Doctors Without Borders

With an international team of 7000+, Doctors Without Borders needed a flexible, effective, and accessible language-learning solution.

About the customer

Doctors Without Borders is a non-profit organization that brings medical humanitarian assistance to victims of conflict, natural disasters, epidemics, or healthcare exclusion. The charity was founded in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors in 1971 and is now a worldwide movement, with over 67,000 health professionals, logistical, and administrative staff connected to the organization.
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The challenge

The NGO currently works with around 7000 doctors in over 50 countries, with many of them working remotely. Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) is the Spanish leg of the operation with offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dakar, Senegal, for example. Médicos Sin Fronteras sends close to 200 volunteers to various places around the world every year to do medical and humanitarian work. These volunteers must be able to communicate with the people in the countries that they work in. Often this means learning French or English, which is why in order to guarantee efficient work abroad, Médicos Sin Fronteras needs a fast, effective, and flexible language-learning solution.

Initially, MSF only offered language learning in-house, with two French teachers and one English teacher visiting their Barcelona office or teaching over Skype for those on assignment. The curriculum included medical language and vocabulary. However, the classes were always at capacity, so not all MSF employees had access to the lessons.

“The only way we can offer language courses to all volunteers working abroad is with Babbel.”

Josep Prior, Head of Learning at Médicos Sin Fronteras

Why Babbel?

Médicos Sin Fronteras needed a language learning solution that catered to the full spectrum of volunteers and was location-independent.

Josep Prior, Head of Learning at Médicos Sin Fronteras, says, “We use Babbel as an introduction to a new language. Once the learners have reached a certain level of proficiency, they can start lessons with face-to-face lessons with real-life teachers.” Prior says this is an efficient way to gauge a learner’s commitment — once they show they’re keen to learn, they get access to more advanced classes. Furthermore, the combination of methods makes for an effective blended learning solution.

Prior says that Babbel fits well with their pace of work. “The doctors’ schedules are always changing and, if they’re working on a very intense project, they may not have time to learn languages. So the flexibility of a corporate benefit like Babbel allows them to learn in between projects and jump back in after it’s finished.”

A key benefit of Babbel is that volunteers are able to download lessons in advance, meaning they can continue to learn even in WiFi-free zones.

“Some volunteers combine working abroad and language learning with Babbel, as it helps them become immersed in their new language and keeps them motivated.”

As Head of Learning, Prior and his team conducted detailed market research, landing on three products that fit his needs. Ultimately, they chose Babbel Professional because they found the app user-friendly, loved the variety of the lessons and felt that the range of grammatical support and vocabulary was most relevant to MSF. They also liked the fact that the lessons take only 10 – 15 minutes, meaning the team can learn at their own pace in bitesize steps.

Prior adds that his team finds Babbel relevant to real-life situations and appreciates the alternative to classroom-based learning. He has recommended Babbel to other branches of Doctors Without Borders because of the low cost and high impact. He is delighted with the development his team has made in their second language and their new-found enthusiasm for self-learning.

“The team is pleased with the diversity of situations and interactions, and finds Babbel easy to use and fun.”


Babbel can simultaneously service all employees, allowing them to learn at their own pace and ensuring the organization can communicate and connect with people in need. The NGO chose the app because it’s flexible, user-friendly, effective, and the lessons are downloadable, meaning his team can learn while working in WiFi free areas.

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