4 Ways Smartphones are helping People Learn a new Language

Image courtesy of: Michael Cahill

Image courtesy of: Michael Cahill

 Being a ubiquitous device in mobile learning, a smartphone has done almost all of the unthinkable, especially in helping learners master a foreign language. A 2012 survey done by the University of Colorado, revealed that 14% of instructors and 60% of foreign students use mobile phones for language-learning purposes. However, students are taking these nifty devices for granted, the same survey confirmed, they still need guidance on how to leverage their resources for learning a new mode of verbal communication.

That said, here are effective ways in which the use of smartphones can help learners master a new language:

1. Voice Recognition Technology

With the latest advancement in mobile technology, smart devices are now equipped with special features that can be used during learning sessions.  According to Phys.org, Apple’s iPhone line leads this trend, even the budget-friendly iPhone 5C. Its page on O2 suggests that the handset comes with Siri, a valuable voice recognition software in speech learning. The tool is a semi-immersive learning system, where students can practice speech proficiency including pronunciation and phrasing. Siri can also do simple translations, making it easier to bridge the communication gap.

2. Smarphone Widgets

Last November 25, Camelia Nunez, a Spanish instructor from the University of Waterloo, launched a facility that would aid students in mastering a certain mode of verbal communication. As an educator, she noticed that the best way for students to acquire a new language is by engaging them into a meaningful conversation. Nunez’s concept was simple: she devised a smartphone learning portal where students can exchange messages. The resulting product was dubbed as Milao (Greek word for “to communicate”), which will be used by university curriculums for beginner’s courses.

Nunez argues that Milao uses artificial intelligence, which is combined with a technology called “natural language processing,” generating text samples that would correspond to human speech. As of the moment, Milao is conducting a beta test at the University of Waterloo. The team also hopes to venture into other languages, starting with English next year.

3. Smartphone case for language-challenged students

In virtual learning, there is a wrong notion that educational technologies are not applicable for students with disabilities. Fortunately, this is about to be changed, as mobile devices come with accessories with advanced assistive technologies. A good example is the iTok, an iPhone case that speech therapists use to introduce letter and sounds to children with verbal communication disorders.

iTôk It is an iPhone accessory to help speech therapists introduce letters and sounds to children with speech disorders.

iTôk It is an iPhone accessory to help speech therapists introduce letters and sounds to children with speech disorders.

Clipped into the iPhone, iTok designer Yanin Alexa Kramsky notes that the case is proposed as a simple learning tool, which gets rid of paper records through digital archiving. To use iTok, children need to blow a series of mouthpieces, each one representing specific sounds and letters. The iPhone then proceeds to recording the airflow patterns, which will project an animation indicating the correct use of each sound.

4. Smartphone Applications

Compared to tablets, smartphones have a greater market penetration when it comes to speech learning and translator applications. According to Rare Job Daily News, mobile software developers are taking advantage of this trend, releasing their own tools to facilitate learning. Perhaps the most popular tool is the Google Translate, which has the ability of translating a spoken phrase in a certain language.

Another popular company is Rosetta Stone, a language learning institution that released their own mobile tool. The iOS and Android-capable app provides students with activities to practice basic German, Italian, French, and Spanish.

Rosetta Stone on Smarphone

Rosetta Stone on Smartphones

Indeed, mobile phones have gone a long way in language learning, with the first attempts dating back to 2001 that exploited the use of SMS or text messaging. In your opinion, what does the future hold for this nifty device in language learning?


About the Author:

Allie Cooper

Allie Cooper is an online college student from the University of London. She’s always on the loop with the latest trends in mobile learning, which she can use to make her short course in the university more productive. If you have suggestions, you can reach her via Twitter: @AllieCooper_18 and Google+


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