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Research at Babbel

Academic research demonstrates that Babbel is effective at developing speaking skills

Find out why

Independent researchers have found that the Babbel app is an effective and efficient way to learn a new language. Research shows that Babbel’s focus on everyday conversation enables users to confidently engage in a range of practical, real-life conversations.

Can I learn to speak a new language with Babbel?

Yes. According to research conducted by academics from institutions like the City University of New York (CUNY), Michigan State University (MSU), and Yale University, Babbel’s effectiveness has been proven. Babbel regularly conducts empirical studies in collaboration with independent researchers to examine the effectiveness of its methodology: In an effort to provide transparency regarding our app’s efficacy in preparing learners to speak their new language, we have undertaken several rigorous empirical studies examining the learning outcomes of actual Babbel users. So, does Babbel really work? According to research conducted by academics at prestigious institutions like the City University of New York (CUNY), Michigan State Yale University (MSU) and Yale University, the answer is yes. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that the Babbel app is an effective way to learn a new language and to build speaking skills.you can learn effectively and successfully with Babbel’s app. Your language skills increase and you can use your new language to communicate.

(1) A research team at Yale University’s Center for Language Study looked at Babbel’s effectiveness for building oral proficiency. 117 participants were recruited over a wide range of ages, with 75% of participants being over 40, and over 50% over 55. With a focus on Americans who were complete beginner’s of Spanish, the study found that 100% of participants improved their oral proficiency in Spanish in three months, with oral proficiency gains ranging from the novice to intermediate range 1.

(2) In another project, conducted in collaboration with applied linguists at Michigan State University’s Second Language Studies program, “virtually all study participants made a gain in their language knowledge and/or ability to communicate2. The study recruited 54 undergraduates at MSU to learn Spanish with Babbel. After roughly three months, the report’s authors found learning gains in terms of oral proficiency, grammar knowledge, and vocabulary knowledge were all associated with how much time participants spent on Babbel. This means that the more time participants spent using Babbel, the greater the likelihood they improved in these areas. After 10 hours learning with Babbel, 96% of learners in the MSU study saw better test scores on grammar and vocabulary, while 73% of study participants became better speakers. Additionally, both novice and intermediate learners advanced their speaking skills with Babbel.

(3) A comprehensive study by researchers based at the City University of New York on the efficacy of the Babbel Spanish courses showed that truly novice users with no knowledge of Spanish need, on average, 15 hours of study in a two-month period to cover the requirements for one college semester of Spanish 3.

How does Babbel improve my speaking skills?

Babbel’s more than 150 language experts build courses to help learners quickly have meaningful conversations in a new language. Babbel defines successful language learning as the ability to immediately apply skills learned in the Babbel app in real life— skills like being able to follow a conversation and to express oneself with confidence. To help learners start communicating as quickly and efficiently as possible, courses at all levels of competency — including courses for beginners — introduce practical phrases and expressions for everyday life. Babbel’s courses are designed based on skills outlined in widely accepted frameworks for language learning and follow tested methodologies designed to help learners progressively level up their language abilities.

With a focus on practical communication skills, Babbel introduces grammar and vocabulary in the context of everyday situations. For example, to politely order coffee, you would say “please” as well as a conditional verb (like “can” or “may”). Learners don’t have to understand the entire grammatical concept of conditional verbs to master ordering coffee — just a small part of it: “Can I please have a double espresso?” The practical application of immediately useful vocabulary and phrases is what learners focus on at the beginner’s level, gradually working up to more complex topics.

What will I be able to do after using Babbel?

Learners who use the Babbel app regularly gain a range of practical language skills. Researchers studying Babbel have found the app is effective at improving learners’ practical spoken ability in a foreign language and that, even after relatively short periods of study, Babbel learners are able to express themselves in everyday situations. Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) and Yale University both assessed participants' oral proficiency gains after approximately three months of learning with Babbel, measuring Babbel learners’ functional language ability and their capacity to interact and have real conversations with native speakers of the target language.

In both studies, learners’ oral proficiency gains were assessed with an instrument called the Oral Proficiency Interview-computer version (OPIc), speaking test that’s a reliable means of assessing how well a person can speak a foreign language. The web-based assessment measures language abilities corresponding to criteria outlined in the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language's (ACTFL) Proficiency Guidelines 2012 - Speaking. These ratings provide a metric for describing spoken functional ability in a foreign language and are divided into four levels: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Superior, which also include sublevels (e.g., Novice Low, Novice Mid and Novice High).

ACTFL proficiency scale

After approximately 3 months of learning Spanish with Babbel, most participants in both the MSU and Yale research projects scored in the Novice range. Language learners assessed at this level are typically able to do the following:

  • Tell someone about their family.
  • Give times, dates, and weather information.
  • Tell someone the time and location of an event.
  • Introduce themselves and provide basic personal information.
  • Communicate basic information about themselves and people they know.

Overall, 44.4% of the participants in Yale’s final sample achieved a level Novice High or higher, while 39% of the MSU study participants scored at the Novice High level on their OPIc post-test. An ACTFL score of Novice High is equivalent to level “A1” of Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). In the Yale study, the median study time necessary to achieve a score of Novice High was approximately 46 hours. In the MSU study, this was only 12 hours. Non-native speakers rated Novice High level of spoken proficiency can generally do the following:

  • Exchange personal information.
  • Ask for and give simple directions.
  • Order a meal and make a purchase.
  • Talk about health issues and aches and pains.
  • Ask and talk about family members and their characteristics.

Do users think Babbel works?

Yes. Babbel users strongly agree that Babbel helped them meet their goals and is a convenient way to learn a language. In a study conducted by researchers from Yale University:

  • 91% enjoyed their learning experience with Babbel
  • 90% of Babbel learners said the courses were organized and easy to follow
  • Overall, nearly 75% of survey respondents felt that they had met their goals
  • 95% of learners felt that Babbel is a convenient way of learning a new language

In a study by researchers at the City University of New York (CUNY):

  • 92% of respondents found Babbel enjoyable to use
  • 99% of the participants declared they would continue to use Babbel
  • Nearly 95% of respondents found Babbel easy to use and helpful in studying Spanish
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Did you know?

Report on the findings of an efficacy study

Learning gains in terms of oral proficiency, grammar knowledge, and vocabulary knowledge were all associated with how much time participants spent using Babbel.

Sources

1  Van Deusen-Scholl, N., Lubrano, M., & Sporn, Z. (2019, July). Measuring Babbel’s Efficacy in Developing Oral Proficiency (Rep.). 

2  Loewen, S., Isbell, D. R., & Sporn, Z. (2020). The effectiveness of app‐based language instruction for developing receptive linguistic knowledge and oral communicative ability. Foreign Language Annals. doi:10.1111/flan.12454

3 Vesselinov, R., & Grego, J. (2016, September). The Babbel Efficacy Study (Rep.). Retrieved from Compare Language Apps website