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TL;DR: Babbel is our choice here.
Learning new languages is one of the best things you can do in your free time. It allows you to be able to interact with locals when you travel and avoid the somewhat awkward moments when you don’t understand what another person’s talking about:
A couple of decades ago, learning languages was done through CDs and tapes, although most of it was done in physical classrooms. Today that has changed.
With the rise of popular learning apps and services such as Babbel and Duolingo, you’re able to learn (to a degree, at least) how to write, speak, and understand another language from home and your phone or computer.
One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves today is – where do I start learning? Which app is the best? Two names that almost always crop up in conversations are Babbel and Duolingo. And in this article, we’re comparing Babbel vs. Duolingo to help you choose the right one.
Can’t Wait? Here’s Our Favorite…
Babbel wins the battle of the two giants, but it’s a close call. We like Duolingo because of it’s fun nature and the free-to-use approach.
But for serious learning, Duolingo doesn’t come close to what Babbel has to offer. With Babbel, you’re able to learn by speaking to other people, which is the key to a better comprehension level. If you’re willing to spend a few extra dollars on Babbel every month (from $6.95 to $12.95 per month), it’s completely worth it.
Do you want to learn more about Babbel? Then read our Babbel review so that you’ll be able to compare it to Duolingo easily.
Babbel is an e-learning platform established in 2007 in Berlin, Germany. Initially, it was only meant for German and European users, although it started to snowball. With additional investments in 2008, Babbel was able to grow its customer base significantly.
The sharp rise continued until 2013 when Babbel went global. It acquired some US-based businesses, which helped Babbel spread its customer base to the US and worldwide. Today, it has millions of worldwide users learning 14 languages overall.
Since the start, Babbel was designed as a premium subscription service with a more in-depth language-learning approach. Babbel promises you that you’ll learn new languages and memorize them for life, which it strives to do by encouraging you to use newly discovered languages for conversations and interactions.
Babbel is available online, although you can also download the iOS and the Android app and learn the languages from there.
Learning Experience at Babbel
So, how does the learning experience at Babbel look like?
First, as you enter Babbel, you have to pick the language you want to learn. You have 13 choices in this regard: German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Norwegian, Danish, and Russian.
Your next step will be to take a placement test to let Babbel know what your skill level in this language is. If you’re a total beginner and don’t know a word in the target language, you can also skip it. If you take a test, you can expect Babbel to ask you five different questions in the language, which will help it estimate your proficiency in this language.
The last step is to take the introductory lesson, and then upgrade your account to access all classes. You have the option to take a free trial of Babbel before you decide to purchase the subscription.
You’ll learn some key words and vocabulary in the first few lessons you need to have very elementary conversations. You’ll also learn the basic rules by using the language and concepts learned in the first few lessons.
However, the beauty of Babbel comes later on in the course. In the later stages, when you move to the intermediate level, you’ll learn by having actual conversations with other people. This is arguably the most effective way to learn any language, as you’ll have to use the vocabulary you learn instead of just learning what some words mean.
It’s fair to say Babbel goes much deeper than Duolingo with learning. It will teach you about the culture, customs, how to interact with people more effectively, and how to have better conversations.
While it’s probably not as effective as learning in the real world where you have to learn as you live your life, it’s good enough to take you at least to the B1 level (intermediate), which is already good enough to be able to hold long conversations with locals, and understanding the culture of the nation.
This is where you can expect to get to when you learn with Babbel.
It’s free to try Babbel, although you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to get access to all of the courses and to all of the lessons within each course.
You have three options when it comes to subscriptions with Babbel:
- 3 Months – $6.95 per month ($19.99 charged every 3 months)
- 6 Months – $5.99 per month ($39.99 charged every 6 months)
- 12 Months – $4.99 per month ($59.99 charged every 12 months)
Now, that’s not a lot considering the value you’re getting, we believe. You will be able to learn 13 languages in full, with full access to all of the lessons.
Think about it: if you take 15 minutes to learn every day, and you pay for the yearly subscription, you could learn 2 languages every year (considering it takes 5-6 months to learn to an intermediate level). That’s definitely worth the price, in our opinion (if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars every month, that is).
Babbel Pros and Cons
- Interactive and in-depth learning through conversations and using phrases and vocabulary in real-life conversations.
- Available both for iOS and Android.
- It takes you to an intermediate level of proficiency in a language. It goes way beyond and deeper than just the fancy vocabulary and words of a language, as it focuses on real-life situations and conversations with others.
- Clarity. The learning is clear, and it’s helped by a variety of pictures and graphical elements to boost your learning speed.
