Learning a foreign language with Babbel

My eldest, who’s 10, has been asking to learn Italian.

Well it all started when we were in London in June, we went to this Italian restaurant called Vapiano in Oxford Circus. They have a layout similar to the Swiss Mövenpick Marché Restaurants where it’s like a foodcourt. Self-service. Lots of food stalls serving different things. You go up to the stall serving the food you want. You place your order with the chef behind the counter, and he/she cooks up your food for you in front of your eyes and hands it to you once it’s done, and you take it back to your table to eat.

Now the chefs working at Vapiano in Oxford Circus were all true-blue Italians and they spoke with very heavily-accented English and… unfortunately they misunderstood my order not once but twice, and so we got a kid-sized pepperoni pizza instead of a kid-sized marguerita, and the chef prepared an adult-sized pasta dish for my daughter instead of the kid-sized portion that I ordered for her. Luckily the food was absolutely scrumptious! So we didn’t mind. But the portion-sizing of the pizza was ginormous. I mean the kid-sized pepperoni pizza was 12 inches big or slightly bigger, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went to pick up the order. I had to ask twice just to be sure that was the kid’s pizza I ordered. My 6 year old ordered it and we were already full from our orders, so try as we did to help her finish her pizza, we couldn’t. We were just completely stuffed. With yummy Italian food. Ah well…

Anyway, after that incident, my eldest swore she would learn Italian so she could order at the same restaurant IN ITALIAN… so the chefs wouldn’t misunderstand.

Well, but… she isn’t keen on actual face-to-face classes as much as she loves the computer, so I had to find alternatives. I knew about Rosetta Stone but really wanted to just avoid it because of the hefty price tag. I searched on Amazon and found many PC language-learning softwares but they mostly had quite a few bad reviews on how crappy they were. So I went online and found a few websites claiming to teach foreign language in fun effective ways. I actually tried out a few. I am quite a language-learning enthusiast by the way – I speak several languages, LOL And my language of interest these couple of years is Swedish, because of my fascination with the Swedish detective drama Wallander (the Swedish version, not the English version). So I tried out a couple of websites. Babbel.com however, appealed to me the most. I liked the clean, modern layout, and it offered a free lesson for every language it covers (currently Babbel.com does English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian). I tried the free beginner lessons offered by Babbel.com to see how it’s like.

And you know what, I was hooked. It was fun, quite amusing to do, and definitely did teach me a few things. In terms of learning pronunciation, I’d say the audio was very clear and fairly easy for me to discern and thus attempt to replicate.

The most important thing was, I liked doing it. I completed the first free lesson in one session and told my daughter a few days later to give it a go. Well she liked it too. When she had gotten through her free lesson, she told me she wanted to continue with it because she likes it, so I paid. I paid for a 1 year Complete subscription at £87, which I thought was great value for money as it meant all 11 languages offered by Babbel are accessible. Works out cheaper than Rosetta Stone by far, and especially since I intend to use it myself 🙂 Brush up on my French, Spanish and German as well as learn Swedish! I did some homework about the company beforehand though, just to check it’s track record on customer service. One thing I do not want is for them to keep charging my card even after I’ve cancelled – that sort of thing.

Overall, the reviews seem good. There are many reviews of Babbel.com to be found online, so clearly a fair few people have tried it.

After paying, my daughter stayed on Babbel.com for a good extra hour or so and she would have continued had I not caught a glimpse of the wall clock and gasped “It’s nearly 11 pm! Time to go to bed. We have stuff to do tomorrow and we wake early.” And only then she logged off.

So on first look, things look good. I will update on progress as things go along. But I’m not betting on anyone achieving proficiency with any language-learning software. It serves a good introduction for beginners and intermediate learners though, and it remains to be seen if my daughter is serious enough about the language to want to take it a step further 🙂


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