Sara and Fidi are language learning experts in the Didactics team at Babbel. Here they share some thoughts on how to select the best language learning methods and tools from the sea of available options. Immerse yourself in learning languages from the comfort of your sofa or when you’re on the go. You’ll discover how the team at Babbel fits learning into their free time, seamlessly. Staying true to the philosophy “The main thing is that it’s fun!”, even a karaoke bar offers opportunities to improve one’s skills…
There is no right or wrong – what matters is the combination of methods
So, you’re highly motivated and want to pursue your long-term goal of learning a new language. Now you are faced with an enormous number of language learning products: language courses, private tutors, a host of textbooks and grammar books, podcasts, video tutorials, apps… the list is endless, and all offer their own advantages. How are you supposed to choose?
Here is the good news: There is no right way! Don’t limit yourself to only one method, because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The best approach is to experiment and combine different pedagogical approaches and learning products to suit your needs. If you find books too boring, but have a limited budget and little flexibility in terms of where and when you learn, learning with an app like Babbel can be an excellent middle ground. The main advantage is that you can decide for yourself when, where and how much you learn. You simply need a mobile phone or tablet and an internet connection. Just download the app and you’re set! Simple as that? Yes and no.
Every app, of course, has its limits. It is our job as Babbel’s language experts to hack our way around these limits as much as technically possible. In our case, for example, we deliberately avoid using complicated explanations and jargon. Instead, we choose themes and vocabulary that will quickly and effectively prep Babbel learners to communicate in their new language. This is also why we structure and break up course units so they’re easy to integrate into your daily life, whenever you have time.
One of our most important approaches is multi-channel learning, i.e., learning through different senses. If new input is linked to existing knowledge and processed through different channels, the learner’s brain is able to accumulate more associations and points of connection. These create an individualised learning process and render the acquired knowledge (for example, vocabulary or grammar) faster to retrieve. It goes without saying that the stored information has to be regularly repeated and used, so that the new connections aren’t lost.
Of course we’re aware that it’s not always easy to strike the right balance between learning and repetition, we help you with it. As part of your learning process, various rules and items of vocabulary from previous lessons are shown to you at meaningfully-timed intervals, which you must then use correctly in context. We do this because repetition and revision are key aspects for successful language learning — regardless of which method or combination of methods you use.
Everything fun is allowed
Find out what type of learner you are: when and how long can you focus best? Do you learn better with pictures or through listening? Do you enjoy learning in a group or do you prefer learning alone?
Discover what’s best for you, in order to arrive at the the optimal combination of learning tools. Are you learning French with Babbel because you regularly go to France on holiday and want to become more confident speaking the language? If so, you can speak French with someone before you leave for your next trip, perhaps with a private tutor who can tailor the lessons to suit your needs. If you want to save money, a tandem partner is a free and effective option to whip your communication skills into shape.
Your language skills will improve most quickly if you’re immersed in it as much as possible. Of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone attend a language school abroad. But it is absolutely true that immersing yourself in that environment helps you progress quickest. Unfortunately, few of us have that kind of free time, nor is it financially feasible for everyone. Nevertheless there are ways to immerse yourself in a language without leaving the comfort of your sofa or budgeting extra time. Do you like to unwind in the evening by watching a TV series? Then find a series in your language of choice and watch it with the subtitles turned on, in that language. It’s a fun way to learn without sacrificing your you-time, training your listening comprehension skills. With this kind of immersion, not only do you internalise the language intonation, but you also become familiar with the peculiarities of it that don’t pop up in a textbook. You’ll learn a lot about the country’s culture, as well. The same applies to books, podcasts, radio programmes and newspaper articles in a foreign language.
But begin slow and steady. If you like to read and you’ve just started learning Russian, it’s probably best to hold off on tackling War and Peace. Start with newspaper headlines, maybe. Think about what aspects of language learning you can easily integrate into your free time. You’ll quickly see how motivating it is and how quickly you can progress!
Keep in mind that the language experts at Babbel do the same! In addition to using the app, we also attend instructed courses, travel a lot, watch original-language movies or listen to music in the languages we’re learning. And during our multilingual karaoke evenings we even sing in different foreign languages. This is tremendous fun for us–if admittedly less so for those listening! For those of us who are not big karaoke fans, we often find native speakers in Berlin with whom we can regularly practise. As in all things, the adage “Practice makes perfect!” applies to language learning.