Language learning Tips and Advice

‘Phoning it in’ – pros and cons of language learning apps

There is such a proliferation of language learning applications for your tablet, PC and phone in 2019 that it is often quite difficult to define what they actually can and can’t do. Indeed, when ads claim you can ‘learn a language in a month’ or ’spend 10 minutes a day to achieve fluency’, is this actually the case? As we know, language learning is a multifaceted exercise, so can we take advantage of technology to help make the process as enjoyable and efficient as possible? Today we will be taking a look at the pros and cons of different language learning apps in comparison to other learning methods.

Pro: At home and on-the-go

The obvious number one benefit of using an app for language learning is that of convenience. These apps are often free, and having them on your phone or tablet means you can turn a stuffy commute into a French revision session, or brush up on your Japanese while waiting at the doctor’s office.

Con: It’s all a game

This being said, does this sort of learning allow for the necessary exposure to truly absorb what you are learning? The issue with many apps is that they are ultimately designed in such a way to get you to continue using the app by simulating the feeling of progression; not necessarily make the most progress in reality. This is called ‘gamification’ – turning the language learning process into a game with achievements and benchmarks to overcome.

Con: The multi-layered process

However, actually absorbing and being able to utilise things like grammar, tenses and conversational language is often a very multi-layered process, and hard to properly learn in a step-by-step manner. This reflects the inherent value of personal or group tuition; in which the teacher can apply context and feedback to make the learning process not only more stimulating, but effective. This can be compounded by languages in which a cultural angle is necessary to understand the reasoning behind using certain pronouns or terminology; such as Mandarin Chinese.

Pro: Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary

Nevertheless, this is not to say using an app is useless; quite the opposite. For example, regular use of apps or mobile flashcards are one great way to practice vocabulary. Apps are brilliant tools with which to test and revise both reading, listening and often writing of foreign language vocab. This becomes even more pertinent when you are learning a language with a different script such as Greek or Arabic, which require additional reinforcement.


Ultimately, by nature, apps are not the best way to learn a language from scratch in comparison to a native speaking teacher who can give you feedback and multi-layered, contextual tuition. However, integrating using apps for revision, regular exposure to vocab and adding in language learning throughout your day can make it a valuable way to reinforce your learning journey. For that reason, we suggest combining lessons here at the MLC with revision sessions using your favourite language learning app to keep you in the zone! If you want to find out more about what we offer here at the Marlow Language Centre, visit our courses page or contact us today.