A Review of Mobile Language Learning Applications: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities


  • Catherine Regina Heil Teachers College, Columbia University https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0404-9840
  • Jason S. Wu Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Joey J. Lee Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Torben Schmidt Leuphana University of Lüneburg




Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL), Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), adaptive learning, vocabulary instruction, grammar instruction, corrective feedback, assessment


Mobile language learning applications have the potential to transform the way languages are learned. This study examined the fifty most popular commercially-available language learning applications for mobile phones and evaluated them according to a wide range of criteria. Three major trends were found: first, apps tend to teach vocabulary in isolated units rather than in relevant contexts; second, apps minimally adapt to suit the skill sets of individual learners; and third, apps rarely offer explanatory corrective feedback to learners. Despite a pedagogical shift toward more communicative approaches to language learning, these apps are behaviorist in nature. To better align with Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and L2 pedagogical research, we recommend the incorporation of more contextualized language, adaptive technology, and explanatory feedback in these applications.


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Author Biographies

Catherine Regina Heil, Teachers College, Columbia University

Catherine is a recent M.A. Applied Linguistics graduate from Columbia University Teachers College. Her research interests include language assessment, cognitive linguistics, computer-assisted language learning, and pragmatics. She taught ESL for several years both in the United States and overseas. http://katie-heil.com

Jason S. Wu, Teachers College, Columbia University

Jason Wu is a Ph.D. candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is currently a Doctoral Research Fellow with the Harlem Schools Partnership for STEM Education, and was formerly a bilingual elementary teacher. His research interests include the use of games in education, bilingual education, and English language learners.

Joey J. Lee, Teachers College, Columbia University

JoeyJ.Leeis Research Assistant Professor of Technology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also a Director of the Games Research Lab at TC, leading theReal-WorldImpact Games Lab. Hedesigns, develops and studies games and game-like experiences for education and social impact. His projects include both digital and non-digital games for climate change education, science education, cross-cultural education and language learning.

Torben Schmidt, Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Dr. Torben Schmidt is Professor of English Didactics at the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany. His main fields of research are computer-assisted language learning, educational games, project work, and the teaching of listening and speaking skills in the English as a foreign language classroom.


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