Belen Caeiro, Director of Product Marketing at Babbel
Berlin is an international city where you’ll hear snippets of conversations in dozens of different languages on the daily. This is one reason why it’s the perfect city for Babbel’s headquarters — we are 600 language enthusiasts piling into one five-story building in the heart of Berlin. There are people from over 60 countries, speaking more languages than you can imagine, all working on one popular product in this space.
We know that learning a new language online — or on your phone — might seem strange at first. Classes in school formed our idea of how learning works: in a classroom with an open textbook. But once we leave school, we find ourselves in a different reality, where classroom learning doesn’t necessarily fit. When I flew to Poland a few weeks ago, I realized how stuck I was without any knowledge of the local language — I couldn’t even say “thank you” in Polish! Luckily I had the answer in my hand, in the form of my phone with the Babbel app.
Working here, I’m often asked how Babbel is so good at teaching people new languages. To answer this question, I decided to sit down with our own multilingual Belen Caeiro. She leads our Product Marketing team here at Babbel and knows the app inside and out. Here’s what she said about why learning a language with Babbel is so effective.
Babbel’s Success Is Based On 3 Pillars
Belen explained that she was lucky because her parents helped her get an international education. She lived in Spain, Singapore, the Philippines, the United States and the Netherlands before coming to Berlin. Her life experience confirmed that Babbel is the right place for her:
“I know that all the good things that have happened to me in life were possible thanks to a new language.”
For Belen, there’s absolutely no doubt that today, probably more than ever, we must learn new languages in order to understand each other and integrate new perspectives into our way of thinking. Making this possible is the first pillar that Babbel’s learning is based on.
Pillar 1: At Babbel, Everything Is About Conversation
“We learn a new language in order to speak it with other people. To make that possible, our product has a few special features,” explains Belen. She opened the Babbel app on her laptop and pointed to the overview of the available courses. “We categorize language learning content in Babbel into relevant topics.” Depending on the language, you’ll find cultural traits and the most common conversation topics right at the beginning. Using public transportation, ordering food and expressing what you want — these are all at the top of the list.
Belen points out that the learning content builds on itself, so it’s easy to stay oriented. But if you just want to refresh a few topics, you can also jump right in! Belen clicks “next” on a lesson and then on the microphone symbol: “We use our users’ feedback to continually optimize our product. Thanks to our customer service team, but also the feedback we collect in meetups, we know that our users want to practice their pronunciation. Our speech recognition feature in the product supports them in that.”
Learning a language online with Babbel is also based on proven learning exercises, such as fill-in-the-blanks, which we keep as close to real life as possible. Belen demonstrates the principle:
“In Babbel, the dialogue trainer simulates the course of a real conversation — which is something like a practice run. That way, new vocabulary is strengthened and common expressions are practiced in a natural way.”
Belen emphasized that even the way we teach grammar focuses on conversation. Babbel is developed in such a way that users can lead a real-life conversation as quickly as possible. Compared to other apps, Babbel isn’t as playful: It doesn’t have the game aspect that might make other apps more entertaining. “But that’s a clear decision from our side,” explained Belen.
“We want our learners to put away their phone and experience success with their new language in real life.”
Along those lines, Belen stated: “We believe that this interpersonal experience is a much better motivator than a glowing screen could ever be — and we see that our users come back and keep learning for that very reason.”
Pillar 2: Our Experts Are People, Not Machines
At Babbel, we’re known for our 150 language experts, who are completely dedicated to conveying new languages and cultures. All of our experts are multilingual and most have already taught at schools, universities and evening courses. They challenge each other to do new things, like learning French in three weeks or learning sign language in one month. These absurd ideas are nothing to be laughed at: Even if our experts immensely enjoy overcoming new challenges, the main focus for these language acrobats is to put themselves in the position of a learner. That’s the only way we can see what’s really helpful for learning.
“Our educated experts are the driving force behind the product. We rely on this guarantee of quality that each course is made by hand, regardless of your language or the language you’re learning.”
The linguistic insight that sets Babbel apart is based on the relationship different languages have with each other. For example, French and Italian are closely related and have many more similarities than French and German. Belen sees these similarities as “shortcuts” for learning: “With Babbel, you learn efficiently because our language experts know these learning shortcuts and build them into the product.”
Pillar 3: Our User-Oriented Design Keeps The Focus On Your Learning
The advantage of learning a language with Babbel is that the learning content is targeted to meet your individual needs. Whether you’re a night owl or a commuter, with Babbel you always have access on the device of your choice — even offline, if you download the lessons beforehand.
“Babbel’s subscription model makes it possible for you to constantly be learning,” Belen said:
“Once you have access to the product, all the learning material is available to you – you don’t have to unlock exclusive content again later.”
The product is enhanced regularly with new content from our experts so that a freshly prepared course lands directly with you. Belen is proud not only of how the product is oriented toward the users but of the features inside the product are as well: “Your motivation for learning is what drives your success later. That’s why we’ve developed a feature you can use to find learning content that’s tailored to your needs and goals.”
Is your motivation for learning a new language traveling? Voilà, here’s our recommendation for the right lessons to do. “Of course it doesn’t end there,” Belen said with a laugh. With Babbel, you’re never left on your own to learn.