Whether you’re traveling to a new country, or need to communicate with your clients, learning a language is becoming increasingly easy thanks to technology. Indeed, you can learn according to your personal schedule without the need to dedicate a fixed amount of time to language classes. Thanks to Babbel you gain even more flexibility as you can learn Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish straight from your Android phone or tablet.
Let’s Get Personal
Before you start learning a new language, you’ll be asked to create a free Babbel.com account. Thankfully, this step is particularly simple and only takes a few seconds. To speed the process up even more, you can use your Facebook credentials and link your account to the application — this is particularly useful if you don’t like remembering too many passwords.
Your Babbel.com account will allow you to sync your progress across devices, which makes it easier to see which exercises you’ve already done and track your advancement more conveniently. The website itself offers even more courses, so make sure you visit it to improve your learning experience.
I particularly like the way you review your progress on the website, as you can see your knowledge level for each word, the number of times you reviewed it and when the last review was. If you already know a word well, you can manually edit your knowledge level to avoid focusing too much on a word you know and spend more time reviewing the ones you still need to practice. Also, should you need to personalize the list by adding and removing words, you can do so from the website and sync it back to your device.
Learning Some Vocab
Babbel is organized into vocabulary categories, which group words into a conversation topic. The first one is called Important Words and is broken down into drinks, greetings, permissions, numbers, time and colors, which are indeed the first things to know when learning a language. Once you know the basics, you can jump to more advanced categories, such as Holiday, Body, Relationships, Food etc. Packages are downloaded directly on your device, so you don’t have to worry about being online when learning a language.
Each category is organized in three sections: Learn and remember, Deepen your Knowledge and Vocabulary.
The first section is some sort of introduction to the new words you’ll learn. It will present you with pictures and their description in English, with the translation in the language you’re learning at the bottom — Indonesian in this example. You’ll hear the pronunciation of each word and be prompted to pronounce it yourself so you can get it scored. If you don’t pronounce it properly, you’ll be asked to retry, even though you can always move on to the next word if you don’t feel like repeating words. Babbel will use your pronounciation score to organize your review sessions in a smart way, as you don’t need to practice words you pronounce well as much as the other ones.
Once you’ve repeated the process with three words, you’ll see pictures of each of them on the same screen, with a word in the language you’re learning written at the bottom, so you can tap the picture that corresponds. After that, the app will go back to showing individual cards, but with only three letters at the bottom, so you can pick the first one of each word.
The Deepen your Knowledge category is fairly similar, but won’t have a written version of the word. Instead, you’ll have to listen carefully in order to select the right card. After that, you’ll have to spell words without even hearing them, so you can truly memorize how to write them.
Lastly, in case you’d like to go back to a specific word, you can always use the Review section and view a list of all the words from the category. In the same section, you can also listen to how words are pronounced and work on yours, without having to go through an entire lesson again — which is very useful if you’re having trouble pronouncing a specific word.
There are a few elements the team at Babbel should consider improving, especially when comparing the mobile application to the website. Indeed, while it would have been acceptable to see major gaps between an app and a website a few years ago, most users are now used to having a full-featured application on their phone. Hence, it’s a bit hard to understand why the welcome screen doesn’t show any progress or any feedback on how you’re doing or what you’ve learned so far.
Furthermore, when comparing Babbel to other famous language learning solutions, such as Rosetta Stone and Tell Me More, Babbel is too focused on vocabulary and not so much on context. Instead of teaching you whole sentences or putting words into concrete situations, the application simply shows you a picture of something with the word underneath. Worse, Babbel translates everything into English, which can be a problem when you don’t speak English well. Also, translating words into English leads you to still think in English and translate the sentence first, unlike Rosetta Stone for instance, which actually forces you to think in the language you’re learning.
In today’s ever busy world, Babbel is a good start if you want to learn a language on the go, as the application is free, easy to use and doesn’t require you to be online. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for more advanced features or if you’re more serious about learning a language, you’ll have to consider switching to a more complete solution after a while, as Babbel will only teach you basic vocabulary, with no real context.