Babbel Survey

On the Importance of Authentic Data in Combination with Professional Research

The positive effect of releasing data of surveys done amongst their users becomes increasingly clear to startups. Not only tells it more what learners think but the release of data is what people are longing for and so it’s also good marketing.

Language learning startup babbel recently published a study with findings on how some of their users learn. 1774 learners participated in the survey which took place on their blog over several. The students were all speakers of one of the following languages: English, German, French, Spanish or Italian.

According to the babbel blog they got the most surprising results when learners were asked whether they learned with a plan, more or less set and how much they’d allow themselves to drift apart. The other one deals with the much discussed learning types.

Let’s have a look at the first question whether it is beneficial to stick to a plan or better not. Only little more than half (57%) agree that set a plan. The rest are either not sure (which probably means they didn’t make up their minds 24%) or wouldn’t generally recommend it with 18% opting for this answer.

Back to the 57% with a plan. Of those learners with a plan, a good third (35%) don’t stick with it but 47% either stick with it or don’t drift too far.

Though those results are definitely interesting, we’re left alone with their interpretation. Could it mean that learners don’t need to set a plan when they have their overall goal in mind which is to learn a language?

It could also guide us to the interpretation that the average self learner doesn’t know how to set up an effective plan for their learning. These are mostly common people who learn a language in their free time; they are not trained professionals used to working or even creating curricula. It would have been interesting to set another group of trained professionals who also learn a language in their free time against the first group of learns and compare the results. Doing so, we would at least have gotten a hint on how these results need to be interpreted.

The second point deals whether specific types of learning or at least learning styles exist.

Now, if you have a look into the literature or even only make a search on Google you’ll quickly see that such a thing as one favorite learning style for a certain group of people to make them learn the best simply doesn’t exist. I would add that from a teacher’s perspective this isn’t really world-shaking but what you probably expect.

When I was teaching I usually saw my students learn with a cocktail of different methods and items, sometimes with a stronger focus on one or the other. When I asked learners for my Deutsch Happen project on how they effectively learn German, I got the same blend as a result.

Now, again we have to keep in mind that the babbel questions are not banal but important as they show what a normal user/learner thinks. In that sense it is rather revealing that a third have never thought about the question whether they were a specific type of learner. Almost half (47%) state that their ways how to learn constantly change, and only a mere 18% stick with a specific method.

Is this the end of it? No, here is actually just the starting point!

From the startup side I usually get the question on how to interpret results like these. Well, data can always be interpreted the way you want. Do you make a survey just to confirm that your startup is on track with its idea or are you interested in real results that may even contradict some of your assumptions.

From the academic side, I’m being ask why no one in the market wants their research capacities. Well, you may need to leave your safe harbor, and actively offer your capacities to entrepreneurs.

What I keep saying is that you must not see yourselves as in two different worlds. We’re all in online education or e-learning and need to work together. I’m a big supporter of applied science and research.

Startups have the “real life” students, thus they get authentic data. Researchers however know how to set up studies and also make academic interpretations.

Take the best of these two approaches and merge it. From the results everybody in the learning sector can only benefit. We have long enough lived with assumption but those don’t help anyone. logo


Twitter: @babbel

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at

  • nice post kirsten
    i bet everyone is looking forward to greater leves of granularity not only in terms of ‘opinion’, but actually about how people acquire language! that’s where the real magic is going to be…

    • chinamike

      I completely agree there USpeak team however I wonder how many people actually want this grandularity completely hidden so they can continue to believe that they are studying without a plan. Hmmm….