language learning in the digital age
Planning a trip to France this year? A little French will go a long way, of course, but don’t forget to brush up on the culture before you leave. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of our favorite Frenchies to put together a handy list of unforgivable faux pas. Make sure to pay close attention: all but the most dedicated of francophiles may be blissfully unaware of some of these.
Summer is upon us, and there’s no better way to spend a hot afternoon in the office than daydreaming about where we’d rather be. There’s no time for that here at Babbel HQ of course, so we decided to ask our users which city destinations have got them staring into space this year. More than 3,000 of you responded, and we’re pleased to announce that we’ve counted the votes, crunched the numbers, and determined your number one…
Spain’s appeal is obvious – the sun, the sea and the sangria spring instantly to mind. Less clear, perhaps, is how to go about making the best of it all while staying on the good side of the locals. We can’t promise to keep you out of trouble on la playa this summer, but we do have a few pointers.
…by the third word you already know what we’re talking about: Brazil!
With those powdered-sugar-sand beaches it is one of the dream destinations of our planet. But given its sheer size, it’s hard to think that it can be characterized in just these three words alone. Between the Amazon and the wetlands in the north to the Alps-like mountainous region in the south, there’s much more to discover in Brazil than just Samba or the Copacabana.
It’s not surprising that, for example, with the Cataratas do Iguaçu, this land of superlatives hosts one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. In the vicinity of this gigantic national phenomenon, there is another, smaller wonder to be found: Cheeky quatís (coatis) who scamper around the national park and swipe away chips and other morsels from right under tourists’ noses.
No matter why you decide on a trip through Brazil, one of the nicest parts of traveling there is coming in contact with the locals. Brazilians are very open. It’s enough just to break out with a “Oi, tudo bem” (Hey, what’s up?) to get a conversation going. But in hopes that your successfully-begun conversations don’t all have to start with your hands and feet (because you don’t have the words yet), we’ve created a “Portuguese for Holidays” course – twelve lessons that deal with the most essential communication basics for your trip to Brazil. Language training in easily digestible bites gets you fit for all relevant situations, such as Orientation, Shopping or Reservations. You’ll also get tips on how to order in a restaurant along with culinary terms such as “feijoada” or “água de coco” (coconut milk). You’ll see how quickly these basics grow into a wider vocabulary once you’re on the ground. As the saying goes, he who orders “Uma cerveija, por favor,” can also get “Mais uma!” That is, he who orders one beer should also be able to order another!
Frauke is a content project manager specializing in Spanish and Portuguese. She spent her last big holiday in Brazil, and traveled to Ilha Grande, Rio and Iguaçu, among others. In the new “Portuguese for Holidays,” you can look forward to lots of other tips about the culture and language.
Go to the “Portuguese for Holidays“ course:
Following on the tails of “Learn German: Beginner’s Course 1” there’s now “Learn Spanish: Beginner’s Course 1,” the Spanish iBook for iPad. If you’re curious, we roughly described what an eBook actually is and its (interactive) possibilities here.
Dedicated Babbel users who already study with the online courses and have the iPhone/iPad or Android app might wonder: Why yet another way to learn (that’ll cost extra)?
Fact is, with this electronic text book, the Babbel editorial team has cooked up yet another, uniquely entertaining and effective way to learn. In the introduction of the book “complementary learning” is mentioned, and it’s true: The Babbel eBook brings the online courses’ rigorousness of content together with the convenient on-the-go nature of the apps. It uses known Babbel content—which from a didactic point of view is of course totally “Babbel”—but it’s not quite the same. Like a classic, bound textbook (that many of our users secretly or openly are jonesing for) the comprehensive 77-page eBook is put together in a linear fashion, divided into five lessons with subchapters.
The Babbel eBook is more closely packed in with material than the online courses. New vocabulary and phrases are introduced with audio dialogues and so-called “Keywords” are linked to the glossary and quizzed with “study cards” – good old-fashioned flashcards on digital index cards – right at the end. Users can even create their own flashcards with the “highlight” feature.
Grammar directly follows the beginning dialogue and – thanks to the practical explanations – never comes off as dry. But whether it’s about grammar or vocabulary, the spirited commentaries on language application, meaning and local use (in Spain or Latin America, accordingly) and the immediate quizzing of what’s just been learned that make for a positive learning experience. Charts visualize language structure while “slide shows” at the end of the lesson showcase local cultures.
How do I greet people in Spain? What kind of public transportation possibilities await me in Chile? What’s up in Bolivia? How do they celebrate birthdays in Mexico? And what’s the Day of the Dead all about? The Babbel eBook answers all these and many more questions in an appealing way.
All in all we’re feeling pretty good about our product. We think that anyone picking up the book in the iBookstore for the introductory price of 6.99 Euros is making a very sensible investment.
Native English speakers who live in or are planning to travel to the Spanish-speaking world and would like to immerse themselves in these regions, this textbook is highly recommended as the key to opening the door to their language and culture! We wish you all muchísima suerte with Spanish!
Summer is somehow always smack in the middle of our daydreams. Even as a (school)child, everyone longs feverishly for summer vacation. Who wants to sit and study in a classroom when swimming pools, lakes, long days and balmy nights beckon outside?
There’s less going on at Babbel, too, when it gets really hot out… the users have what we call in Germany hitzefrei, a hotday—the summer equivalent of a snowday. We get it. Sometimes on those kinds of days in our Berlin office we wipe the sweat from our collective brow and envision a cold beer, a real Italian gelato or a swim in the Atlantic. But summer is an important time for Babbel, too. At least in our latitudes, this is peak travel season. In other words, this is the moment when Babbel learners finally put their eagerly acquired language skills to the test.
Italians are some of the first to get the summer started. They already began their holiday on the 9th of June, around the same time as the soccer European Championship in Poland and the Ukraine. Schoolchildren in Poland, on the other hand, don’t begin their vacation until the 30th of June. Same with the British, who’ll have plenty of time before the Olympic Games are held in London from July 27th to August 12th.
Swedish kids get off in the middle of June, and no one celebrates summer and the beginning of vacation quite like our Scandanavian neighbors: from June 22nd to 24th, the Swedish Midsummer is exuberantly feted with music, dancing, tons of food and drink and traditional, magic rituals. Nothing else quite like it
Whether it’s midsummer in Sweden, a beach holiday in Brazil, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands or Turkey, whether surfing in Indonesia, watching soccer in Poland or at the Olympics in London—it comes out not just how well Babbel users learned this year but also how well we’ve done our job. How do our travel language courses hold up? How do soccer fans make out in Poland with the basics offered through our “European Championship 2012” course?
There are apparently people for whom the European Championship and even soccer leaves them cold. But for a lot of us, the tournament is some consolation for when we can’t travel away from home, for whatever reason. At least all of Europe is dribbling through our living rooms.
In any case a “staycation“ isn’t the worst thing that could happen. What’s nicer than one’s own city in the summer? We can go to the pool and have an ice cream afterwards. And then we’ll do just… nothing.
Have a great summer holiday!