Babbel is the world’s best selling language app with 10 million purchased subscriptions. It teaches common words and phrases and then immerses you in simulated conversation to practice them. Recordings of native speakers and advanced voice recognition help to hone your accent, and culture and grammar tips bring the language into context. A review manager tracks your progress and with Babbel Live you can receive small group tuition.
Duolingo is the world’s most popular language learning app. You can use it for free to learn as many languages as you want with only a few limitations over the paid version. Duolingo combines bite sized activities with gamification to make education fun and to help you set up a daily learning habit. It also uses an algorithm that adapts to your learning and provides material at just the right difficulty level along with content you need to revisit.
Best for: Babbel is a comprehensive language learning platform that’s great for a wide range of learners. That said, I’d say Babbel is best for those wanting to learn a new language from scratch or looking to improve their intermediate skills. It will especially suit people who want to learn flexibly in short bursts and those interested in joining small live tutorial groups.
Best for: Though it’s designed to have a universal appeal, Duolingo is best suited to those wanting to learn a new language from scratch. That said, it could serve as a good refresher for those with some existing knowledge as you can skip lessons and levels that are too easy. Would especially suit those who enjoy a competitive approach to their learning.
From $7.45 per month
From $6.99 per month
10 mlllion subscriptions sold
5 milion active users
Overall: Babbel is an excellent choice if you want to learn a new language efficiently and effectively. Its well-designed lessons, practical approach, and customizable learning paths make it a great tool for gaining real-world language skills. Babbel Live instructor-led classes provide a more immersive experience for anyone serious about language learning. Combine Babbel’s curated courses with the Babbel Live classes and you’ll be speaking your target language in no time at all.To provider
Overall: Duolingo is great fun and can definitely help you develop a secure level of knowledge in a variety of languages. It’s also habit forming, thanks to gamification, so it really motivates you to build a daily learning habit and make incremental progress. But, if you want to become fluent, or just hold more than very basic conversations, you’ll likely need to strengthen your understanding of grammar and your speaking skills elsewhere - or at least sample the paid for version which provides more support in these areas.To provider
Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, Norwegian, Danish, Indonesian, and English for non-native speakers.
Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Navajo, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish, Zulu as well as Esparanto, High Valyrian and Klingon.
Babbel was founded in Germany in 2007 as the world’s first language-learning app. It’s now the best selling, with over 10 million purchased subscriptions. It has a strong focus on intuitive lessons that center on learning a new language through real-life conversations
Babbel’s methods have been developed by 150+ language experts and the platform now has 13,000+ hours of content across 14 languages. It uses proven techniques that move new vocabulary through all your brain’s memory stages before cementing it into long-term memory.
In a study of Babbel’s teaching methods by , researchers found that 100% of participants improved their language proficiency by a statistically significant margin
All Babbel’s courses are unique and take into account the similarities and differences between ‘language pairs’. That is, your native language and the one you’re learning. This accelerates progress and helps develop cultural sensitivity.
Babbel also provides customized experiences that adjust to your progress and preferred way of learning. It recently added live instructor-led classes to create a more immersive and interactive experience for anyone serious about language learning.
Duolingo was founded in 2011 with a mission to make language learning accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.
It’s now the most popular way to learn languages with 5 million people using it actively everyday and the mobile app having 500+ million downloads.
Duolingo combines bite sized activities with gamification to make education motivating, easy and fun. You earn rewards (such as gems and badges) for achieving different objectives and gain points to help you scale the rankings on a leaderboard of other randomly selected users. It also uses an algorithm that adapts to your learning and provides material at just the right difficulty level, as well as resurfacing content you need to revisit.
Babbel is a subscription service available on both desktop and mobile, providing portability if you want to learn on the go. Lessons are self paced so you can fit learning around your schedule.
Core lessons are arranged by Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) levels. Additional lessons are grouped by language-specific skills and themes so you can pick and choose based on what you want to develop. This combo of both structured and flexible approaches lets you progress through the material in a logical but personalized manner.
The Babbel method:
Uses audio dialogue examples recorded with native speakers (not bots)
You’ll also learn about the history of your target language, discover recipes and songs, and gain tons of helpful cultural tips.
Babbel tracks your progress and displays it on a leaderboard. This gamified approach encourages healthy competition among learners and makes language learning more motivating.
To get started you simply select the language you want to learn and answer some questions about why and how you want to learn, how much time you’re willing to commit each week, your age range and where you heard about Babbel. You then either select a subscription or scroll down the page for a free trial.
