By Phoebe, Zoe Zhou, Carrie and Fiona


Apps on iPhone. Photo taken by: Daniel Zanetti CC BY-SA 3.0

The Changing Mobile Environment

As mobile phones and gadgets become more affordable, it is no surprise that young people love mobile technology more than ever and use it regularly. Teachers and teachers-to-be, have you thought of employing mobile devices to cater to diversified learning needs?

George Chinnery (2006) did a study on mobile language learning and found that some technical problems arose due to limitations inherent in the devices such as low-resolution screens for image / video display. The limited features and expandability offered by the predominant operating systems (OS) for phones and PDA’s at that time was also one of the reasons for slow development of mobile language learning.

Until 2007, a revolutionary device, iPhone by Apple Inc, was born and amazed the world. It changed our habits of texting and browsing the web. Mobile screens were enlarged with better screen resolution, improved audio quality and more powerful processors allowing the playing of high quality video smoothly.  The touch screen feature of smartphones and hardware enhancement has not only made web navigation and texting easier, it has also facilitated the use of mobile phones in the educational sector.

Some Apps on the Rise

A screenshot of eStroke on the phone. Photo taken by Chris Merck.

A screenshot of eStroke on the phone. Photo taken by Chris Merck.

Various apps have been designed for language learning for both iPhone and Android systems. Many of these apps are quite similar and available now on the phone, including flashcard programs, dual language dictionaries, and phrase books. For instance, the famous travel guide Lonely Planet app is a good example of phrase books. It has advanced features such as drag-and-drop trip planners, audio phrasebooks, and even augmented reality, which uses the phone camera views to overlay local site information. In terms of dual language dictionaries, one popular app for learning Chinese is called eStroke. Its main goal is to help learners to write Chinese characters in stroke order, but it also entails an extra dual-language dictionary, features excellent animations, and includes a personal library and quizzing functions. (Godwin-Jones, 2011)

Developing for mobile delivery

When creating an app for mobile learning, developers have to consider different OS capabilities and select a suitable approach that matches the devices’ programming environment. Here are five approaches:

  1. Native apps

Smartphones adopt different programming environments which are not compatible with each other, e.g. iOS apps for iPhone and Andriod apps for Samsung. Therefore, different versions of the same app have to be developed to make the app available on different smartphones for teaching. Native apps thereby require more resources than other approaches like web app, so it may be too costly for language learning purposes.

  1. Web apps

Web apps only need a text editor for scripting which requires less effort in development. A slow executing speed, less smooth user interface and limited access to the hardware of the smartphones may affect its reliability. However, smartphone environments do not affect web apps’ operation and performance. Learners can open the app from both desktop browsers and mobile devices. Therefore, this approach may be more feasible.

  1. “Hybrid apps”

Hybrid apps require a tool to connect a web app to the smartphones’ native environment. Examples of this tool are PhoneGap, Appcelerator Titanium and jQuery Mobile. This kind of tool facilitates the creation of parts of web apps like navigation.  JavaScript writing is not needed and most smartphones can use this app.

  1.  A mixed environment approach

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) media queries enable the web-based content to re-format and display itself on the small screen. We can just insert a tag to HTML header which directs a web browser to select a font size that suits CSS style. Both mobile and desktop browsers support this function.  Although the code is simpler, it requires extra effort in creating separate HTML pages for smartphones.

  1. Flash

Flash is supported in most mobile devices except the most popular iOS devices.  The performance of flash on mobile devices is not as good as that on desktop platforms as the memory of smartphones is inadequate, leading to crashes in the systems and slow operation.  Thus, Flash is not the best tool for app development.

Outlook: tablets also on the rise

Photos of elementary students using iPads at school to do amazing projects. Photo taken by Lexie Flickinger.

Touchscreen tablets, such as iPads have become very popular for language learning probably because the touchscreen interface creates a more personal and intimate connection between the users and machines (Forrester Research,2011). The screen size and touch interface also allow users to focus on one task and teachers can use tablets to capture learners’ attention.

Problems: Boring apps and dominating teachers

Kukukska- Hulme and Shield (2007) reviewed:

(a) Most parts of the mobile assisted language learning were boring and repetitive, and did not draw on “the advantage of mobility, peer connectivity or advanced communication.”

(b) Activities were “teacher-led and scheduled“. Students could not learn autonomously  at any time or any place.     

Developers should change their concepts of language teaching and be innovative in designing new apps, instead of doing the same old things in a new way.

An innovative suggestion: a photo translation function

David Read, a mobile ESL blogger, describes a ‘photo translation function’ which he wants to see in a language app. People can use the built-in camera to scan and translate texts like menus and posters. They can also get access to language corpora in small screens and look up words in different online dictionaries at the same time. All these resources can be added up in a personal word bank, just like an intelligent tutoring system (ITS).


Godwin-Jones(2011) suggested that smartphones and tablets are ideal tools for “individualized informal learning”, as students can select the apps they want and decide how to use them. As language teachers, we should encourage and assist learners’ autonomy by incorporating the use of smartphones and tablets in the classroom. In this way, we can combine formal and informal learning.

