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The use of language learning apps to study an additional language on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops has become very popular, providing interested language learners with access to learning materials anytime and anywhere. Apps such as Duolingo and Babbel, among others, have millions of users and continue to increase in popularity. However, some apps also make claims that seem too good to be true: Speak a language in 21 days. Most people can speak within 5 hours. 90-95% success rate with 35 hours. But are these apps really effective? This presentation examines several popular language learning apps: Duolingo, Babbel, Rosetta Stone, Busuu. This presentation will explore a) independent research studies investigating the effectiveness of various language apps, b) the pros and cons of language apps, c) the teaching methodologies used by these apps, and d) the apps’ motivational mechanisms, paying special attention to gamification strategies. The presentation will end with suggestions for how to ensure that language learners can receive greater benefits from using language learning apps to study a foreign language. 


Shawn Loewen is Professor in the Applied Linguistics program at Michigan State University. His research interests include instructed second language acquisition, classroom interaction, and mobile-assisted language learning. His publications include two co-authored books, Key Concepts in Second Language Acquisition (with Reinders, 2009), and An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods (with Plonsky, 2016). The second edition of his book, Introduction to Instructed Second Language Acquisition, appeared in 2020, and the co-edited The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (with Sato) in 2017. He is the associate editor of The Modern Language Journal. 


Sponsored by the Department of Slavic, German, and Eurasian Studies and the Open Language Resource Center.

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