I Tried Babbel for One Month to Learn French — Here's How It Went
When the world fully opens back up and we throw ourselves into travel, it would be nice to arrive with a grasp on the language and culture of our destination. Language is one of the most powerful tools we have — it fosters understanding, promotes the exchange of ideas, and creates moments of connection. Besides the benefit of being able to communicate and navigate better throughout a country, there's no greater sign of respect for a culture than learning its language, regardless of whether you're living there or just visiting.
Services like Babbel help you learn a language through a series of online courses that include grammar lessons, contextual learning, and audible and written practice opportunities. Babbel offers both live classes and online course modules that let you work at your own pace through a series of lessons and reviews. In order to test the service, Babbel gave me a free trial to try out each language course. I chose to try out the online course modules because the low time commitment worked better for my schedule compared to hour-long live classes. Over the course of one month, I made it through the newcomer and beginner courses for French and learned a lot in the process. I'm by no means fluent at this point, but I am definitely making progress and plan to continue the lessons.
Overall, je suis contente de Babbel. I think this is a stellar learning experience for those who like to accomplish goals (me), check off lists (me), and work through levels (also me). The French course starts with basic vocabulary and works into more complex phrasing and grammar, which, once you learn the different ways to conjugate verbs, becomes intuitive. Now, I will acknowledge that I did well learning languages in school, but I think this service would also work for those who might struggle with traditional language classes. It allows you to set your own pacing, listen to native speakers, and take review lessons throughout each course to practice what you're learning and apply it to different situations.
Overall Rating: 9.6/10
- Accessible classes for different learning styles
- Wide variety of languages and courses available
- Quick responses from customer service
- Solid value for the price
- Moves at a fair pace with lots of opportunities to review and practice
- High-quality courses
- Technology was interactive and varied (includes an app!)
- Not as many languages available as other language learning apps
- Not as many courses for advanced learners
How Babbel Works
Babbel allows you to learn a language through a series of online courses. There are two types of subscriptions you can choose from: Babbel and Babbel Live. Babbel is a series of digital module courses that you work through solo at your own pace, whereas Babbel Live involves live online classes with other learners and instructors. You can choose between one-month, three-month, 12-month, and lifetime subscriptions, depending on how long you think it may take to learn your language. Pro tip: It will take longer than you think.
The online modules offer a wealth of courses to choose from, each within varying levels. You should start by working through the standard courses, which are as follows:
- Newcomer (3 courses; 35 lessons and reviews)
- Beginner I (4 courses; 40 lessons and reviews)
- Beginner II (4 courses; 47 lessons and reviews)
- Pre-Intermediate (2 courses; 18 lessons and reviews)
- Intermediate (4 courses; 36 lessons and reviews)
- Independent (2 courses; 18 lessons and reviews)
- Advanced (1 course; 9 lessons and reviews)
Then there are 60 additional courses you can opt to take to explore different sides of the language, including courses on grammar, business, countries and traditions, and words and sentences.
With Babbel Live, you can choose between one, five, 10, and 20 classes per month, allowing you to customize your plan. You have access to the app and online classes until the subscription period ends. Babbel Live classes are taught by more than 100 certified native-speaking teachers. Due to privacy concerns, information about course instructors is not available online, but Babbel data shows a 4.7/5 satisfaction score among learners. Between 70 to 80 live classes are held every day (including all languages and levels), and students can choose which classes they want to attend based on their interests. There are no tests, quizzes, or homework assignments, but students can review the material after class. You must be 16 years or older to sign up for Babbel Live, but younger children can access the Babbel app to engage in the standard courses.
Signing Up for Babbel
To sign up for Babbel, you must first select the language you're interested in learning. There are 14 languages offered including: English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
Then, you'll answer a short quiz about why you want to study that language so Babbel can match you with the best courses for your goals. For example, if you're learning the language for work, there are language courses focused on business terms, whereas if you're prepping for an upcoming trip, you can choose travel-specific courses. Next, Babbel will assess your level and your learning goals (basics vs. conversational). Then, you'll determine how much time per day that you can commit to learning on Babbel — I went with a standard 30 minutes, but you can choose between five and 60 minutes.
