Mobile apps often promise to get you to study one of the several foreign tongues by spending a few minutes in a day.
But can you really learn a language through an app?
Are they useful or a total waste of time? With that in mind, let’s find out some disadvantages of language apps.
Nowadays, smartphones are ubiquitous, and you can do a lot with one.
You can get in touch with friends and family, check out the latest news, listen to music, order food, play games, book a taxi, and much more.
You can also use your cell phone to learn a foreign language.
Yes, mobile apps can be a fantastic addition to the quest to learn a new language successfully.
Various language apps and software help millions of language enthusiasts worldwide study different tongues in a more personalized, relaxed, and accessible strategy.
Several language apps have gotten pretty popular over the last few years.
And indeed, there are some distinct advantages of online language learning: they are convenient and easy to use, affordable, and can provide much-needed foreign language practice.
Table of Contents
- 7 Drawbacks of Language Learning Apps
- 1. The functionality is limited, often very much so
- 2. Mobile Apps offer very little to no feedback
- 3. It can create an inadequate sense of success
- 4. Apps are very impersonal and don’t explain
- 5. It requires lots of self-discipline and self-control
- 6. Language learning Apps is a big distraction
- 7. Smartphone Apps cannot make you fluent
- Should You Choose Apps to Learn a Language?
7 Drawbacks of Language Learning Apps
The pros of language apps are apparent.
However, language learning apps are not a magical ‘cure-all’ that will allow you to learn a language quickly and effortlessly with just a few taps of your mobile screen.
As with everything, nothing is perfect.
There are a few negative aspects of online language learning that you must keep in mind before taking the plunge and studying through apps.
In this article, we will take a look at the common disadvantages of language apps.
1. The functionality is limited, often very much so
When you are learning with a foreign language tutor, you can be quite flexible online or offline.
You can incorporate multiple activities into the lesson, pay equal attention to all the required abilities, or focus on one of them if it needs more work, cover a wide variety of topics.
You cannot do that with an app.
No matter how good they are, language learning apps are comparatively limited as far as content coverage is concerned.
Some apps center on one section of the language. Like just vocabulary, grammar, survival, conversation skills, for instance.
Others feature fundamental courses that only touch upon the creators’ topics to be the most essential.
Sometimes it’s a bit complicated because you miss a lot of rules for grammar and sentence structures.
There are even mobile apps and desktop software with a narrower segment, for example, dealing with verb conjugations or prepositions only.
Language apps are not inherently are of quality. It may even come in handy.
Say, it would be best if you brushed up on many tenses – you can probably find an app for tenses only, without anything else to distract you.
However, in general, this means that to acquire a language comprehensively, to develop all the necessary skills more or less equally, you will need quite a few apps.
And the more apps you have to install, the more confusing it can get, the harder it is to manage your learning process.
2. Mobile Apps offer very little to no feedback
One perk of learning with an instructor or enrolling in a language program at any traditional educational institution is getting feedback on practically everything.
Whether you spelled a word correctly, how well you translated a sentence, was your intonation appropriate for the situation, and so on.
Apps can do only a fraction of it.
It can shortly become frustrating when you believe your advancement is stagnating because of the shortcoming of language apps.
Language learning apps do reasonably well in providing basic suggestions on relatively simple things.
For example, apps that focus on learning vocabulary can help you learn the words’ orthography.
They can check if you matched a term with the accurate translation or inserted the right word into a sentence.
But there are many types of response that apps cannot address.
When you translate a sentence rightly, you cannot discuss other possible ways of answering with an app.
Or it cannot explain to you that the translation and interpretation are correct, but it is too informal or formal for the situation.
Most have no option of reporting errors to avoid having them repeated.
Apps are not beneficial when you need to work on your pronunciation, listening improvement, or practice speaking.
Some apps can help you get in touch with online teachers who can check your accent and elocution or with native-speakers for conversing.
Still, it is not something one can do exclusively with an android or iOS language learning app.
3. It can create an inadequate sense of success
Feeling a sense of achievement and success is excellent when you are learning a foreign language.
It is great excitement that reinforces your positive associations with the language and keeps you motivated, learning more, and moving forward.
But the perception of accomplishment that language learning apps create can be rather insufficient, if not entirely false.
The tools deployed to measure language proficiency are not similar to the actual tests conducted by various organizations to award official certification to successful candidates.
The matter is, the primary purpose of language learning apps are to get things right is relatively easy.
They divided the information into small, simple to digest portions, and a spaced repetition system is provided.
The tasks you get are not overly complicated.
Of course, you still need to make some effort and pay attention to what you are learning.
But it usually feels like you mostly get things right and are moving forward.
After a while, you’ll become overconfident in your capabilities to speak, listen, write, and read.
Nonetheless, it is crucial to remember that doing well in a language learning app does not equal mastery of the language of your choice.
You can have a perfect score in a flash-card app but can still not utter even a single phrase or hold a 2-minute talk in a real-life situation.
You should view mobile language apps and laptop software as a secondary resource and combine them with other things like classes, books, audio lessons, speaking with someone fluent, or more comprehensive and immersive approaches.
