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Language Learning with Apps

Language Learning with an App

Nowadays, our mobile phones are with us at all times and it feels like there is an app for everything; reading the news, checking the weather, tracking your steps and calories, editing photos, booking flights… And there are, of course, numerous language learning apps.

Are language apps a good way of learning a foreign language? They can be. Language apps have a few great features that can help a lot in foreign language learning. But they are not perfect and there are disadvantages as well. Ultimately, every learner decides for themselves if learning a language with mobile apps is for them.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the pros and cons of learning a language with mobile apps to help you decide if this is a good way of learning for you.


Advantages of using a language learning app

It’s convenient. — You already have your mobile phone with you at all times. Just download a couple of apps and turn it into a language learning tool. You’ll be able to learn anywhere at any time. Some apps don’t even need an Internet connection to work.

It’s cheap. — A lot of good apps are free to use or quite affordable.

It’s quick. — Most mobile apps have lessons divided into relatively small portions. You can do just one if you are pressed for time, but still keep up regular practice.

It’s fun. — A lot of apps have great visuals and elements of gamification, such as different achievement goals and rewards. You feel like you are playing a game while actually learning a language.

It’s up-to-date. — Mobile apps are easily updated – much easier than printed textbooks and dictionaries, which means that they are more relevant and use up-to-date language.


Disadvantages of using a language learning app

There is little to no personalisation  — A private tutor or a teacher at a language school can adapt a course to a student’s needs. Even if there are several students in a group, some degree of personalization is possible. In apps, there is usually one language course/set of exercises for everyone. Which means some topics may be covered less or more than you need.

There is a narrow focus. — No language app can encompass all aspects of the language. They tend to focus on one or two aspects, like vocabulary or grammar, listening or pronunciation, or even narrower topics, like irregular verbs or the alphabet. This is not bad per se, but it means that you need to use a few apps to learn all aspects of the language.

There is no opportunity to ask questions. — Many apps do provide some sort of feedback – usually in the form of correcting your answers when you are wrong. However, if something is not quite clear or questions arise, there is no teacher who you can ask. Of course you can go online and do your research, but you may not be able to do it within the app.

There is a lack of control. — If you don’t have enough self-discipline, it will be hard to keep using the app. Many people still need a teacher, someone to ‘push them’, to learn successfully.

There is a lack of sophistication. — Language apps are often great for beginners and even intermediate learners, but  not sophisticated enough for advanced learners.


Final thoughts

On the one hand, there is no “perfect app” that will help you learn a language from beginner to an advanced level. And do so, whilst covering all the aspects of the language and providing great feedback.

On the other hand, you can use a few good apps to supplement classes with a tutor, learn a language at lower levels or brush up on certain topics when you need to. Language apps are not a universal solution that will work equally well for all learners, but for many, they can be a great language learning tool.

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