So the time has come. A foreign language is calling your name. Maybe you want to brush up on some basic Italian for your two-week excursion to the Amalfi Coast. Perhaps you are relocating to Berlin for your job, and want to get familiar with German. As you search the internet for information on language learning websites, you can easily get overwhelmed with the amount of resources now available to you.
This article looks to compare two low-cost language learning websites: Duolingo vs. Babbel.
Both companies share similar features. Babbel and Duolingo are relatively young companies. Babbel exists since 2007 and Duolingo since 2011. It is important to note that both companies offer much cheaper pricing than their established competitor Rosetta Stone.
With Duolingo, you can use the entire product for free! Keep reading for a further breakdown of the products of Duolingo and Babbel.
The company was founded in 2011 by Luis Von Ahn. Duolingo burst onto the Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) scene. On their website, Duolingo states their mission statement is to “make learning fun.” They make an effort to make their website design look fun and friendly as they have animations to go with each of their descriptions. Duolingo uses what they term “gamification” strategies to help users learn a foreign language. What makes Duolingo unique from their competitors is their content creation. They use the modern idea of crowdsourcing to help structure their lesson plans and translations. So far, there outside the box thinking has paid off. According to CB insights, in 2015, Duolingo was valued at 2.5 times the value of industry titan Rosetta Stone.
They were founded in 2007, Babbel beings the world’s first language learning app. They frame their lesson plans as being an excellent fit for “on the go” learning and app. Babbel is truly an international company. Its current headquarters are in Germany, and it is the number 1 in the world in innovative companies within the field of education. Babbel thinks they are superior to other language apps. Especially for those who are looking to learn to have a quick conversation. According to a study on their website site, “73% of our users indicated that they’d be able to have a short, simple conversation in their new language within five hours of using Babbel.”
Babbel charges users on a subscription basis after testing their initial proficiencies. We will explain the pricing methods used by both companies below.
Usability and Pricing
Where can you use Babbel and Duolingo, and what will it cost you?
Luckily, both companies are relatively compatible with different operating systems.
Duolingo is available on Windows, IOS and Android devices. You can use Duolingo without spending a dime. Duolingo only charges users if they want to skip advertisements or if the user wants to use “streak repair” when they miss their streak by one day. Most Duolingo users are using the service for free.
Babbel is available for usage on Windows, IOS and Android devices. Like Duolingo, Babbel’s app is compatible with iPhones and iPads. Babbel’s pricing structure is a bit more intricate than Duolingo’s. Babbel offers for different subscription level time frames: 1 month for $12.95/month, three months for $8.95/month, six months for $7.45 a month, and 12 months for $6.95/month. What is nice about Babbel is that they are generous about free content. First-time users can get a proficiency test and a free lesson to test out Babbel’s service. For the mathematically challenged, Babbel breaks down the total price of the subscription over the given period. A nice touch! After all, users visit their platform to learn a language, not to make calculations.
One main difference between the two companies is their total language offerings. Duolingo has recently bolstered their total language offerings to 35 languages. The company has recently added to its Asian language offerings in the past few years. See below for the complete list (3 languages are in Beta testing mode and are not yet available).
Duolingo’s 35 languages include English, Latin American Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, Dutch, Swedish, Latin, Greek, Irish, Polish, Norwegian Bokmål, Hebrew, High Valyrian, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Danish, Romanian, Indonesian, Welsh, Czech, Swahili, Scottish, Gaelic, Ukrainian, Esperanto,
Babbel has much more of a niche language offering than Duolingo. The company offers 14 total languages, much less than competitors Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. Being a German company, a lot of the languages cater to the European demographic. The only Asian language Babbel offers is Indonesian. So if you are making a trip out to the Far East, Babbel is most likely NOT the platform for you. See the full list of Babbel language offerings below.
Babbel’s 14 Language offerings are: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Polish, Russian, Dutch, Turkish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Indonesian, and English.
Let’s face it; learning a new language can be a daunting task. You feel like you are in a whole new world because everything is so new. Many users need to understand why a company structures lessons the way they do. This section will cover the different strategies both companies implement to help their users learn a language.
The expression “out with the old, in with the new” comes to mind to describe Duolingo’s modern teaching style. Duolingo’s motto from their website: “Learning is easier when you are having fun.” The goal for Duolingo is to attract users back to their platform because they are enjoying the process. They do not want visitors to feel like they did when they were struggling to get through Mrs. Smith’s Spanish lectures!
Duolingo’s looks to accomplish is to help the user learn a language by mimicking real-life scenarios. For example, some lessons will focus on ordering food at a restaurant because this is a situation a user would likely find themselves in. Duolingo has been described as beginner-friendly because they keep a dual language translation during many of their languages.
