Monday, 30 May 2011

My own language learning via mobile

I haven't posted for a while, there really hasn't been much chance to integrate mobile learning in my lessons with a succession of holidays and a focus on getting students ready for their end of term exams. And I won't be teaching for a while as we go into a break before the summer school we run at our centre.

So, I thought I'd try to apply some of these ideas about using mobile devices to my own learning and to see how effective they can be. In previous posts I had mentioned how I'd used various apps/techniques to learn Russian, but it's not something I've kept up regularly (to my shame). But I really do need to learn Russian better. My wife is from Kyrgyzstan and her first language is Russian, and we would really like our six year old son to be bilingual. However, living in England it's very difficult to expose him to Russian on a regular basis and the amount of Russian he can use/understand is gradually diminishing. So, we would like to increase how much is spoken at home to help him with this, but that can only really happen if I learn more Russian and get comfortable using it around the house.

My Russian is pretty poor, elementary in reading, speaking and listening while my writing is non-existant (and not really a priority for me). I've gone through periods of real enthusiasm for studying the language as well as times when I've completely abandoned it. My ulterior motive in blogging about this now is that I want to shame myself into keeping this up, if I make it public and promise to update my blog about it, maybe I'll not abandon it as I've done before.

The other reason is I want to get a greater sense of how these mobile tools can be used by my students and to put myself in their position. How easy is it to use mobile devices to learn languages? What apps are the best to use? My initial plan is to use the following devices and apps for my language learning:

For learning and memorising vocabulary, I plan to use a variety of flashcard apps and switch between them to see which one is most useful. I'll use Ankidroid Flashcards, Kaka Flashcards and Vocabulary Trainer for Gdocs and after a few weeks decide which one I like best.

For general Russian, I've bought the Byki Russian app from the Android Market, this has a variety of features, vocabulary, flashcards, video etc and syncs with a desktop app where you can create vocabulary lists.

For listening I've subscribed to a couple of Russian speaking podcasts, one from the BBC called 'Utro Na BBC', which is not specifically a language learning podcast but the presenter does speak quite slowly so is quite useful for a low-level learner.

For checking vocabulary I've installed ColorDict Dictionary Translate, a free app I tried out recently and was impressed by.

For speaking, well, luckily I have a native speaker at home who can help me with that!

Anyhow, I'll blog regularly on my progress and add any other apps/programs I've found useful in helping me with my Russian.


  1. Hey David-

    I think mobile learning absolutely has a place in education... but I'm not sure what its place is within the classroom. This will evolve, of course, but I'm tempted to say I see mlearning now more as an "autonomous" addition to classroom learning, such as you've described with your russian apps.

    This doesn't preclude a social element being added at some point, but I see that as an "fun/community" element surely to come in those successful apps of the future.

    I wonder, though, why you don't try and find sometime every week where you explore language with your wife ? That being said, I've tried the same with mine and as we already share in french and english very easily, trying to force "chinese language time" is easier said than done.

    Best of luck ! and enjoy the summer

  2. Good luck David, I look forward to reading about your experiences with Russian.

    Brad- although many apps are best suited to out of class self-study, the in-class potential of mobile devices lie in getting sts to produce eg recording video, or each other, or accessing resources online to then transform into other artefacts... Mlearning is not just about consumption of info, but also about production - if the teacher knows how to exploit it well for this.

  3. thanks Brad and NIcky for your comments!

  4. David,
    Just come across to your blog. It's really insightful.
    I just want to recommend you to try my "Learner's mp3 player" Android app for listening practice. It has some specific features to make listening practice on mobile phone more convenient, especially when you need to do intensive listening.

    Found it here:

    Best Regards.