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Options trading Babbel improved my German and Spanish conversation skills after 1 month of use, but the lessons can get tedious over time


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Options trading Babbel improved my German and Spanish conversation skills after 1 month of use, but the lessons can get tedious over time

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more. Babbel/Facebook I used Babbel, a subscription-based language learning app, to improve my German after taking a break from in-person classes, as well as to brush up on advanced Spanish skills.Using Babbel helped reinforce grammar and vocabulary thanks to exceptional speaking…

Options trading Babbel improved my German and Spanish conversation skills after 1 month of use, but the lessons can get tedious over time

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  • I useBabbel, a subscription-based language learning app, to improve my German after taking a break from in-person classes, as well as to brush up on advanced Spanish skills.
  • Using Babbel helped reinforce grammar and vocabulary thanks to exceptional speaking and listening drills, but the lessons became tedious over time.
  • While my progress was slow, I found I was a more confident speaker and listener when it came to practical, everyday conversations.
  • Read more: The best cheap or free online resources to learn a new language

The range of new hobbies people have embraced while spending more time at home due to COVID-19 includes everything from bread baking and cocktail mixing to learning skills like photography or coding.

Yet for many, it’s all but impossible to take in-person classes at the moment, so e-learning has become increasingly popular with classes ranging from Yale’s free class on the Science of Happiness to courses geared towards helping freelancers gain employable skills

Language-learning apps have also been on the rise, whether used to add new expertise, pass the extra time spent indoors, or to prep for a post-quarantine trip. There are many language-learning platforms on the market, but Babbel is particularly popular thanks to its lower price point and flexible app-based programs. 

I’ve been living in Berlin for almost four years and my German is still less than perfect, to put it mildly. While I intended to take in-person German classes this summer and finally reach intermediate courses, COVID-19 threw a wrench into that plan. Instead, I decided Babbel was a good alternative way to speak a little more Deutsch as I waited for in-person classes to return. I was given a premium-access code for review purposes to test out the app. 

The company claims that 73% of users report that they can hold short, simple conversations within five hours of using Babbel. Granted, I wouldn’t be starting from the absolute beginning with my German abilities, but the claims piqued my interest. I hoped the app would improve my confidence conversing with native German speakers in day-to-day interactions. 

Read on about my experience using Babbel, and why I found it useful. 

Babbel is a flexible language-learning app and browser-based program offering 13 different language courses for native English speakers. Launched 12 years ago, the company uses a team of more than 150 educators, polyglots, editors, researchers, and linguists to develop their content — there aren’t any user- or bot-generated lesson plans on this app. 

New users, like myself, take a placement test to assess their current skill level and courses can be tailored around specific interests. You can also further customize your experience by how many minutes per day you want to learn the language, though lessons generally tend to be on the shorter side at about 10 to 15 minutes. 

It’s important to note that despite the team of in-house experts, the quality between courses does vary. German, French, and Spanish are the most developed, comprehensive courses on the app so far. Content between courses also varies, including introductory lessons that take different approaches to learning (as we’ve noted in our overview of Babbel, the same initial lessons in Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish all have vastly different — and slightly befuddling — approaches). 

See a full overview of how Babbel works here.

Babbel’s subscription plans start at $6.95 a month for a year-long commitment. Or, you can take it month-to-month with plans starting at $12.95. 

Unlike many other language-learning apps, there’s no trial period or free version of the app, though you can try Course One of Lesson One of any language for free. 

The company also offers three-month and six-month plans, which are handy for those looking to delve into a new language, but who don’t want to commit to a full year. 

You can learn as many languages as you want with the app for the same price since the subscription fee is for access to the whole platform, not just a course.

I chose to use the placement test to find my appropriate level for German, and also tried a few of the lessons for more advanced speakers in Spanish.

My Spanish is far superior to my German since I studied Spanish in school from ages 5 to 20 and use it several times a year traveling, including when I spent a month in Mexico earlier this year pre-pandemic.

However, despite the fact that I’m more of a beginner when it comes to German, I have the added benefit of living in Berlin and am surrounded by the language.

I was eager to put Babbel to the test on these two different skill levels, and see what it was like learning a language I hear frequently versus one I only occasionally use now.

I tried Babbel for five weeks, focusing the vast majority on German lessons with a few Spanish lessons thrown in for fun. 

Once I made an account on Babbel, I was prompted to take a placement test. I was able to select my comfort level with the language, and options ranged from starting from scratch to the ability to have simple conversations. There was no option for more advanced speakers, so, for those beyond the intermediate level, Babbel is not the best platform. 

options trading Placement quiz comfort zone assessment



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


My test was made up of 12 fill-in-the-blank questions that sorted me into a level and course that the program suggested as best, though I ultimately had the choice of where to start.  

