Do you want to learn a language for travel but aren’t quite sure where to get started?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in learning foreign languages. I took many years of French from 7th grade up into college. Over the years, I’ve kept up a mid-intermediate level of the language, which has helped a lot on my travels to France.
Even though I don’t have any set travel plans to visit another Spanish-speaking country right now, I’m head over heels for Spain and it’s only a matter of time before I return.
So, I’ve set the goal to improve my Spanish to at least have a working understanding of the language with basic conversational skills.
To accomplish this, I started using Babbel Spanish a couple of months ago.
In this guide, you’ll find my Babbel review, what I like about the program, how it’s helping me improve my Spanish for travel, and whether it’s worth it for your language goals.
This post is sponsored by Babbel. I am using Babbel to learn Spanish. All opinions are my own.
Babbel Review 2020:
Can It Help You Speak a New Language?
Traveling with working knowledge or fluency of the local language is like being given a special key to a destination. Nowhere have I experienced this more than on my travels to Paris and the French countryside.
Not only does it help you order dinner or listen to announcements in a train station, but it also opens doors to deeper cultural experiences and interactions. With some command of the language, you can haggle at a local market, find out about a hidden gem spot from a local, and even stay or eat in non-touristy areas of a city.
It also shows a sign of cultural respect. In my experience, locals don’t expect you to speak their language fluently and even the smallest attempts are appreciated.
My decision to learn Spanish with Babbel comes from knowing this, my love for languages, and being repeatedly curious about the program.
Getting Started with Babbel
Once you sign up for a Babbel plan and choose your language, you can start as a complete beginner or take a placement quiz to start the program at your level.
Even though I did know some basic words and phrases in Spanish, I chose to begin as a complete beginner. This included practicing basic vocabulary including things like greetings, numbers, time-telling, but also quickly included essential verbs, phrases, and complete sentences.
Babbel breaks up its lessons into 10-15 minute lessons with a set of activities. Each lesson introduces new words, phrases, and sentences, a few at a time. Lessons are meant to be compact with concrete learning goals.
Part of the program includes more traditional skill and drill type activities like:
- Listen and Repeat – A native speaker says each new word or phrase. If you have speaking enabled, you’ll be asked to repeat each one as they are introduced.
- Choose the Correct Translation – Here you have to match the words or phrases in Spanish on the screen to the matching photo and English translation.
- Spell the Word or Sort the Items – You’ll be asked to build the word or phrase.
While other lessons focus on verb conjugations, teaching rules, filling in the blanks as a way to put these rules into action, and building conversations.
7 Things I’m Liking About Babbel Spanish
It’s important to know this Babbel Spanish review is still a work in progress. I’ve spent a couple of months with the program and I plan to continue using Babbel. I’m even considering a look at their intermediate French content by adding to my subscription.
With that, the items below are things that I have noticed about the Babbel Spanish lessons and really liked.
1. Clear Native Speakers
The lessons throughout Babbel are narrated by native speakers who are clear in their pronunciation but who talk at a real-life, quick pace. I’ve been in language situations where the conversation is moving so quickly that when it’s my time to speak, I freeze up.
The more Babbel lessons I complete, the fewer times I need to repeat what was said to understand. Little by little, I’ve begun to feel more confident in my real-time Spanish listening skills.
I’ve even started to listen to A-Zero to A-Hero Spanish beginner Babbel podcast, which I wouldn’t have known about unless I saw the tip in my Babbel dashboard.
2. Plenty of Spanish Content
Babbel includes a ton of content for Spanish language learners. The “My Level” area of the online dashboard lets me choose between levels like “Newcomer,” “Beginner 1,” “Beginner 2,” etc.
Once selected, there are several courses in each section with dozens of lessons to complete. Sprinkled in between are short video clips with a Spanish speaker explaining a quick tip about something related to the immediate lessons.
As a beginner, I have plenty of material to keep me busy! And when I want to take a break from the set curriculum lessons, I can click on the “More Courses” or “Review” sections to select from different vocabulary and topics to practice or go back over previously learned words and phrases.
3. Well-Planned Curriculum Sequence
Maybe it’s the nerdy classroom teacher in me but I recognize and even delight in well-planned curriculum sequences. I know a thoughtful and logical approach to learning anything can only be put together by teachers who really understand what they’re teaching.
I don’t have to see Babbel’s lesson plan books to know how much work and consideration their experts put in. Each lesson builds on the last and nothing feels random like it did when I’d practice French vocabulary on Duolingo. Especially as a beginner, I felt I was building a foundation.
Even more impressive was when words and phrases I’d learned came up in different contexts. Anyone can present flashcards for review. But only skilled teachers can weave in previous lessons in a way that requires you to apply those new words and phrases to a new situation.
As a result, I couldn’t help but feel more confident each time I passed a section with no mistakes.
4. Babbel Explains Language Rules.
When I started, I admit I wondered about the Babbel vs Duolingo comparison. As I mentioned above, I casually used the free language app in the past to review French vocabulary and enjoyed the game-like activities.
But as a true Spanish beginner, I knew I needed language rules to be taught and explained and this was never Duolingo’s strong point.
