We don’t have to tell you that language learning can be a bewildering process. Sifting through books, articles, flashcards, tutors and tandem partners, language courses, podcasts, YouTube videos and apps — it is a lot! But luckily no one method of language learning is the answer. You’re free to combine different options that works best for you and your lifestyle, just like Babbel’s language experts do.
What matters is the combination of methods you choose. If you find books too boring, try listening to a podcast. If you can’t stand memorizing grammar, find yourself a tandem partner. If you don’t have the time (or money) to take a language class, try learning with an app like Babbel, that way you can have control over when, where and how much you learn. It’s important to take a look at your lifestyle and feel free to experiment by combining different pedagogical approaches and learning products to suit your needs.
Of course, every method has its limits, and some approaches make more sense than others. Two things that tend to get in the way of people achieving their language learning goals is:
- not making language learning a habit and
- not effectively balancing learning with reviewing.
It is our job as Babbel’s language experts to hack our way around these limits as much as possible.
Simple Is Better
One way we try to do that is by deliberately avoiding complicated explanations and jargon. As BJ Fogg, behavioral scientist and author from Stanford, has shared from his studies, when it comes to forming a new habit — simple is key. That is why we choose themes and vocabulary that are practical and make sense in a real world context. Additionally, we structure and break-up course units in a way that makes them easy to integrate into your daily life, whenever you have the time.
We like to up the ante by putting a large focus on multi-channel learning, i.e., learning through different senses. Everyone learns differently, but studies show that no matter your preference the more ways you engage with new information, the more likely you are to remember it. If a new word can be linked to existing knowledge and then processed through different channels, for example hearing the word and also seeing the word, your brain is able to accumulate more associations and points of connection — in other words, you’re more likely to remember it. It goes without saying that the new information has to be regularly repeated and used, or the connection will be lost.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
So what you’re saying is that learning is really just constant re-learning? Yeah, sort of. Finding the right balance between learning and repetition is important and a little difficult. But we’ve got you covered on that as well. As part of your learning process, various rules and items of vocabulary from previous Babbel lessons are shown to you at meaningfully-timed intervals, which you must then use correctly in context. Repetition and revision are key aspects for successful language learning, and this way you don’t even have to think about it, the reviewing will just happen.
Make It Fun, Make It Personal
Regardless of which method or combination of methods you use, find out what type of learner you are: when and for 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 and mix it up with a little of this and a little of that. Are you learning French with Babbel because you regularly go to France on holiday? 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 the language as much as possible. Of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone attend a language school abroad, but there are ways to immerse yourself in learning 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. The same applies to books, podcasts, radio programs and newspaper articles.
But remember to start small and simple. 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 instead. Think about what aspects of language learning you can easily integrate into your free time.
Keep in mind that the language experts at Babbel do the same. In addition to using the app, we also attend instructed courses, travel, watch original-language movies or listen to music in our target language. Occasionally we even throw together multilingual karaoke evenings where we try to sing in different foreign languages. It’s tremendously fun to stay engaged in the learning process — if admittedly less so for those listening.