Lifestyle

Is Babbel the best way to learn a new language?

You keep telling yourself it's time.

drawing of a woman on an orange background Credit: Babbel

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Once upon a time, I had a high school Spanish teacher who helped me fall in love with the language. We only spoke Spanish during her class, and all our book learning was applied to conversation. My next Spanish teacher employed the opposite method. We weren’t encouraged to speak or actually retain the language. We were evaluated on our ability to memorize passages from a literature book that had been out of print for way too long. I was no longer engaged by the subject and my Spanish skills fell by the wayside.

A decade later, my love for the language was rekindled on a trip to Spain. I decided to give Babbel a shot to brush up on my vocabulary and regain confidence in speaking before traveling to Colombia this summer. While I didn't end up roaming internationally (thanks, COVID), I’m using all this quarantine time at home to prepare for future trips with Babbel.

We've tested popular language-learning platforms like Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur, but we wanted to see if Babbel stood up to its competitors—and how it was different.

What is Babbel?

Babbel app
Credit: Babbel

Babbel is an app that helps you learn a new language.

Babbel is an online language learning platform that presents useful vocabulary modules in bite-sized lessons. The courses are personalized based on your interests, skill level, and mother tongue. They’re designed for both visual and auditory learners with interactive activities, videos, sound clips, and more. Using human voices and speed recognition, Babbel can also help with your pronunciation and accent, not just your ability to read and write.

The course design is based on research about how people retain information. Armed with the knowledge that humans are more likely to remember information that’s relevant to them, Babbel presents sets of content that build on each other. Words are reintroduced through six memory stages and spaced repetition in different patterns to move information from short-term to long-term memory. They call it The Babbel Method.

Babbel offers 14 different language courses, ranging from French and Italian to Danish and Indonesian. Each course is catered to the best ways to learn listening, speaking, writing, and reading skills based on the language’s alphabet, sounds, and more.

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Truthfully, Babbel has a smaller selection of language courses compared to other platforms we've used. Rosetta Stone has 24 language programs, while Pimsleur offers 59 languages.

What does Babbel cost?

Babbel offers four pricing plans based on length of subscription:

  • 1 month = $13.95/month
  • 3 months = $9.95/month ($26.85 total)
  • 6 months = $8.45/month ($44.70 total)
  • 12 months = $6.95/month ($83.40 total)

You’ll be charged the full amount for the length of your membership upon signing up. This charge will renew at the end of your subscription period if you’d like to continue learning.

Babbel is less expensive than many other online language learning subscriptions, which is a big plus if you want to learn a language, but don't want to commit to a full year yet. If you're looking to learn a new language, this is a great option—but if you're looking to learn more than one langauge, we recommend a program that offers pricing for multiple langauges (like Rosetta Stone, which offers unlimited langauge use with its pricing).

You can also give Babbel as a gift with the following pricing tiers:

  • 6 months = $60
  • 12 months = $96
  • Lifetime = $199

When you gift Babbel, you don't have to pick a language for your giftee—they can pick their own, and depending on the membership, may be able to access them all.

How I tested Babbel

Babbel languages
Credit: Babbel

Babbel offers a range of languages to choose from.

Even though I have several years of mediocre public-school Spanish classes under my belt, I signed up for a beginner Spanish course with Babbel. I was still familiar with a lot of the basics, but I wanted to start back at the beginning with some refresher lessons before trying to learn all-new words and phrases. I tested Babbel for about three weeks, which gave me a good taste of the course flow and breakdown.

Before you begin the course, you can choose how much time you’re willing to commit to learning Spanish daily. The lessons are designed to be consumed and completed in short time frames, but I preferred to spend an hour or two cruising through a bunch at a time instead of logging in daily. If you're more of a daily learner, Babbel is a good choice, but if you like to fully immerse in the dialogue of a language, Pimsleur may be better for you.

What I loved

This was my first time trying online language learning, and I’d say my experience matched my expectations. Babbel’s layout is simple, clean, and intuitive. The well-paced modules and units created building blocks for vocabulary. Plus, my first lessons on basic verb tenses included dialogue about a cheating husband. We love the drama.

Before I started, part of me worried I’d feel like completing lessons was akin to doing homework after 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer for my day job. I was pleasantly surprised with how engaged I was. I was excited to click into the next lesson and practice conjugating new verbs after seeing my sweet scores on the section I had just completed.

The content is organized in a much more practical way than my high school courses, which is my only point of reference for studying a language. I feel like I’m on a more direct path to learning Spanish in a way I can apply while exploring Spanish-speaking countries. Gone are the days of memorizing generic phrases that I’ll never need in real life!

What I didn’t love

My main complaint has to do with UX, not course content. When you type answers in the blanks, the backspace key doesn’t actually remove letters unless you click in again. This might seem insignificant, but as I spent more time completing lessons, I grew increasingly frustrated with this flaw that made correcting typos difficult. I make a lot of typos, OK?

The problem with my way of doing things—completing lessons in batches instead of daily installments—is that the modules can start to feel a little repetitive and monotonous. You’ll notice similar quiz styles and exercises repeating themselves. This wasn’t enough of a deterrent for me to change my method, but if you find your eyes glossing over after several lessons, try doing lessons in smaller groups with more breaks.

Should you sign up for Babbel?

Babbel Method
Credit: Babbel

The Babbel Method combines language learning with your own interests.

The thing about language-learning programs is that they're tailored to unique learning styles, and if your style doesn't quite match the program you've chosen, you may not have a great time. When we tested Mondly, for example, our tester didn't love the bite-sized learning chunks because she learns better through conversations. She found far more success with Pimsleur.

Babbel is a great, budget-friendly option for diving into a new language. The lessons are fun and effective, allowing you to move along your language-learning path at your own pace. You can try a free demo if you're not sure whether your learning style matches, but for me, I have one thing to say: ¡Babbel tiene mi recomendación!

Try Babbel starting at $12.95 / month

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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