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After a certain age, and unless you’re living in a country where it’s natively spoken, learning a new language can be devilishly difficult.

I’ve been learning French on and off my entire adult life. I’ve tried listening to podcasts, reading books and paid for private lessons but I’m still limited to the basics and as confused as ever by the whole masculine/feminine thing.

I need all the help I can get, so the arrival of Babbel language learning apps for Nokia Lumia smartphones running on Windows Phone 8 is is very welcome news indeed. Furthermore, Babbel have just announced  that Nokia Growth Partners, the venture financing arm of Nokia, is one of a number of new investors in the company, more about that below.

Babbel’s apps are ‘vocabulary trainers’ to help you learn new words in different categories such as clothes, food and drink, relationships, transport and travel and free time.


Currently, there are Babbel apps for the following languages:

They are all free to download but beware they are all fairly large apps (Learn French was 153MB) so it’s best to wait until you’re on WiFi to download it.

The upside is that once the app been installed, you won’t need a data connection to use the app.

Learning French

After installing the Learn French app, the first thing I did was sign up for a Babbel account. This is also free and unlocks all the sections within each category. With an account you’ll also be able to monitor your progress in the Review Manager.


The app has three main sections that you can swipe between: Your current lesson, the categories and the Review Manager to see which lessons you have completed. 

The lessons are a multimedia and interactive experience where, typically, a word is spoken to you and then you need to complete some quizzes to show that you can remember what was said.


For example, in the lesson on drinks there are pictures of different refreshments, such as juice, milk, lemonade, tea, coffee, wine and beer.

You press each picture to hear the French word for each of them. When you feel confident that you’ve memorised each one, you are quizzed on each word by matching the word to the picture when it is both spelt out and spoken again.


Even for the spelling questions the words are repeated aloud each time so you really get to pick up on the pronunciations and how they should be spoken. 

Going through this process of learning, memorising and then being quizzed is a really effective way of building up your vocabulary.

A cynic might say that there’s a big difference between memorising words and actually being able to speak a language, but you have to start somewhere.

The app claims to have over 3000 words all with images and pronunciations. It is simple to use, it looks attractive, completely free and as I said earlier, it works completely offline.

Très bien!

As I mentioned above, Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) has invested in Babbel. If you’ve not heard about NGP before, their mission is to invest in companies within the mobile ecosystem, primarily for a financial return. They also offer the companies they invest in the opportunity to work more closely with Nokia. We’ll take a closer look at some of the companies they’ve invested in in a future post here on Conversations.