Technology has opened the world up for us and it is easy to access pretty much anything through our phones and tablets. The millions of applications available for these devices not only let us enjoy to the hilt our leisure time but also, have helped us access knowledge tools whenever we want and wherever we want.
Online language learning has hence become truly democratized. One of the areas that have developed rapidly with the arrival of online applications is the foreign language learning domain. Many language learning apps have been developed in recent years for mobiles and tablets. Some of them like the Babbel language learning application (not Babel language Learning application!) and Duolingo has millions of followers from around the world.
We are often asked by students who are keen to know how to learn a new language, how efficient the free language learning apps are. Some often ask why an online language learning school like ours is not free of charge, like the Duolingo app!
Some others ask if learning a language through these language learning apps like Babbel is enough to get you to actually speak, read and write fluently in a language. Given these questions, we thought we will take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of language learning apps and see if they are really the best way to learn a language.
Location and time independent:
The biggest advantage of online language learning courses on applications is the fact that you can study a language wherever you are and whenever you want. All you need is your device connected to the internet.
No set hours:
The Babbel app, the Memrise app, Duolingo app do not demand you to dedicate a certain time of the day for learning nor do they actually need a commitment set in stone, as a language school would. You are free to decide when you want to spend your time with the app and it would help you learn by rote, while entertaining, you the most difficult words to memorize.
Study at your pace at your rhythm:
One often-cited advantage of language applications is that they let students take their time and progress as fast or as slowly as they want to. There is no pressure to move ahead quickly. For example, the memrise app really helps you linger on as long as you want on a word tell you are sure that you have learnt it.
They are free!
Most of the applications are free or at least offer quite a few facets of their application free. The arrival of the free language learning app has definitely revolutionized the learning of different languages- even some of the hardest languages to learn!
They are engaging and fun:
They use a lot of visuals and entertaining methods which really help remember vocabulary. With wacky sentences, humorous situations, and really friendly interfaces it is easy to get hooked on to languages learning through these apps. Some examples in Duolingo Spanish indeed laugh out funny! Even the trickiest language becomes the easiest language to learn with such apps.
A lot of Vocabulary. But Not Much Else.
The online language learning apps focus intensively on building vocabulary and help you learn words through repetition. However, they are not very rigid on grammar, phonetics, comprehension of written texts, etc.- which might be a little difficult to build, if you use solely apps like Babbel or Duolingo to learn a foreign language. For example, a student learning from Duolingo Spanish exhibits a great width of vocabulary but struggles to comprehend tricky texts which rely more on cultural understanding or are more nuanced.
Because these language learning apps follow a rigid system of teaching the language, they are unable to personalize the learning experience to your requirements. Also, they do not let you skip steps if you have already picked up some facet of the language or slow down the process and focus more on something which you have not grasped completely. In a language school, there is constant interaction with an instructor who can easily help you build strengths.
No real world experience
The biggest disadvantage with language learning apps is that they do not set you up for real-world situations. You do not communicate in the language with your teacher or your classmates, which is crucial to get you expressing yourself in the language that you are learning. It is often seen that students who learn from language learning apps are often reliant on multiple choice-based learning and are at a loss to frame simple sentences when confronted with real-life situations.
Reliant on your dedication
The fact that language learning apps like Babbel or Duolingo do not force you into a rhythm can also be a disadvantage. They are extremely reliant on self-discipline and in languages it is really essential that you keep a steady learning rhythm so that whatever you learned does not dissipate. In a language school, courses are structured to keep students on their toes and the pace of the class normally carries along even the most recalcitrant learner.
It is great to have a Prof around
An experienced teacher can really help you clear your doubts, answer your questions, encourage you to communicate more in the language, and more importantly give you the essential cultural aspects of the language that are absolutely critical in acquiring a language. As one article in the Atlantic Post wrote few apps are advanced enough to replace the teacher in two attributes: the ability to hold a student’s attention and to continually tailor a lesson to the individual’s progress, difficulties, and interests.
So summarizing a rather long article, language learning apps are definitely fun, interactive, engaging, and really help develop your vocabulary. But they are yet to figure out how to personalize your learning, prepare you for real-life situations, and magnify the scope of language learning. For these things, you perhaps need to still choose an old fashioned language school like Babel School of Languages 🙂