Mobile language apps help millions learn less, more often


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Babbel does not have an app for Japanese. Rosetta Stone app for Japanese costs 20,000 yen for 6 months access. I'm approaching JLPT N1 level (I'm a J-E translator...), and found the 'stickystudy' app to be quite good for kanji and vocabulary learning and review. A kind of smart SRS flashcard system, developed/updated by a non-Japanese in Japan. Costs 1,200 yen for iOS full app, but it seems the intro level app (N5) is free. Site:

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Kokuzui: All Rosetta Stone Apps can be found quickly for free if you know where to look.

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It won't replace hands-on learning with teachers, and serious language learners still, at the moment, prefer to have a tangible book they can hold onto and fill in, but in terms of convenience and for people who aren't too serious and just want to learn a few things before travelling, for example, it will definitely hurt publishers more than it is now. These apps are more a supplement than a replacement, again, for serious students; especially for vocabulary and simple phrases and/or idioms.

As for the publishers, well... time to adapt or die. I can imagine some would rather try to find a way to have government or juku schools make certain texts mandatory and not allow students to have mobile language apps, as a struggle in the death throes, though.

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You could say the same thing about the 1000s of cheap language learning books that have always been available in every bookstore.

I've had a look at these apps and the problem is that none of them teach you any grammar. You can memorize all the vocabulary you want, but without hours of grammar practice you won't be able to string together even basic sentences.

I also don't think it hurts traditional teachers. As people get hooked on these apps and inevitably struggle, many of them will say to themselves 'imagine how quickly I would learn if only I spent real money on a real teacher'. Whether that's true or not is debatable, but if there's one thing Rosetta stone has taught us it's that people are more than willing to throw money at language learning before any effort.

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M3M3M3: "You could say the same thing about the 1000s of cheap language learning books that have always been available in every bookstore."

Exactly! It's like speed learning.

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Exactly! It's like speed learning.

Yes, lol! I almost forgot about 'Speedo Learning'. Are they still around? I always found it funny that despite telling us how great the CDs were and how much it improved their language skills, nobody ever spoke a single word of English throughout any of the infomercials.

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M3M3M3: "Are they still around?"

Not sure. I was looking at Eiken books at Amazon the other day for a friend whose daughter is going to take the test in October and I remember seeing a Speed Learning book in there, but I never bothered to check the date -- so it could have been old stock. They're probably still around in some capacity, though can't afford Ishikawa anymore... or maybe they can given his performance since the original commercials.

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I use "Before You Know It" on both my PC and HDX. It's an electronic flashcard program. The mobile version only costs $7.99 a language, with 70+ languages to choose from.

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About 28 years ago I got the Nihongo no Kiso books 1 and 2 (the ones with no English) and methodically did them all, about 10 pages a night. I got the grammar OK, but the kanji I could just never pick up. There was furigana, so I could cope.

But I have scarcely met a person who has ever finished a whole self-study course without an institution to back it up or to award something. This is one trouble with people commenting here and also making decisions (informed or uninformed) about how to learn languages, or anything else for that matter,

Lots of these apps and other independent learning packages are non-teacher approaches to learning. Interestingly there is some reference in the article use of dynamics from computer gaming and the like - the characteristic of which is people making key decisions spontaneously as well as having to navigate and negotiate a field in new ways. It is for this reason that more orthodox learning programs like Berlitz and Rosetta Stone are at points where they need to adapt or die. Yet, at the points when these two enterprises started out (Berlitz Direct Method well over 100 years ago), they were new, non-traditional and cutting edge too.

What appears to be driving new approaches using apps on phones, etc. is economic demand - of money and time.

However, a bunch of flashcards to help people learn vocabulary or expressions is not the sum of what there is in language learning. ANd any language educator, or experienced learner, would tell of a limit or a threshold. But the suppliers and makers of the new apps and other new types of programs are not counting on their customers thinking about these things.

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The voice-recognition programs are rubbish.

I scored 87% for my Turkish accent (I'd never spoken a word before) and 32% for my native British English accent.

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