https://www.duolingo.com/DrLemonFriend

Why I choose Duolingo over Babbel

I am learning Dutch (as a native English speaker). I make use of a lot of online resources. In the past, I have used apps such as Rosetta (for Portuguese) and found them to be quite expensive and requiring additional monies to enable additional features.

Recently, I have been comparing Duolingo with Babbel. This is not a comprehensive review of the two apps, but rather a brief comparison that led me to subscribe to Duolingo.

Babbel has some nice features. One aspect that I particularly liked was that phrases were spoken by a variety of voices (both male and female) at normal speeds. At no point did the audio seem clipped or unclear as is sometimes the case with Duolingo.

One aspect that I really like about Duolingo is that there is a good mix of learning - translation in both directions, and audio dictation. The latter is important to me as my goal is to be able to watch Dutch television/movies.

However, with Babbel I eventually reached a complete showstopper. Babbel's review system consists of only one facet - the English phrase/sentence is provided and the student is required to provide the Dutch translation. There is no audio dictation.

But imagine this as an example. The English is given as "We live in Amsterdam". The student is required to fill in the blank "__ in Amsterdam" to provide the Dutch translation. So enter "We wonen" in the blank and guess what? It is wrong. The correct response should have been "Wij wonen".

There is no audio. There are no other clues. Why is "Wij wonen" accepted but "We wonen" rejected? Because their algorithm started with the Dutch phrase and produced the English via database lookup and the algorithm only accepts for an answer the exact Dutch phrase that it started with.

In one case, the English was "Hello". I entered "Hallo" and was marked wrong as it wanted "Dag". Later on when I was presented with "Hello" again, I entered "Dag". That was marked wrong because this time it wanted "Hallo".

As you can see, the review system becomes nothing more than a guessing game. A lot of words/phrases can never be learned because I will get such things wrong half the time. The system does not accept either "Je" or "Jij", "Ze" or "Zij", "We" or "Wij", and so on. It only accepts one particular variation with no clues to help differentiate.

But wait, it gets better. I wrote to Babbel's customer support (they don't have a great forum like Duolingo has) and explained my displeasure over the guessing-game nature of the review system. They wrote back and said that the app worked better if I used Chrome. Huh? After several back-and-forth communications, I was finally able to get the message across that my complaint had nothing to do with the browser I was using. (Their only valid response was that they would forward my complaint to the developers.)

I know that I could just use Duolingo for free. But I don't mind paying for good value, and Duolingo is good value.

July 7, 2018

18 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Thomas.Heiss
  • 24
  • 17
  • 10
  • 2
  • 2
  • 851

Hi,

thanks for taking your time and sharing your personal experiences and creating this thread for a Babble vs DuoLingo comparison so more experienced users can join this discussion.

I am interested to hear more opinions.

Q1: Is it true that Babble uses native voices vs TTS (DuoLingo)?

Q2: Can you use Babble in a web browser on a computer (full desktop view mode)?
Currently I am limited to Firefox V52.9.0esr and I can not install a recent Chrome version on my computer system.

Q3: What happens when you enter the word, phrase or sentence in the target language or you select the correct multiple-choice answer (if available)?
Does Babble read out the answer aloud in the target language?

DuoLingo by itself does not support that.

The good news is that Camilo's user script heavily improves this for forward, reverse and laddering trees: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/19654789/Userscript-Tree-Enhancer

Camilo's script IMHO enhances DuoLingo by 1000% percent!

Q4: How good is Babble for Portuguese Brazil?

Q5: Is there a 2nd PT EU/Portugal course available?

Q6: Is Babble only for beginners or is there also low- to upper intermediate content for Portuguese, Spanish, French available?
To what level? B1/B2? More than Duo?
Can this be an extension course to DuoLingo and Mondly (all PT BR) to fill my existing gaps with Duo or Labs stories?