Babbel will also ask about your learning style, which is refreshing since everyone has different educational environments that work for them. For instance, if you're like me and prefer to work on your own, you can select "solo, just me and an app." If you enjoy learning in a class setting, there are live virtual classes you can opt into as well. There's also a "not sure" option for the undecided. To finalize your learning plan, just submit your first name and your email address.
When you begin taking courses, you'll notice an activity tracker where you can set a weekly goal for how many lessons and activities you hope to complete. You can take the digital courses at your own pace, moving through each lesson and review. Your progress will be saved, so you can exit and easily come back to the place you left off. For Babbel Live, you can book classes online and prepare for each lesson by downloading materials ahead of class time and doing practice lessons on the app that complement each course.
You can manage your Babbel account through the website and the app, including changing your language or canceling your subscription.
Babbel Course Review
For my review, I tried out the standard Babbel courses, starting with the newcomer level and working up to the beginner levels over the course of a month. There are several sections you should be aware of within the Babbel website: Home, My Level, More Courses, Live, and Practice.
The home page is where your progress is tracked and where you can work through each course. Within the course, every lesson is listed, and you can move through them at your own pace. The My Level section shows you where you are in the progression of courses for each level, such as newcomer, beginner, and intermediate. You can jump ahead, go back, and work on any level that you'd like, although I'd recommend going in order for the best results. The More Courses tab offers a collection of other language courses you can take, such as subject-specific courses and other grammar and vocabulary lessons. The Live section of the site is where you can sign up for Babbel Live on top of your Babbel subscription if desired. Finally, the Practice section houses all the vocabulary you've learned as well as review modules so you can practice and apply the language.
As you work through a lesson, you'll notice that each has a general theme, such as numbers, directions, or food. Each lesson tests you in multiple ways with fill-in-the-blanks, matching, spelling questions, multiple choice questions, dialogue scenarios, and listening and speaking practice. You'll need an audio and microphone component to do those questions. I'm sure I sounded a little silly practically shouting French at my computer (you have to speak up for the software to hear you), but the verbal practice definitely gave me a more immersive experience. There are also dialogue scenarios you can participate in to give you contextual practice with native speakers so you can hear how the language should sound when spoken. A fun tidbit I noticed is that there are small notifications that pop up throughout the lessons with little facts about the culture of the language you're studying.
Between every couple of lessons, there is a review section, which I'd encourage you to take. The reviews help group all of the knowledge you're learning and allow you to practice in various scenarios. You can choose from several types of review methods, including flashcards, listening, speaking, and writing. In addition to testing basic understanding of the language, these lessons and reviews also test context. For example, whether a word is masculine or feminine, formal or informal. Some of these require a little extra thought, such as "a baker" being a stranger and therefore requiring the formal bonjour as a greeting over the informal salut. Of course if I was in France, having the penchant for croissants that I do, the baker would absolutely be my best friend and not a stranger. But I digress.
The modules didn't take much time at first. In the newcomer level courses, I finished each lesson in five minutes or less, but as the lessons and courses became more difficult, it took me much longer. Given the 30 minute daily cap I assigned myself, my progress slowed down. That's why I'd suggest either allotting a longer daily commitment (full hour), or a longer subscription to give you the best possible chance of mastering the language. After completing each course, you'll receive an achievement badge as a little pat on the back and to help you keep track of your progress.
I did most of the courses on my computer, but there is also a Babbel app for added convenience and on-the-go learning. The app is set up the same way as the webpage, with tabs for home, courses, live, practice, and your profile. However, when you're moving through the lessons, the website gives you the option to redo an answer if you make a mistake, and the app just moves ahead, notifying you that your answer is incorrect and showing you what the correct answer is. The audio was solid on both platforms, providing a high-quality experience for speaking and engaging with the curriculum.
Overall, I have really enjoyed learning French through Babbel. I'm still in the beginner courses, but my goal is to stick with it until I can become a confident conversationalist, if not fully fluent. The lessons I enjoyed the most were about making introductions, saying what you like and dislike, and describing places and people. Lessons I'm most looking forward to include learning to talk about my childhood memories, social commitments and travel, and art and popular culture. For added fun, once you get to the advanced level, even the instructions are in French. Happy learning!
