Babbel Review 2020: Good for some languages – mediocre for others!
Babbel is a large online language course provider based in Berlin, Germany. In this post I take a look at their course offers, and attempt to answer the question: “Is Babbel Worth it?”
Updated July, 2020.
Babbel is a very affordable online language course provider, that features familiar quiz-style course elements combined with exercises, pronunciation and grammar trainers as well as vocabulary practice tools.
They offer English speakers 13 languages to pick from, with each subscription being purchased separately.
You can also learn English with Babbel from Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish, and Portuguese.
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- The main features of Babbel
- The “good” languages – Spanish, and French
- The “bad” languages – Italian, German, Danish + all others!
- Audio Quality
- Languages Available on Babbel
- Babbel Pricing
- Babbel Trial
- What I like
- What I don't like
- Babbel Reviews
- Frequently Asked Questions
- “Is Babbel any good for learning Spanish?”
- “Does Babbel work?” or “Is Babbel good?” or “How good is Babbel language?”
- Babbel Alternatives
The main features of Babbel
Alright, let's dive into the core of what Babbel offer.
At this point we have to split the review in two parts, because Babbel offers two distinctly different style of courses, depending on what language you're learning.
One is amazing, and is worth every penny of the subscription costs – while the other is terrible, and not even worth doing if you got it for free.
Unfortunately Babbel (at the time of writing this review) chooses to continuously offer both the superior and inferior courses at the same time, and what is even more unfortunate, at the same price…
Here's a quick video I recorded to show these differences:
The “good” languages – Spanish, and French
These languages have significantly better courses than the rest of the languages of Babbel.
Here's how they work.
First you learn a few key phrases, which are super relevant and important for those first few conversations you're bound to have in Spanish.
Once you've learnt these, you are immediately put into a conversation in Spanish!
This is the FIRST lesson!!
I think this is extraordinary.
Not only do you learn very useful and practical vocabulary, but you get to learn it in context.
The audio quality is very high, and the Spanish sounds extremely natural.
As an added bonus, there is also a ton of content available for each language, easily worth the small monthly cost.
So, if you're learning Spanish or French then Babbel is amazing.
The “bad” languages – Italian, German, Danish + all others!
Where the Spanish and French language courses were exciting, immersive, and taught useful language the courses for these languages are just terrible.
They are boring, and teach word-by-word vocabulary, with the most dragged out voice artists I've ever heard (the Danish course being particularly guilty of this)
This reminds me of free apps, and is super boring! Not what you expect from a premium app – and vastly inferior to the Spanish version as explained above.
The lessons are typical quiz-style, which remind me a lot of the styles used on Duolingo, which is completely free, by the way.
And to make matters worse, there is far less content available for some if not most of these “bad” languages than the the bigger languages!
So, why are they the same price again Babbel?
The audio and speaker quality for the Spanish, French, and German courses was absolutely fine.
But, as I was testing out their Danish course (they offer the first lesson free to try for all their languages) I was not super impressed with the quality of the Danish recordings.
It sounded very artificial, as the 2-3 word sentences were stuttered.
Clearly native speakers, but just slowed down to the point where it's lost all resemblance of natural speech.
To me the most important feature of any language learning tool or course is that the lesson materials are not only of the highest possible quality, but also that they reflect how the language would sound like “in the wild.”
Of course I only tested 1 module of 1 language, so I can't say if it's a trend of all of the languages or just the Danish course.
Languages Available on Babbel
Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Polish.
All courses are taught in English, except English which you can learn from 6 languages.
Babbel is a pretty affordable service, costing:
- €4.95/month when committing for 12 months
- €5.54/month when committing for 6 months
- €6.65/month when committing for 3 months
You cannot subscribe for less than 3 months, and you have to pay any of the above packages upfront at the time of upgrading.
Whilst there are no technical trials available, all languages have 1 free lesson you can take to evaluate the software.
This gives you an idea of what to expect deeper into the course.
What I like
- The courses with conversations are amazing, and teach super relevant and important vocabulary for the learner
- Easy to use interface both on desktop and mobile
- Relatively cheap monthly commitment
What I don't like
- Languages are completely different in their design and quality, but cost the same!
- Some recordings are unnaturally slow/stretched out
- Way less content on some courses compared to others
- Not a lot of content for intermediate and beyond
So, Is Babbel worth it?
I would say it depends.
If you are learning Spanish or French – it's awesome.
They have a very new conversational approach to online language learning, and it's miles ahead of other online courses in the price range.
HOWEVER, if you're learning a smaller language, like Danish, I would run away from Babbel.
They are MUCH worse than their Spanish counterparts, and worst of all they cost the same!
So, these smaller languages on Babbel get a pass from me, unless you're a really visual learner who enjoys the quiz-style courses, and you spot a good deal.
What do other people think?
Well, Babbel has a fantastic TrustPilot score with 86% of people rating the service at Great or Excellent.
Not sure why this is, obviously I'm not going to accuse Babbel of doing anything shady in order to persuade people to leave favourable reviews – but I will just say this:
For the kind of app they are, to have this few negative reviews does leave me wonder if the people invited to review are cherrypicked, or if there is some kind of incentive going on.
If it is legit then maybe the app is better than my review gives it credit for.
I'll let you make your own conclusions about this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Being such a popular app, there are a lot of questions you might have before looking into Babbel.
In this post I'm including a few of these questions to help you out.
Hopefully you'll find that most of the review answers your questions.
“Is Babbel any good for learning Spanish?”
Yes, the Spanish Babbel course is excellent. Featuring real dialogues and aconversational focus from the very first moment of the course.
“Does Babbel work?” or “Is Babbel good?” or “How good is Babbel language?”
Babbel works to teach you vocabulary and basic sentences in your target language. It's not a comprehensive method, but since you can use it anywhere with the app it's a fun little gamified system.
There are no language learning apps out there, that can take a learner from nothing to fluency or anywhere near functional conversational language.
(The Uncovered courses are examples of course that do this, but at a much higher price….)
Babbel helps you learn vocabulary, as well as basic spelling and listening comprehension – that's it.
Bring the app along, and give it a try – it might help you more than you expected!
- I recommend LanguagePod101/LanguageClass101 – they offer audio courses for 35+ different languages and I think that method is way more exciting than the Babbel format. It's similarly priced too.
- Duolingo – does pretty much the same as Babbel. The big advantage is that it's free. The downside is that the audio is mainly machine generated which is not ideal. However you do get a lot of lessons in the app, and apart from a few ads it's completely free to use.
- Consider using apps such as Memrise or Clozemaster. They will give you a similar learning curve, and are both free to use for basic features. They don't have quizzes with pictures, but you learn fast nonetheless.
This has been my babbel review. Check out my other reviews.