Learning vocabulary on the underground, cramming grammar on the bus or decrypting common phrases online with native speakers while sitting in a café. Language students are using mobile devices more and more. A start-up company in the trendy Berlin district of Kreuzberg has developed into a shooting star with its online learning system for foreign languages. Babbel (babbeln = chat, babble) was founded in August 2007 in Berlin by four young entrepreneurs.
It now offers thirteen languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, Indonesian, Polish, Turkish, Danish and Norwegian. Russian will be added in 2014. For iPads as well as on its website, Babbel also offers various interactive online courses. In addition, there are free vocabulary trainer apps for iPhone, iPod, Windows 8 and Android, and interactive e-books in German and Spanish. According to company figures, people in over 190 countries have used their services and the apps have been downloaded 20 million times. Even the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel tried out Babbel at Cebit 2013 in Hanover. And in a test of tools for language learning, the New York Times reviewer praised Babbel for delivering “the app that I found most helpful”. In 2013 Babbel’s “innovative and motivating system” was awarded the German Educational Media Prize.
In 2014 the Berlin-based company, which reports three-digit growth figures, wants above all to expand internationally and whet users’ appetites for language learning. And the makers of Babbel have noted one thing that people everywhere have in common, despite all national differences: no one likes to cram grammar.
International Mother Language Day, 21 February