The Babbel Blog

Learning and language

How To Do Just About Anything… In English!

Posted on January 18, 2018 by

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

(more…)

Automating Bias: When Machines Learn Gender

Posted on January 11, 2018 by

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…)

How Babbel Built an Online English Test

Posted on December 21, 2017 by

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…

 

 

 

(more…)

“Fillers and Interjections” – Stepping Stones to Fluency

Posted on November 16, 2017 by

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.

 

(more…)

Ghoulish Ghosts’ Global Guises: Festivals of the Dead around the World

Posted on October 26, 2017 by

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’’.

Dexter Kozen

 

 

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.

(more…)

How do you join Babbel’s language learning experts?

Posted on August 9, 2017 by

language learning expert at Babbel

 

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.

 

(more…)

Teaching Swedish at Babbel, with Babbel

Posted on August 1, 2017 by

 

 

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.

 

 

(more…)

Learn a Language on Your Own, Like Babbel’s Language Experts

Posted on July 4, 2017 by

Sara and Fidi are language learning experts in the Didactics team at Babbel. Here they share some thoughts on how to select the best language learning methods and tools from the sea of available options. Immerse yourself in learning languages from the comfort of your sofa or when you’re on the go. You’ll discover how the team at Babbel fits learning into their free time, seamlessly. Staying true to the philosophy “The main thing is that it’s fun!”, even a karaoke bar offers opportunities to improve one’s skills…

 

(more…)

Portrait: Travel to 100 countries and learn ten languages in only ten years – Was Stephan able to make his dream come true?

Posted on January 16, 2017 by

Lenin

New from our series of Babbel Portraits: here, our users introduce themselves and their experiences learning a language. If you would like to share your experiences with us, then please leave a comment below.

After his studies in business administration, at the age of 24, Stephan from Germany had a crazy idea: Within the next ten years he wanted to travel to 100 different countries and learn a total of ten languages. Just after his 35th birthday he told us whether he was able to make his dream come true.

(more…)

Portrait: The saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, … has been proven wrong.”

Posted on December 5, 2016 by

Hans

New from our series of Babbel Portraits: here, our users introduce themselves and their experiences learning a language. If you would like to share your experiences with us, then please leave a comment below.

 

“My wife died in 2009 after 35 years of marriage. She spoke fluent French and Italian, and I always felt stupid and speechless standing next to her when she was chatting away. On my many trips abroad, I had always been able to communicate very well in English. As I never managed to learn other languages in the time I shared with my wife, I thought that I could best confront feelings of sadness and injured vanity by beginning to learn French and Italian intensively with Babbel. Perhaps it is a little too late to start learning at the age of 67, but the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has been proven wrong.”

(more…)