Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Apps are a great way to learn a language, but it’s also important to remember that they’re only a small portion of the language learning process. You can use apps to achieve certain goals, such as expanding your vocabulary or practising grammar, but–although they can be very handy and can help to improve areas of your language development–they aren’t going to make you fluent.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how to use two of our favourite apps–Duolingo and Memrise–in a way that is effective. In other words, how can you use these apps to improve areas of your language learning process? And how can you then use these new skills in real-life situations? You can find more of our suggested language learning apps here.
Duolingo is the app to use for practising grammar as well as increasing your vocabulary. Although the standard way of using Duolingo is to move past certain levels and practise regularly so that you don’t ‘lose’ any of your progress, you can also choose skills to practise. In our classes, for example, we often encourage our students to use Duolingo to practise certain grammar if they are struggling. You can use the ‘shortcut level test’ option to access higher levels more quickly.
One effective method for using Duolingo would be to focus on one or two grammatical structures each week. For example, if you choose to practise the past perfect one week. Instead of simply practising on your phone, however, make sure to use this in your daily life somehow. Maybe you can practise by emailing your doctor in Dutch, or by talking to the bike repairman or woman in Dutch. Schedule an appointment with yourself to practise (e.g. Tell yourself that you will practise when you take your bike to the shop on Thursday morning), so you’re mentally prepared! You may also want to practise a sentence or two to tell the person to whom you’re talking that you want to speak in Dutch. Be persistent!
Memrise is more useful for people who need to expand their vocabularies, and it is more customisable than Duolingo. In our blog post about frustration, we explained that learning things that are relevant to you is an important part of overcoming frustration during the language learning process. So, by using Memrise, you can create customised lists of vocabulary to focus on your areas of interest.
Similar to the method with Duolingo, try to find a way to practise this vocabulary outside of the app–in the real world. One way of doing this could be to read an article each week on your subject of interest. If you’re interested in the arts, for example, you can set aside some time to read an article in Dutch each week; this way, you are able to see how vocabulary words related to the arts might be used in context–both grammatically in a sentence, as well as subject-oriented in the theme of the article.
Have fun practising!