Can I learn Spanish in 6 months through an app?
Technological advancements have opened up the world to us, and we can now access almost anything via our phones and tablets. The millions of applications available for these devices not only allow us to enjoy our leisure time to the fullest but also allow us to access knowledge tools whenever and wherever we want, including language learning. There are many different ways to learn a language nowadays besides traditional classroom learning: online or tutored language courses, travel immersion learning, self-studying by reading – a lot of books, articles, blogs, magazines, etc, listening – a lot of podcasts, audiobooks, playlists, news, music, etc, speaking – to own self in front of a mirror, or with conversation partners, reading aloud to your pet or a plant, using shadowing technique after watching a movie or video, writing – practising scripts taking help from YouTube videos, Howtodo, DIY sites, taking quizzes, tests, doing tasks on your own, or perhaps the most modern way: using an app on your mobile phone that makes language learning easy and accessible to everyone.
Language learning apps are very popular nowadays – and are said to be changing the way people learn. With the advent of the internet, technology and the introduction of online applications, one of the areas that have developed rapidly is foreign language learning. Many language learning apps for smartphones and tablets have been developed in recent years and of the many available online today, Babbel language learning app and Duolingo have acquired millions of trusting users from all over the world. For many, the WHENEVER, WHEREVER, and WHATEVER you want, approach clicks big time; the result could be different though, when this approach inadvertently misleads learners to consistently postpone learning, due to the ‘ANYTIME ANYWHERE ANYTHING’ belief at the back of their minds!
Before we discuss whether Spanish can be learnt, or how much Spanish can be learnt in 6 months through apps, I would like to divulge a few advantages and disadvantages, so as to help you consider how much learning you can expect from an app before you firm up your decision:
Location and time have become irrelevant with the arrival of apps.
Mobile apps are accessible to everyone who has a mobile phone, tablet or computer – you don’t have to find a language school. The most significant advantage of online language learning courses on applications is the ability to study a language whenever and wherever you want. There are apps that do not even require your device to be connected to the internet, such as 50LANGUAGES, Google Translate, Memrise, Duolingo, Busuu, Travelflips, and others. Berlitz etcetera.
Freedom from time limitations and stringent commitment.
Apps like Babbel, Memrise, Duolingo, and Multibhashi do not require you to devote a specific time of day to learning, nor do they require a long-term commitment, as a language school would. You can choose when you want to use the app, and it will help you learn by rote while entertaining you with the most difficult words to remember.
Study at your own pace and rhythm.
One frequently mentioned advantage of language applications is that they allow students to time their learning and progress, as quickly or slowly as they want. There is no rush to get things done. For example, the memrise app allows you to linger on a word for as long as you want until you are confident that you have learned it.
They are completely free!
Most applications are free, or at least offer a portion of their application for free. The introduction of free language learning apps has undoubtedly revolutionised the learning of various languages, including some of the most difficult to learn!
They are entertaining and engaging.
Apps use a lot of visuals and entertaining methods to help students remember vocabulary, with wacky sentences, humorous situations, and extremely user-friendly interfaces. In fact learners get addicted to language learning via these apps. Some examples in Duolingo Spanish are truly hilarious! With such apps, even the most difficult language becomes the easiest to learn. Some also provide speaking tasks, which are more beneficial than learning to speak the language on your own.
On the lines of private learning
Apps provide a non-threatening environment in which errors are only known to the user, and they can help to alleviate the performance anxiety that many students experience when asked to speak a foreign language. As a result, learners are turning to apps like these where they can make mistakes in a private setting.
Supplemental practice aids for teachers
Instead of feeling threatened, when language teachers encouraged students to use the apps for repetitive grammar work, they could free up valuable class time for more language interaction.
It is extremely easy to become distracted.
The very many productivity tools, social media blockers, and many such suggestions that are readily available with the influencers, can be conveniently considered as a promotion gimmick, for they look glorious but never work! The issue with using mobile resources is that it is all too easy to switch over to Facebook, check your email, start chatting with your friends or your mother, and completely forget what you were doing.
Let's look at the other side of the story!
The Mobile version eliminates a significant amount of the challenge that is important for language learning, as compared to its Browser version.
Let me help you understand this through another example that could also reinforce the fact that mobile apps are so much more scaled-down versions, even in a premium subscription! Agreed, language learning apps must be lightweight, comprehensive, and designed to work with small screens and keyboards with extremely close keys, but reducing content is something that should be a strict no-no. Memrise for example – provides a limited selection of correct options, and this reduction makes the answers so much more obvious when taking the “fill in the blanks” questions quiz; versus its browser version that grills your knowledge with multiple choices where intuitive answers are just not possible.
Not so creditworthy feedback
Getting feedback on language learning apps is usually limited to whether or not the answer you provide is correct. While this is useful, it is not the type of feedback that language teachers and researchers prefer because it does not explain why the answer is correct or incorrect.
Apps undoubtedly offer a lot of vocabulary, but that’s about it!
