Building bridges with languages – a volunteer's experience with Babbel
There is no denying that these are challenging times. While there are incredible advances being made in local communities everyday – from improved healthcare, to more accessible education — social issues still impede the progress of countless communities around the world. The incredible thing is that we each have the ability to support progress toward a more sustainable global community. Some commit their time and efforts to projects on the ground, while others support social activism through advocacy. Babbel is proud to have been able to lend our support by giving the gift of language; for over a year, Babbel has given away language courses to the CCS volunteers.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” – Nelson Mandela
Connecting across cultures is no easy task and to be truly accepted into a new community is a process that takes patience and time. Learning how to communicate in the local language, even if you’ve just got the basics, is an incredible tool for any intrepid international volunteer who’s looking to genuinely engage with local people.
For Megan, the Brazilian Portuguese Babbel courses were an invaluable resource as she prepared for her CCS experience in Brazil. The level of communication that she was able to reach with Babbel helped her connect with her Brazilian coworkers, made conversations more meaningful and as a result, she felt that her work had added impact.
“I love that you can start with the beginner level, and work through levels linearly, if that’s how you learn best.”
“I also love the topic-based courses. For example, many of my volunteers don’t have much time, and instead can focus on the ‘travel’ course to teach them targeted phrases to prepare them for travelling to Brazil.”
The Babbel system offers an efficient and fun overview of a language, while simultaneously teaching grammar and useful phrases. Some students of the program start at a level at which they’re already comfortable and simply use the program to refresh skills, while others choose start from the beginning.
Preparations for an international volunteering experience can be a bit of whirlwind. The excitement of the upcoming experience, combined with tying up loose ends at work or school, and packing can leave little time for learning the basics of the local language. With Babbel, it’s easy to get ahead by dedicating just a bit of time each day. Megan learned most of what she brought with her to Brazil during her lunch breaks at work.
The Babbel system is designed for the user to learn whenever is convenient. There are no timetables and deadlines. Babbel works with a set of courses that can be approached in a linear or thematic way. The classical approach to language learning — grammar, grammar, and more grammar — would put far too great of a burden on the busy schedule of a learner for them to achieve a worthwhile standard of parlance in a short time. Likewise a ‘phrasebook’ approach is not always enough.
So for Megan, day-to-day activities, like ordering food and drinks, negotiating cab fares, and getting around town were made much easier thanks to the language skills that she gained with Babbel. Above all, her knowledge of Portuguese enabled her to make a lasting connection with her new neighbors in Salvador, as well as the staff and beneficiaries at the local organization that she worked to support.
Last year, Babbel offered all volunteers of the Cross-Cultural Solutions — CCS –, a nonprofit organization specializing in culturally immersive international volunteer experiences, a chance to try out its online language course free of charge. By utilizing the Babbel program to learn a new language, volunteers were able to better communicate with local people during their international experience.
Babbel talked with Megan Heise, a Cross-Cultural Solutions Program Site Specialist for Brazil and Ghana, who’s volunteered with CCS in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ghana herself. Megan used Babbel to learn Brazilian Portuguese prior to her international volunteer experience with CCS in Salvador, Brazil.