Whether you’ve just started learning a language or you’ve already mastered a second or third language, there’s a high chance you’ve heard of the language app Babbel. Considering that it’s one of the most popular language-learning resources online, many language learners have encountered or used it at one point in their language-learning journeys.
But does it live up to the hype? Is Babbel as effective as it’s marketed to be?
These are just a couple of questions that this Babbel review aims to answer. In this Babbel app review, we’ll get a closer look at how the Babbel method works, its features and course materials, and whether it’s effective for reaching fluency. Let’s get to it, shall we?
What is Babbel?
Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, Babbel is a subscription-based language learning app that was launched in 2008. The app is built on the premise of learning language through real-life conversations and effective review methods to lodge new vocab or grammar into long-term memory.
Babbel helps build all core language skills — listening, speaking, reading, and writing — through a variety of exercises. What’s great is that you’ll be learning phrases that are actually used by locals.
Babbel’s comprehensive courses can also take you from beginner to advanced levels, although the structure and thoroughness vary per language. Some courses have curricula primarily organized into difficulty levels while some are organized by topics (e.g., Business German, Countries and Traditions, etc.).
Aside from regular lessons and review sessions, Babbel has additional learning materials (varies per language) such as podcasts and games. For learners who want more dedicated coaching, there’s Babbel Live. This gives you access to live virtual classes taught by language tutors, available on different days and times and for various levels.
Babbel is often compared to Duolingo and Rosetta Stone because of its gamified and context-based lessons. If you’re wondering how similar Babbel is to these popular language apps, I’m here to tell you that yes, there are similarities but there are also lots of differences.
As someone who has tried all three, I can say that Babbel’s structure works better for me. More on this later in the FAQ section.
What languages can you learn with Babbel?
One of the most common criticisms of Babbel is its slim roster of languages. As of writing, the app only has 13 languages (or 14 if you count the Latin American Spanish separately) on offer.
The languages include:
- Spanish (Latin America)
- Spanish (Spain)
How much does Babbel cost?
A Babbel subscription gives you access to one language. There are four subscription options, with costs decreasing when you pay for multiple months in advance:
- 1 month – $13.95/month
- 3 months – $9.95/month
- 6 months – $8.45/month
- 12 months – $6.96/month
Considering the quality of Babbel lessons and how much its competitors charge, the 6-month and 12-month plans are a steal!
It’s also worth noting that even though a free trial is not advertised by Babbel, it does exist. You can create a Babbel account for free and get the first lesson of every course for free. If you happen to choose a language that has lots of courses (e.g., French, Spanish, German), you can get a lot of free introductory courses, which should give you a better idea of how the program works.
There’s also a subscription for multiple languages, hidden deep in Babbel’s Help Centre. Babbel Complete gives you access to all languages for a yearly subscription of $129.
You may have also heard of the Babbel Lifetime Subscription. This is not published on Babbel’s site but it is available to new users for a limited time and has been published in multiple tech publications such as Mashable, and StackSocial. The lifetime plan is currently available for $299 and gives you access to all 14 languages.
Learning with Babbel
How do you get started with Babbel? What do the lessons look like? And how do you get the most out of the courses? Let’s take a closer look at Babbel’s features with the guide below.
Setting up your Babbel account
To start learning on Babbel, you have to create an account either on the website or via the mobile app. You will be asked to answer a few questions (your chosen language, age, learning style, to create your language learning profile.
After answering the questions, you will be asked to choose a subscription plan. You can pick one immediately or start a free lesson first by going to the dashboard. The great thing about Babbel is that you can choose to start at any level.
Not sure where to start? You can take a placement quiz to guide you on which course to take.
You will also be asked to set how frequently you want to study per week and when you’d like to learn. You can choose your goal to be relaxed (up to 2 activities per week), steady (up to 4 activities), active (up to 7 activities), or challenging (up to 9 activities per week). Note that activities include regular lessons and review sessions.
I wanted to build consistency so I set my goal at 9 activities/week and set my reminders for around lunchtime daily. Doing one lesson and one review session daily meant that I achieved my goal by day 5, but I would sometimes hit it earlier when I do multiple review sessions.
If at any point in your lesson, you feel that the goal is too easy or too hard, you can easily change it. You can also change the reminder schedule if you wish to. You can even change courses mid-way!
How Babbel courses and lessons work
Because each language has distinct features and cultural contexts, Babbel’s course offerings vary per language. The number of courses and lessons available also differ. What’s great is that you can preview the curricula on the website before you commit.
