Babbel vs Duolingo: Which Is the Best Language Learning Software?

Babbel vs Duolingo: Which Is the Best Language Learning Software?

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Are you searching for the right language-learning tool?

These days, more people are using apps and software for learning a new language. Babbel and Duolingo are currently two of the most well-known platforms. Both provide accessible and affordable courses for learning a new language. But which platform is better?

It actually depends on your needs.

Just like any product or service, both apps have their strengths and weaknesses. We will be discussing the differences between each one in this article. We’ll provide an in-depth review of Babbel vs. Duolingo to help you decide which app is the right one for you and your learning style.

So let’s dive in...

Babbel Overview

Babbel is a premium online language-learning app and e-learning platform that was launched in 2007, with headquarters in Berlin, Germany

It is a subscription-based service that is more affordable than other paid language-learning platforms. You can choose to subscribe on a monthly, quarterly (every three months), bi-annual (every 6 months), or annual basis.

Lessons are delivered in quiz format (fill in the blanks; multiple choice; flashcards; and oral response)

Currently, there are 14 foreign languages you can learn in Babbel.

Babbel has over 1 million paid subscribers in the United States to date

The platform is ideal for serious learners who are in the beginner to intermediate level

Babbel’s subscription rates are as follows:

  • 1 month (charged monthly) - $12.95
  • Quarterly (charged every 3 months) - $26.85 (or $8.95/month)
  • Semi-annually (charged every 6 months) – $44.70 (or $7.45/month)
  • Annually (charged every 12 months) – $83.40 (or $6.95/month)

All of that sounds pretty great, but what are the things that make Babbel stand out from the other language learning programs? Let's take a look.

Pros

Lessons are useful in real-life interactions

Rather than just teaching single words to learners without putting them in context or teaching learners how to put all the words together, Babbel helps perfect your grammar skills and offers lessons that users can start to practice right away in real conversations.

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While some learning tools give users an overload of vocab and grammar from the start, Babbel starts with practical words and phrases. By starting with learning how to order food or ask for directions, you can build your language skills around real-life interactions.

Audio tracks are clear, with accents like those used by native speakers

Babbel offers opportunities to practice pronouncing words from the very beginning. Rather than having robotic voices speak to you in the language that you are learning, you can learn to truly learn a language and sound fluent and natural in it, if you are able to learn the correct accent and pronunciation of the words right away so others can understand you.

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When using Babbel, you can hear a variety of authentic, native speakers using the words in their everyday language so you can pick up on the enunciations.

Lessons follow a coherent pattern, building up on what has been previously taught

You will constantly be using what you have already learned in future lessons, so you won't forget any material that you learn early on. Also, the app is able to analyze your strengths and weaknesses as you go, so it won't repeat the things you have already mastered over and over again.

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This comprehensive format allows you to use the words that you have previously learned in the right context and practice with them in future lessons.

Provides an explanation for grammar rules and cultural context of word usage, e.g., pronouns (formal and informal)

Babbel breaks down difficult grammatical concepts using tips in your native language. It includes pop-ups alongside each lesson to help you understand the content and context of the words.

The tips and tricks can also be accessed separately on a different page for convenience. Because our brains are wired to analyze new languages as we learn them, Babbel’s tips help you comprehend concepts that may be difficult to grasp in immersion programs.

Cons

Limited number of language courses offered

Some of the popular foreign languages that Babbel does not offer include Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, and Korean. If these are some of the languages that you may be interested in, Babbel might not be the right choice for you.

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Check to make sure that Babbel offers your language of choice before signing up. Additionally, less popular languages that Babbel does offer (like Swedish) have less content than more popular languages like French and Spanish. Less popular languages will have a collection of very effective beginner courses, but their range of intermediate material is almost non-existent.

You need to pay for each language course

One subscription does not give you access to all of the information that Babbel offers, so if you want to learn two languages, you will have to pay for two subscriptions. This makes it difficult to "try out" a language to see if you like it before committing to learning at least a little bit of it.

Not ideal for higher intermediate or advanced learners

Although Babbel does focus on lessons that will provide you with real-life skills, it does not dive too deep into the explanations or give many examples of sentences. This means that if you already know the basics of your language of choice, Babbel will not help you focus on everyday interactions as much as it could.

With Babbel, you aren't required to come up with your own phrases or sentences in the language you're learning. There is a recall component, as it offers quizzes to users, but you are generally choosing from a multiple-choice selection of answers or filling in the blank.