Two good examples:

  1. Song and Fox (2008) : The study introduced an open-ended,student-centred approach to EFL vocabulary learning using various mobile devices. Teachers provide a variety of vocabulary learning tools and allow students to choose. Students then discuss their choices and approaches with peers.
  2. Wong, Chin, Tan, and Liu (2010): Students used iPhones to take photos from their daily life surroundings to illustrate Chinese idioms and shared them through a wiki with their peers. The result is better than learning in a lab or classroom.

Godwin-Jones (2011) concluded that mobile devices are great ways to help learners link their learning with their daily lives outside the classroom. As a language learner or teacher, do you agree with that? No matter what you think, no one can ignore the fact that mobile devices are “powerful and versatile” tools that may become the sole computing devices in the future.


  1. Have you tried any language learning app which you would recommend to teachers or students for classroom learning or learning beyond classroom? What language learning app would you like to have in your future?
  2. As language teachers, how should we integrate the use of smartphones or tablets into language teaching in order to combine formal and informal language learning and foster learners’ autonomy?
  3. Do you prefer using mobile language learning compared to the traditional way of language learning?  Why?

98 thoughts on “Emerging Technologies — Mobile Apps for Language Learning

  1. I really like news apps for language learning. I would recommend Tunein Radio for its the integration of most of the radios in the world which contains several columns like entertainment, education, music, sports etc. Users can select what they really interest in and collect information. It also runs in the background which enables users to do multiple tasks. As far as I am concerned, spending time doing listening drills every day can make a difference one day.
    Websites below is the introduction of this app.
    I think that mobile apps provide great opportunities for the realization of learning everywhere and it would be great helpful in this fast-paced society. Some learners are willing to use new tech for its additional functionality and practical content while some users may find that mobile apps can be a supplement of class rather than the main form of traditional learning. Perhaps the focus will be set on the increase the target students, the integration of traditional learning and new tech and most importantly, the task should be learner-centered.

    • Thanks for your recommendation, Chole.
      I agree with you that the use of mobile devices and apps can facilitate learning at any time or place.

      But what do u mean by ‘the focus should be set on the increase the target students’?

      David Read suggested a photo translation function app, and what kinds/functions of app do u want to have in the future, Chloe?

    • I mean future research should be done in order to know how to get more students involved in the using mobile apps and improve their awareness of using apps for language learning.:)
      I want an app for interpretation which can record your interpretation while playing the listening material. Once the user finish practicing, the app enables the user to replay and check his works. What is your wish?

    • This recommendation of Tunein Radio does sound interesting. And I do agree that listening to more English will help the students learn it better, that they could acquire the language as they are exposed to it.
      From a teacher’s perspective, I would argue that mobile technology is more for supplement in class, as opposed to being a replacement. There is so much one could do with a class group, interacting in person, that it would be a waste if all students just spend time on their mobiles.

    • Hi Chole! Thanks for your recommendation. I have tried this app and it’s very interesting. It not only includes English channels but various of languages. Also, it includes various kinds of programs, like talk show, music, sports etc.

    • Chloe, I want to have an app which can record my students’ pronunciation and rate their performance.

      I searched the app store and found that there is already such an app! It’s called Otterwave. There are many conversations in contexts.

      Maybe in the future, there will be an app for teachers to design the content of the conversations by themselves so that the content can be linked to the structures that students learn in class.

    • Thanks Chloe, that’s a very interesting share!! I agree this will be beneficial for students, especially for listening. Students are exposed to different programs and can choose accordingly.

    • Yes, technology really contributes a lot to language learning. Whenever I am waiting for buses, I will start learning language using my mobile phone. This gadget is a multifunctional tool which enables me to achieve effective self learning.

    • Thanks for your recommendation of the app, Chloe. I have downloaded it and found it quite interesting. I agree with you that insistent listening input plays a positive role in improving our language learning. So, I decide to insist using this app for a period of time and I’d like to talk to you if I could make some progress. And I also hold the opinion that the use of mobile phone apps break the restriction of time and place to learning so that learners could have the freedom to make their own choice on language learning.

  2. Nowadays language learning really becomes more effective and efficient with the additional help of new technologies such as mobile apps and web apps. I often use some apps to learn vocabulary because it is much convenient than carry a vocabulary book. I also use some entertainment apps like riddles, word-guessing games which I have fun with meanwhile practice my language skills.
    Personally I think smartphones or tablets would take the place of traditional blackboard or whiteboard in the future because it more caters to today’s children way of receiving information and thinking. If there are some well-programmed apps which can generate “individual learning plan” for different levels of learners, it would be great to apply in the classroom where teachers set back and act as an tutor and instructor, with the result of promoting students’ learning autonomy. Even so, I insist that authentic communication in real life is very significant for learning a language.

    • This is true, Zoe! Mobile learning can be used as a tool in teaching but it shouldn’t replace traditional classroom learning. For instance, we can ask students to install the google drive app on their mobile phone and use it for sharing their work and commenting on other students’ work.

    • Right, although many good apps and online teaching products are developped by people, the traditional and authentic teaching methods couldn’t be totally replaced.I would be happy to see the great development of technology and science, yet one point shouldn’t be ignored is that these new Techs and apps are developed by human beings, certain bugs and side-problems need to be monitored and helped by human beings. That’s why in the lopsided 4-1 rout by Google’s AlphaGo over Go grandmaster Lee Sedolhuman beings; still, Lee has won once.

