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Babbel vs Duolingo
Babbel & Duolingo are two of the most popular language learning resources on the market. While they’re both great for language learning in general, each of them answers to two very different needs: Babbel is for learners dedicated to mastering a single language, from beginning to end, while Duolingo is better for sporadic learners who want to dabble in a variety of languages. With that in mind, let’s dive deeper into the Babbel vs Duolingo debate.
How do you decide which one you should use? Or, better yet, can you use both of them to get a more well-rounded experience? There are no wrong answers to this, but you should know how you can apply these resources. Continue reading – you might find something to add on to your language learning strategy!
Babbel or Duolingo?
So, like I said, the Babbel vs Duolingo debate isn’t really fair. I mean, they’re both great for learning languages, but they’re for very different crowds, so it’s up to you to decide which one you want to dedicate your time to. However, just because they’re built for different crowds doesn’t mean you should avoid one or the other completely.
It’s important to understand how Duolingo and Babbel are different so you can have reasonable expectations of what you’re going to spend your time learning. They’re both very good at what they do, and who’s to say one or the other won’t work for you? Or maybe you’ll decide to get the best of both worlds.
Before you continue reading, I want you to pause for a second and think about what you want to get out of your language learning. Fluency? General knowledge about a whole bunch of different languages? Sporadic knowledge about different languages with a focus on one or two of them? Slowly building on your basic knowledge of a couple of different languages at the same time?
Thinking about how you’re going about this definitely defines which of these apps you use. Successful language learning is all about knowing your goals, and using the appropriate resources to your advantage. If not, you’ll end up getting through all there is in one resource, then not knowing what to do next (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through Duolingo’s Spanish tree).
So, at the end of the day, should you be using Duolingo or Babbel? That’s something you’re going to have to find out for yourself.
Duolingo is probably the most popular language learning website there is. This isn’t by accident, either. In fact, there are two very good reasons everybody in the world seems to have a Duolingo account, whether they’re active on it or not:
- The sheer number of languages available
- Short lessons + a highly gamified platform = an addicting app
- It’s 100% free
You create an account, pick a language, and start playing. You really don’t have to do much to get rewarded, which is pretty good motivation to come back and spend 5 minutes (you can’t learn a whole lot in 5 minutes, but it sure makes it easy to feel good about yourself!) on your target language every day.
This right here is the first sign that Duolingo is generally not for serious learners. There are lots of products and services out there that brag about being able to get you fluent in a month or some such, but let’s be real – the only time that’s actually true is if you have nothing else to do with your life. But I digress. Claiming to be able to teach you a language in 5 minutes a day is ridiculous, to say the least.
There’s a cute little owl and happy little dings every time you get something right. Granted, having so many languages available means they don’t have many lessons on each of them. Duolingo is best for getting a general surface-level impression of a language, but you need to look somewhere else if you want to get past beginner words and lessons.
That being said, Duolingo is best for learners who
- Spend about a week learning the basics and then get distracted
- Prefer to dabble in multiple languages
And, if you know anything about learning languages, you know that those two types of learners cover a good majority of learners – the “I’m going to learn Italian for my New Year’s Resolution!” people and the ones who are happy at a beginner-intermediate level, as opposed to language learners who have some bigger goals that require much more content.
Obviously, there is nothing in the world wrong with having that kind of expectation for your own language learning journey. This isn’t about competitions or racing or being better than anybody else. Going through Duolingo trees little by little every day works for some people, and more power to ’em!
The important part is knowing why you’re learning a language, and what you expect to get out of it. This is why I suggested you think about what it is you want out of your language learning. That right there defines what you use.
If it’s just basic “hi my name is” stuff, that’s perfectly fine! As long as you know what you want to learn, go ahead and stick to Duolingo if it makes you happy. However, there is another type of language learner that maybe won’t last quite as long on Duolingo.
So Babbel is another language learning site/app, right? Just like Duolingo, Babbel is great both on desktop and mobile, offers quick 5 minute lessons, and is a really great resource for learning languages. There are, however, a couple of key differences that are much more attractive to different types of learners:
- Intermediate and advanced concepts
- Thorough lessons
I do think the fact that Babbel is not free is an important note not only because it does make a lot of people second-guess whether or not they want to try it (PS. it’s very reasonably priced!), but also because the pay wall does mean that the content is higher quality. The lessons are too quality, too in-depth to give away for free, which is something to consider.
Not only is the website/app itself a paid program, but it’s high enough quality that you need to pay for every individual language you want to access. Again, another important distinction – it’s priced like a (very cheap) language class for a reason! It’s really a matter of whether or not you’re motivated enough to put money towards your education. If you’re willing to pay a little, Babbel will make it worth it to you.
