My husband and I have been talking about a trip to Europe to "travel back to our roots" for years, and as soon as the kids were out of the house, we finally began planning it. He wanted to see Ireland and Germany, but for me, France was at the top of my list. I have French relatives on both sides and I grew up with a deep fascination for all things French, which I suppose isn't uncommon. My husband and I traveled to Paris during the first years of our marriage, but we never got the chance to explore the rest of the country, so I was determined to do exactly that. I mapped out a route from Normandy all the way to Provence in the South. To make the trip truly an experience, I wanted to learn some French before we left. My friend suggested Babbel, a website that makes it really easy to learn a new language. She used it for her trip to Portugal last year and promised me I'd know enough to get a respectful response from the French.
I speak French like most Americans who say they can speak a language. I took some French classes in high school but could remember little more than "Bonjour" and "Je voudrais un croissant." However, learning a new language in a few months seemed daunting and I wasn't sure where to begin. I didn't have the time to take a class at the local college, and other classes run around $500. Babbel proved to be the best option for me because I was able to do it from my own kitchen and it only cost $7/month.The best part is the website automatically syncs with my phone, so I could use it when I was out of the house.
Babbel is a language-learning app and website for people of all levels and backgrounds from beginners wanting to learn a new language to advanced users wanting to brush up on their conversational skills. Babbel was created by more than 100 linguists and language experts to craft a learning experience that incorporates lessons voiced by native speakers so you can develop an ear for how the language really sounds. Finding a resource that would fit into my daily routine was key and would help me set up a timeline before our trip.
For the weeks leading up to our trip, every morning over coffee, my husband and I would listen to the lesson on our laptops before we started our day. The lessons are divided into bite-size, 15 minute classes, which feels like a good, digestible amount and isn't too time-consuming. Pronunciation in French is especially difficult for English speakers, but Babbel uses speech recognition to ensure improvement with your pronunciation over time.
After less than a month of practice, I felt more confident in my ability to speak and understand French. My husband advanced more than me, but he grew up with a French grandmother so he had more background than I did. Babbel helped him improve his skills quickly and he was able to retain a good amount of what he knew as a child. We worked this into our routine seamlessly, and using it every morning helped to build the anticipation for our trip. When we finally took our trip, we were both impressed by how well we were able to order food in restaurants and ask questions on the tour buses. The best part was the French were kind and seemed to be very appreciative of our attempt at speaking the language.
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