Can You Really Learn a Language Using Babbel?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Shawn Loewen PhD Professor, Michigan State University Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages Second Language Studies Program Associate Editor, The Modern Language Journal East Lansing, MI 

Dr. Loewen

Shawn Loewen PhD
Professor, Michigan State University
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages
Second Language Studies Program
Associate Editor, The Modern Language Journal
East Lansing, MI 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Millions of people use language learning apps such as Babel to study a foreign language; however, very little research has been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of such apps, in spite of some grand claims that companies make about the benefits of their apps.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The current study investigated the effectiveness of using Babbel to study Spanish as a second language. Fifty-four university students who were not currently studying Spanish used Babbel for 12 weeks in a pretest-posttest research project.

Results indicated that learners increased their scores on vocabulary and grammar tests, which was expected given Babbel’s curriculum. However, somewhat surprisingly, almost 69% of participants also improved noticeably on an oral proficiency interview despite Babbel providing limited opportunities to speak or interact in Spanish. The number of hours that participants used the app was a predictor of learning on all tests; in addition, motivation to learn Spanish was important for oral improvement.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It is possible to learn a second language using a language learning app such as Babbel. However, individuals should have realistic expectations, use the app frequently, and find ways to stay motivated.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should explore the benefits of other online self-study programs, including other language learning apps and synchronous video chat programs that allow learners to connect with native language speakers around the world. Also, research should investigate how such programs can be optimized, or used with other study methods, such as face to face classes, to increase their effectiveness.

Any disclosures?  This research was funded by Lesson Nine GmbH.

Citation:

Loewen, S, Isbell, DR, Sporn, Z. The effectiveness of app‐based language instruction for developing receptive linguistic knowledge and oral communicative ability. Foreign Language Annals. 2020; 1– 25. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12454

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