If you ever tried to learn a foreign language online, chances are you’re familiar with the names – Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, and Mondly. The mentioned apps are famous for being user-friendly. They’re designed to give aspiring learners a head-start to their target language. But do they help one willing to be able to communicate in the desired language? Are they enough for long-term learning and practice? 

Below, I will talk about the downsides of the language learning apps and how you can utilize your time for learning a foreign language. 

Problem: The sentences lack context, authenticity, and relevance 

I know, even being able to say Hello in a foreign language feels accomplishing. “How are you? I am fine.” adds to the happiness. While most of the initial sentences are simple, they don’t help strike an introductory conversation, even with the sentences taught. For example, there can be multiple responses to a single question depending on the context. There can be formal responses, informal responses, and even questions as responses. 

Moreover, not all sentences are grammatically correct either. In some cases, the sentences are spoken by machine. That being said, ticking answers on a multiple-choice question or merely filling up the blanks wouldn’t enhance your comprehension skill. Listening to a robot talk wouldn’t help your listening and speaking skills.  

Suggestion: Watch videos in the target language

Watching short films in your target language and being able to enjoy it fully might not juxtapose. It takes a pretty long time to immerse in the language. So, you must pick up the good videos in the beginning. For example, you want to learn German. To find beginner-friendly videos, search by the keywords “German A1 short films/videos”. Recognized by CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), A1 is the first language level. 

You can also check out the channel “Easy Languages” on YouTube. It is a non-profit project compiling impromptu street interviews in various languages. I suggest you directly enter the playlists and look for the videos in your desired language. The context, cultural references, facial expressions, and subtitles provided would help improve your comprehension.

Problem: Apps turn language learning into a point-earning game with limited hearts

Apps like Duolingo make you spend more time on the app by rewarding you with XPs, bonus, or whatsoever. Eventually, the drive to earn more points diverts the learner’s focus from learning. At one point, it becomes all about maintaining the streak. You start revising the same lesson repetitively to go higher on the leaderboard. You think more about earning badges than learning the language. The progress bar is fixed too. Even if you discovered a particular lesson from somewhere else, you have to practice it on the app to unlock other classes. Chances are one may feel guilty for getting an answer wrong, for missing one day’s practice, and consequently losing the streak. Immersing in a language isn’t supposed to be like that. Making a mistake shouldn’t make you feel guilty. By far, the worst part is losing a “heart” for each error. It makes the lessons repetitive, and your progress obstructed. Understandable indeed, your motivation might, as well, be hampered. 

Suggestion: Look into other resources. Turn your notebook into a resource material. 

First things first, everyone’s speed of learning is different. Don’t get disheartened if you find yourself somewhere low on the leaderboard. Besides, if you’ve lost all your hearts and the app isn’t allowing you to practice further, look for videos about YouTube’s topics. And make sure you take notes of whatever you learn. By doing that, whenever you make a mistake, you’ll have the chance to revise quickly. Also, to get the authentic essence of using a language, you can look for penpals. Your penpals can be a fellow learner of the language you’re learning or a native speaker. Both can be helpful for distinct reasons. To practice your speaking skills, you can download apps like – Lingbe, Hallo, HelloTalk, and iTalki. 

Lastly, do remember, language learning is about immersion in it. In a sense, it’s about consistency and progress. But, not getting all the answers right on apps doesn’t mean you’ve been inconsistent or you haven’t progressed enough. Learning language through games, at first glance, might seem fun. Don’t let losing in the game snatch from you the fun of learning a foreign language.