- You’ll learn about a wide range of topics. From learning about the culture to talking about your life and your work, you’ll be able to have interesting conversations.
- It comes at a monthly cost. While Duolingo is free, Babbel comes with a subscription model that does offer a 2-month free trial, although it’s a turn off for some (but it’s worth it if you’re willing to invest time to learn).
- No motivation to learn. Because there is no gamification with Babbel, you won’t be “forced” to learn like you are with Duolingo, where the entire experience is a bit more fun. However, if you’re a self-starter, this won’t be an issue.
You’ve probably already heard about Duolingo and maybe even used it, but you’re not sure if it’s better than Babbel. Read on to find out more.
Duolingo launched in 2012, although the initial project dates back to 2009. Interestingly, the initial approach by Duolingo is to help students learn a new language by translating simple phrases into their native language. That approach has been abandoned since.
Instead, most of the learning is done by learning simple words and phrases, and then moving onto more complicated words. However, there was always the focus on making learning as fun as possible, which they achieve through gamification.
Duolingo is more of a game that lets you learn a new language, rather than a full-blown course platform. A big appealing factor of Duolingo is also that it’s free to use. You can get the app for free and access all of the sections, although there’s also a paid subscription for Duolingo called Duolingo Plus.
This is a simple monthly subscription ($9.99) which eliminates ads, allows you to access contents offline, and track your progress easier.
Learning Experience at Duolingo
When you start learning a new language at Duolingo, you first have to select the language you want to learn, of course. You’ll have 30+ languages to choose from, which is seriously impressive.
Then, you need to take a placement test or jump straight into the learning session if you’re a complete beginner. In the placement test, you’ll be asked a few questions to help Duolingo gauge what level of learner you actually are.
From there, you can take the basic lessons to learn the basic vocabulary of the new language you’re trying to master. These are short, fun lessons that are done by connecting the new words you learn to their translations.
If you’re learning Chinese or Japanese or Russian, for example, where the alphabet is quite a bit different, then you start with the really basic signs and make your way up to more complex concepts. If you’re learning a new language, you start with the basic words such as greetings. This is me learning Chinese:
Then you connect these words into sentences, and dive into different categories. For example, you’ll learn about hobbies, time, numbers, payments, locations, phrases, and so much more.
The great thing about Duolingo is first, that it’s free. And second, it reminds you to take 10-15 minutes a day (whichever you choose) to learn the new language, and then track your progress easily. And you’ll never feel bored when you’re learning, too. Progress is tracked via gamification where you gain XP as you learn, and climb up the leaderboard.
Duolingo is free, although you’ll constantly see ads and you’ll also be asked to answer various surveys quite often. But if you’re willing to spend some time to learn different languages, then you’ll only have to take some time to learn.
If you want an ad-free platform, then you can opt for Duolingo Plus ($9.99 per month). It’s a simple monthly subscription which offers you the following:
- No ads
- Offline content
- Better progrees tracking
- Unlimited hearts, skll test-outs, streak repairs
Is Duolingo Plus worth it? Well, if you intend to use Duolingo for a longer time, then it might be worth it for you. The biggest feature is the ability to download the lessons to your phone/computer and access them anywhere and anytime.
Because Duolingo is free, it’s sometimes more popular than Babbel, for example. However, it doesn’t go as in-depth in teaching you the new language as Babbel.
Duolingo Pros and Cons
- It’s free to use. Even though there is a monthly subscription (Duolingo Plus), you’ll get access to all of the languages and all of the learning for free. There will be ads, but still, what’s not to like about free content?
- You have 30+ languages to choose from. This vast compilation of languages is really impressive, and you can learn some very interesting languages, too, such as High Valyrian, for example
- Duolingo is a fun and lighthearted experience. Everything is done through gamification, so you don’t get down to nitty-gritty stuff you do with Babbel.
- It certainly never feels boring
- Available for both iOS and Android
- Duolingo Plus offers an ad-free experience with offline content
- It’s not as deep as Babbel. You will learn basic vocab and phrasing, but you’ll never engage in conversations as you do on Babbel. It’s a good way to get started, but not a great way to get good at a language
- Ads can be distracting on the free version
- The gamification can be addictive, but doesn’t always maximize your learning potential
For any beginner looking to learn the basics of a new language, we believe that both Duolingo and Babbel are fantastic. Duolingo is free, while Babbel has a more comprehensive learning model.
But if you’re serious about learning a new language in more detail, then we recommend Babbel. It’s just deeper than Duolingo, as you’ll be able to engage in conversations with other people, and the speech recognition engine is also slightly more accurate.