    • I totally agree that we should treat those new technologies as a language learning rather than the replacement of traditional language learning.

    • What kinds of “individual learning plan” apps? I’m interested to know more so i could use it in my class to help my students to improve more.

      Talking about the entertainment apps, i found that word guessing, scrambling is a very good one to increase your vocabulary bank because some words we don’t really use it often but then it will “test” if you really know the word.

    • After reading your comment, I feel blessed that I can live in the 21st century, a world surrounded by all sorts of digital tools. To me, mobile phone is really a helpful academic tool. This pocket-sized tool can provide greater technology availability. I have installed lots of language apps in my smartphone. Whenever I have spare time, I can learn language immediately. Hence, language learning is no longer fixed by the limitation of space, time and resources.

    • @ phoebelau For “individual learning plan”, I mean that if there is an app that can design some learning tasks according to learner’s level or need, that would be great. For example, a vocabulary app is able to generate a new word list based on learners’ mastery of previous words and their ability of memorizing words.

    • Zoe, through reading your reply, I’ve got an insight that the use of mobile apps or things like that may interfere with authentic communication because people may spend too much time on virtual world, thus reducing their connection with people around them in the real world. Thanks for inspiring me. And I think that’s the issue that both parents and language teachers pay attention to and try to find ways to solve this problem.

  3. Oh, I do have a very good app to recommend students for Pronunciation and intonation improvements. It’s called Quepeiyin, the principles are stimulating English learners to choose their preferable movies or episodes to dub, being one of the main leading roles of their own stage; also, the final productions learners dubbed would be encouraged to share with peers or teachers for commenting, before that they would practice over and over again to imitate the excellent pronunciations and intonations. This is fabulous no matter whether the students are shy or not.

    • Thanks Sunnie for your sharing, do you think it can work for different levels of learners? I am wondering if I can use this app in class to teach my students who are in post-secondary level but they are quite poor in English:)

    • Thanks Tiffany for helping me reply to Annie’s questions. Yes , you can find it in both Android and iOS system.

    • Hey, Carrie, I feel like this app could be available for different levels, this year they have developed a branch mainly for younger or poor level learners. It is called “少儿趣配音”. Actually, the different levels of English learners can go to different genres of materials for dubbing. i.e.: Poor levels of English can find some animations or slower advertisements to dub, which would also be appropriate for younger learners. I hope this info. can help you. Maybe you can download the app on your iPad or iPhone and have a try. I like the easy way to dub, feeling like I’m the main character in the scene.

    • Thanks for the share! Let me try to give my students to use this app during class this week! My students barely speaks English to me even I kept talking to him with English, the only thing he liked is video games and comics. Perhaps I can stimulate him through this app!

    • Thanks for your clarification Sunnie;) This app is really diversified and can cater to different needs of learners!!

    • Sunnie, the app that you recommended sounds attractive and useful. I have never tried using this. I feel like most existing apps aimed to improve students’ reading and writing skills (eg. doing reading comprehension). It is nice that ‘Quepeiyin’ could encourage students to speak, especially for those shy students who are reluctant to speak up in class. On top of that, the sharing and commenting functions would surely motivate students to perform better.

    • I love this app!!!
      It is very interesting and helpful, and I think the most important thing is that users can learning language via this app with their friends together. It can both provide communication chances and language learning chances at the same time.

    • First of all, I didn’t find the app in the apple store. And I am quite interested in this app for its useful functions. Secondly, your description about this app arose my personal interests!! Maybe I can also recommend this website or app to my future students. See you tonight! Plz help me search this app~~

    • I totally agree with your recommendation on “Qupeiyin”. For those students with higher language proficiency, I would recommend this app since it helps to develop their intonation and pronunciation. Learning these can make a students speak native-like English and naturally.

    • Hi, Sunnie! Thank you for your recommendation of the app Qupeiyin. Actually I’ve have been using this app for a while, and i think its quite helpful. I think the biggest advantage of this app is that user can dub a line in a piece of video for several time until they are satisfied with the final work. In the case, learners can produce the perfectest version of the clip of the video by practicing their pronunciation repeatedly.

    • yeah. I have also tried this app Quepeiyin before. I think it is a very good app to practice spoken English. It is easy to get started and learners always practice their dubbing episodes before sharing them on the community. This can be very motivating process.

    • Thanks for your sharing Sunnie! The app is excellent and very useful. It arouses my interest to keep on practising oral speaking. I have included it in my favourite list already!=D

    • Yes. This app is very interesting. And we can find many people are excellent on dubbing. I think that dubbing is a very effective way for language learners (especially beginners) to practice their pronunciation. Another fabulous thing is that your imitation audio can no only shared within that app, you can also share the link to other social networks, such as Wechat. This provides an opportunity for not only users of this app but also others app users to hear from up you and comment on your work. The interaction will be more interesting and motivating.

    • Hi Sunnie, thanks for this recommendation. I think my students would enjoy this. can you tell me the name of the lower level app in English, ? Your post said It is called “少儿趣配音”. Thanks heaps.

