The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Who, what, when, why? Our user survey explained

Posted on March 21, 2016 by

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Here on the Babbel blog, we make no secret of our love for letters. Words, after all, are what we do.

But once in a while, they say, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. So we’ve been crunching some numbers — big ones: we asked our users about how they learn with Babbel, and 45,000 of them got back to us (okay, 44,584 — but who’s counting?).

We scratched our heads, put the kettle on, dusted off our calculators and got to work. Here’s what we found out.

 

Globetrotters

With cheap flights now the norm, foreign holidays are just a click away for many of us. It’s perhaps no surprise then that more of our respondents identified travelling as a motivation for learning than any other reason. After all, Babbel is all about helping you to speak foreign languages, and where better to find conversation partners than foreign countries?

Does using Babbel pay off for these intrepid explorers? You bet — seven out of ten say they’d feel confident enough to have a short conversation after less than five hours of Babbel.

And there are few Babbel users more intrepid than Martin Leonhardt from Franken in Germany. We caught up with Martin last year when he was riding his motorbike through the Brazilian Amazon. “I want to explore foreign cultures — to live within them and really get to know them,” he told us. “That’s where languages come in.”

Trecking Roraima Backpacker

 

Wanderlust isn’t the only reason to pick up a new language, of course. Self-improvement is the second biggest motivator, followed by improving or maintaining mental fitness. Here’s the full breakdown:

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.01.59It’s worth noting that these numbers vary quite a bit when you consider other factors. In the US, for example, a full 13% of our users learn because they want to reconnect with their heritage — that answer was six times as popular there as it was elsewhere. That makes a lot of sense: Despite the persistent idea that “everyone speaks English,” a vast majority of the US population can trace their roots back to other countries — often through living relatives.

 

Creatures of habit?

We know why our users are learning, but how do they go about it?

The answer, as it turns out, is however they want. When you can learn a language in a few minutes a day from virtually anywhere, it’s no surprise that people adapt the process to fit in with their own lives.

There’s no such thing as an average Babbel user, but if we had to invent one, I suppose they’d learn:

  • several times per week (like 49% of respondents)
  • mostly in the evening (like 41%)
  • on their computer (like 49%).

They’d be pretty flexible about their schedule though, learning more or less when they feel like it (as do 67% of other users).

However our average user learns, the important thing is that she keeps at it: little and often — that’s the key to success. Just as well, then, that we already know the average Babbel customer keeps using the app for well over 12 months.

Good going, average user!

 

Age is just a number

As we’ve said often before, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to learn a new language in your later years. We do, however, seem to lose a little confidence as the years go by.

80% of those under 24 years old feel they could converse in their new language after less than five hours of Babbel. That declines a little for those aged 25-34, and a little more for each age group beyond that. By the time we get to the 75+ category, the figure is 61%.

That’s still pretty good, but the difference is noteworthy all the same. Those with a few more years under their belt would, it seems, do well to remember that age has its advantages. In short, by the time you reach your later years, you’ve learned how to learn. We can see the effect of this: users over the age of 55 are significantly more likely to complete review sessions with Babbel and consolidate their learning — that’s a big part of “making it stick.”

If you’re sporting a few grey hairs and still in need of some convincing, look no further than our friend Gianni — 100 years young and still learning English with the enthusiasm of a teenager. He’s brushing up on his skills to better communicate with his great granddaughter and her English nanny.

Gianni

 

While you might not have the motivation to work on your career much past the age of 70, there are plenty of other things that can become more important. For one thing, retirees often have more time on their hands, making travel that little bit easier. And let’s not forget that learning a new language is a great way to keep your grey matter in good shape — it’s been shown that an additional language can delay the onset of cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s or dementia by up to five years.

The graph below gives us a sense of how our motivations for learning might change over a lifetime.

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Battle of the sexes

Do women simply love to gossip, no matter the language? Do men prefer to wrestle with the more technical aspects of grammar and syntax?

Afraid not. There’s not too much to report here — turns out, men and women really are pretty similar.

They’re both just about as confident as each other, they both have much the same reasons for learning (travel, self-improvement and mental fitness are the top three for each), and their routines are pretty similar (though it should be said that women seem to be a little more disciplined with their learning).

