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language learning in the digital age

Plans, types and styles, oh my! Results from our learning behavior survey

Posted on September 26, 2011 by

Survey Results
The results are finally in from the survey inspired by Anne’s Learning
. 1774 people – speakers of English, German, Spanish, French
and Italian – have participated. To tell you the truth, the feedback was
overwhelming: free comments alone added up to over one hundred pages.

We read every last one of them, we sorted them, we evaluated them.
Here we assemble our first conclusions for you. They considerably
rattle the idea, or shall we say, myth, of “learning styles”.

General agreement with the Learning Tips was high, over 75%. But there
were two particular tips on which opinions where clearly split:

1) Set a plan and don’t stick to it
2) Your style of learning keeps changing

Only 57% agreed with these tips. 24% weren’t sure. 18% wouldn’t
recommend them to others.

1 Learn with a plan

Set a plan and don't stick to it. Survey results.

18% of participants make a plan and stick to it.

Plan at least how often a week you will take up your study, and stick to that, even if you only rehearse some vocabulary

29% are concerned about getting muddled if they diverge from a plan

I’m afraid that without following a plan I could become disorganized

35% have a plan that they don’t stick to

I set a plan but usually by the end of week one it is in disarray…..panic at work or distractions at home etc

Sticking to the wrong, but well intended plan hinders. Be flexible and open.

16% don’t need a plan

I think it’s important to just keep at it. You don’t need a plan for that… just dedication!

2 Learning styles

Your style of learning keeps changing. Comments
47% could never fit into any one type

My teacher has tried to work out my learning style too…I don’t seem to be any, I change!

We all have different learning skills and tolerances – we have to hone to our needs.

33% never thought about it

I thought learning types were fixed—but if that’s not the case, even better. I’d like to learn more about that.

18% think there are set learning styles

Actually, I believe that for a person one learning style dominates, even when all of them are there.

31% of those who think that there are set learning styles, invented their own terms for their particular “style”:

Chaotic learning style

Set aside the time every day to work on a task, do not miss.

Out of all survey participants, only 5% considered themselves to have a
specifically visual, auditory, or sensory learning style:

I’m a visual learner.

We consulted Curtis J. Bonk, Professor of Instructional Systems
Technology at Indiana University and author of the book, “The World Is
Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education” about the idea
of learning styles. He thinks that although there are learning style
models for environments such as classrooms, the online world offers a
whole new way of learning.

“People have different learning situations, styles, benefits and
opportunities. The options available in online environments can make
learning formats even more diverse. With this in mind, successful
learning should be a result of interacting with content in an
individually preferred way. Some learn better by speaking the language
while others learn with the help of visual exercises. The more diverse
and fun the learning options and products, the better the success
rate,” Prof Bonk says.

There is no such thing as a specific “style”

Everyone has their own various ways of learning

Everyone has their own particular way of learning. We all have our own
strengths, weaknesses, methods and tricks. Thanks to everyone who
participated for all your comments and suggestions! We learned a lot
and we’re going to share what we learned. Promise!

I listen to how the others do it. That gives me new ideas.

Read this post in German (Deutsch), Spanish (Español), French (Français), Italian (Italiano)


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[…] few different approaches before you figure out which approach works the most wonderfully for you. ?There are tons of options for learning a new language. There isn't a single method that is better or…hers. The style that works for you will be determined by how you learn and how open you are toward […]

Learning types do exist, but it’s true that it’s not a fixed system in time and it also is always mixed within one person. But most learners study without being aware of this issue, or a lot of other issues as well, so I wouldn’t attach a lot of importance to these results. Simply asking people for their opinion is not linguistic research. However,I’m sure that emotional involvement is among the most important factors, if not THE most important, and that doesn’t only mean fun. I never study through fun myself, but when I studied just for survival for myself and my young son, I miraculously managed to remember everything in 3 hours that I couldn’t for half a year (during my half year in China). The other major factor is the will to learn. Most schoolkids just don’t want to study, end of story, although the will is also not enough in itself. Real motivation rules.

i want to make efforts to perfect my english

I am learning the Spanish but unfortunately I can’t manage the particular as my employer doesn’t give me access to his computer. However I would like to have Spanish/Swahili dictionary.