Besides the whole paying thing, Babbel actually takes the time to explain these things to you. While Duolingo’s more of a “figure it out as you go” (which works just fine with basic vocab, but it would never work for intermediate or advanced concepts), Babbel has actual constructed, written out lessons, followed by specific drills to practice the lesson. Nothing random about it.
So, like I said, it’s almost like a class. Babbel will hold your hand and take you step-by-step through these lessons, which is amazing. When it comes to Babbel vs Duolingo, you definitely get what you pay for.
So, knowing all this, Babbel is best for learners who
- Want a deeper understanding of a language
- Are working towards a specific goal, like taking an exam
Duolingo and Babbel definitely cater to two different kinds of learner, right? Casual learners should gravitate towards Duolingo, which more focused, motivated learners should be thinking about Babbel. Course, these two types of learners aren’t mutually exclusive of each other. There are no rules to any of this.
I mean, if you want a really deep understanding of Italian, but just want to be able to recognize a word or two in Turkish, Babbel and Duolingo are both great at what they do. Nobody said you had to be fluent in every language you attempt, nor did anybody say you can’t get past the basics! Whatever works for you.
Babbel vs Duolingo: why not both?
After acknowledging the similarities and differences between Babbel and Duolingo, there’s one more question to answer: why not both? Using each resource for what it’s meant for is definitely something I can get behind. There’s no reason why you can’t use both, especially since only one of them is paid, and each of them will teach you different things.
For example, Duolingo is a low-stress, easy way to learn some very basic words and concepts, right? Say, what a perfect way to start learning a new language from day one! Even if you are more of an intense learner, we all gotta start somewhere, and Duolingo is a great place to start learning to at least recognize a new language.
In fact, I really like the idea of starting with Duolingo for any language (as long as it’s offered on Duolingo, of course). I mean, you might not get any technical knowledge, but there’s something to be said for just exposing yourself to a new language. Hearing it, reading, speaking it…even if it’s only a little bit, it’s better than nothing at all. In fact, it’s a very good first step.
Then, if you decide you want to push onward with that language, and it’s offered on Babbel, I think it’s a great idea to graduate to Babbel’s grammar lessons. Both Babbel and Duolingo are very similarly formatted, so it’s almost a natural continuation after you feel comfortable with your Duolingo tree.
The real question, though, is whether you’re learning the right language for this strategy. As of the time of this writing, the following languages are available both on Babbel and Duolingo:
Suffice to say, there’s a pretty decent chance you can learn the language of your choice on both Duolingo and Babbel. And again, if you’re learning one of those languages, I definitely recommend the Babbel & Duolingo route for basic vocab and detailed grammar lessons, if they work for you.
Babbel vs Duolingo: what’s missing
Beginner vocab: check. Really detailed, thorough grammar explanations: check. Anything else: …not so much. If I said it once, I’ll say it again: make absolutely, 100% sure, with no questions, that you are satisfying all your language skills through other means:
Neither Babbel nor Duolingo will give you practice in any of these language skills, so be very purposeful about spending time with other resources. Whether you’re reading a book, watching dubbed Netflix, seeking out language exchanges, finding language tutors on Verbling or italki… your search for language learning resources isn’t done yet!
And I know that can be overwhelming, especially considering you probably came to this post to find out whether you should use Babbel or Duolingo and I’m suggesting you could use both. Independent language learning can definitely be stressful, I feel you!
Take a look at those bullet points up there. Find a way to satisfy them all. You don’t have to do them every day – you don’t even have to practice them all in the same time period, if that’s your jam. Spend 3 months focused on reading or listening, and then the next 3 on writing or speaking, whatever works for you. As long as you practice them all at some point!
Babbel vs Duolingo
At the end of the day, Babbel and Duolingo are both super effective at what they do, you just have to be purposeful with what you’re learning. I say that all the time, too – always make sure that you’re learning all of your language skills. You can’t use just Duolingo or just Babbel, or even just Duolingo and Babbel, and consider the language learned.
Always make sure you have a well-rounded understanding of the language you want to learn, however you want to learn it. Duolingo and Babbel are good for getting your start in the language and learning grammar rules, respectively, but that’s only two pieces of the puzzle!
Whatever you end up doing to practice your language, know how you’re spending your time. Don’t fall for the “everybody learns to be fluent using our app!” marketing that every language resource spouts. The best products are very good at one or two specific things and that’s it. Use them for what they’re supposed to be used for, and you’ll learn your language!