Babbel review : is Babbel the right course for you?

babbel is an online language course. It combines writing, listening and practicing in a single interface available both online (via the website) and offline (via the app).

This all looks very promising, but is it worth it? Let’s see!

Disclosure: this article contains affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost for you, I earn a commission if you purchase babbel through my links. Merci for your support.

How are courses organized?

babbel lesson

When you first use babbel, you discover courses for all levels. The website uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to divide lessons by level of difficulty.

Courses go from A1 (beginner) to B1 (intermediate). There are no courses for higher levels at the moment.

Here is how each course is organized :

  • Vocabulary : you learn individual words, you then have exercises to help you remember them.
  • Dialogue : You listen and read a dialogue with missing words, you have to find the missing words and complete the dialogue.
  • Grammar lesson : grammar explanations about the dialogue.
  • Review : you review everything you just learnt.

Each lesson lasts roughly 15 minutes, depending on your speed and the time you decide to spend on it. This is very practical for people who don’t have much time to learn French, but understand the importance of daily practice.

babbel dialogue

The vocabulary is useful and dialogues sound realistic. The pronunciation is also very good.

The games such as finding the missing words, or putting words in the right orders can be fun. But I can’t help but wonder if they aren’t just a waste of time.

I also find that too much time is spent learning individual words rather than sentence.

This makes sense at first, but can make it harder to know how to use the words later on.

Fortunately, the presence of dialogues make this a minor problem. It would be nice to have the possibility to skip the memorizing words part and directly use dialogues.

The grammar lessons are easy to understand and the exercises allow you to check if you understood well.

babbel pronunciation practice

babbel pronounciation

babbel includes pronunciation lessons. These lessons explain you how to pronounce French words the right way.

You can also record your voice and compare your pronunciation. This app also evaluates your voice, but I would be careful using this function as the evaluation is not necessarily perfect.

Reading and writing practice

babbel gives you the opportunity to practice reading and writing.

In these lessons, you can be asked to listen to a dialogue or a sentence and write the missing words you hear.

This is very cool for people who need to practice listening and writing, but also get used to the right way to write and pronounce French words.

Review Manager

The review manager is based on a Spaced Repetition System, everyday you can review the words you are about to forget just before your forget them.

This is one of the most effective way to memorize vocabulary and a tool I highly recommend you to use if you choose to use babbel.

Should you buy babbel?

It all depends on how you like to learn French. I find that babbel focuses too much on words and games.

However, you may very well enjoy that. And the community behind babbel is amazing and can play a major role in your progress. For example, you can easily find someone to speak French with and ask questions to other native speakers learning with babbel.

If you like to feel that you are part of a community and enjoy learning French with games, babbel is a good choice. If you prefer a more direct approach where you simply listen to dialogues and learn from them, I recommend French Together instead.

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.

9 thoughts on “Babbel review : is Babbel the right course for you?”

  1. I’m using Babbel for Spanish right now. Yes, perhaps I prefer a book version, so I don’t have to stare at my screen for longer, but for the price of €50 (it was a special offer “one year for the price of a semester”, when you aren’t sure, you may want to sign up, to receive special offers, I’ve also seen €30 for three months if I’m not mistaken).

    You’ve may see the popular Babbel review of Michael Pherson. He also has an excellent video on “How to use Babbel better” or something. It discusses that the consumer should pay more attention to the dialogues and sentences than just the brackets. When you use it like this, of course you repeat words again and again, but you also learn some expressions. Lastly try to repeat the completed lessons once in a while – you’ll see that you understand most of the things better, which in turn motivates you.

    Babbel isn’t perfect (*cough* the speech recognition is rubbish, I tend to don’t use it at all and try to mimic the dialogues, not the smoothest thing I know, but I’m sure you can brush up your pronunciation elsewhere or watching TV, YouTube, language exchange…). However, it’s a well-made introduction (I’m not as far as Beginner II) and I’d say to A2/B1 maybe…? Yeah, you’ll learn a ton of it, just keep in mind that you may want to listen to podcast or read the news once in a while or simply have a conversation with your computer/camera (oddly enough it should be a “preparation for conversations” you can try, to use the right words, to try to express yourself just to things you do).

    Perhaps try the first lessons (which are free I think) and sign up for 3 months (Michael Pherson used Babbel a lot, he argues you should be able to complete it in 3 months), there’s the 20-day money back guarantee, just be sure to decide early enough. In times of I don’t know Corona it’s hard to get an answer, write after some days so you have enough time to decide in the next week(s).
    3 months for wouldn’t be enough. But when you’re a tourist you don’t need the same amount of knowledge than a let’s say an exchange student or whatever. Try to figure out for what you’re looking for and then search for something.

    If your Babbel subscription runs out, you still have the possibility to review your words with their SRS system.

    Hope you end up with a good material to fulfil your dream

    Julia

    Reply
  2. I can’t express myself about babbel (and similar services) only because I never tried.

    I agree with you when you say:
    “However, I found that too much time is spent learning individual words rather than sentence. This makes sense at first, but can make it harder to know how to use the words later on.”
    What is difficult and also more useful is to learn to identify and search how some words are put together so to obtain expressions like: ça te dirait , tu as beau , c’est à peu , c’est rasoir , il est grand temps de , avoir du mal
    These are called chunks.
    Just yesterday I read that:
    ” After a lifetime in lexicography, Patrick Hanks “reached the alarming conclusion that words don’t have meaning,” but rather that “definitions listed in dictionaries can be regarded as presenting meaning potentials rather than meanings as such.” This is why collocations are so important. ”

    The point is that non-transparent multiword expressions in English can affect comprehension. So these deserve attentions and are probably more sneaky than real idiomatic expressions that are easier to identify.
    I’d like to find some similar material in french also. 😀

    Reply
    • Yeah words alone are not that useful. Because you can know words without knowing how to use them, and some words have a lot of different meanings too.

      The best you can do to better understand French expressions is to read and listen to as much French as you can. Movies and TV series are great for that.

      And if you want to see how a word or expression is used, Tatoeba is great.

      Reply
      • About movie, cartoons, series I had a little bit of trouble finding french material on youtube until I found that vf had to be added into the search menu. (vf means french version)
        I learned this only thank some comment on youtube. I was used to believe that, like for other languages, it was sufficient only add the name of the language I wanted to listen to.

        I am not always so lucky to find out suitable online material. By chance here (2 links,
        the same kind of homepage) (links deleted by moderator) there are full reliable captions in English. (I never found a service like this before, without need to download or install strange plugins.) Something I really enjoy, particularly to gain new words, expressions or when there are important changes in the way words are pronounced, for instance whispered voices. I still need something like this in French. Could you suggest me a few links to try?

        By the way, one of the better subtitled mini series in French is this one ^^ Les langues: un défi (also with Spanish captions)
        https://www.youtube.com/user/LegendasIbilceanas/videos

        Reply

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