The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

How we learn languages: The Army Method

Posted on October 8, 2014 by

army method

My grandmother learned French at school in Australia in the late 1950s. For years she studied it dutifully, and the one phrase that she recalls vividly to this day is:

La plume de ma tante est dans le jardin avec le lion.

For those who never had the pleasure or pain of learning French, it translates as ‘My aunt’s pen is in the garden with the lion’. Difficult to slip into casual conversation, to say the least. (more…)

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…)

Babbel’s highlights from our team’s perspective!

Posted on January 20, 2014 by

With our Babbel birthday/ Christmas party last Friday, the weekend was slightly shorter for our 110 Babbel colleagues than usual. We had lots of fun celebrating Babbel’s six birthday and its numerous milestones achieved so far. In this video you can see what some colleagues of our team remember as a personal highlight of 2013 and they wish Babbel for the future!

Six Years!

Posted on January 15, 2014 by

by Markus Witte (Co-founder)

Hard to believe: the sixth year since we went online with Babbel is here. We are once again happy and proud to confirm that it was our most successful one yet. So much has happened in this last year: there was a financing round of over 10 million US Dollars, 45 great new people joined the Babbel team, including several experienced managers. In addition a new office, two new learning languages (Norwegian and Danish), new apps for two platforms (iOS and Android) – and a new logo! But above all millions of new users, for whom this is all happening.

What started with four founders in a small office in a cramped old apartment in Berlin-Kreuzberg, has grown into a buzzing hive of over 100 full-time employees. And there are also, believe it or not, more than 150 authors, pedagogues, editors, translators, narrators and supporters who work freelance while maintaining other professions such as teachers, musicians and actors. Added together that is a huge number of people, who are all creating Babbel together.

We feel that this is an excellent reason to celebrate. And since January is from the outset for us the liveliest month (through your and our many good intentions), we have even delayed Christmas somewhat. So, on Friday we will be rocking around the Christmas tree. And then it continues with the seventh year, for which we again have a lot planned. Some things shall be a surprise, and other things will go live before we discuss them. However the following are certain: there will be Russian, our first learning language that does not use the Latin alphabet. And we intend to whip the Review Manager into shape. And also learn a lot of new things ourselves. And continue to have lots of fun. And create.

 

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Je t’aime… moi non plus – how to break up when you cannot make up

Posted on February 14, 2013 by

At this time of year, it’s really worth taking a closer look at what actually brings a couple together. It’s most likely a mixture of a number of things; physical attraction, personality, charm, interests, but successful communication is of utmost importance. To make a relationship work, its constituents must be able to understand one another. Everyone has his or her own way of expressing and conveying feelings, but how is this process complicated when these constituents don’t speak the same language? Couples in a bilingual relationship face a somewhat harder challenge than those in monolingual relationships. While everyone knows how to say ‘I love you’ in several languages, not everyone can express himself or herself well if and when a relationship turns sour.

The vocabulary lessons conjured up and developed at Babbel draw upon realistic dialogues inspired by everyday life. And part of modern life is undoubtedly ‘breaking up’; that moment when single life beckons once again. But how do you break up in a foreign language? How do you find the right words to make your soon-to-be ex-partner understand your reasons? We turned Saint Valentine on his head to help all you freedom fighters out. Enough Schmulz. Let’s learn something practical.


And for all those who are lucky in love, there’s tons of vocabulary and a veritable bundle of courses available on Babbel that teach you how to give compliments, express feelings, and keep the flame alive until the next Valentine’s Day arrives.

In French
In Italian
In Spanish
In German
and many more!

The full spectrum of language learning: Babbel turns five!

Posted on January 15, 2013 by

It’s fascinating, all the things you can do with language learning. In this respect 2012 was a very creative and fruitful year for us, culminating in a nomination for Best German Start Up at the international The Europas Awards to be held in Berlin. Although the entire Babbel team is forward thinking as a matter of principle, staring the future fearlessly in the face, we want to take a moment now to glance back across an eventful year, in which you the Babbel user took a leading role.

Platform and system:

By far the biggest change can be seen in the fact that our editorial team have brought out more than 200 new courses in just 12 months with their unique passion and dedication. In total there are now 6,300 lessons available to you the Babbel user. When you think that on 15 January 2008 we came out with a single vocab trainer for 5 languages, you can see there has been some progress! This year saw the premiere of many new course formats, among others: Lifestyle courses, Dictation courses, Slang, and even a fun Dialect course for German (in which some of the Babbel employees star as guest speakers).

Which course was your favourite so far?