Most Popular Babbel Courses
The neat thing about Babbel is that you can really cater the courses to your needs. So, if you're going on a business trip and want to learn business vocabulary, you can focus on that. Comparatively, if you're just traveling for fun, and want to learn navigational words and questions related to tourism, you can shift your attention to those types of courses too. With so many to choose from, class popularity ranges by interest. As far as languages, the most popular language course available through Babbel is Spanish (80 to 90 percent of users seek to learn this language), followed by French, Italian, and German.
Babbel's costs are somewhere in the middle range when compared to other language-learning services. Babbel obviously costs more than free apps, but you're also getting a more immersive experience than those types of services provide. I've tried the free aps before, also for French, and I learned this language better on Babbel. Other services tend to just stick to short lessons without any real application, whereas Babbel teaches you the curriculum through listening, speaking, reading, writing, and applying what you learned into dialogue, different scenarios, and conjugations, depending on who or what the subject is.
Standard Online Courses
- One-month subscription: $14
- Three-month subscription: $30
- 12-month subscription: $84
- Lifetime subscription: $249
- One class per month: $30
- Five classes per month: $100
- 10 classes per month: $180
- 20 classes per month: $290
Babbel offers a student discount — 65 percent off a three-month subscription — for U.S. college students. Babbel also has a referral discount for all types of subscribers. So if you invite your friends to join, you'll get $10 off, and they'll get 50 percent off when they sign up for six months.
Whom Is Babbel For?
Honestly, Babbel could be for anyone. It works well for those who want to learn a new language for a variety of reasons because the pacing is customizable and the courses cater to your learning needs. According to Babbel, it is most popular among those at the beginner and intermediate level, and the average user is 35 or older, educated, and in a high income bracket. The top motivations for learning a new language are: friends and family, travel, skill development and self-improvement, work, and general interest.
Because there are so many course options, Babbel is a great choice for business people, tourists, students, and anyone else. It may not happen overnight, but if you put time into learning your language of choice and practice along the way, you'll pick it up.
Babbel Customer Service and Reviews
With over 17,500 reviews on Trustpilot, Babbel has an average rating of 4.6 out of five stars. Reviewers love the confidence Babbel has brought them when speaking a foreign language. One reviewer wrote, "Babbel has helped me to get a good grasp of the language in a fun and challenging way. I enjoy the dialogues and scenarios, which include helpful phrases that can be used in various situations. It is not just remembering stock phrases. You learn how to conjugate and construct sentences making you more fluent."
Generally, course users enjoy how the lessons are structured, because they start you with basic grammar and then work into dialogue and contextual situations where you might use that type of expression. Like any learning experience, people will have different views depending on what works best for them. One reviewer wrote, "I like the review part of Babbel as it allows you to recap bits you have learned. The only issue I have is that the lessons move on far too quickly to be able to absorb anything and I recommend not moving on until the next lesson until you can remember all the points in the previous lessons by heart, going back and revisiting now and again when needed."
Whereas another reviewer appreciated the pacing, and especially enjoyed the variety of learning techniques used, writing, "What a great tool for language learning! I love that you work at your own pace and convenience. It's immersive from the beginning, conversations you listen to are realistic and contain not only the words you are learning but all of the contextual words as well. I appreciate the variety of styles utilised i.e., flashcards, listening, speaking and writing. Merci beaucoup Babbel, très bien!"
To contact customer service, you can either use the online resource page with frequently asked questions and searchable inquiries, or you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I gave Babbel a 9.6/10 rating after I compared different factors, such as course quality, value, and variety as well as accessibility, technology, diversity of instructors, and customer service. After reviewing these elements, I assigned Babbel a weighted score out of 10.
What it means
Numerical ranking (1-10)
Classes are detailed, engaging, and thorough enough to leave you feeling confident in a new skill or topic.
The service has a variety of classes for varying interests. Class offerings are regularly updated and expanded.
Video quality was high, an app was available for enhanced learning, and there were online and offline options.
The cost of the service was reasonable for the quality and quantity of classes.
Accommodations are made for those with different learning abilities and styles.
The service features courses taught by a diverse set of instructors in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Customer service is helpful and responds quickly to queries.