Programming Language: How Apps and Digital Tools Are Supporting Language Study
By Regina Wheeler
Access to mobile devices is changing the way we learn. With phones and tablets within constant reach, engaging apps can encourage users to spend a few minutes here and there reinforcing the language skills they’re working on, or introduce new concepts in fascinating ways. As lockdowns and quarantines encouraged individuals to pick up new hobbies and skills these apps boomed. Let’s take a look at how technology is changing the way we’re learning languages, and how these apps can help and hinder our progress.
Language Learning and Technology
Language learning used to be a face-to-face affair – something students did with teachers in the room, and on years abroad immersed in a foreign culture. This interactive process was fundamental to language learning for many years, but now learners are increasingly able to learn languages on their own, through apps and voice tools that provide engaging experiences without the need for teacher input.
On the plus side, this makes language learning more accessible as many of these tools are cheap or free to use. However, language learning requires users to be challenged, so the role of teachers in providing an additional layer of learning will not be replaced entirely by apps. Nevertheless, technology is changing the nature of this pedagogy as teachers are introducing digital tools to the classroom.
One way in which apps are changing the nature of language learning is through the gamification of this educational sphere. Apps like Duolingo have created leaderboards and trophies to reward learners, and created an addictive interface that has users treating learning languages like the latest video game.
These adaptations are something that teachers can learn from. “Our brains take in more information and retain it better if we’re creatively and playfully inspired,” says Richard Davis, an educator at Write My X and 1day2write. “Building learning environments that foster these attitudes helps learners, something app developers are well aware of.”
“Whilst teachers are still vital to ensure learners practice communication skills and avoid habitualizing errors, no language learning practice is complete without self-study,” says Mary B. Weil, a blogger at PhD Kingdom and Britstudent. “Digital tools allow language learners an immersive platform for their study, encouraging users to keep learning out of the classroom.”
Even highly motivated students often struggle to find time to study outside of the classroom. Digital tools, especially those tied to mobile devices, reduce the barriers to self-study by giving learners access to study tools at any given moment. With an app in your pocket, there’s nothing to stop you from studying.
- British Council Apps. The British Council has developed a range of apps to support language users. These apps are built around grammar and vocabulary, creating narratives that engage users. For example, Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge has been built to reinforce grammar rules in a fun environment.
- Duolingo. Duolingo is an industry leader in language learning apps and has millions of users studying everything from English to Navajo. With its thriving community and fun, challenging interface it’s an addictive app.
- Two Min English. This app is packed full of quick lessons for users to practice their English. Through a two-minute video, users are introduced to language concepts. It’s easy and fun to use on the go.
- By cementing conversation in a language learning practice, Babbel encourages users to develop practical language skills. Speaking and listening are at the core of Babbel’s pedagogy.
- Game To Learn English. This app is a multi-level English language game. Challenging users to advance through the level system provides a powerful incentive to keep learning.
Technology is undoubtedly providing many benefits to both language learners and teachers alike. By enabling students to learn independently, language learning has been democratized and access to learning tools has expanded. The gamification of language learning allows users to become engrossed in study and practice, and the scope for developing practical skills in speech and comprehension is growing. Nevertheless, the guidance offered by language teachers is still vital for leading learners on their language journey. Language learning is an inherently communal process – we need technology to bring us together for it to be a success in the language learning sphere.
About the Author
Regina Wheeler is an eLearning consultant at Research Paper Writing Services and Essay Help. She is passionate about deconstructing traditional hierarchies of education, democratizing learning through technological means. She also writes for NextCoursework.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.