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User evaluation of language learning mobile applications: a case study with learners of Spanish
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17 May 2016
Studies into the use of mobile applications (apps) for language learning have mostly focused on small samples of learners using a specific app rather than using the apps they have selected for themselves. More data is required to understand the ways learners engage with apps for language learning (through profiles of app users, how apps are used, and user opinions of learning with apps) to create a realistic picture of users in their natural settings. This paper reviews current research, highlights the potential of mobile apps for language learning, and presents the results of a study into how a group of language learners use mobile apps of their choice. The study is innovative, as it provides the first comparison between app users and app non-users. Data was collected through a questionnaire (n= 85) and interviews (n=7). The results suggest that there are differences in age and gender between learners who use mobile apps and those who do not. The results also indicate that learners use apps mostly for vocabulary development, translation, and grammar practice. Apps are used often, mostly informally, and for relatively short periods of time. Learners like the ability to practise specific areas, rapid access to information, ease of use, and gamification elements, but have concerns about reliability and other factors. All users reported that using apps improved their language skills to different degrees.