How effective are language learning apps?

Over 150 million people around the globe have signed up for language learning apps like Duolingo, Babbel, Rosetta Stone, and Busuu. These apps have also received a lot of media attention, with their creators claiming they can help any smartphone user learn new languages. Most of these apps are also free, and they pack all kinds of features like adaptive algorithms that align with the users’ learning speed and gamification to boost motivation. That will make you wonder how effective these language learning apps are in helping students learn a new language.

Benefits of Language Apps

Most language teachers encourage their students to use language learning apps to practice their skills. That’s because learning a second language takes regular practice daily, and language apps are a convenient and affordable practicing solution.

According to most teachers, using language learning apps daily also helps build vocabulary skills and listening and reading comprehension. For instance, language apps like Babbel and Duolingo are built for the convenience of the learners. That means you can practice any language on your lunch break, when commuting or even when you’re in the doctor’s office.

Free and paid Apps

Most language learning apps are free, while others allow you to make a monthly or annual subscription at modest prices while giving you access to a range of language learners. That makes it easy to notice a student who has been regularly using language apps because of their breadth of vocabulary.

Level up

Learners who regularly use language apps grasp more words than those who don’t use them due to the repetitive nature of learning activities present in apps like Duolingo. Additionally, learners who use language apps often notice words and grammar patterns that don’t make sense to them. That means they can go to their next class with questions and be ready for the next step of their language learning process.

Besides the convenience of studying from anywhere, language learning apps also use gamification to make the learning process entertaining. That’s because people are motivated to learn new subjects when they find it entertaining. This strategy involves using multimedia components like video, sound, and visual content to motivate learners and increase productivity.


Limitations of Language Apps

While the advantages of language learning apps are apparent, they’re not a magical solution that will allow anyone to learn a language effortlessly with only a few clicks on your mobile phone. For starters, most language learning apps have limited functionality. A student can be quite flexible offline and online, allowing him to incorporate several activities in the lesson and pay attention to all the necessary abilities. However, you can’t do all that using an app.

No matter how good language learning apps can be, they’re comparatively limited in content coverage. Most apps are centered on a single language section, like vocabulary, survival, grammar, and conversation skills. However, learning a new language can be a little complicated because users can miss many sentences and grammar structures.  

Mobile apps also offer little to no feedback, which is why students prefer to combine physical learning with app-based language studying. Whether you spell a word correctly or how well you translate a sentence, mobile apps can only do a fraction of that. However, most language learning applications do reasonably well in offering basic suggestions on simple things, but you can hardly know whether your intonation was appropriate for a given situation.

Apps can also create an inadequate sense of success. This feeling of success can reinforce a positive association with language, which keeps you motivated to move forward and learn more. However, the perception of accomplishment created by language learning apps can be insufficient or falsified. That’s because the tools put in place to measure proficiency aren’t similar to the actual tests given by teachers in classrooms.

82% of learners find language learning apps useful

According to a recent study, at least 82% of learners find language learning apps useful in learning some parts of any language, as opposed to 16% who find them useless on every front. However, half of the learners who find them useful believe that apps should be used alongside real language classes. That means integrating traditional lessons together with language learning apps.

When asked for ideas on integrating language learning apps in a course, the students suggested:

  • Giving students links to useful language learning apps and signposting them in class
  • Linking applications to pop-up on the user’s mobile phone to allow them to learn at their pace throughout the day
  • Incorporating interactive games in revision exercises for topics covered in class
  • Posting recommended new language learning apps to student forums

Bottom Line

Based on the recommendations given by students, it seems students recognize the educational potential of language learning apps. However, students must be careful when choosing apps since they cannot accurately help in forming grammar and sentence structure. Nonetheless, they can be pretty useful for practicing new words.