For this Babbel review, I chose to learn French, which is one of its most comprehensive courses. Babbel French has 20 courses ranging from newcomer to advanced and 51 specialized courses (e.g., French grammar, Business French, French idioms), making up a total of 71 courses.
The French course lets you learn over 3,000 commonly used words. This should be enough to make you conversational in the language, if not fluent.
Each course has varying numbers of lessons but it’s usually within 8 to 15 lessons per course, all clearly labeled and can be taken in any order you prefer. Want to jump to intermediate course 3 lesson 4 right away? You can! You won’t be forced down any particular learning path.
Babbel lessons are designed to train your listening, speaking, writing, and reading skills. It does this through a variety of exercises featuring real-life vocabulary and essential grammar. You’ll be asked to match audio clips with the right phrases and/or images, complete the dialogue, choose the right translations, and repeat after a native speaker.
To make lessons as immersive as possible, Babbel uses real-world conversations. Aside from the usual self-introduction, you’ll find phrases and sentences that you can use while traveling, while dining out, or while working in a foreign country. You can even learn from filling out dating app profiles!
As for building listening and speaking skills, Babbel brings authenticity to its lesson by using voices of native speakers, not machine-learning bots. And it goes both ways — Babbel requires you to pronounce the words as close to the native speaker’s version as possible.
Apart from the practical vocabulary, there are plenty of grammar explanations that add depth to the lessons. Occasional cultural tidbits keep the lessons interesting, too. And for advanced levels, even instructions come in the target language so it becomes even more challenging.
Once you have completed a course, you can download a digital certificate from your desktop dashboard. Although it’s not a formally recognized qualification, this certificate includes information about the content and the level of the course.
Personal vocabulary and review
Between every couple of lessons, you get a Review lesson. There’s also a separate Practice section where you can review your personal vocabulary through the same exercises used in your regular lessons: listening, speaking, writing, and flashcards.
Babbel’s unique use of spaced repetition system (SRS) is what makes vocab stick. It automatically reminds you when words and phrases are ready for you to practice. This means your vocabulary review intervals are determined based on how often you’ve reviewed it and how often you get it right or wrong.
You can see SRS in action through Babbel’s Stages feature. As you continue taking your regular lessons, you’ll see items coming up in Review in the days and weeks that follow your lessons. Each time you get a word or phrase correct, it will move up a Stage. If you keep getting it correct, the interval between practices of that word or phrase increases.
When the word or phrase reaches the last stage (6th stage), it means you have committed it to long-term memory. It’ll be six months before it is due for review again.
Here’s what the interval looks like for each stage:
- Stage 1 = one day
- Stage 2 = four days
- Stage 3 = seven days
- Stage 4 = fourteen days
- Stage 5 = sixty days
- Stage 6 = six months
Consequently, if you make a mistake, the word or phrase stays on the same Stage and becomes due again the next day. And if you make the same mistake, it moves down a Stage and becomes due again immediately.
In addition to the regular lessons and review sessions, Babbel offers more engaging ways to learn.
- Babbel Podcasts – available for Spanish, Italian, French, German, and English. For learners of French, there are two podcasts: Parlez Away for beginners and French en Route for beginners and intermediate learners.
- Games – Babbel French has two games: Phrase Maze and Word Trax.
- Babbel Live – live online classes taught by certified language teachers and limited to six students at a time. This offers you more speaking practice and coaching from a native speaker.
I liked the podcast feature in particular. But just like any audio-based learning material, this is something that requires attention. You won’t be getting much if you’re listening passively.
As for the games, they’re both easy, super simple games. Nothing challenging, really, but good enough to pass the time.
Babbel Live, on the other hand, gives you access to hundreds of classes each week. You can take classes as often as your subscription allows. While a regular Babbel plan includes a couple of free classes (which I didn’t get to try due to time constraints), you’ll need a separate Babbel Live subscription if you want unlimited classes.
The great news is that if you’re a Babbel Live subscriber, you automatically get full access to all language courses on the Babbel app and website.
What I love about Babbel
Having used the app for over two months, I can finally understand the glowing Babbel ratings and reviews online. This part of my Babbel review lists down the features I enjoyed most and the things that make Babbel an effective language learning app.
Useful lessons and challenging exercises
Babbel lessons are both practical and top-notch. Because the lessons are based on real-life conversations and often, colloquial language, you’re learning stuff that you can actually use in a foreign setting. These are words that locals say, not textbook lingo or random phrases strung together.
