Learning a new language needs not to be difficult and boring. Luckily, there are ways to make it simple and enjoyable. Language apps are one such incredible option.
In recent times, online education has dominated the language learning market. As a result, there are probably more apps than actual languages with a significant number of speakers.
Unlike the textbook and time-honored conventional methods, desktop software, apps, and online resources are fun, affordable, and, most notably, flexible.
If you have searched for a language learning platform, you might have come across Babbel. With over 10 million paid subscribers in the last 15 years covering 14 languages, it is one of the most well-known language apps.
So what is Babbel all about? Is it any good to study a language? What language can you learn, and what are its advantages and shortcomings? Is it worth paying for?
In my never-ending quest for language websites, check out my unbiased 2023 Babbel review.
I wanted to be as thorough as possible. Hence, this review of Babbel is comprehensive. Use the table of contents to jump straight to sections that interest you more if you’re short on time.
So, let’s start the journey!
Table of Contents
- All About Babbel language App
- How does the Babbel app works?
- Advantages of Babbel
- Disadvantages of Babbel
- How much does Babbel cost?
- My Babbel Review: Average — 3/5
All About Babbel language App
Let’s explore everything about this app in this Babbel review and decide whether it’s the right choice for you or not.
What is Babbel?
Babbel is a 100% subscription-based business-to-consumer (B2C) language learning software.
Babbel GmbH, based in Berlin, Germany, operates this e-learning platform. They also have an office in NY, in the USA.
The app claims to have been downloaded and subscribed over 10 million times by learners worldwide since January 2008.
As you’d expect, it is available on iOS, Android, and the Web. You only need to download the app. Then, log in to the site, create an account, try, pay, and start.
Babbel has lessons in 14 languages with custom, mixed, and ever-growing content. They have in-house linguists to ensure the quality of content and pedagogy rather than just approaching community members.
The History of Babbel
The four founders, Thomas Holl, Lorenz Heine, Toine Diepstraten, and Markus Witte, started this company in August 2007. Later, in January 2008, Babbel went online that included community features.
Initially, it was based on the freemium model (free lessons, and later, one must pay for premium content). But, in the last 15 years, it has grown to 14 languages and over 10 million subscribers.
Since there is no free option, therefore all users are paid. According to Crunchbase, the organization has raised $33.3M in funding over 4 rounds.
To cover face-to-face learners, in 2021, it started a separate offshoot, i.e., Babbel Live. It is an online, face-to-face tutoring class through live sessions with an instructor.
Who is Babbel For?
Live class with a teacher in the classroom setup is the best way to learn any language. The immersion approach and online live interaction also support learners to a large extent.
But not everyone is fortunate to get a trainer or a chance to live in a natural setting to practice the target language.
So, apps and self-study are the only choices, though it also works okay since language apps have many benefits. But not all platforms and resources are good enough. In fact, except for a few, most are a waste of time.
Speaking from personal experience, studying a language is a challenging endeavor. You’ll be unsure about the proper usages and pronunciations, especially if you do it through learning on your own.
Even if you speak it daily, it is one of the most effective strategies to repair errors and improve your language skills. But, of course, there’s always the concern of making mistakes and feeling lost in context.
So, as a language learner myself, I totally relate.
You are not the only one dealing with this issue. It is a general problem. The advent of software and apps can guide you through the language learning journey.
Babbel can be one such app for you if you are one of them. You can learn any language of your choice anytime and from anywhere. You just need a smartphone and internet, which everyone has access to nowadays.
From self-learner to aiming to cover basic skills, it can be beneficial. It can also turn your language skills from scratch to the lower intermediate level.
Design and user experience
Babbel performs a decent job with learning routes, one of the more challenging components of creating a language program.
When you have a language course with a lot of information, as Babbel does, organize it in a way that makes it easy. Otherwise, navigating for users of all levels can be difficult.
It is a well-designed tool that covers all your language needs. The layout is simple and delightful.
Lessons are not confused or irrelevant. In contrast, it highlights building on what the user already knows. The design makes it easier for users to move ahead by avoiding too much of a tiresome typing process.
It has an appealing User Experience (UX) and an easy-to-use interface (UI). Further, the modern, innovative, and minimal design makes the experience engaging and tempting.
What languages can you learn on Babbel?
Today, Babbel runs courses in 14 languages for English speakers. This includes French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Indonesian, Swedish, Polish, and Turkish.
It has 2 different Spanish varieties — Spain and Latin America. Except for Bahasa Indonesia, all languages are European.
