The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

أنا أتكلم الألمانية … Problems with pronunciation?

Posted on October 27, 2016 by


This article is the second in a series of guides and suggestions for German classes with refugees — by Babbel. The articles introduce useful teaching methods regardless of prior pedagogical experience. Here, we summarize the experiences we’ve gained as part of our workshop for volunteer German teachers. The workshops are organized by Babbel language learning experts.


Tongue-twister challenge!

Posted on October 1, 2014 by


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…)

The joy of Polish pronunciation

Posted on July 24, 2013 by

Read this post in German (Deutsch)

About the author: Barbara Baisi started in content and support (at that time still as a student) around five years ago. As of this year, she’s an integral and essential part of our content team at Babbel.

My first encounter with the Polish language? It was those first days of my semester abroad in Finland. Anyone who’s done Erasmus knows that this phase is characterized by an endless loop of “What’s your name? Where are you from?” etc. etc. The going was pretty easy. Until one day I got an unbelievable consonant cluster as a response: “G sc ji a schek”… or something like that. I should mention that Italian is my native language, and we Italians have more problems with consonant clusters than the Germans. I’m afraid I couldn’t avoid an incredulous look and a “what????” The young man looked like he was used to it but, despite that—or maybe because of it?—also amused.

“Gscjiaschek”, “Gscjiaschek” – I tried to remember it. It was definitely a challenge. I had to remember this name.

A few days later… there he was again. And of course I had completely forgotten the name. But the guy was sympathetic and I really wanted to get it. Call me stubborn, but that’s just how I am.

Luckily Cyrillic came to the rescue. Russian was my second subject at the university and I realized that in Russian there was actually a letter for each of these sounds. I got out a pen and a piece of paper right there in the entrance hall to the university and started to transcribe: Гжешек. Easy as pie.

That was my first encounter with the Polish language. I still needed a few weeks before I learned that it was written “Grzesiek” and was actually a diminutive, or nickname, for “Grzegorz” (approximately “Gzhe-gosh”).

Now, I’m still good friends with Grzes (the even more diminutive form of Grzesiek), and he is one of many wonderful Poles that I’ve met in the meanwhile. Since then my interest in the Polish language has only become more present, and now, I’ve taken the possibility to produce the new Polish Beginner’s course as a great opportunity to introduce this language to others.

 P.S. However difficult these consonant clusters may be – like the motto “the more consonants the cooler“ – Polish pronunciation actually has rules, and there are practically no exceptions! Languages like French or English should be so lucky…

Practice your Pronunciation: New Speech Recognition Tool

Posted on June 23, 2010 by

Babbel Speech Recognition ScreenshotIt’s called learning to “speak” a language, but the sad truth is, few self-directed learners get up the courage to actually open their mouths. Lack of speaking practice can lead to shying away from having interactions with real people, which certainly doesn’t help with the final goal of communication.

The idea of our new integrated speech recognition tool, however, is to get learners talking. By prompting the learner to say the words out loud and test their own pronunciation, Babbel now has covered all the bases for truly effective  foreign language learning: reading, writing, listening comprehension and speaking.

Some traditional e-learning software includes this sort of tool, but none of them do it online in quite the same way. We have built a tool that performs speech recognition in real-time without requiring a custom browser plugin. The technology is complex, but using it is easy. For some backgrounds, check out the interview with Technical Director Thomas Holl.

To try out the speech recognition tool, just log into, set up the audio in 2 quick steps, and start any vocabulary package or beginner’s course. If you don’t have a user account yet, you can register for free and take one trial lesson. Speak up!