A Buyer’s Guide to Language Learning Applications
By Missi Smith
Learning a language is a fun and easy way to exercise your brain. Whether you’re retired, curious or just want to practice your existing skills it’s never been an easier endeavor to undertake than it is today. There are a lot of programs and mobile applications out there, but how do you decide? Here are some things to consider when selecting a language learning application.
Is the language you want to learn widely spoken or more obscure? Just be aware that if your goal is to, for instance, learn Uzbek (the language of Uzbekistan), you’re going to be hard pressed to find applications to help you acquire those language skills. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue learning a lesser known language. Bear in mind that the more obscure, the fewer resources you’ll be able to find in a mobile application.
Hobbies can get expensive, fast! There are numerous language learning applications out there that are free, but as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” Download the free application and take it for a test drive. Look for things like: does the app offer more than just the language you are looking to learn? Does it meet your learning style and or can you adjust your learning style to meet the teaching method of the application?
Visit the application’s website: how is the product supported and what additional features do they offer? Keeping these things in mind will help you from sinking good money into a costly program that may not provide the benefits you’re looking for.
Making a Commitment
In an electronically connected world, we’re all leading busy lives. Whether you’re undertaking learning a new language as a hobby or for a trip abroad, you need and want as little pressure and as much encouragement as possible. When vetting a language learning app, decide: how much time you’ll have to spend learning both the application and the language — especially if you’re unfamiliar with the lexicon.
Pay for Play
So you’ve found an app or two that meet your criteria. Now you’re ready to download and start learning. Start with as many free lessons as you can to get a feel for the app or until you run into a paywall. Decide whether it’s worth your hard earned money. Fortunately, when you log into the App Store on your iOS device or the Google Play store on your Android device, you’ll see on the outset whether the application is free with in-app purchases or what the price is upfront. Just remember: if you do decide to purchase it, determine whether you’ll have access to it via a subscription or if it’s a flat fee and you’ll have access to it forever.
Don’t expect to gain fluency in a language by using a language learning application as a standalone. They’re helpful and a good base for starting your language journey and or brushing up on skills you already have. The best way to become fluent in another language is to experience the language and culture in real life.
No matter your decision, have fun and make as many connections with as many people who natively speak the language you are trying to learn. If, after this, you’re still undecided about which app is best for you, stay tuned to the ULG Daily for a three-part series on language learning applications to start you on your way.