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February 2017

New Technological Advances in Language Learning

Let technology help you reach your language goals

We live in an amazing world of technology. With computing advancements, we’ve seen improvements in every aspect of our lives, including language learning. While in the past students relied on traditional textbooks and tapes for study, today we’re blessed with a myriad of unique apps and websites. We’ve explored in the past the various ways technology can help us with our language learning goals, including how to turn your smartphone into a language partner and five great language learning apps of 2016. Today we’ll take a look at some of the newer technological offerings that are changing the landscape of study.


Who wouldn't want to practice speaking with a cute little robot? Casio recently unveiled the Lesson Pod, a desktop robot that offers conversation, phrase repitition, quizzes, and can also correct your pronunciation and grammar. A simple touch of its head brings it to life, while Wi-Fi connectivity syncs it to your other devices. Lesson Pod is currently being released in Japan for Japanese students learning English, however, if it should do well, expect the little robot to make its way worldwide.

Robotics in language learning isn’t just about fun consumer products; academic institutions are looking into them as well. A project that ran at MIT utilized social assistive robots to teach ESL children. The autonomous robots played games with the kids as their progress was monitored by researchers. The children learned new words and the use of the friendly robots led to greater positive responses from the children. You’d rarely see such results from textbooks.

More apps!

Smartphone apps have had great success in providing useful services on the go. This is especially true when it comes to language learning. While we've already discussed great learning apps like Duolingo and the benefits of spaced repetition with Anki and Memrise, we’ve yet to find a dedicated app that allows users to find and chat with native speakers. Previously available only on desktops, Verbling is a language chat app now available on iOS and Android devices, so you can take your conversations on the road. The app connects you with a native language teacher and supports live lessons in up to 38 languages. There are strict rules in place to provide a safe learning environment for both students and teachers (e.g., no flirting). It’s also a curated service, so you’ll have to either have an invite code first or wait a short while to get approved.

The cloud!

We live in a sharing economy of cloud-based software and services. Cloud computing, for those still unfamiliar with the term, describes services hosted over the Internet. For example, while software used to be delivered solely on discs to be downloaded onto a personal computer, it can now be downloaded, managed, and utilized directly off the Internet. Last year, language software giant Rosetta Stone released Catalyst, a cloud-based language software for business customers.

It only makes sense that information, such as those related to language learning, should only become cheaper (if not free) and more widely available. We already see this happening with flashcard apps where users can upload their own card sets and lessons to share with other learners. The cloud-based language learning market is expected to grow until at least 2024, meaning we should be expecting more sofrware and apps that utilize cloud technology.  

How do you use new technologies to help you achieve your language learning goals? Let us know with a comment on Facebook and be sure to follow us with a “like” for more articles on language learning trends!

Picture (c) Fotolia, Antonioguillem