In this digital age we are fortunate to have a huge array of tools at our fingertips which make learning any subject easier, especially given that all individuals learn differently. While some bemoan the introduction of smartphones as something which has had a detrimental effect on language, mainly with the introduction and boost in popularity of text speak, others see smartphones as the useful language tools they have become.
When Apple launched their now world-renowned iPhone in 2007 no-one could have foreseen how powerful an effect the smartphone would have on learning. The arrival of a number of language-learning applications has revolutionised the way that students of all ages are successfully studying languages.
Research shows that in May 2013, the number of apps downloaded by users on a range of different handsets via the popular iTunes platform alone hit fifty billion. There really is an app for everything these days; however, a significant number of those downloaded were dedicated to languages in some way or another.
Smartphones are designed to adapt to the user and with apps which further enable language students to personalise the way that they learn, from using games, spoken prompts, text entry learning and more, it is no wonder that such digital aids have become such popular learning tools. With students adopting a range of different learning styles, the number of apps available ensures that there are suitable alternatives regardless of ability, confidence and preference.
The two most widely recognised and used smartphone apps are Busuu and DuoLingo, though there are many other suitable apps available and more coming onto the market every day.
DuoLingo is a free language app which enables users to learn through active participation in games that hone skills such as writing, reading and translation, to name just a few. The app enables users to learn and practice in short bursts or longer sessions, and to move forward as comprehension progresses.
Busuu, also extremely popular, offers both free and premium (paid-for) app packages which promote writing activities, tutorials, comprehension exercises and the ability to test your own progress. Busuu follows the learning and comprehension levels as set out by the Common European Framework of Reference for Language.
It is clear that while the increased popularity of smartphones does attract negative attention from some quarters, including linguists who have concerns about the detrimental effect they have on face-to-face communication, the application technology available today has revolutionised the way that people learn languages.