    • Hi Sunnie! Actually, we also did some movie dubbing activities when we were undergraduate students at university. And I found that most of my classmates paid more attention to the imitation of sounds and intonation of characters rather than the correction of their non-standard pronunciation. Also, audience would be more attracted by those who performed amusedly and even exaggeratedly rather than those with perfect pronunciation. So, I want to ask you whether things like that also happened in your class? If so, how did you improve this situation?

  4. I would suggest teachers to set up rules and explicit learning goals if they want to integrate the use of smartphones or tablets into language teaching so that learners won’t be distracted. And I do suggest our teachers to encourage language learners to greatly use mobile devices and apps especially out of the classrooms which can facilitate students’ learning.

    • I agree language learning via the use of mobile devices should be extended outside classroom. However, how can teachers monitor the progress of students’ learning in this context?

    • Hi Annie! I think distraction is indeed a problem in applying apps into language classroom. But it can also be hard to avoid out of class. So, could you give me detailed description on your way of facilitating students’ language learning via apps?

    • I believe that teachers’ guidance and supervision are necessary and irreplaceable in any in-class learning activities and I agree with your opinion that teachers should set up rules and learning goals first. Because it is hard for teachers to guarantee that all the students actively take the initiative to participate in and focus on the learning process. If the self-consciousness of the students is not high, they may take the time to keep themselves out of the affair. So I think evaluation cannot be ignored by teachers at the end of the activity in class.

  5. Definitely agree with the point that smartphone can help bridge learning inside and outside of the classroom. And this is a great way to make the student’s learning more relevant to their personal contexts, hence motivating learning.
    I like the method proposed by Song and Fox, as illustrated in your blog. In such a way, the students can try out different methods for themselves and analyze the according to their own preferences too. This is an authentic learning practice that promotes learning autonomy – choosing what you learn and how you learn it. I would personally consider this when teaching older students.

    It was also mentioned in your blog that language leaning apps are not very useful in most of the cases. I wonder what percentage of those apps actually were developed with language teachers. Most of them very well could have been app developers simply designing ‘fun’ games for playing rather than for learning?

    • What u said is really true, Betty. Not many educators have participated in language app design and development.

      That’s why some bloggers like David Read posted his opinions about his ideal language app online so that the developers may take notice and adopt his advice.

      So what kind /function of app would you like to have to promote English learning?

    • @Fiona – I thinking the kind of apps would depends on one’s belief in how language is acquired. For example, take an app that help teaches vocabulary, it may be useful if the app gives a vocab list for the week. During the week, the app could provide lots of sample sentences using those words, and the sentences could be related to the contexts that the use experiences, .e.g. app detects that the student is at the market, so it prompts the student, using a notification, to look for ‘quail eggs’, if say, ‘quail’ is on that week’s vocab list. If this was possible, it could allow the students to learn the new words with high frequency and in contexts.

    • And for commercial reasons, I think maybe designers of some apps aims more at making a profit rather than truly improving learners’ language proficiency. 🙂

  6. I would like to recommend one app which is called ” English interesting dubbing” where learners can dub different pieces of famous films. I think it is very helpful to motivate the students and correct their pronunciation.
    According the researches you mentioned,language leaning apps are not very useful in most of the cases. I think a careful choice is necessary. Which kind of apps is suitable for language learning and which is just for fun deserve comprehensive consideration. However, I don’t think it is quite effective. Firstly, mobile phones can distract students’ attention and disorder the class regulation. Secondly, it may waste time to introduce the function and manipulation. I believe mobile technology can function as a assistant tool for after-class education or self-taught education.

    • Yvonne, thanks for sharing, but I can’t search the app in Apple App Store. What is its official name?

      What you said is a practical problem, maybe instead of mobile phones, tablets can be used as they can help students focus on one task at a time.

      I think, in the future, an app which can show all the screens of the mobile devices (tablets) will be developed .(maybe there is already such an app?) It somehow concerns privacy issues so only tablets provided by the school can be used.

      Like what we do in computer lessons, all the screens are monitored by the teacher so that no one will play other games during the lesson.

    • Hello~Fiona, the Chinese name of this app is “英语趣味配音”,maybe you can search on the apple store with Chinese characters. I agree what you said. In the classroom, teachers should have the control of whole class. Too much distractions may hinder the process

    • Hi Yvonne, I really agree with you that the use of apps in class may distract students. And for those highly motivated ones, mobile apps or web apps could contribute to their self learning. But who do you think should monitor the after-school learning process via apps to make sure that students benefit from such apps rather than waste their time, and how?

  7. I’d like to recommend one app which is called “Shanbay News”. It’s a kind of app for reading news. Different form the BBC app that many people know, this app enables you to set your language level first, like IELTS, SAT etc. and then it will send news articles to you according to your set level. The news articles on the app is usually short, from hundred of words to no more than 1,200 words. I think this kind of reading will not bore you easily. As for me, I usually feel distracted when reading long articles. Besides, if you come across unknown words, just long press that word and the meanings will come to you automatically. Another exciting feature of this app is that you can join people in another group. People in the same group will set a target like reading at least two news articles per day. If you don’t finish the task, they will warn you even clear you out of the group. This can be an stimulus to push me reading everyday.
    As for the second question, I think teachers should set strict rules when using the app for language teaching, otherwise students will do some other things, like chatting with their friends or surfing the Internet.I prefer mobile learning compared to traditional way of learning. Firstly, this kind of learning will arise students’ interest in language learning. Secondly, students can use app for language learning out of the classroom, which will enhance their autonomy language learning skills.