Babbel is also one of the few platforms that offer all 3 major Scandinavian languages, i.e., Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian.
Do you wish to study Asian languages like Chinese, Korean, Hindi, Arabic, Japanese, or Persian? Or maybe you have a reason to learn Indonesian as a Turkish native? Sadly, you are out of luck!
How does the Babbel app works?
Babbel follows a set of stages for most language courses, making it relatively simple for the student.
It uses a series of exercises to help you develop your reading, speaking, writing, and listening proficiency. This allows you to immerse yourself in a new language like a native.
The material is based on the most recent didactic research, as they claim on their website.
Rather than practicing abstract sentences, vocabulary, or grammatical rules, you’ll find the program valuable. This is because it teaches you a new language through real-life scenarios.
For example, you begin with basic greetings and exchanges. And then work your way up to more practical discussions native speakers use in their daily contexts.
This strategy of learning also teaches vocabulary both actively and passively. It also assists you in connecting the dots by gaining new knowledge based on the chat context.
This permits you to actively use passively gained words, allowing you to speak right away.
How to start using the Babbel app?
The procedure and steps on Babbel are pretty simple.
First, you can choose one of the 14 languages offered. You can also pick one of the two Spanish dialects — European or South American.
The app moves to the next part to determine where you should start. It asks the main reasons you want to learn the desired language. For example, work, skill, school, family or friends, and personal interest.
It questions your existing knowledge, and you can pick between a lot, some, and not much. Then, it takes a placement test that will measure your standing in terms of language and overall skills. After that, it assigns you a level from A1 to C1.
In the next step, you decide how much time you can commit daily. It ranges from 5 to 60 minutes daily, depending on your pace and free time. If unsure, you can leave “I’m not sure.”
After selecting your age group, pick a subscription between 3, 6, or 12 months. This includes unlimited access to conversations, all lessons by experts, and personalized courses with daily reviews.
You can then finally sign up for a language class; the first one would be a free session. If you find it worth your time and value, you can pay for a premium subscription to access all of your language courses.
What makes Babbel unique?
To begin with, they primarily made Babbel encourage you to learn unfamiliar words. Further, it improves your grammar abilities and understanding of sentence structures.
This makes it an excellent app for beginners.
Babbel has the edge of allowing you to bounce between different levels. You may change the difficulty level if you think it’s too easy or for more expert users.
It assures those native speakers in the target language to record all of its audio material. This results in a faultless accent and clear pronunciation that students may pick up on from the first lesson.
In the app’s course material, the words and speech are slower and more clearly stated, which may not be the case in a foreign nation.
This allows learners to gain a head start and become used to the accent. Then, later, there’s always time to pick up the pace.
Advantages of Babbel
Here are some of the noticeable benefits.
1. A practical and customized study plan
Babbel’s language specialists tailor each course based on your first language. This enables you to study each language faster and more successfully.
For example, the French lesson varies based on your language. Because native Spanish learn French differently than those whose mother tongue is Polish or Dutch.
Babbel uses the spaced repetition technique to reintroduce words through six memory stages. This pattern helps you gain plenty of words over a while.
You’ll need structure in your studies if you’re serious about learning a new language. The courses will assist you in keeping your study program organized.
2. Rich and unique features
Babbel has tons of practical and fascinating features that make it more valuable.
Babbel has podcasts for specific languages to help you enhance your language abilities. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners will profit from these podcasts.
Audios are available on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also read the transcript to enhance your study.
But podcasts are not accessible in all languages. Besides, the options for the languages that offer podcasts are still restricted.
A few alternatives exist for the more dominant languages, like German, French, Spanish, and Italian. But unfortunately, there are none for less famous languages like Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, or Dutch.
(ii) Local version of the language
One of the star features of Babbel is that it emphasizes the colloquial form of a phrase. Of course, it takes care to offer you the accurate and less known option, but the focus is on the words as you’d hear them on the street.
This is advantageous as it enables you to comprehend what the locals say and use more conversational phrases rather than just textbook versions or academic renditions.
Babbel’s software encourages you to study at least ten words or phrases daily. Plus, it permits you to pick your preferred review approach to ensure your review is as successful as possible.
(iii) Cultural Bites
Babbel also features Culture Bites to help you learn more about your target language’s cultural features.
They’re brief summaries of distinctive features of your target language, like how people introduce themselves. Then, it focuses on various celebrations and notable artists, and historical personalities.
You can add exciting bites to any conversation by discovering quick, fun facts about the culture of your target language and how native speakers use it.
This is one of the best features that any language app could offer.
