How I Used Babbel to Connect with My Mother-in-Law

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Earlier this year, after nearly two years of being engaged, my wife Maria and I got married! The wedding was beautiful and everything I could have wanted, but since Maria’s mom Juliana lives in São Paulo, she couldn’t make it. Instead, I’d be flying to São Paulo after the wedding to meet Juliana for the first time. As if this moment wouldn’t be anxiety-inducing enough, I also didn’t speak a word of Portuguese, and Juliana doesn’t speak English.

With six weeks until my trip, I began to worry about the language barrier. How could Juliana get to know me if we couldn’t even communicate? How can I express my gratitude for her hospitality? What if she looked down on me for not learning Maria’s native language? I realized I might have a rough time without knowing Portuguese, but I barely had time to learn.

I needed to fly to São Paulo confident in my speaking abilities, but I was struggling to find an option that is fast-paced and affordable enough to make it happen. No Portuguese class would equip me for an immersive Brazilian trip in just six weeks, and even if that were possible, I’d be spending hundreds of dollars to sit in classrooms for hours that I could spend with Maria after work instead. I wondered how I could learn Portuguese as inexpensively and quickly as possible without losing precious time. 

When I mentioned my upcoming trip to my coworker Greg, he told me he’d recently perfected his Italian using Babbel without spending much time and money. Greg traveled to Rome and Venice last year, and he said that spending just $7 per month on Babbel and completing its exercises while multi-tasking twice a day quickly gave him full confidence in his Italian abilities. He didn’t lose that confidence once he got to Italy, so he enjoyed his trip there even more. Greg’s experience sounded like just what I needed, so I visited Babbel’s website to learn more.

That’s where I learned that I Babbel could teach me Portuguese through exercises perfected by language experts from more than 40 countries. Babbel’s website and mobile app are geared toward quick, at-home or on-the-go multi-tasking just as Greg described. Craziest of all, “I read that the City University of New York ran a study which revealed that people who used Babbel’s Spanish program were able to start speaking effectively after 3 weeks!” To see whether Babbel could do the same for Portuguese, I did a deeper dive on how the app works.

Babbel’s interactive website and mobile app use exercises, games, and audio interactions to efficiently teach languages in sessions that last, on average, just 15 minutes. Babbel can teach lessons this quickly and successfully thanks to its voice recognition technology, which it uses to perfect users’ accents and pronunciations while simulating realistic conversations (as in, not those dreaded, rote speaking exercises from high school classrooms). I signed up for Babbel when I got home from work that night and took my first lesson the very moment I could.

By just my second day with Babbel, the program began to feel like a normal, long-standing part of my daily routine. As I made bacon and scrambled eggs in the morning, I’d have a chat with Babbel in Portuguese. With Maria at my side in bed, I’d do the same right before we would go to sleep, and she’d constantly be impressed with my progress. Since each lesson only lasted 15 minutes and overlapped with my normal tasks, I didn’t lose any time learning Portuguese, and I never worried about coming short of my goal.

After my six weeks with Babbel, Maria and I took our much-anticipated trip. When we landed in São Paulo, we headed to the arrivals area, where I greeted my mother-in-law with an eager “Oi!” Of course, that wasn’t the only Portuguese I’d learned, and Juliana and I did almost all the talking on the drive from the airport to her house. Maria sat back in grateful awe at how well I spoke with her mother, and for the entire week we spent in São Paulo, my Portuguese helped me comfortably navigate this new country and culture. By the time Juliana drove us to the airport for our flight home, she’d come to love me almost as much as she loves her own daughter.

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