September 23, 2009
The most amazing thing about the internet is that it is a medium where anything goes. You can do all kinds of things on the internet, from watching TV and listening to the radio to playing sophisticated video games, but did you know that you can learn foreign languages on the internet as well? Yes, you can, with Babbel, a company that offers online courses in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Founded in 2007 and based in Berlin, Germany; Babbel has a playful and interesting way to learn a foreign language online.
To get started with a course on the Babbel website, you need to first register with the program and it is free. Furthermore, the registration process is rather simple. First, you need to type in your first and last name, type in a username, type in a password and reconfirm it, and your email address. You also need to select the language that you want to learn. There are a few pros and cons about Babbel, however. One of the biggest pros that Babbel has is that they have a system where you can connect with people who speak the language that you intend to learn and you can greatly improve your language skills by communicating with native speakers. The biggest con that Babbel has is that, unlike some of the bigger offline language software packages available, like Rosetta Stone, the number of languages that you can learn on Babbel is rather limited. Right now you can only learn five languages of Babbel, but the company is still rather new, launching its service just two years ago.
Once you have finished the registration process, you can start the language that you want to learn. Babbel has many tutorials to show you how to use their program. You can then choose different courses that are available on Babbel, depending on the level of knowledge you have on the language that you are willing to learn. For example, the first course that you will see, this is especially the case if you do not know the language at all, but want to learn it from the very beginning, is very basic. For example, suppose you want to learn Italian, one of the languages available on Babbel. The first lesson you will see is about getting acquainted. These courses have some of the most basic phrases, such as saying “hello” or “How are you.”
The beautiful thing about Babbel is that the language courses are not just in text. They have voice recordings on the site that are recorded by native speakers. This is very important to learn how to speak in that language. You can see how it is written with all the proper accent marks on the accented letters, and if you want to hear how that phrase is pronounced correctly, you can click on the little orange circle with the play symbol to the left of the written phrase.
At the bottom of each learning page is a grey circle with the play symbol. When you click on that circle, it will take you to the next lesson. The following lessons show how you can express greetings both formally and informally. The second lesson also shows how you tell someone “good morning, good day, good evening,” etc. Toward the middle or the end of each lesson, the Babbel website will even quiz you on a 24 point scale. The way the quiz works is not exactly the best. It is a mix and match. There are six images that are labelled A to F. Each image is a photo of someone or people doing something together. Below the pictures are phrases that you can also listen to. To the left of these phrases, you see a line, on which you click and a drop menu appears with the letters A to F. You need to decide which picture corresponds with which phrase.
Following the first quiz, the lessons go on and you can learn and make more progress. Here comes another question. Suppose you are finished learning Italian or don’t want to learn Italian anymore. Can you change the language that you want to learn? Yes, you can. Suppose you want to learn German instead of Italian. At the top right hand corner of the website, you will see the flag of the country in which the language you are learning is spoken in. If you were originally learning Italian, you will see a circle with an Italian flag. If you click on that flag, you will see a pulldown menu, and you can choose from the rest of the languages that are available. You can use Babbel to learn one language after another.
Babbel is a privately owned corporation that employs 14 people and four people on its management team, who are Markus Witte, managing director; Lorenz Hein, managing director; Thomas Holl, technical director; and Toine Diepstraten, R&D and IT director. The four people on the management team also founded Babbel.
Babbel’s investors include KIZOO Technology Ventures, and VC-Fonds Berlin.
KIZOO Technology Ventures is a vc firm that is dedicated to the internet services industry. Some other companies in KIZOO’s portfolio include MegaZebra, Fun&Smile, and others.
Babbel does have many competitors. Some of these competitors include Friends Abroad, Lingus TV, and Live Mocha.
Friends Abroad advertises itself to have up to over 80 languages and provides a service similar to that of Babbel. The only thing is that is competitor must have gone out of business or acquired by Babbel, because when you click on its website you get redirected to the Babbel website.
Lingus TV has a service that is similar to Babbel, but incorporates video as well as audio. Lingus TV, however, is much more modest than Babbel, with only the ability to learn Spanish. Lingus TV is still undergoing beta testing.
Live Mocha is a language learning website that is also undergoing beta testing. This company has become one of the top Web 2.0 companies and Live Mocha can pose some serious competition for Babbel because it has over 200 languages available to learn.
For more information about Babbel, click here.