(iv) 2-Minute Short Stories
2-Minute Stories is another option offered in several languages. These are short tales to teach you beneficial phrases. A few minutes is all it takes for each short story, which is perfect for passive education.
Yet, most of the story is in English, and they highlighted only the essential phrases in the new language.
Babbel’s short stories assist you in using many newly earned vocabulary in real-life situations.
3. Interactive learning process
The classes at Babbel are detailed, entertaining, and complete enough to give you confidence in a new skill or topic.
The app uses a combination of flashcards, fill-in-the-gaps, and multiple-choice questions to teach you a language.
It also has a listen & repeat and pre-recorded dialogue to enhance your speaking and listening skills. As a result, it becomes more enjoyable and energetic.
You may select a learning level based on pace, plan, and preferences. Also, the app’s function that sends you regular reminders to check your progress instills discipline in your language study.
Most significantly, Babbel is a firm believer in focusing on real-world phrases used by native speakers to aid language learning. The service offers lessons to suit various interests. It is regularly updated and expanded.
On top of the enhanced and excellent video quality, there is also an app for increased learning. Also, online and offline choices are accessible, giving you the option of the medium of education.
They accommodated people with varying learning capacities and styles. It also provides courses by diverse professors in terms of color, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors.
4. Babbel Live
Babbel Live offers 60-minute live face-to-face classes with a language teacher. Also, the experienced and certified instructors teach sessions on Zoom to a small group of a maximum of 6 students.
While it is a different product, it is the most intriguing and valuable thing that Babbel offers outside of its app lessons. The lessons cover various subjects and are appropriate for students at all skill levels.
Italian, Spanish, German, and French online classes are available, and they plan to add more languages soon. The levels include Newcomer (A1), Beginner (A2), Intermediate (B1), Upper Intermediate (B2), and Advanced (C1). But I doubt it would be the same as CEFR levels.
As a bonus, once you subscribe to Babbel Live, you get free access to all languages on the app.
Live teaching patterns make learning effective. The Babbel classes might sometimes be tedious, but in the end, they will help you enhance your fluency.
Since these are live classes with a teacher thus, the expense is also on the higher side. You can pay $99 for 1 month, $209 for 3 months ($70/month), $359 for 6 months ($60/month), and $599 for 1 year ($50/month).
Babbel Live offers hundreds of classes on various topics and languages each week. You can also take these sessions as frequently as you want, in any order, as long as you have an active subscription.
Is it worth it?
Live classes with a teacher are a great way to learn a language. But, it is expensive and not a systematic group class that covers from zero to all the way to the advanced level.
The random classes on diverse subjects might still be fruitful, but it won’t be that amazing. It would be better to check some of the best language teaching websites like Verbling, Preply, iTalki, Rype, Lingoda, etc.
Disadvantages of Babbel
As with anything, there are certainly some drawbacks of apps like Babbel. Let’s check it out!
1. It lacks a complete learning approach
Even though Babbel builds each language course separately, which is admirable, the substance presented in each course varies.
Babbel’s extra features are another area where it might be improved. While they appear attractive, the essential information is sparse and unhelpful.
As a result, learners may pick up a few tips and techniques while utilizing them. Still, they aren’t handy for language learning. As a result, sticking to Babbel’s core content: the courses are the best way to use it.
The lessons can sometimes appear a little repetitive and slow-paced. While it can help you advance, you need to put more effort into earning meaningful skills.
2. Limited language and lessons with varying quality
Babbel users who desire to learn various languages may dismay that specific courses are better developed than others.
Babbel Spanish, for example, may have a higher quality and number of modules than a less popular one like Swedish.
Some famous languages like Spanish and French have beginner to intermediate and advanced lessons.
The less-spoken studied languages, such as Danish and Polish, have a far smaller range. So, they are mainly restricted to the newcomers and primary levels.
It does not offer lessons in famous languages like Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, etc.
3. It is meant for English speakers
As an English speaker, you have an abundance of choices. What if you want to learn Japanese as a Spanish speaker or dive into German as a French native?
Unfortunately, you are out of luck!
You can pick any 14 languages, but your primary language must be English.
They primarily designed the app for English speakers who wish to learn another language. In contrast, non-English speakers have no options for studying another language.
They may lack the resources, and creating these programs will be a huge undertaking.
Irrespective of being a non-English speaker, you have minimal opportunities.
4. Babbel is not for advanced learners
On another note, despite its quality in some languages, the content and course structure are still aimed at the newbie.
It focuses heavily on the basics, such as vocabulary and memory-based repetition. This makes it less suited for intermediate or advanced learners.