I am just starting on the course but spend a lot of time in Madrid where I am intending to live soon. I have picked up a lot of words and phrases by just being there, but find it hard if I need to ask for help in a store or subway. I’m hoping this course will help me progress as I am moving there in January, hate feeling stupid when I can’t understand and feel people always help you more if you try. Thank god for my phone translator in many emergency situations and also helps me remember words I’ve had to look up for future times, as has all the history to look back over. Any helpful tips will be very much appreciated. Also any English speaking people living in Madrid who want learn with me when I get out there please contact me. Many thanks, Lorraine x

I like the language program a lot.I’m learning French at a pace that works for me.

One has to set a plan and abide with it, It can’t be fogotten or misused or even put off for a few days or so it has to be a commitment and you have to fulfill it No two ways about it

Frances, please tell us about the easy Italian books to read.

Hi Keith
before I ever started going to French classes I bought a book which was intended for children.I learned the names of all the simple eveyday objects….window.door, bird, tree etc,then I learned to put them together in sentences by going to French classes and learning to use my Grammer book,
best wishes….Helen

I will be 89 years in 2012 and will be acquiring a cochlear implant for one ear. I am looking forward to continuing my learning German as a second language.
I have been given requests to attempt Modern and biblical Hebrew from Israeli sources. First I must HEAR.

Hello, i found out that learning german next to Dutch is very deferent. The German grammer is very difficult and i agree to read more about the grammer rather than study from any book you see.I have learned four other languages through being in school and afterwards going shopping to practise what i just learnt. This really is the key to a sucessful learning of a new language.
Dont give up.

Languages i speak,
Bemba, Zambian language,
English, British english
Dutch from the Netherlands
Manderine, chinese and
trying my German now which i find very interesting.

Good luck everyone !!

Any way I like this site very much.
It is the best site for learning Foreign languages.
Thank you a lot

Very good survey and results that come out.

hello everyone,

There are in fact books for beginners. I have found them in large book stores, at the language section. In my case I’m learning German and I have one from cornelsen for A2-B1 and another from Hueber for B1.
Although they are a good help, I find more interesting reading a magazine of something that I like because it allows me to associate new words with familiar topics. Also to improve hearing skills I watch movies dubbed in the language that I want to learn. Cartons are the best, specially in made for a young audience.. Here at Babel a few clips and exercises would be welcome. cheers!

My problem is trying to fit study time into an extremely busy schedule. When I can find the time to study, I’m so tired that I can’t concentrate.

[…] learning startup babbel recently published a study with findings on how some of their users learn. 1774 learners participated in the survey which took […]

Today I had a confusing French lesson in telephone dialogues. The teacher didn’t really prepare the social context – who was speaking to begin with. It was actually TOO much like a real-life situation for me – confusion! I wasn’t sure of what to listen for. At my level, I need to have simple questions – who was speaking, who was listening, who called, who answered. But the problem is there is such a wide range of abilities in the class. It might be better to do the whole activity on one’s own, with questions set by oneself. My point is that learning styles aren’t relevant unless there are clear goals for the lesson.

I found cómic books like Astrix to be a great way to pick up vocabulary. At first i read only the bubbles and then the narration as well. There aré a number of more adult cómics that t would have no interest in reading in English but are great lenguage tools. Also put on a movie and always use subtitels if available. Better yet see if ir has been dubbed and use that as an easy learning tool for dailog. Just a couple of ideas that have helped me.

As all have their way of thnking it is true you learn best where the language is spoken, but at the same time their is lots of pressure from the such a setting since not all understand why you are there and yet you know not their language. We can surely agree that when learning qa langauge one needs the basic tools to enable him or her to express there feelings and communicate.

listening,reading & writing and most of all it is so very important to practice speaking to really accomplish the command of any language, the more one converses,reads,writes,and listens the better one gets at it. It is to me like “A balanced diet.” Childcare’s books are often good to start with. I was visiting some Spanish friends in Sevilla and a little grand son told me in Spanish you don’t know how to say “Sevilla.” So I asked him to teach me how to say it. After repeating with him several times, he suddenly smiled and now you can say it. Others went quiet and when Little Fernando smiled I everyone just applauded.

Foreign newspaper on line. Read first in the foreign language, then press the translate button to see how well you did.

Try a cookery book! Lots of new vocab there, and if you translate it properly a delicious meal to boot!

Don’t like cooking? Try a manual on something which is of interest.

