I’ve used over a dozen Spanish apps and programs at this point, including Babbel for the last few months. Of all the apps I’ve tested, I can say that Babbel is right up there in terms of my favorites, though it has its own weaknesses to go with its strengths. In this post, I give you my thoughts on how effective Babbel Spanish is, including discussion of their program structure and lesson design.
- Frequent Discounts
- 20-Day Money Back Guarantee
- Fun, fast-moving lessons that are engaging and effective
- Quick daily review sessions take just 2-3 minutes
- Tons of cool extras, like podcasts, games and live classes
- Smart use of grammar instruction
- Left us wanting more verbal practice and video
- Speech recognition software is OK
How The Babbel Spanish Program Works
To kick things off, I want to break down how Babbel works. This will help to provide some context for my thoughts on this program, which I’ll get to below.
When you open up the Babbel app for the first time, there are different learning levels—newcomer, beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc.
Obviously, if you don’t have any working knowledge of Spanish (or perhaps don’t remember what you learned in high school), you’ll start with the newcomer level. In any event, whether you start at the newcomer level or jump ahead, there’s typically somewhere between 2 and 8 courses in each level.
These courses cover different thematic topics, such as sports, weather, cooking, automotive, etc. Then, within each course, there is typically anywhere from 5 to 15 lessons to complete.
These lessons are your base units, and you should shoot to complete one lesson per day. To recap, from the top down, you’ve got levels ➡ courses ➡ lessons. Think of the structure like a pyramid.
Anyway, as for the lessons themselves, each one is pretty short in length—generally 10-15 minutes long. They’re not the shortest lessons I’ve seen, but definitely not the longest either.
Among language learning programs, they’re somewhere in the middle of the pack. As for the format, each lesson is comprised of a series of several quick-hit, interactive drills.
There are listen-and-repeat exercises, digital flashcards, fill in the blanks, matching pairs, matching phrases to images, completing mock conversations, short instructional tips on grammar, and a few more. It’s a very diverse, hybrid approach that moves fast.
Babbel basically presents the content you’re learning for that particular day in a variety ways and forces you to interact with the material from different perspectives.
Then, outside of the lessons, there are daily review sessions, where you get spaced repetition on vocabulary. Those only take 2 or 3 minutes each day when you login.
Plus, there’s some other extras, like games, short audio lessons, podcasts, a digital magazine, and even live classes if that’s what you’re looking for. Actually, Babbel is one of the few language apps that offers live classes as an add-on. Duolingo used to offer classes, but recently dropped them, and most others don’t even offer this option.
So keep that in mind if you think you might be interested in doing some live classes long term. All in all, however, it’s a pretty comprehensive app in terms of features.
Babbel Spanish Cost
Before we dive straight into the major pros and cons of Babbel Spanish, let’s quickly cover cost and how Babbel’s pricing compares to other apps.
Unlike Duolingo and a few others, Babbel doesn’t do the freemium model. They just have three different subscription options to choose from.
There’s a 3-month plan, a 6-month plan and a 12-month plan, which range from around $6 to $10 per month after discounts.
Or, if you’re looking to learn another language in addition to Spanish, Babbel also offers a one-time purchase lifetime plan, which costs around $300 and includes access to all Babbel languages (around 14 of them).
Putting this in perspective, Babbel isn’t the cheapest app we’ve purchased and used, but it’s not the most expensive either. Once again, it’s kind of in the middle. It’s more expensive than Memrise and Duolingo, but cheaper than Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone and others.
Plus, one important thing to note here is that Babbel is pretty aggressive with their deals and special promos, and you can almost always find a discount on their app, so make sure to check for links and coupon codes.
Babbel Spanish Highlights
Now that you know how Babbel Spanish works and understand how it stacks up in terms of pricing, let’s get into my thoughts on this program. And I would like to start with the pros (the good news).
Fun & Diverse Lessons
For me, the clearest highlight of Babbel Spanish is the lesson variety. In every lesson, Babbel hits you with a really diverse slate of drills and exercises.
There are listen-and-repeat exercises, digital flashcards, fill in the blanks, matching pairs, matching phrases to images, mock conversations, and other formats. Plus, in between these drills that you work, there are quick teaching points and grammar notes that sort of hold the program together instructionally.
Not to mention, the length of these lessons is perfect. At 10-15 minutes, they’re not so short that you fly through them and they’re over before you know it (like with Duolingo), but they’re not so long that they drag, like hour-long lessons from other companies we’ve reviewed. In short, I really like the design and length of these lessons.
