Babbel: leading the way in language-learning for beginners

When you are about to learn a new language it is very difficult to know where to start. At school we go through topics and grammar one by one, and we’re provided with a lot of resources. But when you’re starting off alone, it’s impossible to know what to tackle first, what order to do things in and how much time to spend on anything. Today I’m going to speak about Babbel, the company solving all these problems for you.

This is a language learning company providing courses in 13 languages, covering all the main European languages and some more niche ones too such as Bahasa Indonesia and Danish. The focus of their courses is to make sure that from the start you learn words and phrases that can be used in everyday conversation instead of just learning all the vocabulary that relates to a particular topic at the same time, which I think is vital to promote in language learning across the board.

You are able to choose the lessons which most interest you and aren’t forced to complete a particular sequence. This means that if you want to you can complete every lesson from the initial beginner’s course until the end, or you can pick those you think will contain the phrases you need to know, especially useful if you are pressed for time before travelling to a country where your chosen language is spoken.

They also put a huge focus on making sure that the lessons don’t demand too much on your time. Each lesson is crafted to be 15 minutes on average, meaning you can slip a lesson into those small gaps of time you have throughout the day and come out of it that bit wiser.

I really like how in each lesson there is a mixture of learning new words, explanations of grammar points, practising this grammar, listening exercises and also speaking practice, meaning the lessons are kept exciting and fresh. The speaking practice, where you’re made to repeat words after hearing a native speaker say them, is fantastic for helping with pronunciation, because if you don’t say it correctly you have to continue trying, and this is something which most other services are unable to offer.

On top of the desktop version of the platform there is also an app. This allows you to learn from wherever you are, and you can even download lessons on this app, so if you’re on the tube and without Internet you’re still able to study!

Babbel is a subscription service language learning platform where you pay a certain amount a month and get unlimited access to the lessons for the language you’ve signed up for (NB. if you want to learn more than one language at a time, you will have to pay more, but I think learning one language at a time alone is more than enough). And what’s great is you can also buy 3 month, 6 month or year long subscriptions which end up saving you a lot of money. Even better, Babbel often have deals on their subscriptions, such as when I recently got 12 months for the price of 6 for the Portuguese course I started.

All in all, this is a fantastic service and one that I would recommend to anybody starting to learn a language. Check Babbel out here!

3 apps I’ve used to improve my Spanish

Nowadays there are more and more ways to learn and practice whatever skill you want to online, and this is no different in terms of learning languages. Outside of language learning apps such as Babbel (one of my favourite apps – see our next post about this), here are 3 apps you can use to improve your Spanish in your free time.

BBC Mundo

This app gives you all the news you would normal consume from around the world, but in Spanish! They have long, detailed articles related to all topics you might be interested in, so you can find out what’s going on in the world while improving your Spanish at the same time! If you’re only interested in certain topics, the app also neatly divides articles under different tabs such as ‘TecnologĂ­a’, ‘Deportes’ and ‘AmĂ©rica Latina’, so you can easily read up on your interests. The app also includes lots of videos to give a more visual aspect.

BBC Mundo logo

Netflix

This is one you will all be familiar with. There is ever more Spanish language content on Netflix, giving you a wide selection of films and shows to choose from. If you are not quite yet fully confident, use subtitles to help you follow what is going on: I recommend Spanish subtitles over English to help you get used to understanding the Spanish for what it is, instead of trying to always translate it in your head which can make learning as you get more advanced more difficult. But if you need to, and this is hampering your enjoyment, of course use English subtitles. Then, to test yourself try to watch small sections without the subtitles to see how much you can understand.

What can also be really fun is watching a series you’ve already watched in English but with Spanish audio instead! It’s very easy to change this setting on Netflix, can mean you already know what is going on in the episode, and can provide a good laugh hearing your favourite characters speaking in very different accents. I’ve watched ‘Friends’ with Spanish audio before, and it was very entertaining.

Netflix on TV

Quizlet

Here we have a fantastic app for practising your vocabulary. You are able to make up your own sets and vocabulary lists and then learn the words in a variety of different ways. There is a flashcard mode, a mode that gives you short tests on the words and others where you have to match words with their translations in a game which is like Pairs. If you use Quizlet on desktop they also have a great game called Gravity. Meteors with words on them are approaching your planet, and you must type their translations out before they crash into the planet and as you go through the levels you have to do it faster and faster (I’ve played it and, trust me, it’s very fun).

Not only can you make your own sets, but you can also access sets other people have made on the site which could save a lot of time. For example, if you want to find lists of word for certain GCSE topics, just type into the search ‘GCSE Spanish’ followed by the topic and lots of results will come up!

N.B. I recommend keeping your sets to 25 words or less, as beyond this they can become too difficult to remember

Quizlet logo

Looking for more recommendations of ways to further your Spanish? Drop us an email and we’ll see if we can help