Competitors like Rosetta Stone are much quicker to force the user to translate the second language on their own. Many users have found Duolingo’s style of learning to be quicker and simpler but less immersive. The fact that you can use your native language as a crutch may hinder some overall development for users.
Duolingo’s implicit learning lesson planning is a break from the traditional educational norm. Flashcard haters can rejoice! Unlike most classroom lesson structures, Duolingo does not have strict grammar and language rule memorization lessons. Instead, their approach is for users to focus on learning a language the same way a young child would. For example, Duolingo would include common Spanish phrases like “¿Dónde está el baño?” (Where is the bathroom) in a lot of their lessons. The thought is that these phrases are very useful real-life situations a user might find themselves in. Duolingo believes putting the user in realistic situations will help them learn the grammar and structure of a given language.
Duolingo also offers some flexibility to fit different types of learning styles. For those looking for a more explicit learning experience, Duolingo does offer tips and tricks that provide explanation mid-lesson. Personalization of language learning is a goal for Duolingo. Their modern, crowdsourced learning platform is used to personalize learning for all of their 300+ million visitors. They boast a machine learning Algorithm that will pair a user with their proper level of learning. It is also important to note that Duolingo offers many different levels within their lesson plans. It would likely take years for a user to complete every level within a language from start to finish.
Babbel takes a different approach to language learning. They believe their expert staff gives them a leg up over their competitors. The German-based company boasts 750 total employees from 50 different countries. Over 150 of these employees are professional linguists. While Duolingo promotes their crowdfunding machine algorithm lesson creation approach, Babbel uses the old-school expert-designed lesson plan structure that many users are familiar with. Babbel references their staff throughout their website. All of the C suite executives have their photos and biographies at the bottom of the About Us section of the site.
While Babbel “only” offers 14 languages, they have dedicated lesson plans for each one with over 10,000 hours of lesson plans total. Didactic learning is the foundation on which Babbel’s platform stands on. Where Babbel separates themselves from their competitors is that they create lessons based on the native language of the user. Babbel understands a user’s language foundation is going to dictate how they learn a new language. An English speaker and a French speaker are going to learn Spanish differently. This would also be an attractive option for a user who’s native tongue is a less popular language.
Babbel’s native language focus creates what they believe to be a more efficient language learning process. Any type of overlap vocabulary of the two languages will be skipped. And grammar lessons will be arranged in a way that makes sense to the user’s native language.
Similar to Duolingo, Babbel believes that context is crucial for a beginner to learn a new language. Babel’s teaching methodology is based on the context of cognitive psychology. In essence, Babbel is looking to translate the user’s short-term memorization of language into long term foundational knowledge. To accomplish this, Babbel uses six memory stages of spaced repetition. The company shifts new vocabulary through unique patterns for the brain to optimally save new learning.
Sticking with its authentic human-centric nature, Babbel uses real human voices with native accents in their lessons. The type of Natural Language Processing device in lesson interaction is the difference to competitors. Babbel also has its speech recognition tool. This way, the user has a way to test the accuracy of their pronunciations.
Now that you’ve read through the nitty-gritty, you are wondering who we recommend to use as a platform. Like so many other things in life, this is not a black or white topic. Our answer for who the winner is depends on who the user is.
If an affordable product is very important for the user, then the user has chosen the right platforms to explore. Rosetta Stone is way more expensive than either of these websites. We will explore some other use cases below to determine what platform makes the most sense for a given user.
For Travellers to Asia
Are you looking to travel to Asia and want to learn a native language? If this is the case, Duolingo is almost certainly a better option. Babbel only offers one Asian language (Indonesian), while Duolingo offers enough for you to be fluent in travelling throughout Asia. Duolingo is also free, which would give it another advantage over Babbel.
Professional Staff Expertise
What Babbel offers, which Duolingo does not, is professional staff expertise. While Duolingo offers gamification and wants to make learning fun, Babbel takes a more serious approach with professional lesson plans and scientific methods. To reference George Carlin’s Baseball/Football analogy, Duolingo would be the fun-loving Baseball, and Babbel would be the no-nonsense Football. Point being, many users may choose Babbel due to its strong, dedicated staff.
Many users, especially older generations, may not trust or like the machine algorithm lesson generator that Duolingo uses. A learning method that is created by expert linguists is a better option for users looking for a fundamental approach to language learning.
While users have to pay to use Babbel, they will get to do so Ad-free. Another issue Babbel points to is data security. Babbel states on their website that because they charge a fee, they will not sell users data. This is a topic that many users may be wary of in the coming years. “Free” services may be met with skepticism as consumers become more cautious about sharing their data.
There you have it. We see advantages to both platforms, even though they are unique in their ways. Sometimes in life, there are two winners, and we believe that Duolingo and Babbel are both winners in the language learning game.