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Web Site Review: Babbel.com

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Monotonous worksheets, endless conjugation, listening exercises, and pointless group work are all the joys of taking a language class. The interactive Web site Babbel.com provides a much needed escape from your usual lackluster way of learning a language with learn-at-your-own-pace tools and a fun social aspect.

I found an ad for Babbel on WordReference.com, the mecca of words for language students. My curiosity made me click, and I was not expecting much. I was surprised to find an engaging, well-designed learning tool with several great features.

First of all, Babbel is free. The site has added extra courses and special features that one can buy, but there will always be a free version. It offers learning language tools in: English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian. Anyone using Babbel will have no trouble organizing their activities at the site with Babble’s easy top menu.

The “Learn” tab includes vocabulary tutorials complete pictures and audio of the words. There is also a writing section where the user can author short compositions and have native speakers correct his or her work. The user can even keep track of the activities that he or she has already completed.

The social features of Babbel are very unique. The site allows the users to chat, to add friends, and to send messages. The “Chat” lets the user choose to chat with native speakers of their desired language of learning, or chat exclusively with his or her friends on the site.

The chat feature is an economical way to learn about different cultures from a primary source. Although it is entertaining to be called “beauty" and have someone tell you in broken English that you give them a special feeling inside when they look at your picture, it is important to be cautious even with people across oceans.

The chat rooms are a quick and easy way to be exposed to another language, but for more serious learners, I would recommend the Tandem feature. Tandem is when the user teams up with a native speaker who desires to learn the user’s language and vice-versa. The pair communicates through messages, completing activities, then correcting each other’s work.

Babbel’s company is located in the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg. The young company with all of its founders under 40 years of age was started in 2008 due to the growing trend of learning on the Internet.

Babbel is a fabulous way to learn, but also a great place to just dink around. With that in mind, I would recommend the site to anyone, not just people interested in learning languages. It is an amusing place to just explore but stay away from the creepers.

I would not recommend it as primary tool for serious language learners but it is a great supplement for learning and a playful way to break down borders. It would be shame to not take advantage of the free knowledge on Babbel.

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About Emily Deck

  • Luz

    I just wanted to inform you that since last october babbel is no longer free and they have an automatically subscription’s renew policy that is not totally clear…

  • http://faculty.kutztown.edu/mccloske/ Prof. Kevin mcCloskey

    I agree with above comment. Even a brief babbel.com subscription sets your credit card up for auto-subscribe. I unsubscribed on the day I was notified, but did not get a refund for new unwanted extension of my subscription. Think twice before using babbel.

  • Babbel User

    Yes, in general, Babbel is a good website and gives you one free lesson in each section so that you can taste it before subscribe it (pay for it). Babbel can definitely practise your listening and speaking. It also let you keep reviewing your vocabularies even you stopped your paid subscription which is really good to consolidate the languages you’re leaning. It also gives you the opportunity to be able to communicate with people around the world via the site.

    The structure of the course is good, the grammars in it are the principal ones that are used more often daily and everywhere, not too much super complicated grammar which might confuse and hinder users. The content of the lessons are useful in general, but in few places it seem to be too personal and giving misleading personal views in few sentences or graphs, which I reckon not wise and not good for an internationally language website and I’m not very fond of it. Also, there are quite a lot of errors in some sections. The audio is not clear enough in Spanish learning for example as they’re using Spanish Spanish speakers mainly, which is not a very good help for beginners. But in French learning it is generally ok and clear enough to follow except only one male speaker’s pronunciation is a bit difficult to understand. I’m still unsure about the usage of audio interaction as its a bit confusing, I’m unsure the marker of the audio is for the accuracy of the pronunciation or the loudness, there is no explanation for it. Long conversation goes too fast without being able to repeat in general.

    I think in general, Babbel is a language learning site definitely should be recommended, but it needs quite a lot of improvement in my opinion. I might give it 7 out of 10.

  • AAA

    Don’t bother if you’re trying to learn Swedish. It’s probably fine for other languages, but if you’re going for Swedish, avoid babbel. Mistakes galore that they won’t bother to fix, despite the hundreds of feedback messages about it. The website has the potential to be great, but the fact that it’s littered with mistakes makes it useless. Try Pimsleur instead. Very effective.

  • Jacob Levy

    These guys are a bunch of con artists. They don’t let you cancel you subscription, the customer service are rude and go out of their way to insult you, avoid at all costs if you don’t want to lose your money! I had to open a dialog with my credit card company to get my money back after they illegally deducted it from my account after I cancelled my subscription. I wish there was a way to give 0 stars out of 5.

