The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Meet Dave Bottomley: A father who learnt a language for his son

Posted on May 9, 2018 by

Stew & Dad.JPG




Megan, originally from the UK and working in Babbel’s PR team, chats with fellow Brit and Babbel user, Dave Bottomley.  Dave is 66, lives in Chepstow, and is a former taxi-business owner. In October 2017, Dave gave a “father-of-the-groom” speech before a sea of Spanish wedding guests. Only 24 months before, Dave could not speak a word of Spanish. Read on to discover his story.



The story begins in September 2015. As Dave was peacefully enjoying the start of retirement, his son, Stewart, fell in love with a beautiful Spanish woman, Atenea. A few months later, Dave and his wife, Carol, visited Atenea’s family in Alcaudete, Spain. Unable to speak Spanish, with Atenea’s family unable to speak English, and a frustrated Atenea frantically translating between, Dave decided it was time to learn a second language. Little was Dave to know that his new Spanish skills would soon be put to the test.


Dave and Carol started evening classes at a local leisure centre once a-week. They quickly found, however, that once a week was not enough to improve. Instead, they started using Babbel so that they would be able to learn everyday, completing lessons on the app in the morning and testing each other later over a cup of tea. The combination of convenient mobile learning and cheerful prompts from the app meant it was easy to fit language learning into his daily routine and keep motivated.


Just as Dave felt he was beginning to grasp the basics of Spanish – ordering food, asking for directions… Stewart and Atenea announced they were getting married… in Spain. This meant Dave would give a “father-of-the-groom” speech in front of a sea of Spanish wedding guests. A bundle of nerves, excitement and pride, Dave was determined to give his speech in Spanish. In October 2017, a feat that would have seemed an impossible a year before, became reality. Under the warm Spanish summer sun, Dave looked into a sea of expectant faces. Despite meticulous practise and months of hard work, Dave’s once-fluent speech transformed into Scrabble letters. Unable to recall any words or phrases, he began to panic. He fixed his eyes on his son, and flooded with pride, Spanish began to flow.


What Dave did not realise was that by consistently studying a little Spanish each day, he had built an extensive subconscious dictionary of vocabulary. A proud and emotional moment on many levels, Dave saw his dedication and invested time come to fruition that afternoon. Even more encouraging were later comments from guests, congratulating him on his fluency.


After the wedding, Dave and Carol set out on a road trip around Spain. Both were eager to use their Spanish skills to meet new people and explore the culture. “I found the Spanish people very friendly once I tried to make conversation. Although I could not construct complex sentences I could make myself understood, and I understood what was said back to me”, explains Dave.


Small words speak volumes. Learning to speak another language is a powerful way to show people that you care. It creates a deep connection between people and opens the door to truly get to know a culture. A recent study of Babbel Users revealed that over 80% of British users believe speaking another language helps them to meet new people and explore new places. Learning a new language is a challenge. Looking back on his journey, Dave would advise anyone wanting to learn a language to do so in bite-size sessions, set realistic goals, and find people to practice with. Spanish gives Dave a purpose to stay positive and look forward to adventurous road trips and nurturing a new family tree.


“I am very pleased to be learning another language even if sometimes it can be a little frustrating. I would recommend anybody learn a different language especially as one gets older. It is a great way to keep the brain working.”