My dog understands more languages than I do. I find that rather embarrassing. Admittedly, he’s not so hot when it comes to speaking, but tell him to sit in English, Spanish or German, and he’ll obey with barely a moment’s hesitation.
Why is my dog trilingual (or quadrilingual, if you include his native bark)? Well, I met him in Spain and then we moved over to Germany together. He now lives happily with my German girlfriend and me in Berlin. I’d love to say that he was conscious of the fact that, in order to prosper in his new homeland, he’d have to learn the local lingo, but his main motivation was biscuits. He rapidly associated “sit,” “sientate” and “sitz” and the subsequent lowering of his haunches with the receipt of a treat.
There are myriad motivations for learning a language, as my dog and the beautiful Brits below will testify. Ben the ballet dancer learned German because he burst a disk in his back and ended up in a German rehabilitation clinic where no one spoke English. Shammi lent his language skills to a befuddled tourist in India. They’re now married.
Learning a language is a tremendously formative, revelatory experience. Just ask my dog. If mere self-improvement isn’t enough to convince you though, perhaps you can adopt one of the motivations below. And then you can download this remarkable app to get you speaking your new language from day one.
1. Learn a language for work, just like Ben
The Babbel app is perfectly tailored to the trials and tribulations of busy people with busy lives. Each lesson is 10-15 minutes long — ideal for killing time usefully on your commute — and they’re all organized into easily navigable categories. Ben’s big break came in the form of a phone call in German. Rather than bluster apologetically about not being able to understand, he was able to accept the offer in fluent German — and change his life forever.
Babbel offers an entire section based on Business German, for example, where you can learn everything from how to present yourself to new colleagues to how to tactfully excuse yourself from office gossip. It even teaches you how to quit, should it ever come to that, and ace your next job interview (… and all in a foreign language, of course).
2. Learn a language for love, just like Shammi
Delivering a perfect powerpoint in a second or third language doesn’t constitute everyone’s height of ambition in life (I hope). Finding love, friendship and fulfilling our innate need for social contact — that’s how we really get our kicks. And Babbel can help you with that, too.
There are whole lessons dedicated to love, life and the pursuit of happiness. That might sound sentimental, but the courses really aren’t. Babbel’s into gritty real-life vocab, so you’ll soon have all the words you need to describe your latest fling, fledgling romance or your blissful marriage. Or all three… with their resulting complications. The 100+ linguists behind the Babbel app are intent on developing courses which play out in realistic scenarios and equip you with all the tools necessary to start speaking straight away.
3. Learn a language for travel, just like Sadie
After your very first Babbel course you’ll be able to talk about where you’re from and introduce yourself, as well as say how you’re doing, how you got to wherever you are, and — of utmost importance — what you’d like to drink. That pretty much covers all the basics you’ll need for your first evening on holiday, and that’s just a single, short course. If you persevere for as little as three weeks, you can make significant progress: A recent study by researchers from the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina demonstrated that novice users with no knowledge of Spanish only need about 15 hours of study with Babbel to learn the equivalent of one college semester of Spanish. Not bad, eh?
4. Learn a language for prestige, just like Stephanie
English speakers aren’t known for their language abilities. Talk to Brits and most will admit they’ve been ashamed of the age-old techniques their compatriots employ to be understood abroad: Speak louder. Express exasperation. Repeat yet more loudly. Move on.
Babbel is trying to change this, and it’s going well. Well over 1,000,000 people are actively subscribed and learning languages with the app worldwide, and about 100,000 of those are in the UK. From a rabble of language enthusiasts beavering away in a loft in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, the company has grown to almost five hundred people — all united by the common goal of creating the best language learning app possible. This imperative has attracted a strikingly unique topography of skills to the company, and their combined efforts made Babbel the most innovative company in education last year, according to Fast Company.
5. Learn a language to save your bacon, just like Johnny
If Johnny hadn’t been able to speak German, he may have never made it to his music festival in Bulgaria. When we requested stories for these videos, we received a (very) surprising number of survival stories in which communication in a foreign language had proven critical to averting catastrophe. We still assume that these stories are the exception, though — a new language probably won’t save your life, but it will make it infinitely richer. And it’s completely doable. Just try it out for yourself.