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Lesson Nine GmbH
Babbel logo.svg
Type of site
Privately Held Corporation
Available in
  • English (American English)
  • French (European French)
  • Spanish (Latin American)
  • Portuguese (Brazilian)
  • Italian
  • Dutch
  • German
Key peopleArne Schepker (CEO), Thomas Holl (CTO), Geoff Stead (CPO), Julie Hansen (CEO Babbel, Inc.)
IndustryE-Learning, Online Education
Employees650 in Berlin and 30 in New York City[1][2]
LaunchedAugust 2007; 14 years ago (2007-08)
Current statusOnline

Lesson Nine GmbH, operating as Babbel,[3] is a German subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, available in various languages since January 2008. Fourteen languages are currently offered: Dutch, Danish, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish and Turkish.


Babbel is operated by Lesson Nine GmbH in Berlin, Germany. Babbel has around 450 full-time employees and freelancers. The company is based in the Berlin neighborhood of Mitte.[4]

The company was founded in August 2007 by Thomas Holl, Toine Diepstraten, Lorenz Heine and Markus Witte.[5][6][7] In January 2008, the language learning platform went online with community features as a free beta version.[8] In 2008, Kizoo Technology Ventures and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH became Babbel's first investors. Then, in 2009, Babbel was granted roughly one million euros by the ERDF European Structural Fund.[9] The new product version, Babbel 2.0, went online in November 2009. At that time Babbel's founders decided against an advertising and mixed-finance model (freemium), opting for paid content.[10]

In March 2013, Babbel acquired San Francisco startup PlaySay Inc. to expand into the United States.[11][12] As part of the acquisition, PlaySay Founder and CEO Ryan Meinzer joined Babbel as a strategic advisor for its US operations.[13]

In January 2015, Babbel opened an office in New York City with the aim of expanding its presence in the US market.[14] Later that year, a third funding round led by Scottish Equity Partners raised another $22 million.[15][16] Other participants in this round include previous investors Reed Elsevier Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners,[17] and VC Fonds Technology Berlin.[18][19] Since January 2017, Babbel, Inc., the company's US subsidiary, has been led by Julie Hansen, CEO U.S.[1]

In November 2018 the company announced it had sold around 1 million subscriptions during the previous year. It was also launching a new set of products, oriented at travel marketplace. The project was going to launch in 2019.[20]

In 2019, co-founder Markus Witte stepped down as CEO and was replaced by Arne Schepker.[21]

In March 2020, a works council was elected that represents the employees of the Berlin office.[22]


Babbel is a premium, subscription-based language learning app for web, iOS and Android. Babbel currently offers 15 different languages from seven display languages (German, English (US + UK), French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian and Swedish).[23] Babbel's original learning content is developed in-house by a team of over 100 educators and linguists.[24]

There are beginner, intermediate and grammar courses, vocabulary lessons, as well as courses with tongue-twisters, idioms, colloquialisms, and sayings. Courses for a given language may be aimed at a specific audience: for instance, English may be learned as "PR English" or "Marketing English."

In August 2017, Babbel announced that it had partnered with Cambridge English Language Assessment to create a low-cost online English test.[25][26] The test assesses beginning and intermediate students' reading and listening skills (up to level B1 and above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Every test features about 70 questions from a bank of hundreds of options which—like Babbel's lesson content—reflect real-life communicative situations,[27] including recordings of radio broadcasts and conversations for listening tasks.

Juliet Wilson, director of assessment at Cambridge English, explained to Professionals in International Education News that “...until now it’s been difficult for [online learners] to know whether they are really learning the right skills, or to demonstrate their real level,” going on to say that the Babbel English Test would “give learners reliable evidence of their progress and a certificate of achievement that demonstrates what they have learned.” [28]

Corporate branding and campaigns[edit]


The word Babbel is the imperative mood of babbeln, which means to chat in the Hessian dialect of German and in Dutch. It is also a pun on the biblical Tower of Babel — a gigantic ziggurat whose construction was interrupted when the workers' languages were made mutually unintelligible by God. Douglas Adams used the same idea in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to name the Babel fish, a symbiotic fish that serves as a universal translator. Babbel is also a homophone and anagram of the English verb babble.


