Babbel is a very well-known language learning app that’s been around since 2008. Named after the Tower of Babel (a biblical myth attempting to explain the existence of different languages), Babbel combines educational strategies with real-life conversations to teach users a variety of different languages.
In this Babbel review, let’s talk about how Babbel teaches languages behind-the-scenes, and what kind of language learner can benefit from the Babbel app and Babbel Live.
Babbel is available for learners of the following languages:
- Brazilian Portuguese
So, if you’re learning one of these languages, this Babbel review is right for you!
Babbel review: overview
When starting with Babbel, you can either choose your level yourself, or take Babbel’s assessment. While this isn’t a unique concept, Babbel does take a unique approach.
Now, this is interesting because there’s no objective testing when it comes to specific skills; unlike Busuu (one of Babbel’s direct competitors), you’re not tested on your ability to use grammar correctly, or whether you can fill in the blank. Instead, it’s focused on real-life abilities.
And by real-life abilities, I mean your own perception of your abilities. It’s more of a “would you feel comfortable doing this” than a “how do you appropriately conjugate this verb” kind of thing.
Is this helpful? That’s for you to decide. I appreciate how it reflects how subjective language learning is as a whole, but also respect that some feel the need to be “tested”. 9 times out of 10 I do not trust more objective assessments because languages are simply too complex, so I always suggest taking these things with a grain of salt.
And if you’re not satisfied with this assessment, you’re free to choose your own path anyway.
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.
And none of it is “required” – you can skip around however you like, whenever you like.
Starting from Babbel’s dashboard, you’re directed to either learn something new or review your past lessons (assuming you’ve used Babbel in this language in the past).
We’ll start with a new lesson, which is a very quick, bite-sized snack that you can either do real quick when you have 5 minutes to spare, or you can “marathon” as many in a row as you want. Great for the busiest of language learners who want to make good use of their limited time.
As you can see, the interface is very modern and smooth and leads you to use the language in a variety of ways to both keep things interesting and give you a well-rounded education. This approach is a decent reflection of the different ways that language is used, so you’re prepared.
Like anything, there are pros and cons to Babbel’s lesson format.
Pro: you can choose between selecting the provided letters/spaces, or just type them yourself
Con: it automatically turns non-accented letters into the appropriate accents, without even suggesting you make the effort yourself. This causes a lot of bad habits!*
Pro: you’re not using rote memorization: you get context via sentences, imagery, and a native audio recording*
Con: you can’t speed up or skip lessons, or even skip the repeating of phrases after completing them
Honestly, I’d consider the statements with the asterisks to be objectively important; the other two are my own personal preference.
So what about Babbel’s review option? Let’s take a look.
You start by choosing the review style that best meets your goals: flashcards, listening, speaking, or writing.
The review you choose is then powered by spaced repetition, which is a common algorithm across many language learning apps.
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 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
Obviously, this is more useful the more often you use Babbel, but as a whole it’s a great approach. Choose when you want to review, and went you want to learn something new! You’ll theoretically be reviewing more often than you’ll learn, and you also get to choose your method of review each time.
Again, I like the amount of choice involved. Especially in more academic settings, it can feel really stifling when you’re done with a particular topic or lesson, but you have to complete a set number of exercises before you get the option to move on.
Babbel doesn’t put up these obstacles.
Over recent years, Babbel has grown from just the app and lessons to include live group coaching! This is a separate membership not included with the Babbel app (more on that later), but can really make your Babbel experience more engaging and valuable.
Signing up for a Babbel Live class is just as smooth as the rest of the Babbel experience.
To start, you set the parameters of your level and your schedule. From there, you find a group class on a theme that interests you. Sign up with a couple of clicks, and you’re set! Add this class to your preferred calendar and download the material you’ll be using in class to prepare.
Once you add the class to your calendar, I like that the event includes the link shown in the above video, so you have easy access to all that info.
However, the self-study lessons mentioned in that link don’t seem to relate at all to the theme of the lesson; the theme is the society of the future, but the linked lessons are about professional emails?
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. This would really tie the two options together, as well as help solidify these lessons for language learners who like to practice via conversation.
As of the date on the bottom of this post, Babbel Live is only offered in Spanish, German, French, and Italian.
Freebie seekers look elsewhere! Babbel is offered exclusively at a monthly membership rate. Depending on your commitment (ranging from monthly to lifetime), the Babbel app is available for $8-15/month. Click here for updated pricing.
As aforementioned, a subscription to the Babbel app does not include Babbel Live – however, a subscription to Babbel Live does include free access to the app; suffice to say, this makes Babbel Live that much more valuable.
At commitments ranging from monthly to annually, Babbel Live offers unlimited group classes! At $50-100/month, it’s honestly a steal. It’s important to note that if you commit to more than a month at a time for a lower per-month rate, you will be paying the full financial commitment at signup.
At these prices, assuming you will reliably attend a Babbel Live lesson at least once a week, I would absolutely consider the Babbel app and Babbel Live worth the price, even just at the monthly rate.
Of course, whether that’s feasible to you depends on your own lifestyle and your goals.
Babbel review: who it’s for
Babbel is an oldie but a goodie in the language learning industry, and I’m happy to see them growing with the times (i.e. offering live coaching). In general, there’s a lot of potential for language learners of the offered languages, especially those ready to invest both the time and money in Babbel Live. Not to mention Babbel’s recent acquisition of the Toucan Chrome extension.
Because Babbel is still pretty academic, it can feel a little stale if you’re not into the strict, structured approach. If you want to avoid language learning that feels like a textbook, you’ll want to steer clear; maybe try Busuu’s similar approach, or head to the other end of the spectrum with something like Tandem.
However, if you appreciate the structure of a textbook combined with a modern platform and convenient access to conversations with professional tutors, Babbel is a safe bet for your language learning.