At the same time, Babbel’s lessons are not dumbed down. Coming from Duolingo French (which is one of its excellent courses, to be fair), it was a relief to not find overly simplified sentences like “Mon vélo est vert” (My bike is green) or “Les chiens sont grands” (The dogs are big) on Babbel.
It’s noticeable that Babbel teaches vocabulary often through phrases or whole sentences. There will be times when individual words are taught, like when teaching numbers or adjectives. But often, this is immediately followed by phrases that use the said number or adjective. You never get served a single word without context.
The variety of exercises that are present in each lesson also means the material is challenging. You can get a good balance of vocabulary and grammar in a 10-minute lesson. You’re also often exposed to new words and grammar. While this challenge is great for many language learners, it can be a bit intense for someone used to easy and repetitive games.
Getting speech right
Speaking of challenge, this is the most challenging part of Babbel for me: speaking accurately. Babbel’s speech-recognition engine is one of the best out there. It’s almost merciless — not accepting your recording if your pronunciation is even a tiny bit off — but it’s also quite impressive how accurate Babbel’s speech-recognition technology is.
Failing in speaking exercises doesn’t mean you’ll fail the lesson. You can choose to click “continue” even if you get it wrong. I have to admit that I’d get frustrated with this sometimes and I’d end up repeating the same phrase over and over again before moving on. And if you’ve been learning French, you know how infuriating the French “r” can be.
That said, Babbel points out which parts of the phrase or sentence you pronounced incorrectly so you can work on it.
The quality of audio recordings is also superior. Foreign words are voiced by native speakers so you hear the most accurate and natural way of pronouncing and enunciating words.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
Developing consistency is one of the most effective ways to learn a language. This includes finding methods that work best for you and keeping a regular studying schedule.
And this is why I think Babbel is a great language learning app. It uses SRS, a method that’s been scientifically proven to help learners move words from short-term to long-term memory.
Babbel encourages you to review at least ten words daily. But that’s not all. You can choose which review techniques to use. It’s up to you whether you listen to native speakers, do writing exercises, practice speaking, or use flashcards. Knowing which type of exercise works for you means you can make the most out of your review session.
What’s more, Babbel allows you to make mistakes. While the program is gamified to some extent, it is not as competitive as other apps like Duolingo or Mondly. There’s no leaderboard and you only have to compete against yourself.
This means you can make unlimited mistakes. Babbel will correct you or at least give you clues until you get it right. By going through this process over and over again, you can retain what you learn.
Babbel’s lessons occasionally include some cultural tidbits, something that other apps completely ignore. Some facts deal with lifestyle while others are more grammar-oriented. Either way, it adds depth and practicality to the lessons.
I also liked the Conversations segment of the lessons. In individual lessons, you get asked to fill in the blanks and complete the dialogues either by typing your answer or by clicking on the correct word. Not only does this show you how certain words and phrases are used, but also familiarizes you with the culture.
And I have to say, some of the conversations (or non-conversations) can be funny.
The podcasts, while not part of regular lessons, also add more cultural context to the lessons. I can imagine how committing to a consistent schedule of lessons, review sessions, and podcasts over a long period can certainly help one become fluent.
Some areas for improvement
While I don’t have any qualms about the program, I do recognize that it’s not perfect. Here are some of the things that I think are less-than-ideal.
Limited languages available
Probably the biggest complaint (if you can call it that) about Babbel is that it has such a slim offering when it comes to available languages. Considering that other popular apps offer upwards of 30 languages, 14 is indeed a small number.
Most of the languages are also European. So, if you’re learning other languages that aren’t part of Babbel’s roster, you just have to make peace with it and use these Babbel alternatives.
Content quality is not the same across languages
As I mentioned in the introduction, the depth and inclusivity of courses vary per language.
French is one of the better-designed and comprehensive programs, along with Spanish, German, Italian, English, Brazilian Portuguese, and Swedish. For these languages, you can take lessons from newcomer level all the way through advanced and independent, and even get special courses.
Some languages aren’t as complete. For instance, the Danish, Indonesian, and Norwegian don’t go past beginner.
If you’re someone who’s looking into purchasing Babbel Complete or the Lifetime Subscription, you might be disappointed to see that other languages aren’t as developed.
Now, this is just a matter of preference and something I can completely ignore in the long run. Babbel has a keyboard for its Android and iPhone app and it looks like this.
Many languages use diacritical marks (e.g., accent marks, umlaut), and you can use these by tapping and holding on the base letter keys to show more options. Symbols (e.g., apostrophe, hyphen) on the other hand, can be found on the comma key beside the mic symbol.