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While we do try to divide people into categories for the sake of analysis, real life isn’t always so simple. It’s important to note that some of our users (0.2%) choose not to identify as male or female at all and you won’t see their numbers in this section. They are included elsewhere, of course.

 

Final thoughts

Having taken a deep dive into some of the most interesting numbers we came across, I’ll leave you with a few highlights that we didn’t have space for. Something of an FAQ section, if you will.

What’s the most popular language on Babbel?

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What about the most popular language per country?

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Which languages do people learn to boost their career?

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And what about those that are just interested in the culture?

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Do learners in different countries have different motivations?

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Do users feel more confident about learning some languages?

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How can I learn a language with Babbel?

You can start right here.

Comments

Dear Babbel, I’m unable to capitalize letters from the keyboard that appears on my iPad, because of this I always get my sentences wrong because of this, so my question is how do I fix this? Thank You.

Hi Lucille, thanks for writing. If you’re still having problems, please email support@babbel.com and they’ll be able to help you out.

Hi Babbel, I took Spanish as a mental challenge to help keep my mind healthy, and because I have a family member that is Mexican. I like the way the course is structured and my only criticism is that the spoken audio examples are spoken too quickly. Mas despacio por favor! That is discouraging to beginners & as our skill progresses so will our speed. Practice audios for an IPOD would be very helpful for people that don’t have smart phones. That would allow practice in the car, shower, lawnmower, etc.. Thanks, Larry

Vielen dank Babbel,
What can I say more 🙂 I loved the way you make us to learn new language. I’m interest with German language, & I’m going well through it cuz of you. I have been in Germany before & I loved their culture & with their language I knew more & more.
Thx a ton guys 😉

Raja.J

I’m having the best holiday ever right now as I leave a reply here. I’m in Vienna and have gained so much from using Babbel. I’m middle aged, and thought I was a bit dumb and slow after two years of following the German course, but no, I find myself almost eavesdropping on conversations and read local papers, watch T.V and most importantly – communicate – albeit with shyness. Stick with it, persistance will bring results, believe me. Babbel, Sie sind toll, vielen dank!

I love Babbel. Iwas a French major in college and I’m keeping up my skills..Couple things, I wish Babbel had something like a backspace key so i could go back and check something I wasn’t sure off. And I wish you would improves the keyboard. It has no caps and no ways to put in accents, not to mention that it’s an American English keyboard, not French.

well.
your genius web site interduced me to German learning and I’m thankful for you for that. cause my passion is languages.
not to mention the GUI of Babbel is incredibly comfortable and easy and clear to use.

I payed Babbel for Italian courses, but I cant come through! So It was lost money past year, and energy I have put in to try to learn Italian through Babbel.

Hello Romana,

Thanks for your message! Please contact Babbel customer service directly at support@babbel.com for further assistance.

Why don’t you include Greece in your survey?

Using it everyday, learning seems slow, but am slow catching on, it’s been two weeks now and I do see improvement

Hi Babbel,
I am a raw beginner, and do not have an aptitude for language. I took Spanish to help me on a forthcoming trip to South America, and as a mental challenge. I am enjoying Babbel, but my only criticism is that the spoken audio examples are spoken too quickly. It maybe as it is said in real life, but to the learner it is too fast to comprehend the correct pronunciation, especially if it is a phrase with more than one word.

good idea to select and write these stories. Thank you very much

To Whom It May Concern:
I opened your web site. You asked if I was a beginner or advanced. I filled in your conversation pages. then you are giving me a beginners course? Please send this to:
Stephan Seyfarth. Also your site has NO info how to e mail a ? or mk. a comment to Cust Service?

Hi Sandy,

If you check the header of your Babbel.com dashboard, you’ll find “contact” under the “help” section. That’ll put you directly in touch with our customer service department. If you’d rather speak to them via email, you can use support@babbel.com.

Hope that helps!

Well, i never did get to the finish of Spanish- shame on me. One of the only things I know is Me avergüenza… maybe it wont work, but i hope you saw it

Incomparably outstanding,Babbel! I have been a senior high school Australian English teacher and upon retirement travelled and enrolled in an ESL course in the Philippines and taught there for a year. I am now married to an Balinese woman leaving lived in her village and all other places in Bali having visited them. It has only since discovering Babbel recently that my Bahasa has improved exponentially!!
Betters my ESL training in many ways! Great app!

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