The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

New Vocab Package “Politics and Voting” in time for EU Elections

Posted on May 28, 2009 by


Though we at Babbel are of course internationally minded and outward-looking, we can’t deny that we’re based in Europe — in Berlin, to be exact. The languages we teach — English, French, Spanish, German and Italian — are largely represented in Europe, and among our over 300,000 users, there are more than a few Europeans too. So we thought it would be a good idea to get you in the Babbel community prepared for next week’s European Parliament elections with a special vocabulary package. Called “Politics and Voting,” it will teach you all the important phrases and terms to debate and make a choice about the European Union’s future….  whether you’re in a position to vote or you just want to persuade your European tandem partner!

Since 2002, the European Union has been officially urging every student in the continent to start learning a foreign language as early as possible. They’ve pursued a number of projects with the goal of extending the benefits of lifelong foreign language learning to every European citizen, improving the quality of language education, and achieving a language-friendly environment for all. Sounds a bit like, right? Read our press release here.

A few words about Obama’s language

Posted on January 24, 2009 by

Obama is a language master, not many would disagree. Even at the inauguration, when renowned grammatical stickler Chief Justice John Roberts spontaneously corrected a split-infinitive in a fixed constitutional text when swearing him in, Obama righted the snafu in the act not just for legal accuracy, but for flow.

The speech that followed was rather spare, at least in comparison to the soaring rhetoric to which his campaign followers had become accustomed. Some interpreted it as taking inordinate amounts of slings at the departing administration, while others saw the simple prose, calling for responsibility, duty, service and sacrifice as a nod to, or a “reclaiming” of (an even Reagan-esque) right-wing type of talk.

Liebe Deutsche, liebes Denglish: Germany named love destination for “expats”

Posted on December 18, 2008 by

Reuters Africa picked up on a little tidbit from a dubiously scientific survey by HSBC International Bank on the “expatriate experience abroad”: Apparently Germany is the number one country in the world for expats to find “love”, with a quarter (24%) of expats located in Germany marrying a local. Germany also came out as the spot where most expatriates (75%, according to the survey) “learned” the language of the host country.

Now, I say dubiously scientific here because I’ve always been suspicious of this whole “expatriate” idea. Not to mention its cutesy shortened form, “expat”. What makes an expat an expat, rather than an immigrant (or shall we say, to make it equallly cute, an “immy”)? HSBC did not set out to define, among the 2,155 persons they surveyed, what an “expatriate” was other than “an individual who relocates to another country”.

Voting from Spanish to Yup’ik: Rights for language minorities in the US presidential elections

Posted on October 27, 2008 by

Bryan Sells, an attorney with the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spoke to Babbel Blog about the legal provisions made to facilitate voting for non- or limited- English speakers in United States, especially in light of the upcoming US presidential election .

Click here to hear the interview with Bryan Sells. Right click to download mp3

Babbel Blog: Briefly, what does the Voting Rights Project do?

Bryan Sells: We protect voting rights on a non-partisan basis. Our mission as part of the ACLU is to fight for the principles embodied in our nation’s constitution and civil rights laws. A lot of what that means on the day to day, is protecting minority voting rights, working to improve the election system.

We have the election coming up on November 4th. A lot of registered voters in the United States do not speak English as a first language or not at all. Do you have a rough idea of how many voters we’re talking about, and what provisions are there in the law for non-English speakers?

I don’t have any good data on how many people use or need language assistance. But it is a federal law that applies everywhere in the country, that if you need language assistance, or assistance of any kind because you can’t read the ballot because of literacy issues or language issues, or if you’ve got a physical disability, you have the right to bring someone with you to interpret or translate, and help you in casting a vote. That applies everywhere.

No judgements: Global Language Monitor tracks political buzzwords, filters through Obamarama and surges out of the quagmire

Posted on October 21, 2008 by

After posting last week about the CNN story proclaiming that Sarah Palin spoke at a higher grade level than Joe Biden, I was curious about the organization that made this assessment, and what they thought it meant. Now that curiosity has brought Babbel Blog together with Paul JJ Payack of Global Language Monitor to speak about political buzzwords — from “quagmire” to Obamarama — and, well, everything in the dictionary. Click here to listen to the interview with Paul JJ Payack. Right click to download mp3.

Babbel Blog: What does Global Language Monitor do?

Paul JJ Payack: Basically what we do is monitor global English and its impact upon various areas of culture.

What exactly is “global English”? How does that differ from American English or British English?

Five years ago we thought that it was an interesting idea to monitor the growth of the English language. We started with, I was the founding president of, and it’s the largest multilingual site on the planet, with about 300 different languages, 30 million pageviews a month. What we decided was that it would be interesting to focus on English. What was happening with English was, in 1960 there were 250 million speakers of English. In 2008 there are 1.35 billion speakers of English. (more…)

Palin(drome) goes back and forth

Posted on October 6, 2008 by

According to a mysterious “language monitoring service” cited by CNN, Sarah Palin , the American Republican vice presidential candidate, spoke at a tenth grade level (due to her astute use of “passive deflections”) at last week’s debate, while her Democratic counterpart Joe Biden managed only to graduate from the 8th. The analysis however championed form over content: the web is abuzz with lamentations on the distance between the sign and the signified in Palin’s spoken word. Palin’s particular brand of talk has come to be know as “Palindrome“, on par with the “Bushism” or “Dubyaspeak“. The blogosphere has particularly glommed onto her use of the term “maverick”, which she used at least six times in the televised debate, sparking discontent among the Mavericks of Texas themselves, who have come out in the New York Times to defend the word’s etymology and wrest it back from the frontwards-backwards nature of the Palindrome.