    • Thanks Tiffany, The app sounds interesting. I particularly like the ‘group membership’ feature. If the whole class participate, students can compete and have fun together!

      However, I can’t find Shanbay news on my iPhone. Is it an Android app?

      If you can design an English learning app, what would you like to have?

    • Hi Fiona! This app is a Chinese version. If you can’t find it by its English name, you can try its Chinese name “扇贝新闻“. Well, as it already has numerous apps for language learning for fostering different skills, I really have no idea in designing an app like that. But, I know a lot of students like English songs, maybe a combination of music and spoken English will be very interesting.

    • I think this app you recommend is great since the news materials it sends to the users are tailored according to users’ English level. Also Joining a reading group can push users to read news every day under members’ supervision. Promotion of learner autonomy is one benefit of mobile learning while motivation plays a crucial rule.

    • Hi Tiffany, I notice that Qupeiyin has a function which is dubbing your favorite music with MV on the screen, and that maybe corresponds to your wish.

  8. I tried busuu for learning French two yeas ago. And few weeks ago, Dr.H also recommend this app or website to us. My personal learning experience showed that busuu can just help learners to achieve a basic performance level and even lower performance level. Yes, it indeed teach plenty of daily words, phrases, expressions and sentences, but all this are communicative-oriented. When it comes to grammatical problem, there few things the app can do for learners. I will continue use the app, because I already got used to busuu’s learning procedures and the its interface. However, it only useful for simple conversation. If I plan a travel to Japan, I would learn some daily conversations on busuu.
    2. Just like the blogs we are editing, commenting and replying now, the blogs are interesting. If teachers can control the amount of blog, it can enhance students’ reading and writing abilities without students’ complaints.
    In order to make the learning more effective, teachers can give students the chance to choose their preferred topics.
    3.I prefer to blend the traditional one with the advance one together. The traditional one strengthens basic knowledge, the technological one provides chances to practices.

    • Stella, it’s really true that most mobile apps are not as effective as face-to-face teaching when it comes to pointing out students’ grammatical mistakes. I also think that it is crucial for beginner and intermediate level learners to learn their mistakes at an early stage so that they can minimize fatal mistakes as soon as possible. In-class teaching is still the best way to perform such an act.

    • Hi, Stella! I strongly agree with your 3rd point about integration of both traditional ways and technological ways in language learning. It’s unlikely that the language learning apps will take place of the traditional ones. It serves more like a supplement after language class.

    • I agree with you that these kinds of apps are communication-oriented. Questions related to grammar cannot be solve by using such apps. Thus I think that language teachers should make a balance between the use of mobile technologies and the tradition language teaching.

  9. I do agree the ever-increasing use of smartphone enhances the occurrence of individualized language learning. Apart from intentional learning via education apps, students can advance their language proficiency in an unconscious manner. For example, the auto-correct function in all smartphones helps students to amend their spelling mistakes during texting. The correction allows students to notice correct spelling of the vocabulary.
    I do think incorporating smartphones as one of the teaching tools can enhance students to learn English in a less stressed environment. The apps in smartphone are installed with interactive media and sound which therefore provide an alternative way for students to process the target language items.
    I think the apps targeted for specific purposes such as French for travelling helps students to acquire language items in an intensive and effective manner.The language items included in these apps are usually more practical and easy and hence even students with low language proficiency can still learn with the use of these applications.

    • Winnie, you’ve made an interesting point on automatic correction of texts on mobile phone. We, teachers, don’t quite notice about this advantage, somehow, we should also make full use of this and ask students to use mobile phones to do more writings too!

    • I agree with what you have said, it is true that the automatic correction function do help students to amend their spelling mistakes. But we, however, as teachers might think this as a con rather than a pro as students may rely on the function and weaken their spelling ability in real life.

    • Winnie, I think you came up with two good points: learning in an unconscious way and learning intensively through using smartphone. I do agree with you. Many apps are designed for teaching some useful and functional items for special purposes or short-term learning goals, like traveling oversea and basic business conversation. Learners can learn these terms through the app whenever and wherever they like, and then apply them in meaningful situations in reality.

    • As a language learner, I think I have relied on autocorrection too much that I can hardly spell correctly without digital devices . And when I need to write on paper, I don’t have much confidence and feel a bit uneasy.
      But anyway , it’s like a natural phenomenon now that I can’t change anything ..

    • Hi, Winnie! I’d like to share my personal experience of word typing via mobile phones and laptops with you. Every time I make spelling or even grammatical mistakes, I just notice that electronic devices have corrected me but do not pay much attention to the new form, especially when I am busy doing some assignments in a hurry. So I wonder whether things like this also happen among other language learners.

