Just how many people does it take to create a range of award-winning language courses? At Babbel, we have a team of over 100 linguists and language experts working together on one floor of our Berlin office. It’s probably one of the most multilingual places on Earth. Sitting beside an Italian who speaks Russian, French, German, English and Finnish is a German who speaks Spanish, Portuguese and English. And they’re all learning other languages, of course.
Aside from seeing just how many polyglots Babbel can fit in one room, there is a more serious aim to this: to tailor outstanding language courses that get you speaking your new language as quickly as possible — so quickly, in fact, that a recent study showed that even beginners just starting out in a new language only need an average of 15 hours of study over a two-month period to cover the requirements for one college semester. So how do they do this? Let’s take a look.
1. Our language experts tailor courses for your native language
The Babbel app is available in eight languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and Swedish. From these eight languages, you can choose to learn any one of 13 languages. That makes for over 90 language combinations, and Babbel needs to be able to accommodate for all of them. Why? Let’s take a simple example. As an English speaker learning German, you won’t need as much help translating the verbs bringen and singen as the average Russian speaker, whose verbs принести (prinesti) and петь (pet’) bear no resemblance to their German counterparts.
Every Babbel course is developed with your native language at the very forefront of the developer’s mind. We know you’ve already learned at least one language successfully — your native language — so we build on the grammatical concepts that you’ve already mastered and gently introduce the new ones.
2. They design courses to get you speaking as soon as possible
You all probably know the Eddie Izzard sketch where he effortlessly recites phrases from his school days: “The mouse is under the table and the monkey is on the branch.” Like most good comedy, it’s funny because it’s true. Generations of language learners can sympathize with the unfortunate predicament of being able to successfully construct semi-functional sentences (if you’re in a French zoo), but still struggle to complete basic daily tasks such as buying a bottle of water in a shop.
At Babbel, we believe that keeping oneself hydrated is more important than discerning the location of monkeys, so we avoid drilling abstract grammar and vocabulary, and focus on real-life dialogue. After the first course you’ll be able to introduce yourself, talk about where you’re from, how you’re doing, how you got to wherever you are, and — most importantly — say what you’d like to drink. In fact, if you’re bored of reading English, you can get started in your language of choice here. Select Russian and you could be ordering борщ (borshch) — a soup made of beetroots — at your local столовая (stolovaya), a buffet-style canteen from Soviet times which is still very popular in Russia because of its traditional menu and low prices.
3. They make courses that fit snugly into your schedule
The most common excuse we hear for not learning a new language is: “not enough time.”
People are busy nowadays. Your daily schedule looks like the first Lego™ tower you ever made, with blocks of meetings perched precariously on top of one another. So, it’s probably time you took a vacation. But before you do, indulge in a few of your Babbel lessons. Each designed to take you 10-15 minutes, they’re ideal for accompanying the commute, a quiet lunchtime snack, or a post-work glass of wine and that well-deserved bit of time for yourself.
4. They’re award-winning innovators who make continuous improvements
Babbel isn’t a book that you buy and then read (or ignore), and you don’t need to wait for the next edition for updates and improvements. Everything you touch within the courses is adjusted to optimize its effectiveness. This can be done with your explicit or implicit help. What does this mean? Well, either we notice that a high percentage of learners are struggling at a particular juncture and so we work to make it more understandable, or you shoot us an email with a suggestion, and it filters straight through to our linguists and language experts. Now that’s service!
That’s all pretty small scale though, right? A tinker here, a fine-tune there. What about the big stuff? Kitted out with some of the sharpest minds in edtech, Babbel strives to stay at the very forefront of innovation — to the point where Fast Company magazine awarded us the title of most innovative company in education in 2016.
5. They make courses which are fun and easy
We’re all capable of learning a second, third or even fourth language, but we often go about it the wrong way, opening dictionaries at A and bailing out at B, or assuming that our first communication fail is indicative of all future attempts. Babbel preaches the little and often approach, with a diverse offering of relevant lessons that keep you engaged and promote your reading, listening, writing and speaking skills. The timely introduction and repetition of new vocabulary and grammar explanations ensures you make sustained, upward progress and never feel overwhelmed.