By James Coulson | Read time 20min | Visit Babbel
Babbel Review – A Good Resource for Beginners
In this Babbel Review, I provide a comprehensive overview of Babbel Spanish and its course features.
Babbel is an excellent supplemental resource but it should not be the only method you use to learn a language online.
Whilst it will definitely help you, it will not take you from complete beginner to fluency. This is due, mostly, to its focus on early stage language learners, as well as lack of resources for upper intermediate and advanced learners.
Babbel is a great language resource particularly for beginners. The launch of Babbel Live, which connects learners with tutors, is a welcome addition to its features.
👍 One of the Cheapest Options
👍 Multiple Languages Available
👍 User-friendly on Desktop & App
👍 Listening & Speaking Exercises
👎 Not Great for Intermediate or Advanced Learners
👎 Not Enough to Take You to Fluency
This Babbel review is pretty extensive.
If you’re looking for something specific, just use the menu below to skip to whichever section has the info you require!
Table of Contents
- What is Babbel?
- What to Expect From This Babbel Review
- Why is Babbel so Popular?
- Who Can Use Babbel?
- Babbel Languages
- Babbel App Features
- Babbel Live – My Favourite Babbel Feature
- Babbel Spanish & Course Structure
- My Thoughts on Babbel Lessons & Content
- Babbel Spanish – My Experience
- Learning Spanish Grammar with Babbel
- Is Babbel Suitable for all Language Learners?
- Babbel Pricing
- Final Thoughts – Is Babbel Worth the Money?
- Alternatives to Babbel
What is Babbel?
Babbel is a subscription based language learning app that to help you learn a new language. It currently offers 14 languages on its unique, user friendly platform.
Babbel’s desktop and app format is curriculum-based with pre-recorded content including games, quizzes, tests, games and grammar exercises.
Until very recently, there was no live interaction involved on the Babbel platform, hence the app did not score well on any Babbel review that I had read previously.
However, with the introduction of Babbel Live, premium members can now book classes with tutors for all offered languages.
What to Expect From this Babbel Review
In this Babbel review, I discuss the main features of the Babbel platform and, by discussing what you get for your money, seeks to answer the question being asked by people all over the world who are interested in learning a foreign language – is paying for a subscription with Babbel really worth it?
In a short answer, yes. Babbel teaches you to read, write, listen, and speak in a foreign language, which on paper seems like excellent value taking into account its low prices.
In a longer and more balanced answer, it really depends on your main language goals, your experience to date with language learning and which other language resources you are going to use.
I’m a foreign language teacher and a fluent speaker of English, Spanish and French, also conversational in Portuguese and Italian. I’m also learning Japanese and German.
The truth is that there are plenty of other language options out there, (I’ve tried and written about many of them).
Each one takes a slightly different approach and teaches languages in new or different ways.
Why is Babbel so Popular?
Few language learning online resources make as much noise as Babbel.
Its branding is absolutely everywhere, with adverts appearing more and more frequently on the TV, all over Youtube (if you follow content related to language learning), and across multiple language related blogs and websites.
Babbel’s marketing efforts are obviously proving successful. We’ve all heard of it and we are all curious to try it out.
In September 2020, Babbel announced it had reached 10 million subscribers. Some milestone – that’s a lot of language learners!
So, Babbel courses must be doing something right…
In this Babbel review, I’ll be exploring Babbel Spanish. As an online Spanish teacher myself, I want to see just what they’re teaching, how they’re teaching it and whether or not I think committing to a Babbel subscription is worthwhile.
Who Can Use Babbel?
Babbel is used by language learners of all levels but I would say it is best suited to beginners who are just getting started with learning a new language.
Babbel’s approach is almost entirely software orientated (with minimal live interaction). Unless you are using Babbel Live, all learners receive exactly the same service.
For this reason, Babbel make their pricing affordable; it is one of the cheaper options for language learners. In particular, Babbel is an ideal option for people looking to learn vocabulary or receive an overview of grammar.
Babbel currently provides online language courses in the following 12 languages:
Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Norwegian, Indonesian, Russian, Danish and English.
Babbel App Features
I tested Babbel on both the desktop and mobile app. As any Babbel review will tell you, both forms are pretty similar to Duolingo (another language learning app we’ve all heard of and often compare to Babbel due to the similarities).
Like Duolingo, there is a lot of emphasis on its visual aspects – bright colours and strong branding. It’s for this reason that Babbel is very popular with visual learners.
Despite this, Babbel and Duolingo are actually very different and the Babbel dashboard is testament to this.
There are a number of features on the Babbel dashboard that I like. You can track your activity, log your linguistic achievements, set weekly goals and take part in Babbel challenges with other language learners.
However, there is one new feature in particular on the Babbel app that I really do thing takes it to the next level and sets is apart from its competitors.
Babbel Live – Making This Babbel Review Positive
Babbel has recently introduced Babbel Live, which enables learners to access live classes in small groups taught by a native speaker.
At first glance, I really like the look of this feature.
I feel that by introducing Babbel Live, Babbel has addressed the biggest hurdle that faces online language learning companies – a lack of human interaction.
