Mobile Freebies

If you’ve ever looked for language learning resources, you probably discovered pretty quickly just how expensive many of them can be. This shouldn’t be surprising, really – programs charging for services will have the financial resources to advertise and put their product in front of you. Finding inexpensive resources can take a little bit more time, but can be well worth it when comparing savings.

If you’re “techno-savvy” enough to have a smartphone, one option for inexpensive resources is to search for applications (apps) within the mobile communities that are tailored to language learning. Many of these apps offer a “lite” version for free for the user (you) to try out before purchasing the full version. If you like the lite version, the free version is often only a few dollars to purchase. Compared with the hundreds of dollars charged by larger language learning programs, the savings are substantial.

The current debate – and it is quite the debate – in the mobile market is whether to buy an Apple iPhone or an Android powered phone. For the time being, I own an iPhone (Android users, please bear with me). Both device categories come with an app market which provides the owner of the phone with access to thousands of apps developed by third parties. Here is a sampling of what I found in Apple’s App Store for the Japanese language:

As you can see, many of the apps listed are the free “lite” versions. One of the full versions is listed at only $2.99. Others are listed for less than $10. The prices for these apps make them a very appealing resource for early stage language learning. The quality likely won’t be what you would expect from an established program, but the price is right.

Similar results can be found for other languages. The important thing here is that there are several options provided through the app store depending on how you want to tailor the experience. Allow me to present you with a few potential options on how to use these apps to your advantage:

  1. Try All of the Free Apps – When I searched the App Store today for “learn Japanese,” as in the image above, I found literally dozens of free apps to help people learn Japanese. If you already have a plan in place for language learning, using the free apps available to you can be a nice supplemental resource.
  2. Find the “Right” App – Another option is to try several of the free apps until you’re happy with one, then buy the full version. The full versions usually expand on the content of the lite version or add new features of some sort. Purchasing the full app may be worth it, but ultimately that’s up to you.
  3. Try All Apps (Free and Paid) – If you have no other program or language learning resources at all, you could try all of the apps available that serve to improve your language learning skills. One pro and con to this option is that there may be some repeating of content from one app to another.
  4. Use the Apps When Traveling – The great thing about mobile phones is that they’re… well, mobile. Using an app on your phone means you can take it with you anywhere. Grab a set of headphones and you can listen to native speakers (in many of the apps) anywhere you go. This can be a great supplement to a normal study routine.

Mobile apps meet the general guidelines that I apply to language learning resources: They’re inexpensive, they’re easily accessible (if you have a smartphone), and they often have quality content. If you have access to the App Store or Android Market, take a peak at what’s available for your language and try a few of the free apps. You may just find a valuable resource.

Do you have experience with language learning through mobile apps? Do you have any other ideas on how to use mobile apps for language learning? Let me know in a comment below!

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