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How to learn a language
How to learn a language

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3.3 Dictionary and translation apps

Dictionary apps can often be integrated into other apps, such as e-book readers, so that words can be looked up directly within the app. Some dictionary and phrasebook apps also include pronunciation examples. These apps are also very useful on their own for looking up words when you need them. WordReference is a very useful app that will provide translations for words in many languages. Other apps (iTranslate, Google Translate) offer translation tools.

Activity 3 Find and install some apps on your smartphone

Timing: Allow about 45 minutes

Go to the app store within your smartphone and look for one app in each of the categories listed above. The descriptions in the app store and reviews from other users will help you decide which ones would be suitable for your level. Download a free app for language learning, one for native speakers, and a dictionary or translation app. Spend 10 minutes trying each of the apps and think about how you may be able to use them, where and when. The fact that many of these apps provide content that can be consumed in a few minutes make them very useful for short bursts of language practise during breaks from other activity or when travelling in public transport, for instance.

Laura says:

I think it is also worth checking if one of the apps or games you already use is can be changed into your target language.

An image of a smartphone made to look like a swimming pool with a diving board and steps into it.
Figure 2 Immerse yourself!

Although apps can provide an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the language, they can also be a distraction. Think carefully about how much time you want to spend on the types of activity they offer and make sure that they aren’t stopping you from dedicating your time to other language learning activities that might be more useful to you at that particular stage in your language learning. Also, apps in your own language may prevent you from immersing yourself in the language when you visit an area where your target language is spoken. Many English students, for example, use apps that provide access to TV content in their own language while they’re abroad, or read the news from home. While they’re doing that, they aren’t watching TV in the language they’re learning.