The feature overcomes this obstacle by placing learners into classes to engage with teachers, and other learners, in the target language.
Babbel provides its subscribers with 5 free classes/month, available around the clock, 24/7, from anywhere in the world, in any language.
The seminar content you see as part of Babbel Live depends on the language you are signed up to learn.
The content seems to be a lot more varied and interesting than that of the Babbel courses, ranging from Speaking About Travel at Beginner level to Feminism in Spain at advanced level.
I believe Babbel Live sets Babbel apart from its competitors, becoming a hybrid of online language software and face to face virtual interaction.
Babbel Spanish Course Structure
I signed up to Babbel Spanish not only because I wanted to check out the course and lesson content, but also the course and lesson structure.
I’ve learned as a language teacher and language learner that the quality of lesson content means nothing if it’s not structured in the right way.
By this, I mean that if lessons aren’t placed in the right order then you’re not going to learn anything. Or, if you do, you’ll learn a lot slower than you would have done otherwise.
When I created Spanish for Beginners (a course much smaller than anything being created by the likes of Babbel), I made sure Spanish learners were eased in gently, not thrown in at the deep end.
It starts with the alphabet, (the foundation of any language and your ability to speak it), but leaves grammar for the latter part of the course.
As I expected, Babbel Spanish does this too, albeit on a much larger scale.
Babbel puts its learners onto a clear and concise language path; each course contains lessons which you are supposed to follow in a specific order unless you opt to do otherwise.
Unlike Duolingo and Memrise, Babbel has a useful feature helps you figure out what your language ability level actually is through a placement quiz. This way, you can skip ahead if you need to.
It asks you questions such as whether you can introduce yourself simply, understand basic sentences and questions or have simple conversations on everyday topics.
It knows which course you should start at based on your answers.
You can also see exactly what each lesson contains in terms of content, including the recap and review content.
Here’s an example of a Spanish lesson containing a mixture of vocabulary and grammar:
Babbel Course: Estamos Cansados
Here you’ll review:
Vocab from previous lessons
The verb tener
Regular verbs ending in -ar, -er und -ir
There is nothing wrong with this content. As a Spanish teacher, I can confirm that the above is exactly what I believe Spanish learners should be covering as early as possible in their journey to fluency.
I just don’t think it’s set out in a way that is anything special. Hence, I cannot make this Babbel review even four stars.
I haven’t checked out Babbel Russian myself. However, I understand from other Babbel reviews online that its not quite as complete and varied as the European languages.
Personally, I would expect a company of this size to contain the same level of detail for all of its courses, given that the subscription costs are all the same…
That said, the course structures for all languages on Babbel are very similar. You are set on a clear, well thought through trajectory.
But the size of the courses, and the content you cover, does vary.
For example, Babbel German contains 6 levels, plus added levels on Listening and Speaking, Business German and a lot of other cultural content.
By contrast, Dutch has 10 courses.
My Thoughts on Babbel Lessons
Once you have tested/enabled your microphone and selected whether or not you’d like to repeat the content, you’re good to go with Babbel lessons.
From singing up, to signing in, to getting started with each lesson, it’s all very straightforward.
I found the Babbel app and desktop dashboard pretty easy to navigate and it’s always easy to pick up where you left off from last time.
Babbel lessons are broken down into segments of:
Vocabulary (e.g. Latin American countries )
Grammar (e.g. Spanish verbs like tener)
Topics (e.g. how to order in a bar, greet locals or describe your commute)
I like the way Babbel does this. Although, from my experience with online language resources, the balance of these segments is usually split pretty evenly.
So, Babbel is not doing anything unique but setting its course lessons up in this way!
As mentioned, you can opt for a placement quiz. When you start Babbel Spanish, you are given the opportunity to select your level and shown what level of Spanish you’ll have by the time you reach each level (what you’ll be able to say, discuss, understand etc).
At Complete Beginner Level, I was introduced to words like hola, sí and gracias.
Babbel introduces you to words by making you listen to a native speaker and then repeating it (to help you with pronunciation). I have one word for this sort of learning – boring!
Whilst this is all part of the free trial content, I cannot see how this sort of learning would entice you to pay for a subscription when its done (in my opinion) much better by other online language resources like Pimsleur and Memrise.
The listen and repeat exercises with Babbel remind me of Memrise, except with Memrise you have a native speaker in front of you actually saying the word, accompanied by an exercise below.
To me, this is much more engaging than Babbel’s method.
Likewise, with Pimsleur you follow the famous SRC Method through listening to a native speaker and repeating what they’ve said.
However, with Pimsleur, even from Complete Beginner Level, you do so with whole sentences, not single words!
Babbel Spanish – My Experience
My lessons with Babbel Spanish got better and and more varied. But, to be honest, I didn’t find any of them particularly engaging.
Having read many a Babbel review online, I don’t think I’m alone with this sentiment.
I’m not saying they don’t work; to be clear, I do believe Babbel will teach you the basics of any of its languages with the right amount of study time and effort.
After all, Babbel courses have been designed by professional linguists.
However, I don’t feel that fill-in-the-blank exercises, word-match games or speech repetition is the most appealing way to learn a language.
