Babbel’s Didactics team knows that language-learning is more than drilling vocab and grammar. It’s a swirl of elements, in which motivating factors do battle with challenges and discouragement — many of them having very little to do lessons or exercises. To better understand it all, and better tailor Babbel’s methodology to the details of the learning journey, the folks in Didactics have turned their colleagues into study subjects, putting them through 90-day language challenges. With one in the books, and another underway, we sat three participants down with Ben and Nicki -the challenge architects, who were participants, themselves- to discuss what they learned.
Samuel is the fresh-faced Editor and British-English ‘Besserwisser’ (know-it-all) on Babbel’s Didactics Team. In 20 years of continent hopping he has picked up an unhealthy smattering of French, German, Portuguese, Finnish, Czech, Croatian, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Scottish, Kiwi and American English (lol). Here he writes about his latest project, which combines metaphor, idiom and colloquial language with (crackpot) British humour. The first of Babbel’s gripping new English narrative courses keeps learners on the edge of their seats while they discover how to converse like an English-language native. Tune in to the situational comedy series “Fowlmouth Farm” – an immersive course for advanced learners, taught almost entirely in English.
Zach works on Babbel’s Communications team, where he facilitates the exchange of knowledge and insights between his colleagues and experts in various academic disciplines, including linguistics and economics. Among these initiatives is Babbel: Perspectives, a new lecture series in which invited guest speakers and Babbel employees take on challenging and controversial topics. Zach hosted the first edition of Babbel: Perspectives on January 24, 2018; the focus was Gender and Language. The event put Kate McCurdy, a computational linguistics engineer at Babbel, in dialogue with economists Eva Markowsky and Luise Görges.
Babbel’s newest English course teaches in-demand skills like rapping and surfer slang… entirely in English! The monolingual “How To” course for advanced learners is available now!
Chad has been an editor on the Didactics team at Babbel for over three years and is the resident expert for all things American English. Having lived abroad for nearly 20 years, he speaks a bit of Spanish, Thai, Khmer, and, most recently, German. Here he writes about his latest project, and the maxim “give the people what they want.”
Big innovations in machine-learning have made some unsettling headlines the last year, holding a mirror to our own persistent biases by adopting them. When it comes to gender stereotypes, there’s a double-jeopardy nestled in how machines learn languages. Babbel’s computational linguist, Kate McCurdy, has been looking at how algorithms conflate semantic and grammatical gender, what this could mean for any application of so-called Artificial Intelligence, and how we might think about correcting course.
So, how about we start by just breaking down your project?
So, I’m looking at grammatical gender in word embeddings. Word embeddings are a kind of natural language-processing technology that are used in a lot of things. The core of this is an algorithm that learns the meaning of a word based on words that appear around it. In the past few years, we’ve seen pretty major developments in this area. Lots of research is happening, and big companies like Facebook and Google are using these technologies. A couple of years ago, there was this new algorithm that allowed you to train a model quite quickly and get these representations of word meaning that seemed to be really impressive. So, you could just automatically let it loose on a corpus and it would learn, for example, that “dog” and “cat” and “animal” are all related, or that “apple” and “banana” are related, without anybody explicitly telling it to. This is quite powerful, and it’s being used in a lot of technological applications. But we’ve started to notice that there are some issues with it. (more…)
Babbel’s partnership with Cambridge English brings language assessment into the digital age
Ben, originally from the UK, is project manager for English in Babbel’s Didactics team, the language experts who create and optimise our courses. In the past, he’s trained and worked as an English teacher and assessor in both Germany and Spain, and he delights in learning more unusual languages as far afield from English as possible, including Swahili and Tongan. Here, he writes about how Babbel and Cambridge English, experts in language assessment, partnered to release the Babbel English Test…
Megan works in Babbel’s Public Relations team. Here, she looks at some of the complexities of filler and interjection words in a foreign language, and why immersion in real dialogue is essential to the language learning journey.
Some of English’s smallest words are currently making the largest headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. While Radio 4 listeners are up in arms over the overuse of ‘so’ on UK live radio and America waits in anticipation for the book release of the proclaimed University of Sydney linguist, Nick Enfield, “How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conservation”, Babbel takes a closer look at the little words that are captivating our attention.
Filler and interjection words are almost always absent from traditional language curriculums, and yet they’re crucial in every language. Knowing when to use ‘umm’, ‘er’, and ‘yippee’ – each carrying different shades of meaning – bridges the gap between bumbling tourist and cunning linguist.
Megan joined the Public Relations team this summer. Here, she looks back at some Halloween traditions from her childhood in rural Somerset, England, and some she has gathered from her international colleagues at Babbel.
‘‘Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen. Voices and whispers in the trees, Tonight tis’ Halloween’’.
Ghouls and witches, bats and black cats, tricks, treats and pumpkins, it’s the season of Halloween. Originating from the ancient Celtic Festival, Samhain – SOW-i, (possibly as far back as 3350 – 2800 BCE), ‘Hallow’s Eve’ is inherently a Festival of the Dead. On the night of October 31, the Celts believed that the dead would return to Earth. For thousands of years since, townspeople have gathered to light bonfires, perform rituals, and feast, in hope of appeasing evil spirits and protecting their families through the winter.
Christina (second from right) has worked in the Didactics department at Babbel for three years, where she leads a team of language learning experts. Together they produce and coordinate the concepts and contents for different courses and work on new ideas for the Babbel app. She recently gave a presentation to students about career possibilities for linguists and language teachers. We took the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Elin, originally from Sweden, is the project manager for Swedish in Babbel’s Didactics team – the language experts who create and optimize our lessons. As a passionate polyglot (well, trilingual) herself, she delights in unravelling and understanding the intricacies behind language learning. Here, she writes about using a blended learning approach to teaching her native language to her fellow Babbelonians.