4. Apps are very impersonal and don’t explain
Language learning apps are very impersonal compared to face-to-face training and communication. It manifests in unconventional ways.
For instance, they impart a language through gamification.
Once you start playing it, you become addicted, and your primary focus will be on winning the game instead of learning it efficiently.
Foreign language is something that demands people around to talk with and learn from it.
You need solutions, including examples, to deepen your understanding of the language concerned.
If you are stuck anywhere, you have to figure it out personally through intuition and guesswork.
You cannot ‘communicate’ with an app in the same way you can interact with a person.
Some apps have chat-bots that enable you to practice elementary level conversations without the anxiety of genuinely talking to a person.
But the number of topics and phrases you can use leave a lot to be desired.
Apps also do not adapt to individual students.
They may be built and designed to accommodate as many learners as viable, but they cannot meet everyone’s demands.
Even the best online language program on an app will not fit everyone.
When you work with a tutor, there is a program, and there are specific topics that you have to cover to understand your target language.
But if a question looks challenging, you can ask to concentrate on it more, using additional study materials – and, of course, the teacher’s advice.
5. It requires lots of self-discipline and self-control
Freedom and flexibility are substantial reasons to gain a language through an app, but it also has a well-known drawback — lack of discipline.
Humans are inherently lazy when there is no stringent timeline to follow.
You will have ample excuses and justifications to skip your sessions if there is no compulsion.
The absence of self-discipline is probably the number one cause of language learning failure.
First, you need to build learning with apps into your schedule and consistently stick to using them.
There will be no-one to monitor your practice, to remind you to use the apps, to push you. You are your trainer, and you will have to do it all by yourself.
It may sound beneficial to some, but complete independence only works up to a point.
It will be straightforward to come back to the app and study during the first few days because it is new and exciting, which adds to your motivation and makes studying more comfortable.
But as the initial excitement fades, you will need to pull your socks up and require to be more self-discipline.
6. Language learning Apps is a big distraction
Do you easily get distracted while learning a language through an app?
Don’t worry; you are not alone.
Let’s face it; the internet is full of distractions.
When you use your smartphone to gain a new tongue, it is amazingly easy for you to switch over to Facebook, Instagram, check your email, start chatting on WhatsApp, watching YouTube, and completely forget what you were doing earlier.
Sometimes it is very tempting to go on social media instead of truly learning.
Moreover, when you are doing assignments and exercises, all sorts of notifications can pop up and divert you from it.
It is one significant difficulty with mobile learning because it merely increases the screen time a student indulges.
Instead of wasting one’s time, one can use precious time to perform a meaningful task.
Language learning takes time, and cellphone is itself the biggest hindrance.
You can use some blockers to restrict the disturbances and encourage you to focus more, but how many people do that? I guess, very few!
If you’re determined, you will undoubtedly try to make it as far as you can, anyway.
However, you cannot entirely reject the possibility of distractions unless you have developed the art of self-control.
With so many diversions, it is tricky to learn a language with apps. That’s one more disadvantage of language apps.
7. Smartphone Apps cannot make you fluent
Most apps frequently promise to make you proficient in your target language if you spend hardly 10 to 30 minutes a day on it.
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Many start the fascinating journey because they like the culture of a country where the language came into existence.
For some, the intention may be CLB7 in TEF to earn additional PR points for Canadian immigration.
What if you aim to get one of the highest paying jobs involving languages?
Everyone wants to communicate and connect with people efficiently; that’s why they were interested in learning in the first place.
A vast majority of apps gear more towards beginner learners.
These apps can be a brilliant assistant to teach basic conversational phrases if you plan to travel abroad or just wish to pursue it as a hobby.
The practical use is valuable for many, but you won’t even be halfway at the CEFR model.
In short, they lack the sophistication of the language and not suitable for students at the high-intermediate, advanced, or near-native levels to fine-tune their skills.
For that reason alone, foreign language apps should be a starting point, not the end.
Once you cross the initial hurdle and move further, you can search for a teacher, take the support of other resources like books, or join any language school or university.
Should You Choose Apps to Learn a Language?
I’m not saying that language apps are a waste of time, and you should avoid them.
Language learning apps do have some obvious perks to offer.
Mobility is one of the biggest of them: you can learn practically anywhere at any time; even if you have a couple of minutes while you are waiting in line somewhere, you can take out your smartphone and study.
There are other incentives, as well.
Apps are inexpensive or even free; they are fun, engaging, and colorful so that learning feels more like playing a game.
Plus, you can choose a wide range of foreign languages and courses at your fingertips, which might not be available elsewhere.
As alluring as the benefits sound. Nevertheless, learning languages with mobile apps also have limitations compared to other language education means, particularly with teacher-led language study.
As a learner, keep these obstacles in mind and not rely on language apps too much.
The best solution would be to make the most of the gains these apps offer and to counter the disadvantages of language apps with other resources and techniques.
This way, you will make sure you cover all the essential language aspects to achieve your language goal truly.