Nor the most interactive or innovative. This is precisely why I don’t like Duolingo and never have done.
Also, I also chose to trial Babbel Spanish, specifically Castilian Spanish (Spanish from Spain), not Mexican Spanish (which is the other Spanish course offered by Babbel).
However, having lived in Spain and taught over 1,000 hours of Castilian Spanish, I know that the accent of the speaker at this very early stage of the course was clearly Latin American!
This is not a problem, but it could be for someone thinking of signing up to a Babbel subscription specifically for Castilian Spanish!
In most of Spain (all regions except the South and Canary Isands) the c is pronounced like a th. So, gracias is pronounced gra-thee-as. Hence my surprise when I was told to repeat gra-see-as!
Learning Grammar with Babbel
In addition to the exercises mentioned above in the lesson section, Babbel has a range of grammar exercises.
This includes filling a verb table in with the right type of Spanish verb conjugation.
Unlike other language teachers and learners online, I do actually believe that understanding grammar is important. Not necessarily to speak a foreign language, but definitely to master it.
Again, I feel there are more fun ways to do this, namely by listening and having it explained to you (I learnt French this way through the Coffee Break podcast series) or through a native speaker who understands the target language grammar inside out.
Is Babbel Suitable for all Types of Language Learner?
As mentioned at the top in the ‘Who Can Use Babbel’ section, Babbel is definitely best suited to beginners who are trialing a new language, rather than learning at an advanced level.
Whilst Babbel does not state this anywhere on its site or market itself in this way, far more of its content is weighted at beginner/intermediate level than at advanced level, which shows us who is using the app more than anyone.
In fact, there really isn’t a lot of content at all for advanced learners.
Babbel Spanish, for example, has 9 early level or beginner courses, 4 intermediate courses, 3 independent courses and 1 advanced course.
If you already speak good Spanish, you probably wouldn’t see value in paying for a subscription just to take upper intermediate and advanced courses.
This brings me onto the next important point, which is perhaps the most important part of this Babbel review: How much does Babbel cost?
Babbel’s pricing is extremely competitive and it is without doubt one of the cheapest ways to learn a language online.
You can also sign up to a 3 and 6 month subscription plan.
The cost is the same for all languages and you can find them here.
Note that this provides access to one language, not multiple (i.e. if you wanted to learn Spanish and French at the same time you would need separate subscriptions).
Final Thoughts – Is Babbel Worth the Money?
To summarise this Babbel review, there is no doubt in my mind that Babbel will help you to learn a foreign language.
Can it take you from complete beginner to ultimate fluency? I don’t think so.
That said, it doesn’t claim to either. I think this is reflected in the number of courses available to beginners compared to intermediate and advanced speakers.
Babbel is definitely better than Duolingo, especially with its latest feature, Babbel Live.
It offers language learners a clear and simple introduction to language learning with evenly weighted vocabulary, grammar and topic related content.
Babbel is an excellent supplemental resource but it should not be the only method you use to learn a language.
In my opinion, it does not live up to the hype created by large marketing budget. I also think it would do well to introduce important Asian languages to its list, namely Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, both of which are on Memrise and Pimsleur.
Using Babbel will definitely help you. Usually at this point I would say however, it cannot replace human interaction.
This is certainly true, but the introduction of added subscription value in Babbel Live (without the introduction of a new pricing structure) overcomes this obstacle and certainly sets Babbel apart from many competitors.
Other Resources to Use with Babbel
Private, one to one tuition is still not available through Babbel; to supplement your study with this method I would suggest checking out italki (tutor marketplace) and Baselang (access to unlimited private Spanish lessons and their online materials for $149 p/month).
As a language teacher and constant learner myself, I feel Babbel is an extremely well-marketed supplement tool which ticks all the boxes for beginners but which should not be replied upon.
By all means learn a language with Babbel, but be sure to use free online resources (free PDFs, Youtube, Podcasts etc) as well as tutor help if you can afford regular practice with a native speaker through italki.
Alternatives to Babbel
Babbel vs Preply
If you are looking for a tutor rather than a language learning app then consider Preply. Preply is a marketplace where students from all over the world can find one-on-one online tutors for personalised learning programs.
It is very similar to italki, with the same common goals and the same main features. Preply also contains an in-built classroom which enhances the quality and efficiency of lessons for both tutors and students.
Babbel vs Rocket Languages
Rocket Languages is a software focused language learning app that uses audio lessons, interactive exercises and readings to get you to a conversational level in a foreign language.
Through its structured and proven successful process, you will begin to understand more about the language you are learning quite quickly. Sign up to a trial with Rocket Languages.
Babbel vs Pimsleur
With its trialled and tested method, Pimsleur is one of the most effective and slickest language learning resources of its type.
It’s a great way to learn a language by yourself, placing a strong emphasis on aural and pronunciation skills, with less detail around grammar, reading or writing than many other language courses.
Whilst you will not have face to face interaction with a tutor like on italki, the Pimsleur app and desktop versions are smart, user-friendly and packed with a variety of content that balances vocabulary, daily scenarios and culture in a way that is digestible even for complete beginners.
Pimsleur offers all users a Free 7 Day Trial.
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