Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2013
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Learn Spanish with babbel.com

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Castilian Spanish app missing features for truly immersive experience

Common Sense says
Teachers say (3 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: There's an extensive vocabulary list, and the voice-recognition tool holds promise for pronunciation practice.

Cons: Instruction lacks depth in both verb conjugation and grammar, and the overall engagement factor is low.

Bottom Line: The vocabulary lessons are strong on repetition, but grammar lessons are missing, and European pronunciation is favored.

Teachers could recommend Learn Spanish with babbel.com for students studying Spanish, but keep in mind that the app favors Castilian Spanish. Nevertheless, the app could help reinforce vocabulary at home, or possibly in small groups. Teachers might also use it to model how vocabulary can be illustrated through photos and other visual aids. Given the lack of grammar instruction, verb conjugation, and progress tracking, teachers might want to use other products for in-class activities or language-learning assessment.

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Learn Spanish with babbel.com boasts scored pronunciation, lots of images, and relatively extensive content -- 30 themes with about 10 sets of 12 vocabulary items each. After email registration, kids choose from a list of thematic vocabulary lessons in the main menu. Choosing any theme leads to a second level of topics. Within each topic, kids can choose one of three options: Learn and Remember, Deepen Your Knowledge, or Vocabulary.

Learning activities allow kids to hear, see, and pronounce words. Kids are asked to match pronunciations with English words (including image clues), select initial letters, spell whole words, and use words to complete sentences. Kids can also browse a complete list of vocabulary words. Be aware that British English spellings and Castilian Spanish (in gross terms, Spanish with a lisp) may confuse American students.

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Learning Spanish is all about immersion, repetition, and -- without a doubt -- extensive verb conjugation; all of these are essential for fluent comprehension and speech. Learn Spanish with babbel.com achieves some of this immersion through oodles of photos and illustrations that help give a sense of meaning. Repetition is definitely emphasized through the learning activities and the Review Manager feature.

The pronunciation scoring might be the app's strongest feature; however, it's important to remember that the app's voice-recognition software is tuned to recognize Castilian Spanish rather than Latin American Spanish. Unfortunately, grammar lessons are altogether absent, verbs are conjugated automatically, and the fill-in-the-blank sentences are overly complex. Plus, there aren't any rewards or statistics with the Android version; neither version -- iOS or Android -- tracks progress.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2

There are vivid images, but the low-energy presentation and lack of progress tracking fail to impress.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

While learning activities are quite varied, the fill-in-the-blank sentences are too difficult, verbs are conjugated automatically, and grammar lessons are absent.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The lack of pronunciation tips may leave some kids frustrated. Though the device vibrates on wrong answers, no rewards are given for success.


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Rachel M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Cornell Senior High School
Coraopolis, PA
3
Language enrichment program engages some students more than others

I think that there are similar tools that are a little bit more engaging. I think this would be best used in very short enrichment opportunities (about 10 minutes) periodically, for example once a week. I liked how easy it was for my students to use.
As mentioned, I appreciated the clear visuals and audio clips. This is definitely not a stand-alone program for fully learning a language, but it can enhance a class and reinforce/introduce certain vocabulary and language concepts. There are also some interesting vocabulary topics offered, especially at the advanced level, that could be useful to language learners.

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