Babbel's content marketing arm publishes a digital magazine with written and video content in seven different languages. The topics range from behind-the-scenes looks at how Babbel lessons are created to profiles of Babbel customers and language learning tips from the company's didactics team. In November 2016, Babbel launched a television ad campaign in the UK and Europe.[29] Two television spots were created by the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. Sophie Bodoh, Creative Director at Wieden+Kennedy commented, "Everyone has different motivations for learning a language, but we recognised one common truth that applies to every new learner: They have some kind of fantasy about what it will be like to speak a new language confidently. Using the familiar cinematic worlds of different countries, we show Babbel customers playing out their own unique language-speaking fantasies."[30]


PC Magazine gave Babbel a mostly positive review, stating it was reasonably priced and well-structured, but more challenging for beginners than similar services.[31] The New York Times' Ali Watkins described Babbel as "approachable and simple."[32]


The language learning platform was one of the finalists for "Best Web Application or Service (EMEA)" in TechCrunch's Europe Awards 2009.[33] In 2011, Babbel was awarded the "Comenius EduMedia Seal" and the "Erasmus EuroMedia Seal of Approval"[34] for "Babbel for Companies“ courses targeted at the business sector.[35]

In 2013, Babbel received the "digita 2013" award and the "Innovate 4 Society" award at CeBIT. In 2016, Fast Company recognized Babbel as the most innovative company in education.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nicola, Stefan (January 12, 2017). "Germany's Babbel Adds Ex-Business Insider Executive in U.S. Push". Bloomberg.
  2. ^ Iszler, Madison (August 28, 2015). "European Language-Learning Startup Challenges Rosetta Stone, Duolingo". Forbes.
  3. ^ "Lesson Nine GmbH". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  4. ^ Li, Charmaine (February 3, 2015). "Meet Babbel, the startup that has 100,000 people downloading its language-learning apps every day".
  5. ^ Swan, David (July 4, 2017). "Babbel may set up office in Australia". The Australian Business Review. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  6. ^ "Babbel founder talks language learning and the challenges of the US market – TechCrunch". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  7. ^ "Babbel secures funding for language learning". Retrieved 2021-09-22.
  8. ^ Slagel, Jake (March 7, 2016). "Interview with Babbel founder and CEO Markus Witte". The Young Businessmen.
  9. ^ "Babbel blog: New Funding for a New Babbel". Archived from the original on 2018-06-20. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  10. ^ "Top 50 Education: Company Profile on Babbel". Fast Company. 2016.
  11. ^ DiStefano, Joseph N. (March 21, 2013). "Babbel buys PlaySay". Philadelphia Media Network.
  12. ^ Leach, Anna (March 22, 2013). "Berlin E-Learning Startup Babbel Buys Out San Francisco Rival". The Wall Street Journal.
  13. ^ Murph, Darren (March 21, 2013). "Babbel acquires PlaySay in bid to bolster US language learning presence". Engadget.
  14. ^ "Babbel Opens Offices in the United States". Babbel. January 28, 2015.
  15. ^ England, Lucy (July 9, 2015). "German startup Babbel has raised $22 million to help people learn new languages". Business Insider.
  16. ^ Loeb, Steven (July 8, 2015). "Language learning startup Babbel raises $22M". Vator.
  17. ^ "Babbel Raises $22 million". Nokia Growth Partners. July 2015.
  18. ^ Sawers, Paul (July 8, 2015). "Babbel raises $22M to help grow its language-learning platform in the Americas". VentureBeat.
  19. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (July 8, 2015). "Babbel Raises $22M Series C Round For Its Language Learning Service". TechCrunch.
  20. ^ "Language learning app Babbel sold 1M US subscriptions this year, moves into language travel". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  21. ^ "Founder of language learning platform Babbel steps down as co-CEO to focus on board role". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  22. ^ ""Beyond quitting" - Employees at Babbel elect a works council". IG Metall Berlin. 2020-03-13. Retrieved 2021-02-20.
  23. ^ "About Babbel". Babbel.
  24. ^ Strathmann, Marvin (March 9, 2016). "Alleine zur Fremdsprache". Die Zeit.
  25. ^ "Cambridge English partners with Babbel to create low-cost online English test".
  26. ^ "Babbel teams up with Cambridge English to launch new language test".
  27. ^ "Babbel teams up with Cambridge English to launch new language test".
  28. ^ "Cambridge develops new digital English language test".
  29. ^ MacLeod, Duncan (November 2, 2016). "Babbel Speak The Language". The Inspiration Room.
  30. ^ "Babbel - "Tiny Whale"". Ad Forum.
  31. ^ "Review of Babbel". PC Magazine. September 15, 2016.
  32. ^ Watkins, Ali (3 October 2019). "Police Data and the Citizen App: Partners in Crime Coverage". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2019. I just recently downloaded the language app Babbel to learn French. I’m late to the language app world, but what a game changer. I know it’s not perfect, but the Babbel lessons are approachable and simple. I love that I can knock out a lesson on my morning commute.
  33. ^ Butcher, Mike (July 9, 2009). "The Europas: The Winners and Finalists". TechCrunch.
  34. ^ "European Society for Education and Communication". Euromedia Awards. October 10, 2014. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  35. ^ "Babbel for Business". Babbel. Archived from the original on 2012-01-05.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  36. ^ "The Most Innovative Companies of 2016 by Sector". Fast Company.

External links[edit]