Spaced Review Sessions
The second thing I like about Babbel Spanish is their spaced review system. Every day when you log in to the Babbel app, you’re prompted to do a short review.
Basically, Babbel takes vocab from old lessons you’ve completed previously and recirculates the words to help burn them into your brain. It’s part of a learning science principle called spaced review, and it really works.
Over the course of the program, you’ll see every word at least a half dozen times stretching out over the course of months.
Plus, you can choose how you want to review—flashcards, listening, speaking, or writing. Listening is my favorite choice personally, but I like that they give you the optionality regardless. Overall, their review system is really strong.
Another aspect of the Babbel program that doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion is their smart use of grammar. They’ve found a real sweet spot with how they teach grammar.
They don’t clobber you with dense, boring instruction on grammar; however, they don’t skip it altogether either, like some other apps.
Babbel works it into lessons with quick, one-slide teaching points and little callout boxes that popup every couple minutes with a quick tip. It’s a very effective system.
Tons of Cool Bonus Features
My fourth point in Babbel’s pro column is all the extra resources they provide. Outside of the main lessons and reviews, you also get games, podcasts, short audio lessons, a digital magazine, and the option of live classes.
Among Spanish language learning apps, Babbel has one of the better stables of extra features. So for those looking for a more comprehensive program, where you can get some tools outside of just daily lessons, Babbel would be a solid choice.
Awesome Digital Experience
Lastly, my final highlight here is Babbel’s digital platform. Honestly, Babbel’s U/I is one of the best in space.
Whether you’re on the mobile app or desktop, everything is quick, modern and very easy to navigate.
The design of the exercises and drills is very sleek. It’s just a really clean user experience that puts some other apps I’ve tested to shame.
Babbel Spanish Lowlights
With the good news covered, let’s switch over to the things I don’t necessarily like about Babbel’s program for learning Spanish.
Not Much Audio
The first thing that kind of bums me out with Babbel is that there aren’t audio lessons, like there are with Rocket Spanish and Pimsleur Spanish.
Babbel actually has these really good little audio lessons that are about 10 minutes long and are super fun to listen to, but there are only about 12 of them in total. They stop after the newcomer course.
Personally, I think immersive audio lessons are huge for language learning, so I’d like to see Babbel extend these audio lessons to all of their levels—not just the newcomer course.
To be clear, Babbel does have short little mock conversation exercises in every lesson, but I’d just like to see something more expansive for audio.
No Video Clips
My second negative is that there is no video in this program. Some other language learning programs, like Busuu and Memrise, use short video as part of their lessons, and I really like that.
For visual learners, seeing fluent speakers actually engaging and using the language in context can have a big impact on comprehension.
I’m not saying every lesson has to contain a video, but I do think some short videos here and there would be super useful for Babbel’s program.
OK Speech Recognition Software
My last downside here is Babbel’s speech recognition software. The bottom line is that their tech is just OK.
It gives you feedback on your verbal exercises and it does a decent job tracking what you say, but it’s not perfect.
I would say it’s on par with Duolingo’s speech tech, but not as good as others, like Rocket Languages and Rosetta Stone. It will get the job done, but if you’re looking for more detailed pronunciation feedback, other apps definitely have slicker software.
Verdict: Should You Use Babbel to Learn Spanish?
Overall, I really like Babbel Spanish. I’ve tested a dozen or so different programs at this point and it’s one of my favorites. For people looking for an app with digestible lessons that are on the shorter side, I think Babbel is a great alternative to Duolingo.
The lessons are varied and comprehensive; the spaced reviews are effective for retaining new vocab; grammar is smartly layered into the program; and there’s a bunch of cool perks like a killer user interface, podcasts, games and live classes. Bottom line, for the money, Babbel is one of my favorite all-around programs and should be more than enough to help get you get to an intermediate level of fluency.
The Babbel subscription plans range from around $6 per month on the low-end to $14 per month on the high-end, all depending on current discounts and which package you sign up for.
Babbel is one of my favorite apps to learn Spanish. I’ve used over a dozen apps at this point, and Babbel is right up near the top of my list. The lessons are highly effective and it’s a fun all-around experience.
With Babbel Spanish, I would say it would take somewhere from 6 to 12 months to become fluent at an intermediate level with Babbel. Obviously, this depends on how many lessons you do each week. But if you’re doing 5-6 lessons per week, I think you can expect to be able to hold conversations in 6 months’ time.