You seem to be sayng you want to read rather than have a conversation. Sorry, but I can’t see the point in learning a language if you don’t want to communicate!

I have not been successful in signing in to contiue my course please contact me

Hi David,

Please write to in order to contact our support. They will help you quick if you tell them exactly what the problem ist.

Thank you!

I learn best by meeting real Spanish/French people and having a chat in a natural way. This gives me the incentive to learn more so that I seem like less of an idiot next time.

it is absolutely necessary to be fresh and have a high energy level. To set a daily time to study is impossible; most unproductive.

i would like reading stories for age 5,6,7

Surely as many learners as many ways of learning and test result is simple speaking it easily and automatically so the issue is how to reach it with less time and efforts.

It may be true that there are no such things as Learning Styles/Types; but, I think, the question should be asked the other way round – are there different teaching styles? A teacher, whether it is a person or a piece of software, that uses the three ‘channels’ to convey learning material will obviate the ‘boring’ problem. How many times have we had to sit through lessons or lectures delivered in the same way every time? Eventually one zones out and one becomes more bored/infuriated with the style rather than the content. I personally find, as a teacher, that even explaining a single concept with at least two of the channels will provide a better learning experience than always using the same method. As a by-product, it also challenges us to become better teachers.

Just a thought.

Hey Anthony. I generally agree. How often I wished my teachers were more creative and keen of experimenting with different teaching styles. On the other hand I experienced during my school years how teachers simply show a movie instead of really discussing a topic. My French teacher for instance used to play taped dialoges more than often and that really didn’t help my writing because I never learned how to write the parts you can’t here, that are not pronounced in French. What I’m trying to say is that the use of different ‘channels’ should never end up in plain activism. I wish my teachers would have known how to combine the channels properly, instead they wasted their potential most of the time.

That’s really my personal thought.


That’s a great learning technique you name here and I agree it is hard to find material that is actually interesting to read AND easy to understand. Almost sounds like a niche market to me 🙂
And I understand what you say about the boring repitition and standard formats. Here at Babbel we suggest a certain learning pattern, indeed. Something like vocables – phrases – grammar – more vocables. But you are always free and welcome to jump right into the – let’s say tongue twisters lesson if you’d like.

The best way 2 learn anything IS 2 get right in the middle of it. Live in the place of the language that you want to speak or create a space that makes a world of this kind…i.e. make play dates with a group of people that only speak french. Where there is a will there IS A WAY *_*

Hi Keith.

I don’t know which language you are learning but I am
Studying Italian and I have found some very easy readers
On Amazon and also recommended some from
My tutor. I imagine you should be able to find some
In all languages.
If it’s Italian I can send you the titles



I could not agree more with the above comment made by Keith. I know the boring repetition stuff is important but I feel if one could have something that was not to hard to grasp whilst keeping ones interest level high, it would make the boring repetition stuff easier to go back to and practice.

I agree. If you find a source please pass it along. I’ve even tried the childen’s section at the public library. Chicken Little just does not make it.

I am going through Babbel’s French. I find a few errors (some lessons are repeated, one or two wrong translations etc, etc. I have given several feedbacks on this to Babbel. Imagine you learning the wrong vocab? No excuses by Babbel should be given. It must be 100 percent up to the mark. Babbel should review the lessons properly before putting it out for sale. I am very disappointed with its lessons.

Hi winvad,

We absolutely agree and we always do our best to ensure that our learning material is 100 % correct. While writing and building courses for languages like French or Spanish, we often experience that our editors and native speaking authors argue a lot about the spelling and meaning of single words and phrases. Please give us more detail on where you think that we need to revise a lesson and we will change it immediately!

Please write to

Thank you very much!

The Babbel Team

setting a plan works for me initially but i find the
simpler it is the better. helps me stay the course.

I think that learning by reading simple stories is the best way. BUT, where do we find stories at reading age 5,6,7. I need an adult story at a childs reading age. I need to listen to it, read it and to speak it. My problem is repetition is very boring and thus easy to forget. Learning a language is hard and what makes it worse is that most of the language training has a standard format that is based around counting or money or time or making an order in a cafe or asking directions, boring, boring, boring and this boring subject is part of the problem. I want to have a real conversation, no I dont, I want to read something that is not to hard to grasp whilst keeping my interest level high. I need lots of this material. Where can I find it?

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