The online language learning apps concentrate on vocabulary development and word learning through repetition, without being particular about grammar, phonetics, written text comprehension, and so on. This may be difficult to build if you only use apps to learn a foreign language. For example, a student learning Spanish through Duolingo has a large vocabulary but struggles to understand tricky texts that rely on cultural understanding or are more nuanced.
Engaging with the mobile app once a week to learn a language is a big disaster
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) mentions the number of hours that English speakers would be required to get General Professional Proficiency to third level, on all the four parameters speaking, listening, reading and writing. Keeping our focus on the Spanish language today the FSI mentions a need for rigorous 575-600 hours or 23-24 weeks, that’s about 6-7 months to learn Spanish professionally with all the available resources and not just selectively with the mobile app giving at least 25 hours in a week to study. However, by interacting with the mobile app once a week it is impossible to spend 25 hours studying.
Language learning apps are simpler to use than their web or software counterparts.
Furthermore, the retribution for making a mistake or mispronouncing a word is almost non-existent. It may appear to be negative reinforcement, but isn’t the entire point of learning to encourage the learner to take the time to record the error in order to avoid it in the future? If nothing else, the learner could be encouraged and coaxed through various means and methods in the app to find the answer for himself rather than being handed it on a silver platter or allowing him to gloss over it! The best penalty in the mobile app is to add the word to a list of the “difficult words”, for a learner, which they will anyhow skip, treating it as a ‘visit later kind of topic’, that never happens! Apart from this, all the phrases you learn are shorter, and you get the impression that the app is guiding you through the process. It’s all such a concise, clocked, boxed training! Now given the fact that Spanish is quite a bit different in English and slightly tougher as well, how can we expect these apps to be teaching the Spanish that is required to get certifications?
Insufficient or no speaking practise.
With the exception of a few apps, the main issue with mobile apps is that they rarely provide any real speaking or practical listening experience. Those who have travelled or moved abroad know that, at the end of the day, this is what matters and that deducing from the context that Duo is trying to say “The boy loves the whipped cream and ponies” isn’t.
Apps lead a learner to become overconfident and forever dependent
Overuse of language learning apps will eventually become confident in your ability to guess a word, spell it, understand basic grammar, besides gifting, the learners an innately lazy quality to stop using other methods because mobile is so simple to access and use.
It is extremely easy to become distracted.
All suggestions, about the productivity tools, social media blockers, and a long list of do’s and don’ts, that can be handed over to a beginner, by the social media influencers, are nothing better than just a promotion gimmick. In all honesty none of these work. Thus, a learner struggles to steer free from Facebook, emails, chatting, messaging while studying on the app
and ends up forgetting what they were doing.
It’s fine to take breaks, but if you’re probably glued to your phone for the majority of the day, it’s much easier to lose focus and land on non-language apps, Instagram, Facebook or other social media apps, diverting your attention elsewhere, or simply losing track of time.
Lack of personalization.
Because the language learning apps adhere to a fixed methodology of language teaching, they are unable to tailor your learning plan for your specific needs. They also do not allow you to skip steps if you have already mastered some aspect of the language or to slow down the process and concentrate more on something you have not completely mastered. There is constant interaction with an instructor in a language school who can easily help you build strengths.
Apps are unable to offer real-world experience in language learning.
The most significant disadvantage of language learning apps is that they do not prepare you for real-world situations. You do not communicate in the language with your teacher or classmates, which is critical for getting you to express yourself in the language you are learning. Students who learn from language learning apps are frequently reliant on MCQ-based learning and are unable to construct simple sentences when confronted with real-life situations.
Language teaching apps significantly depend on your personal motivation and commitment
Learning is done best through a strict regime, and by maintaining a consistent learning rhythm, however, language learning apps do not force you into any such learning rhythm, which is actually a significant disadvantage unknown to the language learners. Courses in a language school are designed to keep students on their toes, and the pace of the class usually carries even the most obstinate learner along.
It is certainly more beneficial to have a teacher explain the nuances of the language to you.
A seasoned teacher can help you clear your doubts, answer your questions, encourage you to use the language more often and, most importantly, provide you with the essential cultural aspects of the language that are absolutely critical in language acquisition. Few apps, according to an Atlantic Post article, are advanced enough to replace the teacher in two ways: the ability to hold a student’s attention and to continually tailor a lesson to the individual’s progress, difficulties, and interests.
Mobile apps are the dumbed-down versions of their respective web counterparts.
To explain what we mean will take one of the most blatant examples from Duolingo. Now, Duolingo offers a“test out of a level” feature to place a learner in the right level to start learning from. It allows you to take a quick multiple-choice test that lets you skip over the things you know. Unfortunately, this test is completely flawed because a learner can consistently keep trying to clear a level as though it were a game! In the best interest of the learners, companies offering mobile language learning apps must ensure that a learner can take this test only once, and if he/she cannot clear it they should start taking lessons for it.