  • vivian ecclefield

    Beware of this service subscription. It’s actually a 6-month minimum, which is not made clear at all upon sign-up. There’s no 800# and no clear way to cancel the subscription on the website! Too bad because the program is well-done.

  • Vivian Lily

    Good learning method, except for the system of correction of your exercises. Such corrections are not provided by Babbel, but by native students for each language. It is a perfect disaster. Despite many warnings, Babbel doesn’t give a damn. Too bad !

  • e pilcher

    This is a billing scam. They indicate one thing and before you know it you have a $44.70 charge to your credit card. They do not have telephone numbers or locations indicated anywhere. I’m filing a complaint with the State Attorney General.

  • Marvin

    Hi,

    This is Marvin from the Babbel team. I’d like to clarify some issues mentioned above.

    General info:

    All subscriptions to Babbel are automatically renewed until we receive notification of cancellation.
    Our payment policy and the method of cancellation are stated clearly on the payment page, in payment confirmation emails, in our FAQs and in our Terms & Conditions. All subscribers agree to these at the time of subscription.

    @Jacob Levy

    You can cancel your subscription at any time. You can even do that yourself in the profile settings (Profile > Settings > Delete Account). Under ‘Account Information’ you can check for subscription status. Or a short notice at support@babbel.com will do.
    Moreover there is a 20 days money back garantee.

    @vivian ecclefield

    That’s not true. There is no 6-month minimum. You reach our customer care directly at support@babbel.com

    We don’t have phone support since most issues require user information (e-mail, payment info and so on) and phone calls are less efficient.
    The cancellation policy is explained on our confirmation mails, throughout the payment process and so on.

    @Vivian Lily

    Thanks for your feedback. We actually do care a lot. The writing exercise is quite a new feature and almost the same amount of users who dislike it love to use it. We are still testing and improving this feature.

    @e pilcher

    Babbel is no scam. The payment policy and the method of cancellation are stated clearly on the payment page, in payment confirmation emails, in our FAQs and in our Terms & Conditions.
    Beside that, you can cancel at any time until the very last day before your your subscription period is renewed.
    In your account settings you can check when this period ends or ask our customer care at support@babbel.com

    Our location is indicated here:
    http://www.babbel.com/home/imprint

    Best,
    Marvin

    The Babbel Team

    • ihatebabbel

      Phone calls would be plenty efficient.

  • pollycharlie

    There was no email or any notice reminding customers that the account is about to be auto renewed. Babbel expects its customers to remember to cancel the account six months after they first paid. There is no option to not auto renew. So six months later, I am no longer using Babbel but found a surprised charge on my credit card. Immediately I contacted Babbel to cancel my membership and to request a partial refund. I am reasonable. I didn’t remember, six months later, that my Babbel account would be auto renewed. I will pay for the 20 days that I forgot. But I am not using this service anymore. I don’t want to pay for another six months. No. Babbel simply refuse. “Oh you were told, six months ago, in one tiny line, that your account would be auto renewed”. “Oh, it is stated in the FAQ if you bothered to go looking for it”. Again, expecting its customers to remember to cancel every six months; not providing so much as an email reminding that auto renew is about to occur; refusing to partially refund for the auto renewed amount. All points to an unethical business that its only way to retain customers is by tricking them. I am on auto renew with many online services, but none of me is this desperate for $40 that they are willing to make a customer a lifetime enemy. Now I disputed the charge with my credit card company, I am going to scour the Internet to let people know what kind of trickery business Babbel is. I am also going to file complaints with all agencies I can get a hold of. And I will never in my life use any Babbel or Babbel-related products.

  • Daniel

    I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH AAA’S ABOVE COMMENT. REGARDING SWEDISH STAY AWAY FROM THIS PROGRAM!!! i’LL REITERATE WHAT HE SAID BY FIRST REPEATING HIM, THEN GIVING YOU MY TWO CENTS! If AAA said that so long ago, he’s right they aren’t going to fix their mistakes, and they know they are ruining people, and taking their money for it!