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Renardo11
  • 24
  • 23
  • 16
  • 13
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 6
  • 5
  • 962

If have no experience with Babbel but maybe I can contribute a bit to your first Q (Q1?): There are Duolingo courses that use human voices, I am aware of the Esperanto courses (for English and Spanish) which do. And in my experience they are easier to understand, mainly the intonation is more natural. One of the developers told me that synthetic voices consume less bandwidth on the net, so Duolingo prefers them.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Hubinou
  • 24
  • 20
  • 18
  • 17
  • 13
  • 13
  • 9
  • 221

Hungarian uses human voices too. That's why the "slow motion" speech doesn't work in Hungarian.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Michael.Lubetsky
  • 22
  • 21
  • 19
  • 17
  • 17
  • 9
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 8
  • 7
  • 2
  • 544

Ditto with the Hebrew course, which has two voice actors: one male and one female.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/PatSchiebz226
  • 20
  • 15
  • 10
  • 10
  • 8

The Norwegian course is definitely a robot.

July 8, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/TiliaMartina
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 16
  • 16
  • 11
  • 5
  • 5
  • 4
  • 654

Q1: Is it true that Babble uses native voices vs TTS

  • True, they only use native speakers, male and female, in English they have both British and American speakers. They use the voices for dialogue, example sentences, exercises and word repetition.

Q2: Can you use Babble in a web browser on a computer (full desktop view mode)? Currently I am limited to Firefox V52.9.0esr and I can not install a recent Chrome version on system computer system.

  • I only use it on the full desktop mode, my browser is also Firefox, so: yes.

Q3: What happens what you enter the word, phrase or sentence in the target language or you select the correct multiple-choice answer (if available)?

  • If you make a mistake, the cursor will direct you to the letter where the mistake begins. Then you try correct the mistake or click on the help button. It will show you the letters needed for the word. If still unsure, you can click again and it will show the solution. Ones the answer is entered correctly, the word or sentence will be read aloud. So you will constantly hear native speakers.

Does Babble read out the answer aloud in the target language? DuoLingo by itself does not support that.

  • Yes, see above.

...

Q4: How good is Babble for Portuguese Brazil?

  • Sorry, I can't answer that, since I don't study Portuguese. But from the number of courses they off in Portuguese, it's more extensive than the Dutch course, but there's less than in English, French, Spanish or Italian.

Q5: Is there a 2nd PT EU/Portugal course available?

  • Nope, I wish there were. I don't know how much they refer to European Portuguese in there courses. But in English and Spanish they explain at least some of the difference between the European and American versions.

And no my own assessment of Babbel versus Duo: First of all: I can't learn a new language with Duo. I tried a few, some of them, like Esperanto, I deleted again. I'm level 5 in Valyrian and level 4 in Chinese. But it feels like I have learned nothing at all. I just couldn't get a grip of it without putting in an endless amount of additional work, like making word lists, or using books to explain what it was about. Babbel spared me that work, because they start slowly with a few words and step by step explanations of the grammar. It's fun, because of the more varied style of the exercises, and especially the dialogues are quite good. It's not perfect, there is a lot of room for improvement. But still, I wouldn't want to miss Babel. For me, it's worth the money.

Duo is great for additional exercises, as well as for refreshing languages you already know a bit. I wouldn't want to miss it either, because Babbel just doesn't give me that much training, and the style of exercise is completely different.

My tip: If you are seriously interested, try it out. Afaik, Babble has a trial period of three weeks, when you can resign it without having to pay. You can also make a test lesson for free, but you must register your email address. Do so, and they'll send you offers for reductions, so there's no need to pay the full price.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Thomas.Heiss
  • 24
  • 17
  • 10
  • 2
  • 2
  • 851

I finally have added a 6th question :-)

Q6: Is Babble only for beginners or is there also low- to upper intermediate content for Portuguese, Spanish, French available?
To what level? B1/B2? More than Duo?
Can this be an extension course to DuoLingo and Mondly (all PT BR) to fill my existing gaps with Duo or Labs stories?

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/TiliaMartina
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 16
  • 16
  • 11
  • 5
  • 5
  • 4
  • 654

There are 6 beginner's courses on level A1 to A2 and only one advanced course on level B1. Then there are a few courses for repeating grammar, a lot of courses on vocabulary for various topic (those are always without dialogues), and a handful of special courses like false friends, proverbs, Portuguese for vacation, or for every day life. So, it’s not so terribly advanced. But they cover a lot of words that Duo doesn’t have (and vice versa). I can’t really say if it’s worthwhile, if you already have a good knowledge of what Duo has to offer. I can only say that I wouldn’t want to learn without the human voices, and I prefer the way they explain the grammar.

