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Babbel vs Michel Thomas
Full comparison of the language programs from Michel Thomas and Babbel
The language learning apps from Babbel and Michel Thomas are both very popular, though also very different in how they deliver their instruction. While Babbel focuses on diverse lessons punctuated with graphics, the Michel Thomas lessons emphasize audio tutorials led by an instructor. In this guide, we break down exactly how each program works, what they cost, and which one we ultimately like better.
Given that this is a long, detailed comparison, we’ve included jump-to links above for your convenience.
Video Review: Babbel Or Michel Thomas?
In the above video, team member John breaks down everything you need to know about the language apps from Babbel and Michel Thomas, including how they stack up against one anther. For more detail, please continue reading below.
Let’s begin this review by comparing what the lessons from both companies are like, starting with Michel Thomas. Their lessons are fairly short and easy to complete, as each one only takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
For each lesson, you essentially sit in on a tutoring session between an instructor and two beginner students. The instructor will introduce new words, phrases, and concepts, and then ask the students to engage and participate.
In this manner, you can listen in and learn from the student responses and corresponding feedback from the instructor.
As such, the lessons are really designed for you to basically join these beginner students. You can pause the lesson for as long as you want in order to develop your own response to the teacher’s prompts and then learn from your mistakes and those of the other two students in the tutoring session.
Do keep in mind though that the Michel Thomas lessons are audio only. There are no digital flashcards, pronunciation drills, videos, writing exercises, or anything like that included within the lessons.
That leads me to Babbel. Their lessons are on the shorter end as well, but the format is much different. Rather than listen to a pre-recorded tutoring session like you do with Michel Thomas, the Babbel lessons utilize a variety of quick-hit drills and exercises to deliver their instruction.
For this, think matching pairs, flashcards, pronunciation practice, quizzes, mock dialogues, fill-in-the-blanks, etc. In other words, the Babbel lessons are much more diverse. They do a great job of holding your attention, and I like that they incorporate reading and writing exercises in addition to speaking and listening. As such, they are also better for students studying for AP Italian exam.
Pricing & Subscription Options
Next, let’s discuss pricing, since that’s always an important decision factor. Babbel offers a few different subscription plans, ranging from around $7 per month for their 1-year plan up to $14 per month for their pay-as-you-go plan.
Alternatively, you can purchase a lifetime pass, which includes access to all Babbel languages for around $300. With Babbel, it ultimately just depends on how long you want to commit to and pay for in advance.
Michel Thomas, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any monthly subscription plans. They sell courses individually that range from $12 all the way up to $100. For example, their intermediate Italian course, which consists of 20 hours of content, costs $90. Or, you can purchase an entire Michel Thomas language bundle for around $275.
So overall, unless you want lifetime course access for a single language, Babbel is clearly the more affordable option. It’s just tough to beat plans as low as $7 per month. Plus, Babbel even runs sales and special promotions from time to time, so be sure to keep an eye out for those.
Why Babbel Is Better Than Michel Thomas
With pricing and lesson format checked off our list, let’s cover the main advantages of using Babbel over Michel Thomas. And let’s start with Babbel.
Fun, Fast Moving Lessons
I really like the fast-moving, diverse nature of Babbel’s lessons. You’ll start with picture-based flashcards, then transition into a fill-in-the-blanks drill, then you’ll match word pairs, then move onto a mock dialogue exercise, and before you know it, the lesson is complete.
Then the next lesson in your queue will be in a slightly different order to keep you on your toes. The variety of exercises just makes the lessons go by very quickly, and honestly, I think this helps make the language learning process more fun.
Plus, I really like all the visuals that Babbel includes throughout their drills and exercises as well. For comparison purposes, the Michel Thomas lessons are all audio—there are no imagery, reading, or writing exercises.
So overall, not only are the Babbel lessons more engaging and fun, but they’re also more comprehensive and balanced in terms of curriculum.
Speech Recognition Technology
The next advantage in favor of Babbel is their speech recognition technology. As you complete verbal practice exercises during lessons, Babbel’s tech will immediately evaluate your pronunciation and prompt you to repeat words, phrases, and sentences if you mispronounce them.
With Michel Thomas though, there is no speech recognition technology. With them, it’s pretty much up to you to compare your pronunciation against the instructor and other students in the pre-recorded tutoring session to figure out whether you’re on the right track.
