Babbel makes learning a new language fun and easy

Ellen McAlpine, CNN Underscored
Updated Mon May 18, 2020

There are more apps to learn languages from than actual languages. Or at least it feels that way. So what does it take for a service to stand out?

Babbel aims to stick out with a sleek user interface and by offering 14 languages to learn. Currently, the CNN Store is offering a lifetime subscription to the service for the discounted rate $159, from the $399 normal price. And that's for full access to every language.

We thought we'd see what all of the buzz is about, so we gave it a whirl. And now we're breaking it down for you.

Getting started

Babbel offers 14 different languages, including ones you'd expect to see, such as Spanish, Italian, French, English and German. Other languages are Danish, Dutch, Indonesian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Turkish. We liked the broad range of languages this app offers. Plus, if you're feeling ambitious and want to learn two languages, it's easy to switch between them. Babbel will save your progress in one language if you start another so you'll always be able to pick up where you left off.

Once you've chosen, Babbel will ask you how much experience you have with that language. If you're a beginner, you'll start in the Newcomer category.

Babbel breaks down its learning method as you start learning vocabulary. It employs a spaced repetition method, which means you'll see words and phrases consistently throughout each lesson. And so you won't forget, Babbel will remind you when it's time to practice.

You're able to choose the best time for Babbel to send you a push notification. These options for reminder times include "Around Lunchtime" to "On My Way Home." Babbel looks to fit your practice seamlessly into your day. This app is clearly geared toward everyday life.

Once you've selected that, you can choose an exact time and the number of times per week you'd like to be reminded. Three days are preselected, but you can change these by simply tapping among the days of the week. We found these reminders to be super helpful. If you're busy with meetings or school, it's nice to know you've set your practice times for a schedule that works for you.

This app is extremely intuitive and user friendly. You won't get lost looking for information and returning to your place in the lessons. There are five tabs at the bottom of the app that will take you to your home page, your lessons, your review and your personal profile, where you'll also find your app settings.

We liked how easy it was to navigate and find what we needed. The interface seems like it's suitable for all ages, and even if you tend to be overwhelmed by technology, Babbel doesn't give you an opportunity to get lost.

Learning

Babbel also won't leave you bored. As you progress through your lessons, you'll spell, match and speak your new language. Each lesson offers vocabulary words, and as you practice, you'll be shown photos, listen to dialogues, type words to fill in the blank and speak into your device's microphone to practice the pronunciations. We liked the way this app varied the learning tactics. It kept us engaged and made the process of learning more lighthearted.

Babbel is definitely focused on vocabulary, and as you progress, you can return to your vocab list. This is found by clicking the review icon at the bottom bar of your app. You're also able to hear the pronunciation of each word by tapping the speaker icon to the right of each word.

This is where spaced repetition comes into play. Once you've picked up vocabulary words, Babbel will add them to your review. After you've learned new words and progressed through lessons, you'll want to review everything to see what's committed to memory. Doing so will reinforce your vocabulary, helping you learn faster. It's an awesome feature that definitely holds up.

Everyone has their reasons for learning a new language. An aspect of Babbel that we loved was that it covers all the bases when it comes to reading, writing and speaking. You practice your spelling when the app has you type out words you've learned, be it with the letters of the word scrambled or using your full keyboard. This app will let you practice speaking words aloud as you learn them too. If you're a visual learner, Babbel will show you photos to match the words and phrases you're learning. This came in handy with a language like Spanish, where endings of words change, depending on who you're addressing or referring.

We're also a fan of were the grammar lessons. Throughout your vocabulary practice, Babbel breaks down the "why" of your answers. These lessons show up in pop up windows as you answer questions, and occasionally are lessons of their own. Babbel will explain things like informal and formal greetings, and masculine vs feminine endings on verbs and nouns. This is great because it helps you gain a fuller understanding of the language you're learning without being overwhelming. These quick grammar lessons pop up sporadically and keep it simple. You won't find yourself getting lost in translation, pardon the pun.

Get to it

Overall, our experience with Babbel was extremely positive. Priced at $159 on the CNN Store for a lifetime subscription, it's definitely worth it. Babbel offers 14 languages and entertains learning along the way.

This app is user friendly and we liked how easy it was to navigate. We also enjoyed the variety of ways to learn that were seamlessly explained along the way.

Learning a new language can be a daunting task, but Babbel breaks things down so that they're not oversimplified or not overcomplicated. If you're looking to become multilingual, Babbel is an awesome app to have in your back pocket.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed prices at the time of publication.