This would be equivalent to knowing most of the words in the English language but having no idea how to actually put them together,

Duolingo Overview

Duolingo is a language-learning platform that aims to provide their services to practically everyone who needs or wants to learn a foreign language. It was publicly launched in 2012, with headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Duolingo uses a gamified format for its language courses. As the learner completes a lesson level, he or she can earn points and "lingots" (the Duolingo currency) that can be used to purchase power-ups in the app’s online store.

It currently offers 88 language courses, with almost a dozen under-development (or in the “hatching” stage); 33 of the courses are available for English speakers

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As the most popular free online-learning platform, Duolingo has over 100 million users. Its Spanish course (the most popular course) has over 22 million learners to date.

Duolingo is practically for everyone who wants to have a basic introduction to a foreign language. All you need is a smartphone or computer and internet connection to access the services it offers.

All Duolingo courses are free.

Recently, a premium service called Duolingo Plus was launched. For $9.99 a month, it allows the subscriber to have ad-free access and to download the lessons for offline access.

Let's look at some of the specific reasons people may choose Duolingo over other options to learn a new language.

Pros

All courses are free

This puts less pressure on you to learn a language in a specific amount of time because you aren't charged month-to-month. Also, if you start learning a language and find that you don't like it, you haven't lost anything.

Over 80 language choices (and counting), including fun ones like High Valyrian and Klingon.

Duolingo uses users' opinions and contributions when adding new languages to its library. It uses crowdsourcing to keep its app up to date and keep the opinions of users in mind so they can continuously improve upon their lesson plans. Duolingo is constantly improving and adding in languages that other apps don't offer any lessons on.

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Allows tracking of your study time.

When you use this app, you can see the number of points you have received so far, the streak of days that you have used the app, and how much of the course you have completed by clicking on the “course progress” button on your sidebar.

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Whether you are using Duolingo PC or you're on the app, your home page will give you information regarding where you are in your learning and how many lessons you have completed. As you advance by completing the lessons, you can track your progress with shiny achievement notifications.

Gamified lesson serves as a motivation for learners who are into gaming format.

The learning process of Duolingo is very similar to playing games. You are given three hearts at the beginning of each exercise, each of which stands for a mistake that you can make.

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The exercises are made up of translations to and from the language you're learning, listening to words and then writing them down, matching exercises, and speaking exercises. If you make two or more mistakes (or lose two or more hearts), you should restart the exercise from the beginning.

Allows you to take free different language lessons simultaneously.

Because Duolingo is free, you can study multiple languages at the same time at no additional cost. You can even learn multiple languages simultaneously and save your progress as you switch between them.

So far, Duolingo probably sounds pretty ideal. Let's look at some of the downsides that may make you think twice.

Cons

Ideal for beginner learners who want a quick introduction to a language.

Duolingo’s lessons have a strong focus on direct translation of words and phrases, which makes learning quick and simple, but not very immersive. This means that learners are not often put into real life scenarios and forced to start thinking using the language they're learning. If you are an intermediate speaker already, you will have already passed these critical cornerstones of using the language.

Tests you on words that have not been covered/introduced in the lesson.

The progress tests quiz you on the entire Duolingo course you are taking, whether you have covered that specific material or not. The idea behind this is to help you gauge your progress, so a score of 5/5 indicates that you have a full understanding of the course. Taking these quizzes when you have just started lets you have a benchmark that you can base your progress on.

Does not have in-depth explanations of grammar rules nor the cultural contexts of pronoun usage.

This means that learners have to fill in the gaps themselves. You can pick grammar rules up by example while using the app, but it may be more helpful to have a grammar text that helps you look up grammar rules when you are unsure.

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This is another downside that makes this app best a bit more simple than others, which can prevent learners from gaining a deep understanding of the language that they are learning.

Accompanying audio for full sentences sound robotic, unnatural, and something that you wouldn’t use in real-life conversations.

This doesn't help you with pronunciation or even really feeling like you can relate to the person talking. It also prevents you from having a "real life" conversation with the app because the robotic nature of the voice may actually be difficult to understand. Some may find it difficult to learn another language without hearing a fluid and fluent speaker teaching it.

Conclusion

What is the verdict for Babbel vs Duolingo?

Although both learning platforms provide you with a basic introduction to a foreign language, Duolingo has a certain appeal for its gamified style that motivates learners to stick to the lessons.

Nevertheless, Babbel takes time to provide in-depth explanations a foreign language’s different aspects, as well as grammar rules and cultural contexts of phrases and sentences, allowing for better understanding of the learning material.

For that, Babbel is the winner.

Now go ahead and try the app for yourself. 

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