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August 2019

How to Make the Most of Language Apps

A new study offers suggestions

Language apps are popular; there’s no doubt about it. Coming in various forms and at different price points, it seems there’s an app for every style of learning. Many popular apps like Duolingo can be used at no cost, and, because they are for mobile phones, they can be easily implemented in even the busiest of lifestyles.

But do language apps really work? A recent study conducted at Michigan State University sought to examine the effectiveness of Babbel, an award-winning subscription-based learning platform and app. From the results, we can identify some key takeaways for language students hoping to get the most out of their study routine with language learning apps.

Time investment matters

It seems obvious, but the amount of time invested in language app use is directly correlated with the amount learned:

Among the report’s findings, 59 percent of participants improved oral proficiency by at least one sublevel on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages proficiency scale. The proportion of learners who improved rose even higher among those who spent more time using the app. For those who studied at least six hours, 69 percent increased at least one sublevel, improving to 75 percent for those who studied for at least 15 hours.

This is important to note because many users of language apps may only do what they perceive is the minimum required each day. The study shows that increasing daily time spent using the app can lead to incrementally bigger improvements.

Stick with it

One of the biggest reasons why people fall short at learning a new language is because they simply stop. Language learning is more like marathon running than sprinting; it takes a lot of daily study to learn, and often the goal seems to stretch on forever.

Additionally, when considering the improved learning outcomes for those who logged more hours in the app and the fact that 36 percent of participants who started the study ended up quitting, a key takeaway for prospective language learning app users becomes clear: However convenient and effective a language learning app may be, what might be most important is that learners stick with it and put in the necessary time to make progress.

It’s important to find an app or method of study that suits your interests and keeps you motivated. If possible, reserve some time each day to devote to language study. When studying becomes routine, it’s much easier to keep at it over a long period. While progress may, at times, seem slow, don’t lose hope; progress takes time but it undoubtedly comes.

For more info on the study and to view the complete results, interested parties can check out the full report published on Babbel’s website.

What are your experiences with language learning apps? Do you find them useful? Let us know on the telc English Facebook Page and be sure to “like” telc English for more articles on language learning tips!