• Online language learning courses have 10 million users
  • Startup growth at a yearly rate of 300
  • 500,000 new registrations a month

Today the online language learning system Babbel.com celebrates its fifth birthday. With its successful web offerings and mobile apps, the Berlin startup is now recognized as abroad-based provider for language education worldwide. In 2013, the rate of expansion is increasing, both internally as well as externally.

What at the beginning was just an insider tip from Tech Crunch for contemporary, alternative foreign language learning, has emerged from Germany to become widely distributed product within the country’s borders and beyond. Babbel’s success story began with a simple question. In a small apartment in the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, three friends-software developers and language-lovers alike-were wondering how they could contribute to understanding between their fellow humans through internet.

“Our motivation was, and is, to provide a user-friendly, powerful solution that would allow learners to learn a foreign language in a fun but targeted way-regardless of time or place. This responded to learners’ demand for simple, multimedia language study,” recalls co-founder and Managing Director Markus Witte about the beginnings of the startup.

On January 15, 2008, the first free vocabulary trainer with the self-developed speech-recognition system for five languages hit the web. The demand was not long in coming. Since then, babbel.com offers an all-around solution with eleven languages and 6300 learning hours in total, which has reached a broad community. Babbel.com now also employs over sixty full-time employees.

The online courses created by the in-house content editing team guide the learner entertainingly with comprehensive, interactive exercises for pronunciation, grammar and listening comprehension. “Almost all traditional study options for adult learners seemed unrealistic or unreasonably regimented. We wanted to show that communicative language learning was also possible online. Our idea was to join up classic vocabulary and grammar training with authentic, everyday dialogues, so that what the user learned could then be quickly applied outside of Babbel. Of course the courses for each language were developed separately,” explained Miriam Plieninger, content editor.

Consequently, this vision of mobile, interactive learning will be further developed in the coming year: Babbel courses will be optimized for and accessible on other output channels and operating systems (iOS, or such as most recently on Windows 8). In December the entire website was adapted to the iPad. In February, the language offering will be broadened with the addition of Norwegian and Danish. “We must further expand internally and look for talent that fits with our ‘spirit’ if we are to continue at our rate of growth in 2013,” added Markus Witte. “Beginning in March we will be able to welcome you from our new 1000-square-meter office in Berlin-Kreuzberg.”