As a native English speaker, I don’t have to think about different endings for masculine or feminine or know the differences between formal and informal versions of the pronoun “you.”
So, I get a lot of benefits from how Babbel explains language rules and then presents immediate opportunities to practice. Even the quick tips that pop up during an activity make it clear why something is written or spoken in a certain way.
And if you’re someone like me who has some proficiency with another Romance Language, these Spanish rule explanations let me connect what is similar and not to what I already know about French.
5. Babbel Teaches Useful Sentences.
I absolutely love that Babbel teaches WHOLE phrases and real sentences! Of course, part of learning a language comes with learning new vocabulary. But, how refreshing that Babbel’s program teaches words and phrases I could memorize and put to use right away in real conversations!
Having spent time in Spain where I felt seriously inadequate in my language skills, I found myself remembering real situations where I REALLY could have used that new phrase or sentence!
It’s also been easy to extend my learning and teach myself a lot of sentences quickly. For example, when Babbel introduced the phrase “Dónde está el baño” (Where is the bathroom?), I immediately began thinking of other places I could ask about.
- Dónde está el mercado?
- Dónde está la Iglesia?
- Dónde está la farmacia?
Or when the lesson taught the phrase “te gusta estudiar” (Do you like learning/studying?), I thought of other sentences I could build with, “Do you like…”
- Te gusta el pescado?
- Te gusta correr?
- Te gusta animales?
What energized me was knowing I wasn’t learning silly sentences but actual phrases, questions, and statements I could put to use in real life as soon as I learned them.
6. Conversation Building
Adding to the above, I like how Babbel’s lessons put everything into context in a simulated conversation.
With a brief explanation of the situation, the conversation begins. Along the way, I have to fill in the blanks to complete the sentences. These conversation activities also include new vocabulary that’s easy to figure out from the context of the sentence.
Where some of Babbel’s other activities are more straightforward and rote, putting it all together in a conversation activity feels more interactive. I have to read and listen to the conversation in Spanish, as well as use what I’ve learned together with my knowledge of similar types of conversation in English to play an active role in the activity.
7. Convenient Learning
Just like anyone else, I’ve got limited time I can dedicate to studying a new language. I’m constantly on the go so it’s an absolute must for me that Babbel makes it easy to go between the online dashboard on my laptop to the Babbel app on my phone.
Progress is tracked across both platforms, so you can pick up wherever you left off and complete lessons no matter where you are.
The Babbel Spanish app even allows you to download lessons to complete while you’re offline. This is perfect for things like long flights when you’re not connected or times when you need to save your data for essentials like making calls or getting in touch via text.
But Nothing Is Perfect.
As I’ve used Babbel to learn Spanish, I’ve also had some challenges with the program.
Babbel uses your device’s microphone for speech recognition as long as you have it enabled. In my experience, it’s been easier to get the correct pronunciation for individual words. However, with longer phrases, sometimes I say it wrong but don’t get any feedback on which part(s) need correcting.
I admit my Spanish pronunciation is 100% a work in progress. But, it’s a little frustrating after a while because I can’t move forward until I successfully say the phrase.
Because of this, I sometimes choose to work without the microphone turned on just to avoid any stops in progress because of pronunciation.
This leads to my next point that Babbel is an effective computer-based language learning tool. But nothing compares to speaking a new language in real-time to real people. Even though I’ve been studying regularly, I still need to practice speaking Spanish with the pressure of real-life situations.
To be fair, though, I knew this would need to be in addition to Babbel’s Spanish lessons from the start. And given the solid value that comes with Babbel’s pricing and the amount of Spanish content, you’d arguably be saving money in the long-run by front-loading your learning with Babbel.
So, with those savings, I guess I’ll just have to book a flight to Spain and rent a house in the Andalucian countryside after all. You know, so I can practice speaking! 😉
As a paid Babbel member, you’ll join a million+ active subscribers who get unlimited access to Babbel’s language-learning content online and in the Babbel app. In addition to Spanish, Babbel has 13 other languages from which to choose.
Compared to other paid language-learning tools, Babbel’s subscription plans are reasonable and a good value for the amount of content you get.
You can subscribe in 1, 3, 6, and 12-month increments depending on your budget and the time you’d like to commit.
But, for less than $30, you can get a 3-month subscription with no obligation to renew unless you want to. And, the 12-month subscription works out to be an even better value at just $6.95 a month, less than $85 total for the year.
Is Babbel Worth It for You?
Learning a language is about setting a goal for what you want to accomplish. As a traveler, there’s specific vocabulary that will have a big impact on how you engage with a destination. It’s better to focus on these words and phrases instead of trying to memorize endless lists of vocabulary that aren’t immediately useful.
Babbel makes a lot of sense if you’re looking for convenient and compact language lessons that focus on whole phrases and sentences that can be used right away in real, daily life conversations.
I like how the program balances new content while building on previous lessons. Rule explanations are clear and help to build a foundation but not overdone. And the ability to build conversations that apply new skills all while listening and speaking the conversation is interactive and engaging.
I’m going to happily continue with my Babbel Spanish lessons and recommend you consider Babbel for your language goals, too!
Would you like to learn a foreign language for travel?
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