Babbel and Memrise are two incredibly popular language learning tools available online and on mobile. They are intended for helping users to learn a language through a variety of exercises and features.
There are a number of key differences between Babbel and Memrise, namely:
- Babbel is a full course that’s structured-well and teaches in a comprehensive manner whereas Memrise is more of a supplementary tool that should be used alongside other resources.
Both are good at what they do but still have some limitations. Memrise is excellent for studying and reviewing vocabulary but it doesn’t do much beyond that. Babbel is well-thought-out, the price is affordable, but it’s not the most unique or exciting course around.
It’s worth noting that there are plenty of other language learning apps available that may be a better fit for you. The table below highlights a few of our top picks based on some of the most popular languages.
What I like about each program:
- The content covered in lessons is designed for practical use in real-life situations.
- Navigating the website is easy, and the interface is well-designed and user-friendly.
- Lessons are fairly short and engaging.
- Spaced repetition helps you to memorize vocabulary effectively.
- It offers more interactivity than similar flashcard apps.
What I don’t like about each program:
- The repetition in lessons can sometimes make learning feel boring.
- Speech recognition isn’t the most effective tool for learning pronunciation.
- You won’t get much more value out of the paid premium version than the free one.
- Not as effective for learning non-vocabulary topics.
Babbel offers online courses for 14 languages: Dutch, Danish, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish and Turkish.
Memrise offers slightly more, with official courses for 21 languages. There is also an endless list of user-generated courses of varying quality.
Memrise offers a whole host of free content, including user-created content on its sister site, Decks. When you sign up for a free account with Memrise, you’re immediately given free access to limited versions of the official language courses offered by the site.
For the full version of Memrise, you’ll need to sign up to a paid subscription. If you choose to pay on a month-by-month basis, subscription costs $8.99 monthly. For an annual subscription, you can pay $59.99, or for a lifetime subscription, you can pay $99.99.
Babbel’s subscription model costs $12.95 per month on a monthly basis, $8.95 per month for a three-month subscription, $7.95 a month for a six-monthly basis, or $6.95 per month for a year’s subscription. Babbel also offers a 20-day money-back guarantee.
How languages are taught with Babbel
Babbel begins by asking you several simple questions about your motives for learning a language and your previous experience. This is followed by a placement test to determine the level you’re currently at with a language.
Once you’ve completed your test, Babbel will automatically start you at the appropriate level, although you’re free to move up or down as you please. Each level consists of a number of courses, each of which is made up of lessons. These lessons feature a range of quick exercises, which, in total, make for quite a bit of content.
There’s a good variety of exercises on Babbel, all of which are designed to help you get to grips with all aspects of a language: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Most of Babbel’s lessons start with a simple listen and repeat exercise. You’ll be played an audio recording of a single word or phrase, after which you’ll be prompted to repeat the phrase back. Speech recognition technology is used for this, which makes feedback fairly lacking in value, especially as you aren’t told specifically how to improve.
Babbel’s exercises are all pretty basic, and not always engaging. There’s enough grammar instruction, with plenty of explanations. Some people might not find the grammar sections too interesting, but they’re still quite valuable and don’t take too long to complete.
Lessons build on one another quite well, and once you’ve had enough exposure to certain language elements, you’ll be able to move onto slightly more advanced activities, like the one below.
Alongside its main lessons, Babbel also has a Review section, which is made up of four different activities: Flashcards, Listening, Speaking and writing.
Overall, Babbel’s courses are solid with natural progression in the lessons. It covers most things pretty well, though you’ll still benefit by using other resources alongside it.
Read our full review of Babbel.
How languages are taught with Memrise
You start on Memrise by selecting your chosen language. This isn’t as simple as it seems – there is so much user-created content to sift through. There are 21 official Memrise courses, which you’re better starting off with.
Courses follow a logical flow and begin with basic words and phrases. As the lessons progress, they slowly become more advanced. There are also a few quick grammar lessons spread out within some of the courses.
At the start of a course, you’re provided with some essential vocabulary, which is presented in a short video of a native speaker saying the word or phrase. Interestingly, the app also provides literal translations of the phrases, even if they don’t quite make sense in English, which is a nice addition.
There are eight different types of lessons:
You’ll be automatically allocated a lesson to complete by Memrise, either going over old material or moving onto something new. If you don’t want to go with the suggestion, you can choose to do whichever you like.
Learn New Words lets you listen to a word and find the right match. If you need help remembering a word, you can use a Mem, which will aid in retention. Mems are user-created, so if you can’t find any you like, you can create one yourself.
Classic Review consists of a few practice activities for looking over material you’ve already covered. You’ll be able to practice listening, reading, and writing a language. Speed review offers a multiple-choice quiz that’s made up of the words you’ve learned so far. It’s one of the most game-like activities on Memrise.
Listening Skills consists of a few different audio review activities, such as typing what you hear. Exercises are simple and to-the-point, and make for fairly good practice. There are no time limits, but you’re awarded points for the words you get right.
Finally, Learn With Locals uses native speakers speaking words and phrases, which you’re prompted to type below.
Memrise also includes a couple of features in its paid subscription, including Difficult Words, featuring a selection of words the app has identified as challenging, and Chatbots and Grammarbots, a chat-stye activity where you’ll be able to choose what to say from the available options. These features don’t offer much in the way of language practice, so I wouldn’t say they’re worth paying for.
The real strength of Memrise is when it’s used for studying vocabulary. Their spaced repetition software ensures that your time isn’t wasted reviewing words you’ve already mastered.
Read our full review of Memrise.
Overall, while I’m not massively excited by either Babbel or Memrise, I think they both make good resources for beginners to a language.
Babbel offers quality courses at an affordable price, but they’re not necessarily amazing.
Likewise, Memrise is effective for reviewing vocabulary, but its usefulness is limited.
There are plenty of other online resources for you to check out if you want to get started with practicing a language. The table below shows some of the most popular resources based on the language you want to learn.
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