spanish Academy) which purports to maintain propriety, elegance, and purity in the Spanish language, and consistently has conferences all over Spain and Latin America deliberating which words are worthy of inclusion. The North American language, however, is a bit federated, you could say… if not Balkanized.

For the Brits, one of the closest things to language royalty – along with Oxford’s, of course – would be Collins’ Dictionary, which has recently gotten positively ruthless in cutting words it deems obsolete. The Times along with other linguistic luminaries have taken up the case to save “endangered” words from institutional oblivion, by using them in public, and so reviving them.

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