04 November 2012

Addicted to Grammar Practice

It's been a while since I wrote about mLearning but last week it suddenly became a hot topic at work.  It turns out that one of my colleagues found out that his teenage students are using their mobile phones to do online exercises for homework. So, I did some investigation (especially at Nicky Hockley's e-Moderation Station blog) to find out what's happening in the world.

When I last wrote about this, only about six months ago, my students were horrified by the idea of using their precious mobile phones to learn English.  The reasons at the time were they didn't have/had a limited Internet access, didn't have Smartphones or hadn't thought about using them for anything other than SMS messages or What's App with friends. I limited mLearning to using the camera, voice and video functions for in class and homework activities.

This week I downloaded a few Spanish learning apps to try out language learning apps first hand.  I'm an advanced level Spanish learner so the first thing I noticed were that most apps are aimed at the beginner to intermediate level, with lots offering grammar and vocabulary exercises. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of apps available but three that I really like are:

  • Busuu (free version)
  • Babbel (free version)
  • Spanish Class (paid version)
These all have English language versions too.  It's difficult to say which is the best as they would all suit different needs, ages and types of learners.  I've been using Spanish Class (I like it so much I paid for it!) to review Spanish verb forms and learn a bit of vocabulary.  Spanish Class suits me because of its flexibility.  You can pick and choose what you want to practice in any grammar or vocabulary exercise so you can easily grade it to your own level.  Busuu and Babbel organise the exercises into levels for you.  All three have listening and speaking practice - although not the best features - and Babbel also has a PC version where you can buy online courses.  I would recommend all three to my learners, depending on age, level and needs and, of course, I'd recommend downloading the free version before deciding to pay as well as spending some time looking at other apps available.

After one week, I can't say I'm an mLearning guru but there's one thing I do know - there's something addictive about doing repetitive grammar and vocabulary exercises on a mobile phone.  It passes the time while you're waiting for someone, having a coffee, watching something boring on the TV or any spare few minutes you have.  I had wondered about how much learning actually takes place in such short and sometimes distracting circumstances.  Well, I've already learned/remembered a few things I'd forgotten from basic Spanish and I like the short sharp bursts of learning that make it easier for me to remember grammar points and vocabulary.

For me , I've discovered an easy, convenient and pleasantly enjoyable practise and revision tool.  Boredom isn't really an issue because you only need to spend a few minutes here and there doing exercises.  It's the perfect tool for young people (who, we are told and in many cases have noted, have shorter attention spans) and busy adults trying to improve their language skills.  Combined with guidance from a teacher, mobile apps for language learners give learners exposure to the language between classes when and where they can or want.  Frequent short periods of learning is better than no learning at all.  In my opinion, this can only be a good thing.

6 comments:

  1. English teachers is very important to the students in order for them to have a fluent mind in using English language that would help them to have an effective communication to the foreigners.

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  2. I agree with the tip of not trying too hard to imitate the way of speaking. Aside from it's annoying, I think it will just blow their chances. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. many of us who may read this post grew up speaking English, that does not mean that we may not need to improve in one aspect or another of English grammar. Websites that cater to this aspect of writing are always useful.

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  4. it's true that in the ways you mention, English is one of the easier languages in the world. However, you left out one key element--that English, plain and simple, makes no sense

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