  10. Speaking of technology for language learning, I had an experience doing ‘English Builder’ when I was in secondary school. According to its description, ‘English Builder is an interactive online English learning and knowledge-building programme for secondary students’. However, as far as I remember, it was simply an online version of reading comprehension exercises. We were kind of forced to complete those exercises in order to get marks. I have no ideas if ‘English Builder’ has evolved in recent years. But personally, I found those online reading comprehension exhausting and would rather do that in class.

    I agree with the findings by Kukukska- Hulme and Shield (2007), some of those apps are not attractive to students and is dominated by teachers. It is really vital for developers to be innovative when designing the apps. If students are still doing the same thing (eg. drills) repeatedly, I couldn’t see the advantage of using technology. If I had a choice, I would prefer using mobile language learning rather than the traditional ways. But I would like to use apps that are interactive and related to the daily life. The ‘photo translation function’ suggested by David Read seems quite interesting.

  11. Well, my favourite language app is Toondoo. It is helpful for both teaching and learning. Students can create a story plot for their comics by designing the setting of the story, adding lines and changing facial expressions of the characters. I also use this app to help students learn vocabulary. To help students remember and understand the vocabulary in a better way, I will create a comics about a target vocabulary. I found that students’ retention is longer after they read the comics that I created. I feel satisfied when I see their great improvement on English vocabulary learning.

    To foster students’ autonomy, I think teachers can design some task-based activities that involve the application of smartphone and tablets. For instance, students can use audio recording programme to record their speech and add visuals to help them present.Many activities also require students to do self-learning activities after the lesson. Teacher can provide a QR code for students to scan at home. These QR codes can link to educational websites and even exercises. In this way, students can enhance learning autonomy through the application of smart phones and tablets.

    Since traditional language learning cannot cater for different kinds of students, it is better for teachers to integrate mobile language learning into traditional language learning. Mobile language learning can also cater for the need of auditory learners as well as kinesthetic learners. To catch the pace of the digital age, it is better for teachers to equip themselves with IT skills and make use of the language apps to enhance students’ language learning.

    • Hi, Alice! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I agree with your opinion about training teacher to equip themselves with IT skills and to apply those language apps in teaching. But do you think that teachers shall reply their language teaching totally on the mobile apps? is it better if they just use it as a complementary tool for learning?

    • Hey Zoe! So glad to receive your reply^^
      Well, good language teaching should enable students to develop integrated language skills. Effective use of digital tools can help teachers achieve this goal. The use of digital tools can also compensate the drawbacks of traditional language learning. So, instead of saying “totally rely language teaching on mobile apps”, it’s better for us to say “make effective use of mobile apps in language teaching” ^o^

  12. I think using touchscreen tablets, such as iPad, is a good way for language learning, especially for visual type of young learners. I’ve seen my niece (2-year-old) learning Chinese words by using an app in iPad. It presents words with pictures and the pronunciation giving her a direct connection between the word and the real object in the world. When she pointed to the picture in doing the matching games on iPad, she was excited as if she really touched the objects. This kind of word learning app on iPad creates intimate connection between the users and the machine. There are also dozens of similar apps for learning English words in iPad.

    • I think so. This kind of learning on iPad is more suitable for the learners who are in lower lever. They may be not aware of learning but unconsciously accumulate. But when learners in higher level,they may be out of control when using this kind of apps only for language learning.

    • My niece is always fond of learning simple English vocabularies by mobile apps and her English proficiency is proven to be significantly superior than her counterparts.

    • I share the same idea with you that the motivation of language learning of the younger kids is higher when they use these apps. They not only have fun in doing such games but also learn during the process.

    • Apps nowadays are designed targeting different consumers and the most important thing is that if apps are introduced into classroom, it’s better to find the most appropriate one for learning.

  13. Well, I myself like using mobile phone to assist my language learning as it is portable and easy-reached.
    In the last two years, I’ve recommended some mobile apps that can facilitate students’ language learning. For example, I would strongly recommend students to use “Shanbei” for vocabulary learning. With the app, students can learn a word with examples and save those items that they think they might need revision. Also, it meets the requirements of learners at different levels. Learns can select a level of vocabulary learning according to their own language proficiency. Additionally, I would recommend students at lower level to use the app “new concept English”, which consists of texts, audio, translation, exercises and related vocabulary. It really helps lower level students to build up their language skills.
    Concerning the use of smartphones or tablets, I think I would make it an add-on tool for out-og-class learning. Students have their own selection of mobile phones. And just as you mentioned, not all apps have both IOS and Android options. It is not that possible to ask students to use the same app. Instead, I would recommend a bunch of apps and allow students’ own choices (their own preference).

  14. Mobile devices have brought huge changes to students’ learning process. They enable learning process no matter when and where, as long as there exit device and Internet, which saves a lot of time for students. The wide range of different mobile devices types also offers learners an open-minded study environment. I used to use one app in Chinese “Baicizhan”, which is very useful for me to remember new words. This app combines vivid and funny pictures with new words. I can feel a sense of passing numerous obstacles and in the end I can remember new words naturally. Leaners can benefit a lot from mobile devices. However, the learning process which occur in the mobile devices is simple. Learners may come across a problem that they cannot handle, for example. I think the face-to-face learning process is also necessary for learners to have more interactions with others.

