If you haven’t witnessed the explosion of Smartphone popularity, you have been living under a rock.
Thousands upon thousands of applications are available from Apple’s App Store, Android Market or Blackberry App World, and the number of downloads are astounding; millions are downloaded – every month. There are apps for everything you can imagine from productivity apps to apps to help you manage your finances. And, of course, there are language-learning apps. Now, as ESL teachers, should we capitalize on the Smartphone phenomenon and recommend language-learning apps for our students? Check out the list below and reach your own conclusions.
The Hard Facts about Mobile Language Learning Apps
Smartphone ownership is on the rise all over the world. In the US alone, half of American adults own a Smartphone (source).
Fifty percent of US mobile subscribers download apps (source).
Millions of apps are downloaded every month – all over the world (source).
Advantages of Recommending Language Learning Apps to Students
Convenience – The mobility of these devices provides students with the chance to study/review any day, any time, without the need to remember to bring their books or class materials.
Efficiency – Most apps are tremendously user-friendly and well-organized into topics. This means students don’t waste any time looking for what they want to practice.
Engagement – Language learning apps are the ideal tool to engage learners who are very tech-minded and naturally enjoy using gadgets.
So, if you have students who are tech-savvy and love trying out new apps, here are some that are the perfect complement to their ESL classes:
This language-learning app features more than 3,000 words and expressions and covers a wide range of topics through comprehensive vocabulary sections and interactive tests. Levels include beginner to advanced, and it is available for download on iPhone and Android (20 units are free and remaining content is available upon purchase).
A very entertaining and highly-interactive app, it features a series of mini-lessons of approximately 5 minutes, so students have no excuses when it comes to making the most of idle time. The student interacts with the app through speech recognition software that recreates a real video call. It’s available for download on iPhone or Android for free.
This is a tremendously popular app, particularly in the Spanish-speaking market. It features news and stories on a variety of topics, and provides games for language practice, plus short quizzes to test comprehension. It can be downloaded for free on iPhone and Android.
This app was developed by the British Council in conjunction with Cambridge University Press and offers a wonderful, engaging way to learn new words through sets of interactive flashcards. Additional vocabulary packs may be downloaded from Cambridge dictionaries. Available for free on iPhone and Android.
This app features 20 lessons, each with a video dialogue. The app gives learners the option to read the conversation and then answer questions and complete a variety of exercises. It’s a great app for those who wish to practice more conversational English. It’s available for download on iTunes.
Developed by Cambridge University Press and based on the successful Grammar in Use series, this app allows students to practice English grammar as a series of “tests” that are more akin to games. It’s not free, but it’s one of the best apps for students who want some grammar practice on the go. There is also a complete series of apps based on the Grammar in Use books available for iPhone.
This is the perfect app for students who want to take the Cambridge IELTS examination. It is the perfect complement to the book and helps students prepare for the test by providing plenty of vocabulary practice. It’s available for download on iTunes as well as its other versions for TOEIC, TOEFL, etc…
There is a large variety of dictionary apps available, most of them more affordable than this one (lots are even free!), but this dictionary is certainly more affordable than its print version. Definitely worth the price.
It is probably one of the most expensive apps available for English learners, but there are none more comprehensive than this one. This app basically contains the complete Oxford Dictionary, plus the thesaurus, with the added audio feature. It’s ideal for students who have the money to spend and don’t want to carry a big, bulky dictionary around.
These are but a few of the hundreds of apps available for mobile learning.
If you have tried any and would like to recommend them, please tell us about them in the comments below!
What is your verdict? Do you believe these are valuable tools for ESL learners or simply flashy apps for gadget lovers? Sound off in the comments below!
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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Thank you for this article. I'm in love with Cambridge and I have almost every app. I tried MyWordBook also and find it really useful. I have pre-intermediate level but I can't find good tests. Currently I'm using this nice grammar app with tests https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=english.grammar.test.app&hl=ru Maybe someone could recommend me something else
This list is very useful. I am currently using an free app that's named iLearn: English (http://ilearnenglishapp.com/) and I have found it amazing. This app has different exercises inside and it also has gorgeous photos. Give it a try!.
"Tap&Count100" This PreK iPad App is FUN & TEACHES the Kido how to Count To 100 in English using her/his senses of: sight, sound and touch. It is 'sensory encounter' for learning. The student sees the numeral, taps the numeral, "HEARS" the number name...& can count along! A tool that the English speaking students can use to practice and practice...It is ALSO A WONDERFUL WAY FOR ESL STUDENTS TO LEARN HOW TO COUNT TO 100 IN ENGLISH. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tap-count-100/id692879518?ls=1&mt=8
There's an app for iOS called "toPhonetics" that helps students of English to learn pronunciation. You give an English text and it shows phonetic transcription of the whole text using International Phonetic Alphabet. There's a website too at http://lingorado.com/ipa/.
One thing we realised at Phone English is that there's not much in the app market for business learners of English. That's why we've devised Speak and Learn Business English which is a new iOS app for business learners. It's based around 20 business dialogues in a story format for context. Learners can listen and complete exercises based on key business themes like negotiations, giving biographical information and presentations. Learners can record their own voice speaking the dialogue so they can compare with the original. The key thing is that learning is customisable so students can tap to add key language to their own store which is also editable.
If the learner has only 5 minutes to spare at the airport, they can do a quick, meaningful task so it's ideal for the busy professional on the move. I don't think there is anything as comprehensive out there in app form. There's more here: http://www.phone-english.net/portfolio/business-english-iphone-app/
We are so impressed with the functionality, we've submitted it for a British Council award.
Thanks for the article which really helps teachers navigate to some of the best apps out there so they can offer encourage students to practise English outside of the classroom.
I'd like to add Supiki English Conversation Practice App. This app is really impressive: smartly designed and effective. Students can practice having spontaneous, unscripted conversations. The app listens and responds conversationally, encouraging imaginative and fluent language. Among the best I've seen for language learning.
I would like to add my series of apps for American English Pronunciation. I'm releasing different ones for different language backgrounds. Learners can practice their aural discrimination of minimal pairs and get immediate feedback from the games. Check out http://www.appstore.com/dmitrylebedenko and you'll find 1) Consonant Clusters 2) American English Pronunciation for Chinese 3) American English Pronunciation for Vietnamese
May I add EmailWriter? It’s the first app that allows the user to write perfect business e-mails and job applications in English, simply by selecting from numerous formulations, sentence by sentence. EmailWriter is also perfect for learning or for exam preparation; writing e-mails and letters is an integral part of business English exams. In EmailWriter users will find everything they need.