Having used a few different language learning applications personally throughout the last few yeas, I was interested in the LearnEnglish mobile learning suite to see if it might offer any benefits other apps do not. The LearnEnglish app suite can be found through the App store on mobile devices or downloaded from their LearnEnglish website.
My first impression about LearnEnglish was that I wished they just had one inclusive app. I had to download 4 separate applications on my phone to get audio & video, podcasts, a ‘vocabulary notebook’, and an option to grammar practice. They had additional apps available that I chose not to download, including a great videos app, a pronunciation app, and an english sports terminology app. If I were to design a mobile learning application to learn a language, I would want to include all of these options in one app, using a navigation menu at the top or bottom so users could easily switch between what they need. This would also give learners the option to easily add words they’re learning into their vocabulary notebook, or automatically add words or phrases that the learner is struggling with into the grammar practice section. After I looked through their website, I found that there are quite a few more options available through their website on computers, including several games and sections for english for writing, english for business/work, and specific content for kids or teens. The content for kids and teens have their own separate applications you can download.
Once I opened up all 4 apps I downloaded, I was pleased to see the consistencies in design throughout them. The layout and navigation was similar throughout the apps, making it pretty easy to know where to find materials, settings, or information. The free versions of the apps have ads when they are first opened and throughout the experience. Also, at several points during my use of the apps, I was asked to upgrade using various different prompts to buy more content. After completing each grammar round, I was asked to buy the full version of the app (which I found annoying). As far as content goes, there is a fair deal of free content for conversation example videos, vocabulary practice, and common cultural example podcasts. The podcasts included a transcript so learners could read along while the audio was playing.
As the Ally and Tsinakos book “Increasing Access through Mobile Learning” discusses, LearnEnglish makes use of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy. As the apps are available on mobile devices and there are more instructional materials available through web browsers on computers, learners are able to utilize whatever device they already have to access educational materials. This helps provide a low (potentially free) cost to learners, as they’re using what they already have and need no extra equipment.
The apps also allow you “share” options that let you share the link to the app you’re using on social media, or directly to your contacts. An additional benefit of the BYOD strategy, as discussed by the Ally and Tsinakos text, is that it can increase learner social interactions. While these apps don’t allow you to interact socially within them, sharing them through the social avenues already on your device (email, messages, Facebook, etc.) is as easy as tapping a few options.
LearnEnglish employs applications (apps) that offer features similar to other applications which may be familiar to learners who have used mobile devices before. These might reflect the interfaces of youtube, podcasts, or other media-viewing apps.
The Ally and Tsinakos text also discusses the possibility of integrating between devices by using “the cloud.” As far as I could tell, this is not an option for these applications. There is no ‘log in’ option in any of the apps, and it appears there is no subscription option to allow syncing between devices. This means that in each app, the progress you make remains sequestered inside of that application — it does not speak to any of the other apps.
Overall, I would not recommend these apps as a primary source to learn English. While there seems to be a fair bit of content, I would not call it a thorough way to learn a language. I think LearnEnglish might be good to supplement either an English course someone is taking or their own personal study of the language, as it provides more examples of conversation and game tools to practice the vocabulary the learner has gained. In comparison to other language apps, this suite of apps does not provide as many options and is not as well organized as others I have used. It does seem to focus more on samples (such as podcasts about specific cultural norms, or videos demonstrating conversations), than it does on vocabulary, practice, or grammar.