  15. I often use apps for vocabulary learning because it is more convenient than other vocabulary books in paper. And I can accumulate the vocabulary everywhere with the mobile phone. I also like news apps, which send me different kinds of news every day so that I can get touch with something new happened without reading the newspapers. Also in this way, I can practice my reading skill.
    If I were a teacher, I would not let students use mobile phones in class. Because always students are out of control when they are using mobiles even with teachers’ instructions. Class time is limited, so it is better to introduce students learn language with mobiles out of class and they can learn it autonomously. Students can choose the apps which they like and are suitable to their own improvement.

    • I think if you have the proper plan and can do some pro-test on the classroom of using mobile apps, you can slowly establish a kind of practice in the classroom and students. In this way, students will get to used to these practices and the situation will not got out of control.

  16. I prefer to use mobile apps for language learning when compared to the traditional ways, because the choice of what to learn, how to learn and when to learn are totally at my disposal. Take one of my personal experiences for example, it usually takes me around 20 minutes to commute to and from school, which, for me, is a waste of time. Therefore, during the journey, I could learn something through mobile language learning apps.

    • Yes, this is the beauty of mobile learning: break the barrier of time and space. Learning condition is not restricted to traditional classroom and students can learn whenever and wherever they are.

  17. I do have an experience with the help of phone devices to remember vocabulary. I would like to recommend the app,named 百詞斬.You can use it to enforce and test your vocabulary according to different levels and purposes,such as ILTES,TEM8,BBC,etc. The app will send you a notification to alarm you that it is vocabulary remembering time. And you can even set it as your lock wallpaper.Every time when you unlock your phone, you have to click the correct meaning of the words,which ensures the way to remember effectively.

    And teacher can introduce useful mobiles apps to students as homework,which may trigger students’ motivation in language learning. And one more thing, we should take both the advantages from mobile devises and traditional ways when learning languages instead of showing preference in either of these two ways. I think this is the better attitudes towards current situation.

    • I like your idea that we should choose depending on the situations instead of showing preferences in either of these two ways!

  18. Teachers may integrate some apps in the classroom teaching. For example, it can be used in vocabulary part. with apps like Baicizhan ( or Hujiangcichang (, teachers can use the pictures, examples and testing to introduce words and usage. After the part inside the class, students may be encouraged to retouch the app to revise. Or teachers could use the testing part of the app as a competition for students.

  19. I don’t try many apps for language learning, but I agree with Sunnie that Qupeiyin is a quiet interesting and useful for language classes. users can choose some fragment from differents movies and dub for the movies. Users can improve their pronunciation during this process. Users can work with their friends together, which make this app more interesting and helpful.

  20. I have used a app called youdao dictionary to learn some words’ meanings and check new words, and this is really useful and effective,because I can know the words meaning immediately. Baicizhan can also help me to remember words when I prepared for IELTS. It helps me to remember words by using images. This app enjoy its popularity among English learners; They have a liking for this app.

  21. I have used many different english learning apps, for example, “Baicizhan”, “Yingyuqupeiyin”. One is for reciting vocabularies and one is for fun and practicing my oral language. I found them useful because I could learn English every where in any time.
    I don’t think mobile teaching is suitable in Chinese education system because parents will never want their children spend so much time on mobile phones.

    • I totally agree with your concern.
      Chinese parents are normally conservertive and conducting mobile learning which involves great use of mobile phone can be not so smooth as expected.

  22. Although mobile learning has some related problems, it is ture that this has more benefits and advantages. As an English teacher, I have recommended my students to use some apps(e.g. BAICIZAN, BBC, IELTS LEARNING) to facilitate the learning of English. Actually, these apps are more intereting and interactive, which can raise students’ passion in English learning, particularly in vocabulary memorizing and accumulation.

    • Teacher can make students finish assignments with the help of different apps to maintain both effectiveness of the app and also learners’ autonomy. For example, when using BAICIZAN, teacher can have students send the result of their effort to check they finish or not.
      Compared with traditional leaning, of course, more interesting and less boring are the most obvious feathers in mobile learning. However, we cannot totally depend on mobile learning, but conduct traditional ways of teaching with mobile learning as a very usefull supplement.

  23. I agree that teachers can encourage and assist learners’ autonomy by incorporating the use of smartphones and tablets in the classroom, combining formal and informal learning. By doing this, students can receive the proper guidance on the new literacy language learning and cultivate the habit of using digital tools in their learning.

  24. I love this weekly topic. In my point of view, I think that the application of mobile in language learning is more effective than other technologies that require the use of computer, or learning in traditional way. Firstly, more and more students have their smartphones and they are addicted to it. Some students cannot stop playing with their mobile phones in the class, then why not including it as an effective learning tools. Second, I think that the apps used inside and outside the class shall be different. Apps that used beyond the classroom shall offer a platform for teachers to monitor the performance of his/her students. This would be a way to access students and giving them feedback if necessary.

    • I agree with you that compared with a computer, a mobile phone is more portable and convenient for language learning. The mobile phone has been a must for our daily life. As long as we make good use of it, we can benefit a lot from it.

