There are tons and tons and tons of language learning resources out there. For example, there’s the Duolingos of the world, that are completely free and everybody and their mother is on it, but the material is somewhat limited. Then there are the Babbels, where the content is hidden behind a paid membership, but it offers way more opportunity.
The question is, is it worth it? What’s language learning through Babbel like? What’s it for, and does it satisfy your particular learning style? The following languages are what’s currently offered through Babbel:
- Brazilian Portuguese
So, if you’re learning one of these languages, this Babbel review is right for you!
Babbel review: what it is
What is Babbel, exactly? Babbel is a language learning product that helps you drill certain language learning skills from beginner levels all the way to intermediate-advanced levels. This in itself is a big deal, because with all the resources we have for learning a language online, most of them are great up until intermediate skills. Actually, this is the first app/program I’ve found that addresses more complex, advanced concepts, which is great.
When you first log on, you’ll go to the tab My Level. This is where you can see all of Babbel’s content at a glance, and head right into the level you’re at.
As you can see, not only does the Advanced level not seem to have as much meat to it, but it also only sells itself as B2/C1, which is only intermediate-advanced, not advanced. However, do keep in mind that once you get to higher levels of fluency, the lessons you’re learning are more about expressing yourself fluently and understanding the language; beginner/intermediate levels are about learning the rules, advanced levels are about using them. That being said, advanced-level content is involved here!
Babbel review: the content
What kind of content should you expect? Babbel is really great about two very important aspects of language learning: grammar and idioms/phrases. This is really important since it can be hard to find this stuff; as you get more advanced in your language learning, it’s generally harder and harder to find material to follow, so it’s nice to see a product that carries you all the way to the end.
Once you get past your beginner content, which is pretty basic and straightforward, Babbel helps you to expand on your knowledge by offering you real-life stuff. And I’m not just talking about “where is the bathroom”, but actual idioms and phrases that aren’t just textbook fluff.
Honestly, this is the first time I’ve come across a platform that talks about teaching real-life scenarios and whatnot, and actually seeing it. Most of these products are real loose about what they advertise, but I’m pretty impressed by Babbel’s content!
Besides the grammar and the idioms, Babbel also has a touch of listening/speaking; not to say this suffices as your only practice for listening and speaking at all, but there is a little hint of it, which is nice. Some of it isn’t a big deal, just listening to and repeating sentences, but where Babbel is really great is their pronunciation help.
Right on the Babbel platform, you can get organized, step-by-step lessons on how to pronounce the letters that don’t exist in the English language, as well as the letters that are pronounced differently. I really like this personally – getting a structured lesson on pronunciation from the start is a much better way to learn than struggling for a while and forming bad habits.
Babbel review: practicing and drilling
I know I already said that I love Babbel’s grammar, but I’ve got more to say. I mean, it’s easy enough to just Google your grammar questions free and figure out your lessons by yourself, but the problem is that it’s hard to find structured practice. Easy, at your fingertips, thorough practice. Not a problem here!
I really like Babbel’s method of explaining a concept little by little, and drilling you on it. The drills are super in-depth; they might get annoying sometimes, but starting from conjugating a couple times and ending with completing sentences correctly with those conjugations is really helpful. There’s no randomness to it. They focus on a lesson and drill you on it, which is important for language learners.
The one complaint I do have about these drills are the audio recordings. The voice is incredibly boring. Like, it actually put me to sleep once. If you’re engaged in the content and using your brain to process what you’re learning, it’s fine, but the voice honestly turned me off from this program for a while. It’s way too low-key for me, too much like a lullaby.
What is Babbel good for?
Is Babbel good for learning and drilling grammar, and picking up real-life idioms that aren’t in textbooks? Absolutely. But is Babbel good for a completely well-rounded language education? No. And I wouldn’t expect it to be. No language learning resource should be used completely exclusively (except maybe BaseLang’s intensive DELE course), including Babbel.
Is Babbel good for vocab, listening, speaking, reading, or writing? Not particularly. So yes, you will still need to go elsewhere to satisfy all the major language skills. However, even if grammar isn’t an official language skill, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In my opinion, grammar is just as important, and is Babbel good for grammar? Abso-freaking-lutely!
Thus far, Babbel is the best language learning resource I have found for learning and practicing grammar. It’s great, and I used it to brush up on some of my own grammar, which I feel more confident in.
Is Babbel free?
The short answer is no. Babbel’s content stays behind a pay wall. Well, the first lesson is free, so you can get the tiniest little taste of the platform. But that’s it. The rest of it isn’t free, but it is reasonably priced, which is a big deal. If you’re not about to heavily invest in a language learning platform, Babbel’s pricing is a good deal.
Babbel is a membership platform with a variety of options, all of which are super reasonable. For the content you’re getting, I personally had no problem whatsoever paying for a one month’s membership to check it out. Honestly, even if Babbel isn’t free, for these prices, I say it’s absolutely worth it.
Babbel language app review
Lots of language learning websites and platforms don’t do the transition between desktop and mobile very well. Fortunately for us, Babbel does it really well – the website and the app are essentially exactly the same. I think the app is a touch better, though, and I have good reasons.
For one, like anything else, if it’s on mobile, it’s more convenient. This works really well with Babbel’s lessons, since each lesson only takes a few minutes to get through. They’re quick and easy, so you can get through one while waiting for a meeting or on your bathroom break.
The best thing that the Babbel app does, though, is the keyboard. When you’re typing in your answers, you don’t use your own phone’s keyboard – Babbel provides you with the keyboard. It’s really nice and feels really smooth, and my favorite part? The appropriate accents are built right into it.
Need an a with an accent? Just hold down the “a” and the accent you’re looking for will pop right up! This is a great way that Babbel encourages you to learn the accents without making you do a whole lot of grunt work. It works the same way as if you downloaded an international keyboard to your phone, except there’s no auto correct (for obvious reasons).
On the topic of accents, the Babbel app automatically glosses over accents, and tells you you’re correct even if you’re missing accents (which isn’t actually correct, but I digress). However, if you go into your app’s settings and turn on “strict spelling mode”, you’ll even be corrected for missing accents, which is a huge deal! A lot of us tend to ignore them because it’s just an extra step and apps like Duolingo generally kind of highlight that there should be an accent, but don’t bother you more than that.
Babbel allows you to be strict with yourself, and not let you continue on unless you use your accents, which is amazing. Major kudos, Babbel! There’s definitely not enough conversation in the language learning community about the importance of accents, so it’s really nice to see Babbel making an effort.
At the end of the day, how effective is Babbel? Babbel is incredibly effective, as long as you understand that it’s just one piece of the puzzle. I think Babbel is a great product for learning grammar, from the beginning to the end, even with the fee you have to be (which isn’t even that steep).
Grammar is an incredibly important part of learning a language, and I know a lot of us like to brush it away; it can be difficult and frustrating and, honestly, it’s not like you can’t communicate if you don’t understand grammar. I get it. However, if you want to be able to put your language on a resume, or even if you want to make sense to locals, grammar is important, and Babbel is definitely a contender when it comes to how to get there.
That being said, if you’re struggling with grammar, check it out. I wholeheartedly recommend using Babbel for learning and drilling your foreign language grammar.