Smart Phone Apps for Foreign Language Practice

Foreign language apps for smart phones and iPads provide a fun way for students to practice their language skills with the help of technology.
Repetition and practice are important aspects of learning to speak a foreign language. As the use of technology in schools increased so did the presence of language learning labs, which allow students to hear native speakers and record and listen to their own voices.

Though language learning labs are still important, the increased use of smart phones and iPad applications are providing another avenue for foreign language practice. These small apps are often low priced or free and allow students to practice when convenient and even record their voices and send the file to their teacher.

Variety of Foreign Language Apps
There is a large variety of apps available for foreign language practice. This variety is found both in the available languages and types of apps, which can range from direct translation to learning games.

One example is Polygot for Windows Phone 7, which provides a direct translation for typed text. Foreign Language Fun provides a free and pay version of their House Games through iTunes, which teachers can use to access over 50 different language learning games. Droid users can download the free app Trippo Mondo Voice Translator to not only translate text but also hear how to speak the translation. Another example is the Play2Learn apps for the iPad, which provide interactive games for children ages 3 to 12 to learn both spelling and pronunciation.

Classroom and Homework Apps Activities
Assigning apps for homework practice is not practical unless all students have access to a smart phone or tablet device. It can, however, be used as an enrichment or extra practice option. If a list of suggested apps is sent home, make sure some of the suggestions are free apps and also include other activities which do not require the use of a special technology device, such as a free web based game or an index card vocabulary game that can be created at home or school.

In the classroom apps can be loaded on a class set of iPads; cell phones should only be used if all students have access to one and their use does not violate any school rules. If a class set of iPads is not available, one or more can be used as a small group activity or as part of a rotation of station activities. With the variety of apps available the device can be used as a replacement for a translation dictionary, a recording device so the teacher can review a student’s progress, or a learning game.

Apps for smart phones and tablet devices, such as the iPad, are inexpensive and often free, making them an affordable technology component to a foreign language classroom. The variety of languages and types of applications provide options such as dictionary based translations, pronunciation help, and learning games. The difficulty in using apps in the classroom is making sure all students have access to them, so group based activities and learning stations involving the app may be a way to incorporate the technology.