    • I agree with your last point. For example, if the dubbing app is introduced, then teachers may approve phase deliverables orderly so that students know that they are not just playing for fun or being test items of the pioneer teaching method. Teacher may share the best performances with the whole class to motivate students to do better.

  25. One of my friends are using the app called “Liulishuo” to practice her spoken English. When she reads a sentence, her pronunciation will be scored in this app. So it has been very useful and helpful for her to correct her English pronunciation. For the second question, I think that teachers can assign some tasks for students to finish in order to prevent students from being easily distracted. Then when students use language learning apps, they can have a purpose and be more motivated and effective in language learning.
    I prefer mobile learning to traditional way of learning because it is really convenient and more interesting.

  26. I once used an app called “Podcast” to learn English. There are many excellent podcasts for language learning in the app. If we subscribe a podcast, the latest audio or video clips will be sent to us automatically. BBC has many different podcasts , like “Global News”, “The English We Speak” and “6 Minute English”, etc. They all cater to the different needs of learners. We can listen or watch them anytime and anywhere with our mobile phones. By using this app, I can practice listening and learn lots of authentic expressions. It’s quite helpful.
    It is a good idea for learners to use cell phones or tablets to learn language since there are many good apps and it is very convenient. We can recommend some useful apps to students for their after-class learning. I believe they will be more motivated to learn English in this way.
    I think both mobile language learning and traditional language learning methods are important. Although mobile language learning is very popular and interesting, it cannot replace teachers. In my opinion, students will be more concentrated in the classroom, thus the language learning will be more efficient and effective.

    • I agree with you! Yiyi. I also like those podcast app, especially before sleeping. 6 Minute English of BBC always provides us many useful tips for daily English. And I also agree that mobile learning may suitable for those introversive language learners, but it can never in charge of the teaching role. After all, the ultimate goal for foreign language learning is to communicate with real people from other countries.

  27. I will recommend Baicizhan and Mofunshow. Baicizhan is an app for vocabulary learning, in which learners can memorize the words by themselves. This app is constructed basing on the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. It has the scientific background for vocabulary learning. Mofunshow is an app that learners can use to practice their pronunciation and oral speaking. In this app, learners are able to do the dubbing of various movies and share their works with friends. I think that these two apps make the language learning much more fun and rise the motivation of self learning.

    As for the integration of the use of smartphones and tablets into tradition language teaching, I think teachers provide appropriate guidelines for both students and their parents. Also, teachers show try those apps or tools first and decide whether they are suitable for students.

    • Hi Leslie~! Thanks for your sharing. Indeed,many dubbing apps become very popular among language learners in recent years. Some of my friends dub famous movie clips and shared with me. I think these apps are really interesting and helpful to practice the English pronunciation and intonation. With them, students will enjoy the learning process and be more motivated to learn English.

  28. I once used the App named Shanbei Vocabulary (扇贝单词) to assist me with vocabulary accumulation in preparation for some English proficiency examinations. The App provides learners with different ways and contexts to memorize new words and abundant opportunities to promptly review old ones. It also shows inspiring slogans to motivate learners to persist in. However, probably due to the lack of perseverance, I find it hard to use the App for a long time unless I am in need of taking part in an upcoming examination. Reading books, listening to music and watching movies seem to be better choices for me to acquire vocabulary, especially those negative types. In the future, I prefer Apps that facilitate the input of language in a natural and mixed way, rather than those which aim directly at the increase of vocabulary or improvement one and even more language skills by doing drills.

    If possible, I think language teachers should increase the use of smartphones or tablets by taking good advantage of these electronic devices to arouse students’ interest, increase their class participation and create more authentic communicative opportunities. However, how to monitor the manipulation process and prevent distraction from using Apps still remains a problem.

    Also, I think it is hard to compare the traditional way of language learning with the newly-emerging way via the use of mobile phone because learners in different levels have different learning characteristics. This means what maters most is to try to find the most appropriate way that is suitable for the target learners. Whether it is traditional or newly-emerging is not that much important.

  29. I think so many language learning websites nowadays have their mobile app including TED, Quora and Coursera, which are also very effective for language learning beyond classroom. There are many interesting and meaningful mini-lectures on TED, which could appeal us. Quora is like an encyclopedia and for me, it is like a English version of zhihu. On Coursera, we could actually attend many professional online learning class. We could not only learning English by using these app but also gain other valuable knowledge. Integrating mobile app with language teaching is more reliable on tertiary classroom since they may have more self-discipline comparing with young learners.

  30. Youdao is a popular electronic dictionary app and it is the first English learning app I used and now I have been using it for several years. I believe that it is an indispensable and basic app for language learners. Compared with traditional dictionaries, it includes the popular vocabularies and massive examples that combined with a wealth of original video and audio soundtrack sentences. The pictures dictionary and encyclopedia functions can effectively help users understand and memorize new words.
    As Youdao Dict just contributes to vocabulary learning, personally it is no need to use it in class as an activity. For other learning apps with games or referring to interactions among users, I think teachers can let students experience several different apps first out of class, and then give them opportunities to share their user experience and gains, which can be regarded as a feedback for teachers to decide how and where can these apps contribute to their learning process.

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