MALL: Mobile Assisted Language Learning

As technology continues to improve and evolve, so do methods of language learning. A popular method today is “Mobile Assisted Language Learning” or “MALL.” This approach involves using smartphones (and/or other mobile devices), to learn a second language.

MALL is beneficial for language learners for many reasons. First of all, the average language learner has a mobile phone. (Over 90% of people in developed countries have a mobile phone, compared to only 40% who have desktop computers). In addition, most people take their phone wherever they go. This enables them to study anytime, anywhere. And assuming their language learning apps and activities are enjoyable, they’ll be motivated to continue studying outside of class.

There are numerous smartphone apps that can be used for language learning. Some apps were created specifically for this purpose. Others are educational apps that can be used to teach any subject, including languages. And finally, social media apps were created for a general audience, but can also be adapted for language learners.

For example, teachers can have learners use an instant messaging app to message each other in the target language. Teachers can also have students send text messages that target a grammar point covered in class.

Learners can also use social media sites, to observe authentic content in real-world situations, and practice social interaction in the target language. Learners can also use mobile-generated media, such as photos, videos, and audio recordings, to produce their own content, making the study of the target language more interesting, and relevant to their lives, thereby increasing their motivation and improving their skills.

When using MALL, especially with mobile phones, teachers should create several short lessons rather than one or two long ones. Learners are used to consuming brief amounts of information, quickly, on their phones. In addition, only a short amount of text can be displayed at once on a phone’s small screen. It’s helpful, therefore, to break up lessons into 3-to-5- minute chunks, or “micro-lessons”. These micro-lessons will also benefit students with short attention spans.

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