Q U E S T I O N S

If you have a burning question about the use of technology in learning or teaching a second language, please post your question in the text box at the bottom of this page. We will try to respond to your question as soon as possible. But before posting your question, check below to make sure that we have not already answered it.


 Frequently Asked Questions:


Answers:

  • What are the best apps for learning a second language?

Download the Duolingo app if you are interested in learning one of the languages among its current course offerings.  It’s free for Android devices, Apple devices, and on the web. But don’t depend on Duolingo for all of your language learning practice. As usual with the use of technologies in second language learning, you will want to combine Duolingo with other study materials. And this brings me to the most important point in answering this question: The best apps for learning a second language are not necessarily the apps that are designed specifically for foreign language learning.

There  are many so-so apps for learning second languages, and no great apps for learning a second language; indeed, Duolingo (or Rosetta Stone’s app) is probably the closest thing to a good app for learning another language. However, there are many strong apps for vocabulary study, journal making, social networking, news, book reading, video watching, travel, and other purposes. And these apps, when combined in the right way and used in the right way, can form an excellent study of a second language.

So, don’t limit your search to “language learning apps.” Search for apps like Univision Deportes, Day One, SuperBetter, or Quizlet. And search within apps like Netflix, iBooks, YouTube, or Kindle for second language materials.  Learn how to use these apps in the right way, and make apps from websites (like Lang-8, a website for practicing writing in a second language) by using the “add to home screen” function on your mobile device. Learn how to use these apps and resources in harmony for a strong second language learning experience.

Hopefully, this website will help you to learn how to do this. To get started, download a good journal keeping app and start keeping a daily journal in a second language. Also, try to find a good children’s book or video in a second language (and remember, some apps allow you to change the language setting). You may want to try a language-learning specific app if you are just beginning to learn a new language (especially if the app is free); and language learning apps for travel, like Frommer’s, are good for beginners who wish to acquire basic interpersonal communication skills. But, it is never too soon to begin using other apps.

  • What is the best dictionary app for English language learners?

Not everyone will need to purchase a digital dictionary when learning a second language. For example, beginners may want to make their own dictionaries or vocabulary journals; and for other learners, free online dictionaries and other online resources are sufficient (depending on the language of study). However, many students will definitely benefit from the use of a good digital dictionary at some point during their studies, especially students seeking academic proficiency in a second language, or students who are living or studying abroad for a lengthy time. So, what are the features of a good digital dictionary for English language learners (or learners of any second language)?

As much as possible, the dictionary should help the learner to understand the pronunciation, spelling, related words, parts of speech, level of formality, best synonyms and antonyms, most common collocations, most common meanings, and numerous example sentences for each word (authentic textual examples and realistic audio/video examples). A good dictionary will also give information about the usage frequency of the word, cultural information about the use of the word, and images that help to convey the meanings of the word. A good dictionary will allow the student to save his or her word searches and create lists. Finally, the definitions and example sentences should be written for learners of the language. In other words, an advanced student should easily understand the grammar and vocabulary of these sentences; yet, all words should be instantly searchable by touch.

The perfect digital dictionary for a second language does not yet exist. But, here are some good Dictionary Apps: Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary [Apple] [Google] ; Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary [Apple] [Google] ; Longman Advanced Learner’s Dictionary [Apple] [Google] ; Wordflex Touch Dictionary [Apple] ; Imiwa Japanese Dictionary [Apple].

  • What is the best online dictionary for English language learners?

It’s important to avoid the overuse of a dictionary when learning a second language. For example, beginners may want to make their own dictionaries or vocabulary journals, and intermediate students should seldom use a dictionary when practicing reading, as long as they understand most of what they are reading. However, students will often benefit from the use of a good online dictionary. So, what are the features of a good online dictionary for English language learners (or learners of any second language)?

As much as possible, the dictionary should help the learner to understand the pronunciation, spelling, related words, parts of speech, level of formality, best synonyms and antonyms, most common collocations, most common meanings, and numerous example sentences for each word (authentic textual examples and realistic audio/video examples). A good dictionary will also give information about the usage frequency of the word, cultural information about the use of the word, and images that help to convey the meanings of the word. A good dictionary will allow the student to save his or her word searches and create lists. Finally, the definitions and example sentences should be written for learners of the language. In other words, an advanced student should easily understand the grammar and vocabulary of these sentences; yet, all words should be instantly searchable by touch.

The perfect digital dictionary for a second language does not yet exist. But, there are several good online dictionaries: Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English ; Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries ; Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary ; Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary ; Merriam-Webster Visual DictionaryCollins English for Learners . These dictionaries are useful too: Urban Dictionary ; Oxford Collocation Dictionary ; OneLook Reverse Dictionary ; Dictionary.com Reverse Dictionary .

  • Should I buy Rosetta Stone software to learn a second language?

Rosetta Stone software is not a bad tool for beginners of a second language. However, it is not a great tool for the complete study of a second language. In other words, you will need to supplement the software with other forms of study. Research shows that Rosetta Stone software does not manage motivation or endurance well (few people achieve substantial success by using Rosetta Stone alone, it seems); so in particular, you will need to supplement Rosetta Stone software with tutoring sessions, study abroad, or other forms of social study — second language learning must be social, and should be a fun and rewarding journey. Don’t sit in front of the same software program for 500 hours to learn a language. (However, Rosetta Stone is a big company, and they are regularly updating their software. Rosetta Stone TOTALe, for example, now offers online tutoring sessions. And I’m sure that future iterations of the software will offer more enhancements, variety, and motivation)

If you can afford it, buy the Level 1 Course, and as you learn a little of the language, begin to supplement the software with study activities that motivate you to learn more. If you can maintain your motivation, you may want to purchase additional, higher level courses. But use Rosetta Stone software as one tool for study, not as the only tool for study. I doubt that any software in the next 25 years will be able to outperform a great human tutor or teacher. If you do not absolutely have to learn the second language, be careful to manage your motivation well. [Full Disclosure: I own the Rosetta Stone Complete Course for Latin American Spanish, the laptop software and app. I have used it personally and studied it academically. The technology is impressive, and language learning experts have obviously helped to design the system, but the study and practice eventually become tedious, long before the total number of hours needed to master the language.]

  • What is a hypergloss?

When reading a digital text, you often have the option to click, double-click, right-click, three-finger tap, or hold your finger (etc) on a word, phrase, or image to see a special explanation, definition, translation, or other information that helps you to understand the word(s) or image. This helpful information usually pops up nearby in a small window (often providing additional interactive choices, such as highlighting the word(s) or Googling the word(s), etc). This informational window is called a hypergloss. The word “Hypergloss” is not yet used regularly or widely enough to warrant an entry in a dictionary. And actually, this nascent phenomenon is still known by many different names: hypertext gloss, hypermedia gloss, computer-mediated gloss, electronic gloss, tap gloss, etc. Hyperglosses are a useful tool when reading or writing in a second language.

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