The Best Mobile Platforms For Language Learning

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The advent of mobile technology has allowed language learners and educators to take their learning and teaching experiences on the go. The potential for easily accessed learning has never been higher but for some reason many – if not most – language learners still don’t take advantage of the devices they carry around with them every day.

We use mobile devices for everything. From scheduling to finances and from business communication to alarm clocks; the functionality is endless.

So why then are so many of us not using our devices to learn languages?

In recent months my phone and my tablet have become my primary means of language study. They allow me to access all of my social media accounts, Skype and other voice chat systems, and any language learning sites that I participate on such as Duolingo, Memrise or Livemocha.



Because I spend a lot of my time writing reviews of the products I use to learn languages I have to be familiar with the pros and cons of the common platforms.

  

I use both an iPhone 6 for most of my daily needs and an Asus Transformer pad tablet – an Android device – as a sort of mini laptop from which I frequently compose blog articles and update LATG’s social media pages while at work and away from my primary computer.

Both iOS and Android platforms sit side by side as the undisputed heavyweights of the mobile tech world.

They both claim a vast – and growing – collection of apps for students, language learners and teachers. But how do you decide which one is best for language learning? How do you decide which one best suits your own needs?
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Despite being a PC user through and through, I’ve always been impressed with the super high quality products that Apple produces. The speed with which their operating systems function surpasses any experience I’ve had with Android products. The camera quality tends – at least in my experience – to be higher, and I’m a sucker for retina display.

Developers seeking to get their apps posted on iTunes are subject to a rigorous vetting process. iOS apps are more heavily monitored for quality than Android and usually meet a relatively high standard of performance.

This fact can however act as a double edged sword for developers in the language learning industry.

Because language learning is something of a niche enterprise – albeit a decent sized niche; many of these start ups or hobby productions lack the funds to create a product that makes the cut on the iTunes market. This means that new language related apps are very frequently released for Google Play first and sometimes never become available on iOS.


Apple products are absurdly expensive. A New model iPad can cost a few hundred dollars more than its Android equivalent. So expensive in fact, are these products, that in most circumstances I’d have to vote against them if only for this reason.

Unfortunately, Apple does not play well with others.

Many apps that are based off of Windows or Google applications and software can often exhibit glitches on devices running the iOS platform or at the very least enjoy reduced support.

Apple loves to release new power cables and head phones that work exclusively with a single model of their iPhones or iPads; a move that forces buyers to spend even more money purchasing accessories that work exclusively with their newer models.

On the other hand Android phones and tablets tend to run much more generic micro USB cables and feature standard headphone jacks that are compatible with most hardware.

Android, by contrast with Apple, is far more versatile a platform. It can be found on a vast array of mobile devices produced by many different companies. ASUS, Samsung, Microsoft and many more companies create devices that run Google’s platform including one of the most popular – the Kindle.

The FREE Kindle Reading App is a must have for absolutely everyone who reads, regardless of their loyalties to hard copy books. There’s nothing wrong with liking eBooks – it’s not a betrayal of convention to appreciate the merits of both!

The app is compatible with iOS, Android, Nokia and even your computer. It uses cloud technology to store all of your books and allows you to download and pick up from wherever you left off, regardless of the device you choose to read with, making it a really awesome resource for the busy language learner on the go.

Kindle devices themselves range dramatically in price from the relatively affordable Kindle Paperwhite readers to the far more extravagant and expensive Kindle Fire that functions more or less like any other Android tablet.

Did I mention that there are tons of free or very cheap language books for Kindle?

If you’re a big eReader fan or are looking to buy a tablet primarily for reading purposes, the Kindle is a great way to go, but language learning should be affordable and if you already own a smartphone or tablet there’s no need to purchase a Kindle device in lieu of the free app.

As for language products – most of the big ones are available for both iOS and Android platforms. Memrise, Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Rocket Languages, Babbel, Busuu and many more should function equally well regardless of which product you prefer.

Like I said before – the smaller companies aren’t always available across platforms.

One of my personal favorite apps is Lingua.ly, a Google Chrome extension for language learners that you can read more about here. Lingua.ly is only really available for Android devices and computers running the Google Chrome browser. Rumor has it an iOS version will be made available later this year but as of now we can’t really say when or if that will happen.

What’s the verdict then? 

Both iOS and Android platforms are great for language learning and each can claim its fair share of exclusive apps that cannot be found on their counterparts.

If I had to choose the superior platform simply for languages I would have to lean towards Android due to its versatility, cross compatibility and of course in true LATG spirit, the considerably lower price tag.

If language learning is not your primary purpose for purchasing a mobile device – and lets face it, it probably isn’t – iOS devices are better for general functionality and overall quality.

Do you use mobile technology with your language learning projects? Which platform do you prefer?

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  • What do you think of LingQ?

  • Hi Steve,

    I’ve been meaning to try LingQ for quite some time now actually. It is my understanding that it’s a great system.

    Your prices also seem fairly reasonable.

    I’ll have to give it a look one of these days!

    Thanks for reading.

    ~Brian

  • أمريكي الأصل

    Wow, Steve really weasels in on every website to promote his product. Impressive.

  • I have never had an Android device and I really love my iPhone. I have all my language apps working perfectly with it. The only one I cannot use is Anki because the iOS version is a paid one (I think USD 25) and the Android one is free. That’s fine because I can use the web version, plus I really, really love Memrise 🙂