How We Used Babbel On Our Mongol Rally Adventure

We’re Aimee and Craig, two self-described travel addicts. Here’s how we conquered the Mongol Rally with the help of Babbel.
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If you want to read Aimee and Craig’s post before embarking on the Mongol Rally, find it here.

Hallelujah — we actually made it! Crossing 23 countries in 70 days in Fferanda Babes, our little Fiat Panda (well, she didn’t technically take us the whole way), was emotional to say the least!

The Mongol Rally took us to so many countries (some we didn’t even know existed), brought us to villages at higher altitudes than humanly comfortable, had us meet so many people from different backgrounds, and showed us raw, untouched landscapes that would knock your socks clean off! There were some truly incredible sights to be seen.

Learning our three chosen languages — German, Turkish and Russian — became a daily routine for us. We were spending 7 hours a day driving across the world, after all! At the outset, we were getting excited to start putting what we’d learned in our 15-minute Babbel lessons into practice — however, things didn’t quite go as we’d anticipated.

Kaputt In Köln

Fferanda Babes first broke down in the middle of a busy street in Cologne, Germany. Frantically, we’d found a garage number on Google and called, praying they spoke a little English (as we weren’t quite advanced enough to have a chat about Fferanda’s fuel pump in German just yet). The result? The technician spoke English and told us to push — yes, push — the car to his garage a few blocks away.

We were mortified! With her hazard lights on, we pushed her (down the wrong-way street, may I add) to the garage, all the way with Craig shouting a very fitting phrase he’d learned: “Sorry, wir sind Touristen!” (Sorry we’re tourists!). It was a mad morning all round.

Opening Doors In Istanbul

The next time our language knowledge came in handy, which was also my personal favorite experience of the trip, was in Turkey. We were exploring the streets of Istanbul when we walked past two older gentlemen sitting outside a carpet shop drinking Turkish tea. Craig greeted them with “Iyi akşamlar” (good evening) and we could see from the looks on their faces that the men were quite taken aback!

They smiled and returned the greeting, then welcomed us into their carpet shop and took us up to the rooftop for an incredible view of the Blue Mosque. It was the most gorgeous evening and we would never have seen the building from that vantage point if Craig hadn’t wished them a good evening in their native language.

Russian Across The Rally

The Rally taught us so much, including that people in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Russian! We had no idea there was such a large Russian-speaking population!

Truth be told, our Russian came in handy here, as the roads in these countries were diabolical — these roads had the biggest potholes you’ve ever seen in your life! Of course, with this, Fferanda wasn’t enjoying herself. We spent more time in the garage than on the road.

It was quite lucky that I had been brushing up on my Russian. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself the quickest person — and I was very unsure of how easily I would pick up certain Russian phrases — but Babbel definitely helped. The app focuses on real-life vocabulary and actually makes you speak back to it to improve your pronunciation of words and phrases, which was great practice before we needed to use our Russian in the real world.

Real-Life Language Learning

Learning for the Mongol Rally, we wanted to know where the toilet was and what time to come back and pick up the car, not the colors of the rainbow or how much Jill likes dogs. We were also often in countries without a mobile signal or data, so we were glad that we could download the lessons before setting off for another day’s driving.

When it finally came to real-life scenarios, we were confident about our abilities and I spoke confidently to as many mechanics as I could. (OK, we also had a few laughs along the way, but that’s all part of the learning process!) It felt wonderful to laugh with others who didn’t speak our language: They say a smile or a laugh is universal, and I can vouch for that. We’ve had such a wonderful experience learning with Babbel. It truly is a fabulous app to learn another language and it never felt like a chore.

I believe that without learning the few phrases and words that Babbel taught us, we wouldn’t have had the experiences with the local people that we did. People truly appreciate it when you take the time to learn their language and that definitely came out on our trip.

Lots of love,
Aimee and Craig

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