Duolingo offers a freemium model and a subscription (Super Duolingo) which provides additional features and does not show ads.
To get started, you simply select the language you want to learn, answer a few questions about your goals, then sign up for a free account using Google, Facebook or an email account.
Duolingo then presents you with a learning path divided into units such as:
Saying what you want, etc.
Each unit contains a series of ‘stepping stones’ that hold a series of fun bite sized lessons and challenges designed to meet the unit objective.
Some languages have a placement test meaning that you can skip the easier units. But you always have the choice to start at the beginning, skip ahead or redo units you’ve already taken.
Units follow a curriculum based on an international standard and activities are designed to make sure that new learning gets embedded in long term memory.
As you progress Duolingo’s algorithm will adjust to your learning and vary the level of challenge. To make sure learning ‘sticks’ you will revisit earlier learning at optimum times. New words are highlighted and you often need to figure out intuitively what these might mean.
You can review what you've learned by clicking on the dumbbell icon which provides a practice test.
Lessons take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete and are broken down into bite sized chunks.
Babbel introduces you to new vocabulary through context-based exercises, accompanied by images and native-speaker audio. This helps you memorize the vocabulary and understand how to use it in real-life situations. A combination of matching, fill-in-the-blank, sorting, writing and speaking exercises are mixed in with cultural and grammar tips.
Babbel's speaking lessons utilize voice recognition technology. You mimic a native speaker’s pronunciations and get instant feedback to help you perfect your accent.
Babbel also offers Babbel Live, which features live group classes led by certified language teachers. These sessions allow you to practice newly acquired skills with fellow students, receive real-time feedback, and engage in conversation.
Lessons are short and sharp - usually only about 3-5 minutes long. They mainly focus on translating - either from your native into your target language or vice versa.
To do this you might:
Identify the correct spelling of a word from a choice of four
You will also use flashcards to learn new vocabulary, take quizzes, review content and be given the option to make things harder or easier.
For some languages there are stories with comprehension activities as well as podcasts. In the podcasts, native speakers tell stories but with simplified vocabulary and grammar and at a slower, clearer speed. These are supported with some assistance with unusual words or context.
There’s not a strong focus on speaking activities. Where they are available, AI voice recognition grades your pronunciation. During my two weeks using Duolingo, I came across a few speaking activities in French but none in Welsh, despite completing several units.
Babbel is an appealing and versatile language learning platform that’s great for a wide range of learners. That said, I’d say Babbel is best for the following learners:
Duolingo is an appealing, fun language learning platform that would best suit the following learners:
On balance, Babbel has a lot going for it if you want to learn a new language.
For a start, it’s more than just an app for acquiring vocabulary and phrases. It integrates cultural understanding into its programs because Babbel understands that language and culture are closely tied. An understanding of how a different culture works helps you learn the mechanics of the language associated with it.
Likewise, Babbel's grammar explainers ease you into complex concepts, whereas other apps rely on you learning grammar intuitively by constantly seeing it used in context.
And the addition of Babbel Live virtual classes addresses the shortcomings of purely pre-set programs. They're engaging, effective, affordable and absolutely no limit on the number you take.
The pacing and structure of core lessons may not be to everyone’s taste and may feel a little repetitive. But they could be ideal for time starved students who need to squeeze in some language learning into their daily hustle and bustle. And the Explore tab is always there in case you get a bit burnt out on the meat and potatoes in the primary lessons.
And while Babbel may not cater to all the Asian language enthusiasts out there, it's a goldmine for Euro-language lovers.
And with the free trial and generous refund policy, there’s really no reason not to give it a shot.
Well, it depends on your goals.
If you want to develop a solid foundation in a language and enjoy an element of competition in your learning, Duolingo is likely to suit your purposes. It’s super fun and its extensive use of gamification makes it very habit forming - which is great for making steady progress in a language. What’s more, its algorithm learns what works for you and calibrates lessons appropriately.
I found I had committed a good range of words and phrases to memory during my trial of Duolingo and certainly got as far as being able to introduce myself and ask and respond to simple questions like, how are you? What is your name? Etc.
But if you want to become fluent or hold more complex conversations, I don’t think Duolingo will help you achieve that. At least not the free version. Speaking activities are not available in all languages. And even where they are, they do not feature prominently. The Practice Hub in Super Duolingo provides more in the way of speaking opportunities. But if you are willing to commit to a subscription you may find that other apps like Babbel or Mondly are better value.
My advice is to try the free version. If you love it, there is a 14 day free trial for Super Duolingo which gives you a decent amount of time to find out if it’s the right learning platform for you.