A Semester of Spanish in 15 hours - New Study Examines Babbel

  • Researchers from City University of New York assess Babbel Spanish courses

  • Novice learners acquired knowledge equivalent to one Spanish semester in 15h

  • Study sheds light on yet-undefined market and helps educate consumers

Babbel, the shortest path to a real-life conversation in a new language, today publishes the results of an independent study looking at the efficacy of the app’s Spanish courses. Over a period of two months, specialist researchers from City University of New York (CUNY) and the University of South Carolina examined the progress of 391 randomly selected learners. Using WebCAPE, a standard measure of language proficiency for universities and businesses, the researchers evaluated participants’ knowledge of Spanish at the beginning and the end of the study.

Key findings from The Babbel Efficacy Study are as follows:

– “Truly novice users with no knowledge of Spanish need on average 15 hours of study in a two-month period to cover the requirements for one college semester of Spanish.”

– “ users need on average 21 hours of study in a two-month period to cover the requirements for one college semester of Spanish.”

– “The average study time for the final study sample was about 19h, or a little over two hours a week.”

– “The Babbel app works similarly well for people with different gender, age, native language, education, employment, status, etc.”

– “There are only a handful of studies of direct objective measures of efficacy of language learning apps. Among them the efficacy of Babbel is the best so far.1

In order to build on insights gained from product data and internal surveys, Babbel sought an independent and expert validation of its teaching methodologies. The results of the subsequent research should shed light on the market for online language learning and help consumers make conscious decisions.

“Unfortunately, it’s still hard for people to know what they can expect from online language learning,” says Markus Witte, founder and CEO of Babbel. “We feel a strong need to educate consumers. A first step is to offer them a metric they can relate to, such as study times at college. In the end though, users will always evaluate a service based on how well it works for their specific needs. That’s the essential metric for us – personally defined learning success.”

While the study primarily measures academic test performance, it already offers hints as to how well Babbel helps people to converse in real-life situations: 81% of participants confirmed that Babbel had improved their ability to communicate in Spanish. This supports an earlier study conducted by Babbel in 2016, in which 73% of nearly 45k surveyed users stated they would have the confidence to hold a conversation in their new language after 5 hours with the app.

Additionally, the researchers calculated that Babbel has a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +59.3. The NPS is the market standard for measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty to a product. Considering that the industry average NPS for software and a2, and that Babbel is a paid subscription service, this is a clear indication of the app’s high perceived value.

“At Babbel we research our users’ success with their new language in various real-life situations,” says Karen Plemons, Head of User Research at Babbel. “Empowering our users to achieve this kind of success is at our core. Taken as a whole, these new findings confirm that we are succeeding when it comes to delivering what really matters to language learners everywhere.”

In contrast to other language learning products also tested by the researchers, Babbel has a unique methodology which combines established learning science with advanced technology. All courses are based on real-life dialogues, enabling learners to put their new language to use as fast as possible. Furthermore, the app is designed to ensure progress is made regardless of the learner’s background. The effectiveness of this approach is apparent in the study: researchers found that gender, age, native language and level of education have no statistically significant bearing on participants’ progress.

Vesselinov, R. and Grego, J. The Babbel Efficacy Study. New York 2016
2016 Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Average Net Promoter Scores for US consumer sectors

Babbel’s 2016 User Survey can be found here:

Other studies by Vesselinov/Grego can be found here:

About Babbel

Babbel – the app that helps you speak a new language like you’ve always wanted to. When learning a language, nothing is more rewarding than a real conversation. 73% of surveyed customers feel that they’d be able to hold a conversation within five hours of using the app.

The Babbel language learning app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 8 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers. Fast Company Magazine recognised Babbel as the most innovative education company of 2016.

Babbel was founded in 2007. Since then, the team has grown to 750 people from more than 50 nations, spread between Berlin and New York. With no ads, and a transparent, subscription-based business model, the company’s focus remains firmly on getting learners conversational fast. In 2016 the company surpassed 1,000,000 active paying subscribers.

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