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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 app and website that builds up your foreign language skills from beginner to advanced. While going through Babbel’s lessons will exercise all of your language skills pretty well, you’ll mostly focus on building up your grammar.
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.
I love how these sections give you a pretty decent description of what you can expect from each level, including the CEFR level! CEFR levels aren’t necessarily relevant to every language learner out there, but that extra tidbit of information can’t hurt.
Babbel review: the content
Babbel’s beginner content starts off with basic vocab, grammar, and pronunciation; the advanced stuff finishes with slang, cultural insights, and more of the subtle aspects of the language. It’s all relevant, real-life stuff, for a variety of different language levels.
Both the app and the desktop version are really smooth, pretty, and functional, all the way down to providing you the accents you may need to spell words correctly (they don’t enforce them, though, which puts you at risk of ignoring accented words).
Most importantly, I love that Babbel’s approach to these lessons touch on all the language skills! Depending on an app like this for language learning across the board is a pretty tricky concept, but I think they’re pulling it off!
Besides the actual lessons, Babbel also has a review feature to help make sure that you’re seeing this stuff again, not just instantly forgetting it.
Like most language apps, they claim to use spaced repetition. Honestly, I’m never really sure what that necessarily means unless it’s in an app that allows you to report how easy or difficult any given question is for you.
Fortunately, all it takes is a little searching on Babbel’s support page to get some more information as to their approach. They don’t do self-reporting answers, but there is a method to their madness!
Basically, Babbel’s spaced repetition is based on levels; the level that particular word or phrase is on dictates when you’ll see it next, and whether or not you get it right dictates if it stays on that level or moves around:
- Level 1: one day
- Level 2: four days
- Level 3: seven days
- Level 4: fourteen days
- Level 5: sixty days
- Level 6: six months
- Correct answer: move up a level
- Incorrect (first time): maintain level, review again the next day
- Incorrect (more than once): move down a level, review again the next day
Within the past year or so, Babbel has grown to bring live conversational practice to their platform! They do this in the form of group classes, as long as other people sign up for the same classes as you. Like most other group conversational classes, Babbel Live’s classes last 60 minutes; this is a pretty perfect length for group classes, but can be a lot for one-on-ones.
Babbel Live is still very new, so it’s still going through a lot of growing, and I’m excited to see what this group class platform looks like in a few years! Even since my experience with a Babbel Live class, it has absolutely blossomed and efficiently fixed a lot of the problems that I was experiencing.
Personally, I would love to see these themes/topics match up directly with Babbel’s lessons, so you can take the lesson independently, and then actively practice it with a professional tutor and other peers! That would definitely solve a problem that many language learners experience, where they struggle to find conversational practice that leads them in a relevant direction.
If all that is the case one day, then Babbel Live’s prices would absolutely be worth it (no, Babbel Live is not included in a basic Babbel subscription)!
If you’re a podcast junkie, Babbel has some podcasts in many different languages, levels, and themes to help push your listening comprehension along. You can access these podcasts in the Babbel app, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Babbel’s magazine, and at babbel.com/podcasts. I highly recommend you listen to it through the online magazine, though, because there you’ll get you the podcast itself, but also:
- monolingual versions of beginner-friendly episodes (to really test your listening)
- key vocabulary and its translations
- dynamic transcripts (play the episode line-by-line, with the transcript)
- show notes
These podcasts are available in a bunch of different languages, with only a few podcasts each. For example, Spanish has 2 beginner-level podcasts and 1 intermediate-level one.
While you’re at the magazine, you can read all their other articles, ranging from bios on their employees, culture, and more.
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).
Just like on Babbel desktop, the Babbel app does automatically gloss 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.
At the end of the day, how effective is Babbel? Babbel is incredibly effective, and moreso as time goes on. I’m really excited to see how Babbel Live takes off, and if they do anything to match up the themes of their group lessons with specific lessons. Anything that lessons language learners’ obstacles to getting in speaking practice is A-OK in my book!
Of course, Babbel being a high quality resource for language learners does not mean it’s for everyone (and this wouldn’t be a very good Babbel review if I claimed that!) so what kind of language learner is Babbel for?
Babbel teaches from a grammatical, “correct” standpoint, so if you want more of a “textbook” understanding of the language you’re learning (but in a more modern format than an actual textbook), I’d suggest you give it a try. With Babbel Live, you do have the opportunity to speak from the very beginning which is amazing, but you do start off with some background knowledge.
And, of course, while Babbel Live group classes are an excellent addition, they are highly structured, and not a more relaxed “language exchange” approach to speaking, meaning while you will be getting speaking practice in, the focus is still on the material itself, not on having conversations.