This is simple enough but it can take getting used to since it’s different from our phone’s native keyboard. I get thrown off several times in a lesson, especially with the symbol key. But again, this is a minor con for me.
My verdict: Is Babbel worth it?
The most important question in this Babbel review: did I like Babbel enough to recommend it? That’s a big yes for me!
Given all the things I liked about Babbel, I can 100% recommend it to learners of all levels, at least for languages like French, Spanish, German, Italian, English, Brazilian Portuguese, and Swedish. It’s truly one of the most comprehensive language learning apps in the market. it’s designed for serious learners who don’t mind being challenged but also prefer practical, conversation-based lessons.
That said, if you’re learning other languages apart from the ones I just mentioned, it’s best to look at the course previews to see if the lessons fit your needs. If you want to learn advanced Dutch, that’s not on Babbel so you’re better off using another resource.
Otherwise, Babbel’s engaging multimedia lessons, effective review system, and user-friendly app make for a great language learning tool. And if you stick with it and build healthy learning habits, you’ll be well on your way to fluency.
FAQ about Babbel
Can you become fluent with Babbel?
You can but not without effort and consistency. Babbel’s well-rounded courses include a variety of learning exercises. You get listening, speaking, reading, and writing practice so you can improve all core skills. But without dedication and regular practice, you can easily forget what you learned.
How much does Babbel cost?
Babble subscriptions come in the following plans:
- 1 month – $13.95/month
- 3 months – $9.95/month
- 6 months – $8.45/month
- 12 months – $6.96/month
Babbel Complete, which gives you access to all languages, is also available for a yearly subscription of $129. The Babbel Lifetime Subscription, which costs $299 and gives you access to all languages, is available to new users for a limited time on tech publications like Mashable and StackSocial.
What languages can you learn from Babbel?
Babbel courses are available in 14 languages, which are Spanish (Latin America), Spanish (Spain), French, Italian, German, Russian, Portuguese, Norwegian, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Danish, and Indonesian.
Is Babbel good for beginners?
Yes! Babbel courses are designed for learners of all levels from beginners up to advanced levels. For absolute beginners, there are Newcomer courses. You can start learning even if you have no background in your chosen language.
Is Babbel better than Duolingo?
Although Babbel has gamified elements, it’s not as competitive. It doesn’t have a leaderboard, you can make unlimited mistakes, and you set your learning path. These two apps are different, therefore, but if I have to choose the one that’s more catered to serious, long-term learners, it would be Babbel.
Is Babbel better than Rosetta Stone?
While both programs use contextual learning to some degree, the approaches vary. Rosetta Stone teaches everything, and I mean everything in context by presenting the entirety of the course, even grammar, in the target language.
Babbel is “kinder” in this sense because the display language is still English (or your native language, if available). And it teaches languages in the context of conversations so you’re not completely blind. Is this a better approach? I’d say yes, but this is a matter of preference, too.
How many Babbel lessons should I do in a day?
This depends on your motivation and goals. But successful learners advise consistency and emphasize quality over quantity.
It can be tempting to do several lessons back-to-back one day and then not study the following day. But this strategy is not effective because you won’t retain new vocabulary.
I suggest doing one lesson and one review session daily, which requires just 10 to 15 minutes of your day. You can also squeeze in a podcast episode if you still have time for it. Making learning a habit will serve you well in the long run.
How many words can you learn from Babbel?
This varies per language. For Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, Brazilian Portuguese, and Swedish, you can learn more than 3000 words in Babbel courses. For Danish, Dutch, Indonesian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, and Turkish, you can learn over 2000 words.
How long does it take to finish a Babbel course?
It depends. For French, there are over 220 hours of lessons focused on daily life, travel, business, and more. If you devote an hour of studying per day, you’ll finish the whole program within 7 months. It can take longer or shorter depending on the language you choose and how much time you spend studying.
Is Babbel worth it?
Babbel’s courses are well-rounded and touch on all core language skills. There’s also a dedicated Review feature that helps new vocabulary stick. Plus, there are additional fun learning materials. So yes, Babbel is worth it!
What’s the best way to learn from Babbel?
To make the most out of your Babbel subscription, schedule daily learning sessions followed by review lessons. Doing this for 10 to 15 minutes every day will help you establish a learning habit.
Added immersion helps, too. By listening to podcasts (if available), you can get more exposure to the language and get more familiar with the culture as well. And if you have extra bucks to spare, it’s worth looking into Babbel Live, too.