All in all, this is another easy win for Babbel since they actually provide feedback on your speaking exercises and pronunciation.
Third advantage in favor of Babbel is their review sessions. When you log into the Babbel app, you’re regularly prompted to complete a quick 2-3 minute review of what you’ve learned in previous weeks to ensure the material is sticking.
I personally think this is a big plus. High repetition is essential for language learning, and Babbel’s spaced repetition framework really helps you move new words and phrases from your short term memory to your long term memory.
Not to mention, it’s pretty cool that Babbel gives the option on how you want to review—flashcards, listening, speaking or writing. That aspect is awesome. With Michel Thomas, there are no review sessions, just the lessons themselves.
Tons of Extras
Another advantage for Babbel are all the extra resources they offer students. With Michel Thomas, it’s pretty much just the audio lessons. That’s it.
With Babbel, however, you also get access to a bunch of fun and useful resources like podcasts, games, and a digital magazine.
For those of you who learn best through personalized instruction, Babbel even offers small group live classes as well, which are a great way to dive deeper into specific subjects, get together with some peers who are also learning, and learn from experienced teachers.
Now to be clear, the live classes do cost extra, but they’re awesome. The company offers hundreds of classes across all different learning levels every week so you can essentially pick the days and times that work best for your schedule. Overall, I have to give Babbel credit for going the extra mile.
Awesome User Experience
Lastly, I believe Babbel provides a better mobile app and digital experience for learners. Regardless of whether you’re completing lessons on your phone through the app or your desktop computer, the Babbel interface is quick and intuitive. It is simply better than Michel Thomas’ platform.
The Babbel program has a modern feel to it, and it is super easy to navigate between lessons and review sessions. Not to mention, there are calendars and features to track your progress and achievements.
With Michel Thomas, their mobile app pretty much just houses their audio lessons. There are no special features or bells and whistles, it’s just very basic. So from an overall user experience standpoint, Babbel creams Michel Thomas.
That covers the pros of the Babbel program. Now, let’s turn the tables and cover the major advantages in favor of Michel Thomas.
Great For Auditory Learners
The first advantage for Michel Thomas is that their language programs are tailor-made for auditory learners. If you prefer listening to lessons over reading textbooks or getting hands-on exercise experience, then Michel Thomas should work well for you as their courses are 100% audio-focused.
With Babbel, their practice drills and exercises span the entire spectrum, from listening and speaking, to reading and writing. So bottom line here is that for folks who learn best through auditory means, you’ll likely want to go with Michel Thomas since that’s their core focus.
Digestible Grammar Teaching Points
The other major advantage here is that while the instructors within the Michel Thomas lessons spend far too much time speaking in English for my liking, I do have to admit that they do a good job condensing grammar down into easily understandable chunks.
In other words, the instructors don’t bombard you with overly-detailed or complicated explanations. For example, instead of a lengthy speech about verb conjugation, the instructor instead quickly defines a verb form and then orally demonstrates how to use that particular verb in a sentence.
They keep it quick and simple—some brief context and then right into an example. As such, I have to give Michel Thomas credit for that.
Now to be fair, Babbel does a great job with grammar instruction as well, but just in a different way. Their grammar instruction is primarily delivered through reading, which is why I give Michel Thomas the slight edge here.
Personally, I’d rather have an instructor spoon feed me the information rather than have to read and understand it on my own.
That about does it for the detail in this comparison, so let’s get to the final verdict. Should you choose Michel Thomas or Babbel to learn a new language?
Well, after using and testing each program, I give Babbel the win. In fact, I don’t think it’s even close. To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed with the Michel Thomas language program. After all the hype I had heard and endorsements from celebrity actors, I was expecting a lot, but in the end, it was a bit of a letdown.
The Babbel language courses are simply more comprehensive and well-rounded from top to bottom. Between the large variety of practice drills (which extend beyond simply listening), their quick and accurate speech recognition technology, helpful review sessions, live classes, and top-notch digital experience, it’s just hard to beat Babbel.
Michel Thomas or Babbel, which is better?
After a full review of each language learning program, we found the Babbel app to be the better all-around program.
Which costs more, Babbel or Michel Thomas?
It is tough to say which app costs more, as Babbel uses a subscription plan and Michel Thomas only sells one-time purchase, lifetime plans.