I don’t think the test accurately gauged my true experience level since some of the lessons it recommended for both German and Spanish covered concepts I already learned, but I was happy enough to have the chance to review topics I’d been shaky on in the classroom. 

options trading Test completion



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


 Luckily, I was able to jump around between lessons and levels, so I was not beholden to the course I tested into for either language. 

options trading Spanish language placement test



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


Each lesson in the German courses I tried followed a fairly similar format, which, while useful for retention, became tedious. I found myself making the most use of the app when I set aside an hour or so two to three times a week, headed to the park, and knocked through a few lessons in one go.

By doing the lessons in longer chunks, I felt more immersed in the experience, and it was easier not to notice the repetitive nature of the lessons.

That said, because I live in Berlin, I was still getting German practice through my daily movements on days when I didn’t use the app. 

Lessons were primarily centered on specific themes (“Relationships”), with nouns, adjectives, and phrases relating to each topic (emotions, names for relationship statuses) versus other programs I’ve tried where units focused on say, just memorizing different names of fruits. I found that having a diversity of vocabulary in a lesson kept learning fresh and actually made it easier for me to retain the vocabulary.

The exercises generally started by introducing a set of vocabulary and having me listen to the words, accompanied by their English translation and a photo. I was then prompted to recite them back (the program assesses pronunciation and is overall quite good at it).

After that, the program ran me through various drills, such as pairing words with their definitions, spelling words from memory, and fill-in-the-blank scripts where native speakers read the final scene. 

options trading Fill in the blank vocabulary exercise



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


Handily, there was also an option I could use to turn off the speaking practice if I was in a place where talking aloud wasn’t ideal. This was necessary since I found the microphone to be picky when I tried speaking at a lower volume when outside or in public. 

options trading german phone1



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


The lower-level Spanish courses I tried were virtually the same as the German. It was nice to review some of the nuts and bolts I learned in my early classroom days, and it was easy enough to quickly refresh my knowledge.

I found myself doing more of the Spanish lessons in a row because I enjoyed the experience of working with a language I ultimately felt more familiar with. 

After re-familiarizing myself with the basics, I moved on to the “Independent” level, which came after intermediate. These lessons tackled more advanced language for daily conversations, like reflexive verbs and gerunds, and introduced more complex vocabulary. 

options trading More German dialogue



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


The set-up for the more advanced lessons I tried focused on character-based storylines that used slang terms, colloquialisms, and common sayings. I found these lessons useful to learn new everyday language concepts I hadn’t come across in classes before without getting bogged down in nitty-gritty grammar lessons.

Additionally, in the advanced Spanish listening exercises, the speakers were quite a bit faster than during beginning levels and used a mix of accents. 

options trading Additional German language courses Babbel offers



Krystin Arneson/Babbel/Business Insider


However, in the more advanced levels, the exercises still became tedious after several rounds. 

I did find after a few weeks of the exercises I was more confident in my ability to react to turns in German conversations, and I could follow along much better with what was being said to me.

I also found that it was an easy way to brush up on my Spanish skills, refresh my memory on grammar topics, and learn new slang terms.

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So, ultimately, the app did its job. 

My biggest issue with Babbel happened right off the bat since I found the placement tests to be less than ideal for truly gauging my experience level.

For German, I tested into a beginner course despite having taken several classes pre-pandemic. I had an equally frustrating experience trying to place into an appropriate level for Spanish.

At least five of the 12 questions quizzed me on the differences between three prepositions used in very similar ways (which I was admittedly rusty on), and I found myself placed into the later part of Beginner Course II, which was well below my true skill level.

As mentioned, it’s possible to adjust course levels, but know that this process might feel frustrating.

I also found I enjoyed using the app on my phone more than the browser-based software, since in the browser version, the lesson page times out. A few times I got distracted by emails and had to start the lessons over again from the beginning. This also happened to me one time when I tried to switch between the browser and the app mid-lesson.

Additionally, the lessons didn’t require me to use correct capitalizations of nouns (which can be important in German) or correct accent markings for me to “pass” an activity, which makes it a better fit for a casual learner versus someone looking for a more academic program.

And while the repetitive format of the many lessons I did helped me retain information, it didn’t exactly motivate me to consistently open up the app every day for either language I tried.

Overall, I preferred Babbel to other language-learning apps I’ve tried, including popular picks like Duolingo and platforms like Busuu.

As someone who lives in a German-speaking place but conducts her work in English, casual speaking and listening is how I use German the most, and this app was truly a standout in the drills it offered — especially given how difficult speaking and listening can be to practice outside of a classroom setting.

The fact that the app uses native speakers to record dialogue is also a major plus. I appreciated being able to tailor content for how I’d get the most use out of the language.

I would recommend Babbel for those seeking to learn a language casually. While the more advanced Spanish lessons helped me review language concepts and introduced me to useful colloquial phrases, the app was really not suited to academic-level learning.

My experience was also with two courses that are known to be among the most comprehensive of the app’s offering. Those trying to learn a less popular language may run into frustrations with the less developed content lessons. 

That said, after just over a month of fairly casual use, I feel far more confident speaking and listening with my German-speaking neighbors on phone calls and during run-ins.

While my spelling and complex grammar might still not be perfect, more confidence in these everyday interactions is what I was hoping to gain from the app, and I did. 

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