To improve it, the team can add more content for upper-intermediate and advanced-level learners who have crossed the elementary and lower-intermediate.
Fluency isn’t realistic; even advanced levels are a dream. You won’t get anywhere near B2 or C1 if you use apps like Babbel.
This isn’t particularly unfavorable for this app, but this is correct for almost all online language education.
Their levels A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1 aren’t precisely like CEFR-based Spanish DELE or SIELE, Italian CELI, CAPLE Portuguese, German Zertifikat Deutsch, or French DELF.
The quality of the placement test varies and is not up to the mark. It is not like the CEFR levels.
How much does Babbel cost?
Babbel’s registration is free. And the first lesson in each language is totally free as a trial.
But once you taste the initial demo, they will greet you with a paywall demanding you to sign up within minutes. Then, you pay to gain access.
Babbel offers a variety of membership choices, with the monthly fee decreasing as the term of your subscription increases. It also has four subscription options available at different costs.
- 1 month of access to Babbel costs $13.95.
- 3-month subscription costs $29.85 ($9.95 per month).
- 6-month subscription costs $50.70 ($8.45 per month).
- 1-year annual costs $83.40 ($6.95 per month).
If you pay for 1 year, you will save nearly 50% of the typical cost. Plus, you can also get some discounts, which it offers regularly.
They provide a seven-day free trial. So you get a week after registering for an account to try out the courses, app, and technique for free.
This helps you to ensure that they are appropriate for your requirements. If you dislike or change your mind, you can also ask for a refund as it offers a 20-day money-back guarantee.
Is Babbel Premium worth the money?
Babbel does not have a free plan, and the full benefits are in the paid subscription. Here are the incentives you get:
- You have full access to all courses and levels of your selected language.
- You can access your lessons across multiple devices. You can do this by visiting the website, desktop computer, or app on a mobile device.
- You can check the Review feature. It has all phrases and words from your finished lessons. You can revisit it to make it attach to your long-term memory.
- You can jump lessons, check the progress, and get supplement tasks on several topics like culture, vacation, grammar, and more.
As you can see, these paid subscriptions have many impressive features. It is also on track compared to similar software-based language apps.
Babbel is relatively affordable. While you have to pay for the course you choose to study; you will receive quality course content that is value for money.
But it is not a game-changer. It is more like added material to enhance your learning experience.
This app alone won’t be sufficient. If you are looking for a full-fledged platform to help you learn a language, you can skip it.
My Babbel Review: Average — 3/5
Babbel’s language app is, on the whole, reasonably satisfactory. It can give you a head start in speaking and create a firm foundation in your chosen language by covering basics such as vocabulary and grammar.
You also learn more about the culture and individuals who speak the language you are learning, which some programs overlook. Its features thus enable a healthy learning procedure, even on a minor level.
Babbel can add value depending on the language you’re studying. Still, because each program is developed alone, the quality and depth of the courses may differ.
For instance, one of the best-developed courses with extensive lessons is Spanish, which is worth the monthly cost. But if you aim for any other languages, it depends, and quality also differs.
Yet, there is only an extent to its usefulness. Babbel distinguishes out as a helpful language-learning guide and supplement.
One point to note is that Babbel is a cost-effective option. Its monthly fee isn’t even close to the cost of a single tutored language class. This allows you to spend the balance of your money on native speaker practice sessions or study groups.
But then, learning and achieving any language with noteworthy fluency through this app is unlikely.
So, if you have limited expectations, first-time learners to cover basics and practice, Babbel may be practical assistance.
But if you already have a basic understanding of the language, there’s no necessity to use this platform. To be fair, it does not have much to offer at those levels. At least, I am not convinced.
Instead of excessive marketing, the team needs to put more effort into adding more value-add content. Overall, I would say Babbel is an average me-too Déjà-vu language product with pros and cons. Still, nothing special that compels you to purchase.
Babbel is a paid subscription app. Their in-house linguists ensure the content quality is top-notch. It is worth the money if you need to supplement your learning and practice. Still, as mentioned above, there are many negatives, like limited languages, lessons, and varying qualities. Considering everything, I’m giving a rating of 3/5, i.e., “Average.”
This is my 7th review after Memrise, Duolingo, Busuu, HelloTalk, LingoPie, and Pimsleur.
Do you have questions or any points about my Babbel review? You can also write your opinions in the comment below!
Based on what you mentioned about “Babbel Live”, it seems like that should be considered for a separate review. The basic app seems to be a standard language learning tool, but coupled with the live subscription I would’ve guessed that this app is above average.