I don’t know Portuguese on Duo, but the new release of the Dutch tree is probably among the best and most advanced trees on Duo. On the other hand, Dutch is probably one of the languages with the least material on Babbel. It’s the other way round in English: the Duo English tree (from German at least) is fairly basic, while Babbel has loads of B1 material in English.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/TheisEgeberg

I've been using Duolingo and Babbel together now for two years. I recently gave up on Duolingo (or at least ended my subscription because I felt it wasn't worth it). The reason was simple: I wasn't learning anything from Duolingo, just random odd sentences. With Babbel alone I found that I could read better and understand more.

The Babbel customer support is a trainwreck, going towards insulting. I agree about that. The only way to get them to fix something is by writing a slamming review on trustpilot, and then perhaps they take you seriously (there was a bug with the review system which blocked me from reviewing things, and I needed to go down this road).

Duolingo on the other hand feels random at best, and low quality at worst.

I'm spending time talking and reading french and so I get corrected from some of the nonsense I pick up from Duolingo at times.

None of them are perfect, but I still feel Babbel is superior (even if their support would be better if it didn't exist at all).

July 8, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/phoenixsphinx

Yea I will probably change away too with Japanese since the new duolingo doesnt lt you go back to previous lessons -.- I need more tim to learn the signs and redo them.

July 11, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/TiliaMartina
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 16
  • 16
  • 11
  • 5
  • 5
  • 4
  • 654

There is no Japanese on Babbel. I know that Busuu has Japanese, but they charge you as well. Does anybody here have tried out Busuu? Or Rosetta Stone?

July 11, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Renardo11
  • 24
  • 23
  • 16
  • 13
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 6
  • 5
  • 962

Thank you, DrLemonFriend, for your enlightening comparison of DL and Babbel. I have always despised Babbel for the arrogance with which their commercials treat people like me. I am terrible at languages, especially at listening comprehension (I could never hope to understand a movie in a foreign language), so when Babbel speaks about “learning a language in three weeks” they are just saying that people like me do not count. I prefer Duolingo,which does not make any such claims.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/wyqtor
  • 23
  • 22
  • 20
  • 20
  • 19
  • 18
  • 18
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 16
  • 16
  • 15
  • 13
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 10
  • 10
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 5
  • 5
  • 4
  • 4
  • 2
  • 2
  • 1538

I for one can never take „learn X language in 3 weeks” seriously. I have been learning German for 11 years at school (more or less...) and 3 years on Duolingo, and I am still not fluent. But, I am making progress. Ich mache Fortschritte.

So I know what it takes to be fluent in another language, which is why I am not easily fooled.

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/redsassafras

"Fluent in an impossibly short span" courses don't inspire in me a lot of confidence that their creators are able to accurately define "fluent." If I'm not confident in their definitions, I'm certainly not confident in their materials.

July 9, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Thomas.Heiss
  • 24
  • 17
  • 10
  • 2
  • 2
  • 851

@wyqtor

Finde ich toll dass Du Dich in meiner Muttersprache so durchkämpfst! :-)

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/wyqtor
  • 23
  • 22
  • 20
  • 20
  • 19
  • 18
  • 18
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 16
  • 16
  • 15
  • 13
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 10
  • 10
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 5
  • 5
  • 4
  • 4
  • 2
  • 2
  • 1538

Ja, Deutsch ist mir wichtig, nicht nur aus ökonomischen Gründen, sondern auch weil ich sehr gerne Urlaub in die Alpen mache, in Österreich und die Schweiz, und auch Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Deutschland!

July 9, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/geerte13
  • 25
  • 21
  • 12
  • 9
  • 9
  • 7
  • 2
  • 89

Goed geschreven! Succes met Nederlands leren :)

July 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Kenzie2090

right babbel is not free duolingo is and it explains everything and babbel doesnt

July 7, 2018
Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.