Gamification game is tricky
Gamification is an excellent method of learning, and language learning via games can be extremely beneficial. The problem, however, is that after a while (and this may be true of web versions as well, but to a lesser extent), it becomes more about scoring points, using the process of elimination, and progressing to the next level than it does about learning and retaining the material. Memrise, for example, has improved their mobile version to give it a spaceship feel, where you move from planet to planet as you progress through each level. While it’s really cool, a learner doesn’t realise when the game shifts from you vs. the learning to you vs. the machine! This is where the learning is severely hampered.
So what do we understand!
So as we can understand from the aforementioned blog contains the following features about the apps become crystal clear:
- Language learning apps are definitely entertaining, interactive, and engaging, and they can help you develop your vocabulary and practise grammar.
- There is no evidence that an app can be completely effective – especially when it comes to other skills like writing and speaking.
- Mobile language learning apps are (for the most part) secondary resources that should be used in conjunction with other resources such as language exchanges, classes, or more comprehensive programmes.
- Apps work best as filler content. You use them while commuting to work or while waiting for the bus. During your lunch break, or while your significant other spends 20 minutes trying on various outfits.
- Apps are yet to figure out how to personalise language learning for a learner, prepare him or her for real-life situations, and broaden the scope of language learning. You may still need to choose an old-fashioned language school for these things until this becomes a reality.
- Learning a new language through a mobile app can be a great way to practise and “help things sink in,” but if you are a complete beginner, you may be far more successful taking a language course or travelling abroad.
- Apps may be useful in conjunction with online or in-person language courses, or if you simply want to refresh your knowledge, for example, before embarking on a journey or if you have a lack of vocabulary in a specific topic.
- Many people use the app for personal reasons, such as vacation travel, career goals or personal aspirations, or the desire to study or live abroad.
- Apps struggle to get people past the B1 Level of learning – which is when they begin to introduce more complex ideas, such as explaining their opinions, dreams, and ambitions, or handling complex tasks while travelling. Furthermore, Level B2 speakers are expected to be able to converse with native speakers of a language without strain, as well as engage in complex technical discussions related to their field of expertise. The Independent stage is made up of these two levels. And with inadequate speaking practice apps are unable to accomplish this for a learner.
- Apps are perceived to be an informal form of learning with two-thirds of people using the app in their spare time as opposed to the one third who used it as a well planned, more formal learning.
- Female users used the apps less often but for longer periods than male users.
- By all means, use an app. However, it is also beneficial to have opportunities for speaking, writing and interaction. Do ensure you look forward to not only grammar and vocabulary acquisition but also the development of your oral communication skills.
- According to studies, students who studied for at least six hours increased at least one sublevel by 69 per cent, rising to 75 per cent for those who studied for at least 15 hours. However, students who spent more than 15 hours ended up quitting!
- Apps are best suited for beginner to low-intermediate level students.
- And, yes, language learning can be accomplished through apps and online systems. However, it’s in your best interest to keep your expectations of what you can achieve in check.
- With the number of satisfied users growing every day apps plan to stay in the race for long!
Now let’s relate all this information to a Spanish language learning app.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) mentions the approximate time needed to learn the Spanish language as an English speaker. To reach Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3), an English speaker would take only 575-600 hours or 23-24 weeks, that’s about 6-7 months. This also helps us understand how much of an effort a Spanish speaker must give to learn English. Learning English for Spanish speakers is actually not that difficult.
Now if you can see the FSI actually focuses on a learner reaching ‘General Professional Proficiency in speaking, writing, listening and reading to a Level 3. From the above, I hope I have been able to clear the fact that Apps can never teach you to speak or write even though they increase your Spanish vocabulary to a great extent, and for some reason even if they are able to help you on those two aspects they can never lead you to a General Professional Proficiency, which is mandatory. Apps also can offer you Limited learning with their free versions to begin with, and even after taking the premium paid version the mobile apps have reduced content and are quality compromised, as compared to their web counterparts. Also, it is important to note that the aforementioned number of hours mentioned by FSI is given assuming the fact that alone would be learning Spanish in a Wholesome manner rather than selectively with self-study or with mobile apps.
If a learner can give 25 hours a week at a minimum then definitely it is possible to learn Spanish within 6 to 7 months. Spanish has its own benefits of being slightly similar to English, yet at the same time being quite a bit different than English!
Now to address your question, if you intend to ask whether you would be able to learn any bit of Spanish through a mobile app the answer is a big Yes!
Would you have any knowledge of the Spanish words? Would you be able to identify objects? Would you be able to make small sentences; then the answer is Yes again!
Apps help you gain a lot of vocabulary as a result of which you will be able to identify objects with their Spanish names, however, memorization and recollection would be a constraint; apart from this, you would not be able to fluently make a meaningful sentence that is also grammatically correct. In short, your knowledge and grasp of the Spanish language would be quite Limited and insufficient to be called ‘Learnt’.
And eventually, this knowledge would only be helpful as a strong foundation to learn proper Spanish from a well established Institute offline or online. But learning Spanish from a mobile app whether in three months, six months or a year would be completely insufficient and a wasteful investment of time.
There’s an amazing new way to learn Spanish! Want to see what everyone’s talking about!