Our newest learning languages, Turkish and Dutch, have been reinforced with their own Beginner’s Courses – a popular request from our users – and a beginner’s course for Polish is in development.  We are expecting to be able to release two new learning languages in February: Danish and Norwegian.

Visually Babbel has also changed quite dramatically and the renovations are still underway! The community pages now subscribe to modern design standards and have benefited from a considerably better layout. Even the trainer will soon get a makeover. But fear not, we will stay true to the Babbel style – clean and simple, as you like it.

Mobile:

2012 was a whirlwind year for our mobile development team: In February our App for iPads came out, in March the App for Android, in June the iBook for iPad and the same for Kindle in August. Then in October the App for Windows 8  made its debut – and the grand finale of the year: the iPad App Version 3.0, containing the entire course programme, including the possibility to synchronise your learning progress between Web and App. In total during 2012 about 4.5 Million Babbel Apps were downloaded. It seems we are gradually catching up with your desire for good language courses on mobile platforms.

You (the Babbel users):

Worldwide you are 10 million users, who learn with Babbel on your computer and/or mobile device. This massive increase surely has something to do with the fact that Babbel is available on more and more devices with differing operating systems. More and more people can and want to learn languages with Babbel, unconstrained by time or place. This makes us very happy because, although we are on a steady upwards growth curve, we still have the same goal that we had five years ago when we started: To make understanding and learning a language on the internet easier.

The Babbelonians (the Babbel team):


We too are growing enormously, in the heart of Kreuzberg. Almost every week we have the pleasure to welcome a friendly new face to the team. Meanwhile (now in the middle of January) we are 60 full-time employees. Since our Bergmannstraße office is bursting at the seams, we will be taking over new, bigger premises in Bergmannstraße from the start of March. We’re staying faithful to our neighbourhood, because Kreuzberg brings us luck, as Markus, our commander in chief, puts it.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of you and especially to those of you who have stuck with us through the years!

Keep learning and growing!

Happy Fifth Birthday Babbel!

Brad Pitt (as Lt. Aldo Raine) Scores 57 in Italian

Posted on June 24, 2010 by

After we released the new speech recognition feature yesterday and had all the good feeedback, we got into what you might call a funny mood. We ended up testing some celebrities with our new feature.

It was loads of fun running Brad Pitt’s pronunciation through the tool to see what score he would have gotten for his Americanized Italian in Tarantino’s movie “Inglorious Basterds”. His buongiorno and arrivederci are understandable, but you have to admit the pronunciation is far from perfect!  According to our new tool that evaluates pronunciation quality, Lt. Aldo Raine scores a 53 for his buongiorno and a 57 for the famous arrivederci. A little practice could have probably helped…

You can try your own results in any of seven languages on Babbel.com. To practice Italian greetings, just select the beginner’s course. First step is free after a simple registration.

Babbel: A comprehensive language learning system (video)

Posted on April 13, 2010 by

We are excited to announce that with some new features and software clients,  we have just made a leap towards becoming a language learning system unlike any other.

Babbel has never been just a website, but was rather built as a server client application. It’s no wonder, then, that we’d develop new platforms. Our objective has always been to make learning as simple, accessible and effective as possible using today’s state-of-the-art methods and technologies.

We’ve created Babbel Mobile, an iPhone app that can be used alone or as a complement to Babbel.com. You can now refresh your vocabulary anywhere and anytime, whether or not you’re on the internet. Then, with Babbel Refresh, the new desktop application for PC and Mac, you’ll always remember to review. Thirdly, a new list-view of your Personal Vocabulary also makes it simple to print out a vocabulary list, to remove words from the Refresher system or to get a full overview of your learning progress. And finally, we’re presenting a first Course in our new format: a new Italian Beginner’s Course is easier and clearer than ever.

Over the next days, we’ll cover all these new features in more detail. For now, just take a look at our new 30 second video above or here (in any or all of our seven languages).

“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.

Using the globe as a learning tool

Posted on November 11, 2008 by

Did you know that there are about 30 endagered languages on the westcoast of the US alone? Take Hupa or Hoopa, which nowadays is spoken by less than 10 people, according to the Rosetta Stone Project. It provides several layers for the online-globe Google Earth: Besides an archive of endangered languages you can find, for example, a selection of more than 1,300 recordings from between 1912 and 1941 documenting the languages, myths, legends, stories and songs of thirty-five Native American tribes.

Another educational use of Google Earth is shown in the video below (after the break). It’s simultaneously less than an archive but more than a learning tool. In it, students use the language they are learning to describe things on the basis of map-data directions, buildings etc. At the end of the video, they suggest using the cops and robbers boardgame “Scotland Yard” to stimulate language learning – have a look. (more…)