Review by Common Sense Editor, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

Babbel

Deep but dispersed content best for independent European learners

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • World Languages
  • English-Language Learning
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
4–12
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Pros: The site has tons of content, and lots of options for community learning.

Cons: Frustrating pedagogical problems and too much white space hamper site's effectiveness.

Bottom Line: Language learning tool is best used individually by teens and adults; some teachers might also make good use of it.

European and Scandanavian teachers might be able to use Babbel for older or adult students in place of a textbook, especially as a complement to a conversation-focused course. Class lessons could be organized to follow the sequence presented in the website, though it's unclear if the content is aligned with any school standards or requirements. If you are teaching French or German in the United States, Babbel could definitely be used for extra credit, for homework, in class practice, or for pronunciation practice (although inconsistency might make this unfeasible). Though the site lacks a teacher dashboard, teachers can track student progress by using printed course certificates.

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Babbel supports older learners at various levels of learning a language with vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation lessons and an active online community. Fill-in-the-blank, ordering, pronunciation, voice match, word match, and error-correction activities populate six beginner, three intermediate, and six grammar courses. Each course contains approximately twenty lessons, most of which are divided into six to twelve words, phrases, or sentences. Plentiful courses cover themes like cuisine, pronunciation, false cognates, and slang.

Learners from six mother tongue languages (German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Swedish) can learn English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Norwegian, and Danish. British English spellings and Castilian Spanish pronunciations are perfect for European kids, but they might confuse kids with American roots.

Babbel hosts an active learning community and an impressive depth of content, but it fails to create an immersive experience. Highlights include the People page, which hosts an active chat, topical boards, and user-submitted writing activities and provides the option to help others with short translations. Other bright spots include the Review Manager, which helps you commit vocabulary to long-term memory through customized review intervals, and, ultimately, the large collection of content that helps you learn 12 different languages.

Unfortunately, all of this content is spread too widely across the site; it requires too much clicking about, and speech recognition can be frustrating. Images (and sometimes capitalization) are extensively used to provide hints, undermining textual and aural learning. Verb conjugations are relegated to a subset of lessons and are not well integrated. It would be helpful to see one's progress on all courses and words on one page. Currently, this information is displayed partly on the Vocabulary page, partly on an activity bar, and partly on the Home page, and the information is available only for the current course. Despite these needling problems, Babbel still provides a social and visually interesting experience for language learners.

Overall Rating

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

Huge depth of photos and images that clearly mirror words, phrases, and even sentences. However, the People section sports the most interesting action.

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

Variety of traditional learning activities puts learners through paces, but verb conjugation is limited. While likely effective as an individual learning tool for conversational language, classroom application is more limited.

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

Controls are easy, but content is too spread out for easy navigation The People section connects users for collaborative learning.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Caitlin M. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Shorecrest Preparatory School
Saint Petersburg, United States
Fun activities and gamification may not be worth costly subscription service
Babbel makes it easy to get started, placing users in a recommended course based on an initial placement test. Activities incorporate a varied combination of images, sounds, and visuals - repetition of new concepts is important. Earning points by completing activities adds a gamification element - but all of this is only free for the first lesson in each language. A monthly subscription with a year commitment is $6.95/month or over $80 a year. With every student needing a subscription, the cost would ...
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