Courses tailored to your native language. True-to-life dialog. Quick, easy lessons you can take on the go. There’s plenty to say about Babbel’s teaching credentials, but why take just anyone’s word for it?
At Babbel, no one knows more about the inner workings of our language-learning technology than our Didactics Team, staffed by more than 100 expert linguists and polyglots who put their formidable brain power together to deliver a powerful app that can get you speaking a new language in just three weeks.
Frauke Samland studied Romance languages in Potsdam, Seville and Madrid, and now, she’s the Team Lead for Spanish & Portuguese at Babbel. We spoke with her about the experiences she’s had working for Babbel’s Didactics Team since 2012, what goes into the lesson creation, and what the team has learned since Babbel’s early days.
Here, in her words, are a few reasons why Babbel is one of the most effective language-learning tools on the market.
1. Babbel’s courses are tailored to your native language, and they’re also culturally authentic, so you’ll never sound stiff and unnatural.
“All of our courses are related to authentic cultural settings where the language is actually spoken: they’re handcrafted, and their concepts are developed carefully.”
“When my team creates a new course to teach Spanish — let’s say, ‘Mexico Sightseeing’ — it’ll have images from Mexico; we’ll create dialogues that reflect real-life conversations from Mexico and record those with native Mexicans.”
“We also tailor the explanations and translations to the target group: what is important and interesting to know for U.S. Americans, for example. When this is done, we’ll localize the course for other display languages, which means we adapt it for different target groups. You can imagine that teaching Spanish to Germans is very different than to Italians. Since the latter is a Romance language just like Spanish, an Italian would need less explanation and can learn it way faster than a native German.”
2. Babbel’s language experts have a rich and diverse blend of backgrounds.
“You might have studied Spanish philology and worked for educational publishers before, like me, or have a degree in second-language acquisition studies and taught Turkish for some years. Each of us combines a variety of language-related experiences — it’s never ‘just’ translation studies or copywriting experience.”
3. Oh, and they’ve got the skills (and enthusiasm) to deliver a superior product.
“Imagine, when our whole team of experts get together every day in our office and share their knowledge in language teaching and pour it enthusiastically into the next program for our users. That’s what we all have in common: we’re all highly dedicated to creating the best digital learning experience.”
4. With Babbel, you get to focus on learning real-life conversation skills, so you can introduce yourself and order a drink from the get-go (you know, the important stuff).
“We used a mix of inductive and deductive methods from the start, and our courses always had this interactive approach to teach authentic and useful language skills. But of course we added a lot of expertise and experience over the last 10 years. Features were added to place yourself better according to your previous knowledge or interests, ideal progressions and review sessions. We also gave a lot of thought to how to get our users speaking more conversationally.”
“How hard would it be to forget a word that made you laugh?”
5. Babbel puts a lot of thought into representing (and catering to) all of its users.
“One thing I’m very proud of is the revision of our content in terms of diversity. We created guidelines for images and changed our live content pictures to represent more diversity in terms of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, ableism, etc.”
6. Babbel is constantly tweaking and optimizing its courses according to user feedback and best practices.
“We have to work out a lot of new things like workflows, tools, etc. in our daily work. Creating them ourselves is part of our job. Developing something that didn’t exist before always contains the risk of failing. We’re constantly optimizing our content, our workflows, our methods. I think that is just part of our work. Sometimes I think: Why didn’t I know this earlier? It can happen that I re-read dialogues I scripted years ago and think: Oh dear, I thought it was really creative back then, and now it sounds so cliché!”
7. Babbel is at the forefront of education technology — and it was named “Most Innovative Education Company” by Fast Company in 2016.
“It’s a great challenge to work in the online learning sector, being able to see how it evolves. It’s fantastic that I have access to the latest research and can contribute to the development of new features like chatbots.”
“And, I prefer to work ‘behind the curtains.’ I have experience teaching German in a classroom setting, and it is very different than shaping the instructional design for a self-directed online product. I need to combine analytic planning with a lot of creativity. The user wants to feel guided through their learning path, but the material itself needs to be interesting, authentic, fun. The combination of that is a key to motivation and learning success. And I really enjoy working toward that goal, applying all my skills and challenging them constantly.”
8. Babbel’s lessons are designed to work in harmony with the way your brain naturally stores information. They’re also made to keep you engaged.
“The Babbel courses stimulate so many senses. You read, click and write; you listen to native speakers and repeat their sentences — and no one has to witness it if you don’t want them to. That’s ideal for people who have to overcome shyness to speak in front of others. All of the vocabulary is illustrated with images to make memorization easier. They’re all hand-picked, so they really match the context. Sometimes the combination of text and picture is so creative that it makes me laugh. How hard would it be to forget a word that made you laugh?”