Smartphones have opened up a whole new world of language learning, and there are various ways through which they can help anyone eager to learn a new language. From apps that allow you to acquire new phrases every day, to those allowing you to get in touch with people from all over the world, smartphones and mobile phones have brought forth a new era of language learning. And with around 16% of the world’s current population owning a smartphone, the accessibility to such apps is becoming easier and more widespread as each day passes.
The smartphone revolution
Many factors have made learning, in general, more accessible across the world. As the infographic on the right shows, the prices of smartphones in 2013 dropped considerably across the world (everywhere except in North America). Research website Statista goes on further to say that “the average selling price of smartphone worldwide will drop from $337 this year to $265 by 2017,” meaning more and more of the world will soon own a smartphone. There’s also the demand to have everything at hand – usually via smartphones – for the consumer. Smartphones, in a matter of a few years, have revolutionized the way we shop, interact, and learn.
The abundance of apps now available in the App Store is growing rapidly. Apple recently announced, at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, that there are now 1.2 million apps available – a similar figure to what its main rival Google Play has posted. Additionally, many developers are producing increasingly efficient and informative language learning apps, often for free. Add to that the fact that educational apps command the second highest market share (10.6%), according to Statista, with a total of 126,459 active educational apps across the two largest app stores – and it’s evident that this is a thriving market.
Learning a language: anywhere, at any time
A lot of schools and universities are now integrating apps into their teaching models because it helps extend learning beyond the traditional classroom environment. Many educators enjoy using language learning apps because they help break down a particular language to its basic mechanics, via audio translation and visual on-screen aids in which the learner can associate with a certain word or phrase.
But it’s not just educational institutes that are recognizing the need to implement educational app platforms within their portfolio. Leading brands also sponsor and integrate language learning apps into their business models, in order to attract a younger demographic. In 2013, for example, 17- year-old Tom Humphrey won the O2 Think Big ‘Appskool’ competition, in which the A-level student designed a language-learning app of his own. Humphrey’s ‘Lingo-Tangible Translation’ app for the iPad was designed to make online learning easier. The app was developed by Golden Gekko and is now available to download via the App Store. Initiatives like this, of which mobile provider O2 is but one example, help usher in the next generation of innovative app developers.
So, if you had to choose a language learning app on the market, out of all those out there available, what would it be?
While picking the “right” app is ultimately determined by personal preference and learning styles, we have chosen 5 different ones that offer the consumer something different when it comes to language learning.
Level: All levels of learning
Description: This is a fairly new app to the Google Play and App stores. However, it has a community of upwards of 35 million native speakers, who will actively help you in your interactive learning. The app utilizes crowdsourcing as an integral part of its learning system. There is a host of quizzes, listening, writing, reading and speaking tasks to aid you in improving your skills. The app’s versatility and depth is where Busuu prevails among the rest of the educational apps. It provides flashcards at the early stages for the user to learn new words and a host of phrases. As the users begin to advance it then provides them with more detailed learning programs.
As an addition to the standard app, there’s also a premium account option that costs $24.99 per month. It may seem expensive but through this you will get useful advice from educators via its crowdsourcing system. What’s best about this app is that it caters for all levels of learning but also offers you feedback regarding your performance, not just through automated services but also through actual native level educators.
App #2: iHandy Translator Free
Description: An app purely designed for app users on their travels. It helps you efficiently translate phrases or words from 52 different languages. The app is extremely easy to use, however due to this being the free version, it also has its flaws. Unlike the PRO paid version, it is littered with banner ads and doesn’t have the text-to-speech functions that the paid app does.
App #3: Anki
Level: All levels of learning / covers different subjects
Description: We have chosen this app because it is extremely useful and employs a different technique compared with most other language learning apps you’re likely to come across. Anki is Japanese for “memorizing” and uses a flashcard system to help its users learn. It’s a relatively old app that was first launched back in 2006, but is has been refined considerably over the years.
The best thing about Anki is that you can customize the flashcards to your personal preferences; you can also use it for math equations or for any other subjects you are studying. Its versatility in being able to function across many different study areas makes this a very useful app to own, and it’s free.
App #4: Babbel
Description: This app caters to users who want to steadily increase their vocabulary via more buzzwords such as topics areas from digital and lifestyle trends to technological terms. The app tries to tap into current, popular issues that are in the news. It also has an audio functionality backed up by visual aids.
There are lots of exercises based around filling in the blanks type of sentences – the emphasis here being on improving grammar. Ultimately, this is an app designed for the beginner and is ideal for someone who is always on the go.
App #5: Memrise
Level: All levels
Description: Memrise has been well publicized due to its innovative approach to memorization, and the cool thing is that it’s not solely used for language learning. Through a flashcard system that is augmented with memory tricks, also known as mnemonics, it helps the learner learn new languages and other fields such as science and history.
Memrise’s primary focus is on the memorization of words. It has social sharing options and tries to incorporate fun aspects to all of its learning systems. You can also compete against other like-minded users and it is ideal for those that are always on the go.
Have you ever tried any of the five apps mentioned above? Did we convince you to give a new one a try? One thing is sure, learning a language has never been made easier and more accessible than now, with literally thousands of apps and websites available at your fingertips.
We’d love to hear from you, and about the kinds of language learning apps that you’ve found on the market and that you feel offers the consumer something different. Please leave your suggestions below!
Jenni loves writing about the latest in gadgets, technology, and mobile apps that makes a difference to people’s lives. Follow Jenni on Twitter @WrittenbyJenni