    4 – AAA
    Sep 22, 2011 at 7:58 am
    Don’t bother if you’re trying to learn Swedish. It’s probably fine for other languages, but if you’re going for Swedish, avoid babbel. Mistakes galore that they won’t bother to fix, despite the hundreds of feedback messages about it. The website has the potential to be great, but the fact that it’s littered with mistakes makes it useless. Try Pimsleur instead. Very effective.
    ^^

    You – 0 replies – 36 minutes ago
    Babbel Swedish is indeed psycho babbel nonsense, a dialect of Swedish that is unique to the rest of the world that they conjured from their imagination. If you have signed up to learn Swedish with Babbel, try get your money back quick, and go with another program that will not ruin your abilities to speak Swedish!

    “to Babbel
    I wonder how happy your many users would be when they realize that you have taught them incorrectly. I wonder what they will think when they realize that it isn’t Swedish, because not a single Swedish speaker on the planet talks like that using the wrong definite and indefinite articles for every single word you are teaching them.”

    Yes, there are many that I’ve reported to them that they have not fixed. I have a few native Swedish speakers living in my household, and have contacted other native Swedish speakers to make it crystal clear. Perhaps Babbel simply used a translation service of their own that is in error, or is using somebody from a village out in the middle of the woods that nobody is aware of, that speak in a way that NOBODY else does. They often times use archaic words, or simply the wrong translation. One really crazy example that comes to mind is that they will teach you that rej�la means savory. Just go and ask any native Swedish speaker if that is correct and notice the weird look on their face. I guarantee it. Quite a few times, I had to delete words from the vocab review manager, because it was so wrong. I simply point out the indefinite articles, because its so often wrong, that I only saw it right one time, and that when you actually start using your language skills, it will be difficult to correct yourself or get the idea out of your head that that word does NOT mean what you are trying to say, but “the” whatever. It won’t be impossible, but frustrating and time consuming, in light of the fact that you paid for this program. They have told me that they plan on fixing just the definite/indefinite articles in the spring time. I have completely stopped using this program in the meantime, and I feel am not getting my money’s worth. They refuse to apologize, or at least give me the extra time back that they took to ‘correct’ their program. I hope this helps. Stay away from these scammers.

  • Mikail

    Hey Marvin,
    Thanks for using your paid time from Babbel.com to “clarify” some of the very unhappy customers you have. How much are you getting paid to run all over the internet ‘clarifying’ the bad reviews given about your crappy customer service and even crappier language program ?

  • Londonpop

    Don’t sign up!!!

    Babble make their money on unauthorized subscription payments. Difficult to cancel and impossible to get any help with incorrect billing. If you don’t mind paying endlessley weather you are using their product or not, then maybe its for you?

  • Helen Mann

    I like this product but there’s a common trap: make sure you un-tick the ‘auto-renew’ box when registering and paying. I’m quite careful about this but got caught out and have unwittingly paid for six extra months I have not used. A request for refund has been declined. After (what I thought was my only) three-month subscription, I received an emailed feedback request form (confirming to me my subscription was finished) but the form did not give me space to make a construction comment, namely, I’d have liked a choice of extra revision sheets at each stage. I’m sure others also need greater reinforcement of vocab before moving on to the next stage.

    • Helen Mann

      PS: If you can’t get any satisfaction cancelling the auto-renew system, get a new credit card. This is a nuisance but it does the trick!

      • Helen Mann

        PPS: I’ve had three payments taken from my Amex card and the fourth declined when my card failed (replaced due to lost wallet). On contacting Babbel and asking for refund, was declined. I then posted this feedback and told them I’d done so. I had an email to say that they were choosing to refund me out of ‘goodwill’. One payment was refunded, the other not, apparently because the small print says it should have been requested sooner. As I’d not noticed anything in the ‘small print’ (and cannot do so without taking out a new subscription), nor had I ticked or knowingly un-ticked any auto-renew boxes, it’s all very difficult. I had received a customer satisfaction survey at the end of my three months, which also lead me to believe my account was closed.. There was no email notifying me of my account being renewed (or giving me a choice), which would be an easy thing to do. The ‘auto-renew’ trend is a huge issue, and I notice it specifically w US companies. I simply call it ‘fleecing the customer’. I don’t know why companies spend $$$ on promotion when simple courtesies are overlooked. This has taken too much time and effort to sort out. I’m not used to giving online feedback, but on principle am doing so now.

        • Sim

          They are crooks and that’s unfortunately how they make their money, by fleecing you with unauthorized subscriptions, long after one stopped using their product. It happened to me, for a year after I stopped using the product. Only way out is cancelling the credit card. Too bad and extremely rude, abusive and boorish on their part, I don’t care how good their product is.