In my quest to learn Dutch I have paid for precisely two pieces of software. The first was memrise, which is perfectly fine in it’s free version but I felt like supporting it. The second is Babbel. Babbel cost me around about £50 for the year.
Babbel divides it’s course into lessons. For Dutch, Babbel has a limited amount of content. To be honest, this means that if I was signing up just for Babble Dutch then I could have got away with signing up for just 6 months. But that’s one of the things that I didn’t know at the time, but you do now!
Babbel content is well organised and easy to understand. It also teaches you the grammar and basics as you go on. Babbel provides a more realistic learning environment than the likes of Duolingo, by which I mean that the things you are learning will be useful to your real life and not some weird sentences. Whilst I’m a fan of Duolingo, Babbel’s approach here seems a bit more complete.
If you’re patient and want the money free option then you can, of course, use Duolingo and a site called Dutch Grammar. But then you need to be comfortable with self direction and working out what you need to learn to take you from the rather strange Duolingo finishing point to being comfortable with the language.
For me, in practice, it worked well to start with Duolingo to get a feel for the language and then to use Babbel to understand the grammar and usage better.
Babbel also has a section to review words. I found this particularly helpful in learning Dutch as I could use the feature where you can speak to Babbel on the laptop to practice my speaking/pronounciation. That’s a god-send. I therefore, consider it worth the money purely for that feature. Compared to Duolingo’s speech recognition, which is infrequent and doesn’t work at all well for me, I found Babbel’s speech recognition nearly always works properly for me. On occasion I’ve had to click the play button to listen and repeat as Babbel seems sensitive to pauses in the sound. But overall I’m very happy with it and it makes up a part of my daily routine.
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Pros of Babbel for Learning Dutch
- Everything in one place, with nicely formatted lessons.
- Awesome speech recognition/practice section
Cons of Babbel for Learning Dutch
- It’s a paid system.
- The occasional mistakes in the course are annoying. Especially with no way to report them.
- Limited amount of Dutch content at the moment (it would be difficult to progress past beginner)
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