At Babbel, our endgame is helping people connect with others in a new language. There are fantastic folks here making that possible. In our “Behind The Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at.
This round, we’re talking to Joanne Wong, Babbel’s newest Learning Media Production Manager.
Hi Joanne! Tell us about your position at Babbel. What do you do on a typical day?
I recently joined Babbel as a Production Manager on the Learning Media team. Our team specializes in producing learning media that enriches the learning experience. Our main goal is to produce podcasts and videos that are fun, engaging, culturally relevant and helpful to users trying to immerse themselves in their learning languages.
I joined at a time when we started a lot of partnership projects, so I had spent a lot of time communicating with the media and content providers. But more regularly, I organize castings, auditions, recordings, and hire a lot of talented freelancers to be part of our project teams, mainly as audio producers and voice artists.
Which languages do you speak/are currently learning?
I am from Hong Kong, so my mother tongue is Cantonese. I also speak English and Mandarin, which are pretty common there because Hong Kong is a trilingual city due to its colonial background. German is the language I have been learning for years now — it keeps getting better or worse depending on what stage of life I am in. I can totally relate to language learners who feel like they are stagnating at their current level.
What were you doing before you joined Babbel?
Before I joined Babbel, I had already been working in the digital education field and designing learning videos for students. Apart from that, I collect vintage clothing and once owned an online vintage clothing store in Hong Kong. You can probably see me selling my collections at Mauerpark sometimes 🙂 There was also a time I was organising salons here with activists from Hong Kong, for people from different countries to share their struggles in political unrest.
What do you hope to accomplish with your team over the next year?
Having seen the positive feedback from our learners on the podcasts we launched, we believe this is the right direction. However, our current accomplishments are not keeping us in our comfort zones. We hope to introduce new concepts to assist learners in achieving their unique learning goals. We are also on our way to expanding the language combinations of the podcasts to accommodate more learners. In the upcoming season, we will launch a podcast about business English and audio unit recaps of different learning languages. Currently, we are hiring more voice artists, especially for these two projects.
At Babbel, we see diversity as our strength. How does your team create content that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion?
We see it as our mission to include more communities’ voices in our podcasts. That includes more skin colours, nationalities, family backgrounds, classes, genders, dialects and even accents — something totally bold for language learning media. But in real life, people do speak with accents, and we want to prepare our learners for their real-life interactions. Editors also do research on the country’s history and demographics, so nothing is a random decision. Many of our launched podcasts are based on real stories, read by the storytellers or people from that community. This is our way to avoid misrepresentation and stereotyping not only in the content, but also in the production process.
What are some of the biggest challenges your team faces and how do you overcome them?
Sometimes it is really hard to find an actor with the right background. Imagine all the implied basic requirements when we look for voice artists, such as having basic audio set-up, being interested in voice acting, being available in our production period, being legally permitted to work for us. You can already do some quick math and know how many “filters” we are adding if we include the community tags I mentioned in the last question. Our team conducts extensive searches on the internet to discover online communities. We also use our personal network a lot, which is a blessing in Berlin. Currently, we are hoping to leverage Babbel’s network to reach our learners. Soon, you might see us look for voice artists on our social media platforms!
Do you have any tips on how to create culturally relevant and authentic content?
Get to know people from different backgrounds in person! The untrue stereotypes will become obsolete after we listen to their stories. People from the same community might have similar experiences due to similar social structures, but they are unique individuals. I myself as an ethnic minority here always appreciate the chance to tell the whole story of our communities and explain how we are different from one another, but share similarity in some sense.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Joanne!
Want to work with Joanne? Her team is currently looking for voices that can represent these communities!